The short piece about Led Zeppelin that I wrote for the Bradford Telegraph & Argus which was published on April 1, 1969, indicates that there was a concerted push on the part of LZ’s management to promote the group PR-wise at the start of their career. Not many other new bands would have taken the trouble to arrange this, if any come to think of it.
I would have done the interview a day or two before it was published. Obviously their PR, which I think was Bill Harry, of Merseybeat fame, who’d moved to London and set up his own PR company, had set it up to coincide with the release of the first album, and I would guess that something similar appeared in numerous other UK provincial or evening papers around the same time.
Zeppelin certainly benefited from ‘strong’ management, tactically as well as physically, but Peter Grant was clever too. He’d been around the block, as it were, and knew exactly how the music industry worked and how to operate within it to his and the group’s advantage. He didn’t suffer fools and took an immediate aversion to anyone who might take advantage of them or hamper their progress.
Grant’s background was as a tour manager, easing the passage of American rock and roll stars from town to town, collecting the money from box offices and distributing some of it as per diems along the way. He no doubt spent a great deal of his time counting £1 notes in dressing rooms while the music played from the stage in the background. ‘Cash is king’ was his motto and this attitude seems to have filtered down to the group, especially the guitarist whose fondness for a wad of readies is well known.
I always thought that the only strategic mistake that Led Zeppelin made in the first year of their career was to authorise the mail-out of a press release revealing that Atlantic Records had given them a $200,000 advance, unusually high for the time. Clearly they thought this would enhance their reputation but in an era when ‘breadheads’ were despised by the alternative culture to which they aspired to find their market, it was both unnecessary and imprudent. They should have kept it to themselves. The repercussion was that a number of US music writers immediately assumed they were only in it for the money, which explains the terrible relationship they had with Rolling Stone magazine – the counterculture’s biggest flag waver – that lasted for years.
In my pal Chris Welch’s book The Man Who Led Zeppelin, his biography of Peter Grant, there’s a wonderful story about when Peter sold his Purley house to buy Horselunges Manor in Sussex and laid on a surprise for the new owners. The couple buying the attractive, neat and tidy red brick house arrived while Peter was in the throes of packing. “I’m in a hurry,” he told them. “I’ve got a plane to catch. The thing is, I think I’ve left a package with £20,000 in cash somewhere in the house. I haven’t got time to look for it now, but if you can find it, well good luck!”
It was a wind-up, of course.