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Led Zeppelin's 1977 U.S. tour, which came to a halt with seven dates remaining when lead singer Robert Plant flew home to England following the death of his 6-year-old son Karac, was one of the most riotous in rock history, with rumours of hotels and restaurants being trashed and stadiums and ticket outlets being trashed by their fans. Some of the worst violence occurred at Oakland Stadium, just three days before the tour's abrupt halt.

Charges of battery have been filed against Zeppelin manager Peter Grant, drummer John Bonham and two of their employees. A civil suit asking $2 million in punitive damages is also in the works. Members of the Led Zeppelin entourage refused to comment to avoid pre-trial publicity. But promoter Bill Graham gave his version of the events.

The first incident, according to Graham's employees, occurred when one of the stage crew, Jim Downey, said something to Grant and Grant took offence. Grant's assistant then struck Downey who ended up having 'his head bashed against concrete.'

The second incident reportedly stemmed from a little boy asking a Graham security man, Jim Matzorkis, for a wooden plaque. Matzorkis says he denied the request. The boy turned out to be Peter Grant's son. Matzorkis was then approached by Grant, Bonham and two others who asked him to apologize. John Bonham then kicked him in the groin.

Matzorkis went into hiding for his health. Graham brought Grant to see Matzorkis, hoping their meeting would settle the problem. However, according to Graham, "Peter blasted Jim in the face. I tried to stand between them, but Grant forced me out of the trailer and locked the door. My man said, Bill, Bill, help me!" Matzorkis worked his way to the door while they were hitting him, and he was able to get away. His face was a bloody mess.

"I could never in good conscience book them again," said Graham. "For these people to assume that might makes me right takes me back to Germany - and I've blocked out pretty much of my childhood (some of Graham's relatives died in concentration camps) - but that's where they come from. I cannot help but wonder how much of this did, in fact, go on in the past with these people." Zeppelin lawyers say that Bonham, Grant and the others will plead innocent.
Led Zeppelin walked off stage in the middle of their act at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - to prevent an ugly crowd scene from developing into violence. And they succeeded. Stick-wielding cops moved among a cheering crowd who stood on the seats to give Zeppelin a great ovation in the middle of the show. There was deadlock as fans kept going wild with enthusiasm and police started jostling them. Tempers became frayed. It could have become a riot.

"We couldn't play with that sort of friction so we just stopped playing and walked away." Jimmy Page said later. "That seemed to cool the police from running round sorting out the audience and when we went back on stage after five or ten minutes, there was no trouble. What we're finding so often on this tour of the States is that the relationship between police and audience are bad from the start. So, it ends up with us having to cool things down."

The battle of Pittsburgh has been part of a hair-raising first fortnight in Zeppelin's second exhausting tour of the States.

In Vancouver: where they played to 17,000, the group had to pay £600 for backstage damage to dressing rooms and buildings caused by over-zealous fans.

In the Deep South state of Georgia: long-haired Jimmy Page has been taunted by people in hotel lobbies with remarks like: "What kind of girl are you?" Robert Plant was asked: "Are you a boy or a girl"

In Los Angeles: after the show before 20,000 at the forum, 4,000 people hung around for half-an- hour after the show ended, hoping in vain for an encore.

Tired but exhilarated, Jimmy Page flew back to New York and talked over lunch of the remarkable Zeppelin experience so far on a tour that will cover about 30,000 miles and take him, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham on about 40 airplanes.

Jimmy was dejected about police discipline of crowds because it marred their enjoyment. "The police act tough with crowds out of fear but if they just left people alone and didn't get all worked up and scared, I'm sure nothing would happen.", he declared.

"I mean, you see a cop waving a stick and you get shaky - and how can we carry on playing when the cops are roaming among an apparently peaceful audience, anticipating trouble? That's what's happening."

In Boston, two people in wheelchairs who came to see the show rode down the gangway and some attendants didn't care a damn that they were incapacitated. "If you're not sitting in the seats you've been allocated, you can't stay in this hall," they told them. People get so nervous and worked up by anything out of the ordinary." Led Zeppelin are finding that the miserable truth about the States is that it is an uncool country, especially for young people who want to identify with their lifestyle and their music. Older people just don't understand the new music and the "now generation's" fresh attitudes.

And what they fear or don't understand, they oppose.

A girl in Baltimore asked me if she could come backstage and watch the show from there. I thought this was the usual line from a girl wanting to hang around with us. So I said "Why don't you sit in your seat and watch us?" She said: "Because last time at this place, the cops teargassed the place and I'm frightened of being out there."

"That's the sort of tension we keep finding. There's such a lack of understanding and trust between the audiences and the police."

Despite these hang-ups and Jimmy's dislike of American food, he and the group are enjoying their trek across the country which includes visits to Texas, Carolina, Florida and Utah as well as the major cities.

"The warm atmosphere and reaction at the end of each concert makes it all worthwhile - unless you get a nasty scene like a dig at your long hair between the hall and the hotel room, which often happens," said Jimmy.

One of the Zeppelin team of 10 travels three hours in advance of the group to each venue to check equipment, fix security and liaise with the hall officials.

They are on stage for at least two and a half hours at each show. There is no other act on the bill. "We go through a lot of changes in style during the act," said Jimmy. "It starts off quite progressively and then we do some quiet numbers featuring organ. It's the first time we've used organ over here and people like it.

"We're doing one number - a 12-bar progressive blues, Since I've Been Loving You - that will be featured on the next LP, which might as well be called Led Zeppelin III. Incidently, three quarters of the album is already done."
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This Month in
Led Zeppelin History

December 16, 1968 - Zep plays Bath Pavilion for a mere £75.
December 26, 1968 - First American concert at the Coliseum in Denver, CO
December xx, 1969 - Led Zeppelin are reported to have sold 5 million dollars worth of albums in the US
December 11, 1969 - Led Zeppelin are presented gold and platinum discs for their first two albums
December xx, 1970 - The band enters Island Studios to begin work on the fourth album
December xx, 1971 - The band plays a few low-key shows back in England
December 23, 1972 - The band break for Christmas holiday after a London gig
December xx, 1973 - John Paul Jones works on studio productions for Madeline Bell
December xx, 1973 - Joe Massot films Jimmy Page’s fantasy sequence at Loch Ness
December 19, 1974 - John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page jam with Bad Company at the Rainbow Theater
December 10, 1975 - Led Zeppelin play a 45-minute show with Norman Hale at Behan’s in Jersey
December xx, 1976 - Led Zeppelin rehearses for the 1977 tour
December 25, 1976 - It’s announced that Plant and Bonham will reunite with the Band of Joy for three shows in the new year
December xx, 1977 - The band minus Robert gather to discuss Led Zeppelin’s future plans
December xx, 1978 - The new album is completed quickly at Polar Studios and mixed at Jimmy’s Plumpton Studio
December xx, 1979 - John Bonham considers joining Paul McCartney’s Wings
December 29, 1979 - The band minus Jimmy Page attend the Paul McCartney And Wings Kampuchea befefit show
December 04, 1980 - Led Zeppelin issue the following statement not to carry on as a band: "We wish it to be known, that the loss of our dear friend and the deep respect we have for his family, together with the deep sense of harmony felt by ourselves and our manager have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were."
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