Seeing Led Zeppelin Knebworth Festival August 4th 1979...

Seeing Led Zeppelin Knebworth Festival August 4th 1979...
Authored By John Nicholson

I don’t think I quite realised the full import of seeing Led Zeppelin at the Knebworth festival. The fact it was their first appearance in the UK since 1975 was a big thing. I was 18, four years seemed a hell of a long time to me, but I was too young to appreciate the rock n roll significance of the day. It should also be remembered that it was assumed they were back and would tour Europe and USA into 1980 and 1981. The death of John Bonham was on nobody's radar. It was widely assumed not that we were in the end game, but that is what it was and Knebworth has subsequently assumed a legendary status.
I was quite an experienced gigger by then, seeing bands since I was 15, but it was my first festival and still my only one. The truth is, I hated being in a big field with 200,000 other people. I don’t feel inclined to romanticise it. The toilets were a special kind of horror. Essentially just a massive trench with portaloos balanced over it. You could easily fall in and die a horrible death. What’s more, for people like us in the middle of the crowd, it took half an hour to get to the toilets. But I wasn’t bothered so much by the privations, it was the fact that I was still some distance from the stage and the rest of the bands on the bill - not that they were much to write home about - were little specs in the distance. Zep took to the stage as the sun was setting, keeping everyone waiting for what felt like ages. When they did arrive the sound was terrible for about the first half an hour, swirling around and fading in and out. As the subsequent film well illustrates, the band are on top form, allowing for the usual sloppy playing by Page. I loved Achilles Last Stand, to me that’s when they were at their most majestic and unique. I remember feeling that at that time.
It all felt very grown up. It seemed to go on forever and I was glad when it ended. I was still a kid. I'd been 18 for just two weeks. I had the bravery of youth, but not any experience at all. I was exhausted and tired. I felt like everyone else knew how to behave, and knew and felt the importance of the gig. I didn’t, to me, it was just another gig. Ever since I’ve been able to impress people by saying I saw Zep at Knebworth, so legendary has it become over the years. But the truth is, although I definitely enjoyed them, it was only special because I slept in the car (a Mini) and saw the band after dark in a field with 200,000 others. Had I seen them at 21, with three profound years at college where they provided the debauched soundtrack to my life it would have been more earth-shaking. The truth is, I saw them too young. I’m glad I did, but I didn’t feel it was as special as it really was. Hard to believe those people in their late 20s that were around me, are now old geezers in their 70s. Time moves on.

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