||THE FIRST CONCERT: ZEPPELIN IN DENMARK
The recollections of rock photographer JORGEN ANGEL
By Hugh Jones.
Being in the right place at the right time is something that most of us have no doubt experienced on some level, and in most cases it's the result of simple dumb luck. Here is the story of Jorgen Angel of Denmark - perhaps the ultimate example of being in the right place at the right time when it came to Led Zeppelin - who witnessed the very first concert performance of Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham together as a band.
Jorgen Angel was born in 1951 and has been a successful photographer since his teenage days in the mid-'60s. He started with rock 'n' roll, a personal as well as professional passion, and worked exclusively photographing rock bands on stage, on the road and at home from the late sixties until the early eighties. Along the way he traveled all over the world and met and photographed many of the greats - Hendrix, Cream, The Who, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper and Led Zeppelin, to name a few.
Jorgen reckons to have taken something like 50,000 photographs of rock stars over a fifteen-year span. "The first press reception I ever attended was Sonny & Cher, around '65 or something," he recalls, "And one of the bands that I thought was great and got to meet several times later was The Pretty Things. Another of my favorite bands was The J. Geils Band. They were great guys and they had a live performance that was so incredible. I met them the first time when they were a support act for Emerson, Lake & Palmer in Copenhagen and I thought that Geils were ten times as good and interesting [as ELP]. I met them later in America, and saw them perform in Asbury Park, New Jersey, and I went to visit Peter Wolf in his apartment in Boston. Very nice man. That was another great band."
In those early days of rock the 'underground' aspect of the music and its culture created a real feeling of comradery, and the musicians - of whom most at least feigned rejection of the 'star syndrome' - were very accessible. "In the early days," says Jorgen, "I could just walk into the dressing room of The Cream - Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton - and say 'Hi, can I take a photo?' and they would say, 'sure,' and I took a photo or two or three [negatives since lost, sadly] with no problems.
"The situation was that most people respected each other. The stars respected photographers because they knew that they were doing their job and the stars were doing their job, and the stars couldn't survive without the press and the press couldn't survive without the stars. So there was a mutual respect."
The innocence of those early days didn't last, or course, and it was the development of rock from an underground subculture into a big-money entertainment business that eventually drove Angel away from it. "By the early '80s it had become a hassle being a photographer," he says. "You had to sign all kinds of contracts more or less saying that you could never publish any photo you took - the managers and to some degree also the bands were hysterical, it was sad to witness. "One of the last concerts I did was an Electric Light Orchestra show in the early '80s. The management said that there could only be three photographers there and that they could only take photos of the first number on stage, the first song. "I was supposed to supply two competing magazines with seven individual super shots. And these fourteen sort of 'hits' were to be taken within the first song! I was also told that if I tried to take photos after the first song they would confiscate my equipment.
"The concert started and I was the only one there - the other two photographers had said 'aw, these conditions, we're not coming.' But I was there clicking away and before the second song started I felt a hand at the back of my neck and a very big guy sort of carried me out of the hole, and said that was it. Then I had to rush back to the darkroom and get everything processed, and the shots went off with a plane around three in the morning, I think, and that was sort of the culmination of things [for me], because these were intolerable conditions. There was absolutely no logical explanation why I should not be allowed to take photos during the whole concert. In my opinion, it was just a matter of the bands and the managers wanting to see how difficult they could make people's lives and still get away with it. Because the more difficult they could be without people saying 'enough is enough,' the bigger star they were. It's a ridiculous way of measuring it but I can't think of any other explanation."
The gradual disillusionment that had been building in Jorgen culminated with this ELO concert, and not long after that he left the music business behind for good. Going back to the innocent days of 1967, Jorgen recalls his first experience seeing - and photographing - Jimmy Page, at that time leading the last incarnation of The Yardbirds at a concert in a hall on the outskirts of Copenhagen called Holte Hallen. "What I recall from that concert, apart from the fact that it was a great show, great atmosphere and everything, is that even though I didn't know anybody there on security or anything, I was somehow allowed on the stage to take photographs.
"On my website you can see a picture of drummer Jim McCarty taken pretty close up, and there are some shots taken from behind where I have the band members in front of me and then the audience. I recall that when I was moving in closer to the band to get in that position, the only comment I got was a roadie saying to me, 'mind the gear' because I was just about to step on one of Jimmy Page's guitars which was lying in its case on the floor. That's an illustration of how it was in those days, that you could actually get so close to the bands that you could step on their equipment!"
A year later The Yardbirds were no more - at least they were radically altered - and Jorgen had secured a position as house photographer at the Gladsaxe Teen Club, another venue in suburban Copenhagen that was to be the launching site for the concert career of some of rock's biggest bands. "Gladsaxe Teen Club was not a club in the way we think of it today," explains Jorgen, "where you have a room dedicated to it. It was actually a club that came alive every Saturday evening in the winter half of the year. It was in the school hall in Gladsaxe which is about ten miles outside of the center of Copenhagen, just in the outskirts, and it was run by a youth organization of young conservatives [Tories] and a few social Democrats. It was quite funny, actually, because the girls and guys who ran the club were all wearing nice dresses and suits and ties. But some of the kids who came there were hippies, afghan coats, all this stuff, so that was quite an interesting contrast.
"They had this place in a school hall and they made an evening for the young people every Saturday night. No alcohol. And they had all sorts of bands playing, local bands and international bands. The hall could hold about 1000 people or something so it was not a big place. One of the guys from the club committee was in London on a private vacation, and he went to the Marquee Club where he saw Ten Years After. And he thought, 'this sounds like a great band' so when he came back he got a Danish promoter to get in touch with their management get them to come to Denmark, and that was the first time that Ten Years After played outside of Great Britain, I was told. And I think that's a funny little story, that one of the guys from the Teen Club sort of discovers Ten Years After and gets them to come and play.
"At that time many bands were touring and they lived in crummy hotels or slept in their vans. And groups like Ten Years After or Led Zeppelin would come through and play several gigs a night. They would play Gladsaxe Teen Club first and then drive on to a club called Brondby Pop and then maybe to a third place or even a fourth. So they would just do 45 minutes each place and then rush off.
"In those days they didn't use very much equipment, it was just some amplifiers and some loudspeakers, and sometimes they would borrow equipment off the local band that was already there so they didn't have to set up anything. Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Ten Years After were probably the ones we remember best today, but they all played there before anybody heard of them."
The Gladsaxe Teen club published its own little in-house magazine once a month, featuring articles on the bands who had played there as well as information on upcoming shows. Along with the promotional shots supplied by the bands and management, Teen Club NYT regularly featured concert images taken by their teenaged staff shutterbug Jorgen Angel. "I'm not sure I got paid for it," he recalls. "Maybe I got some of my expenses covered. But I could walk anywhere in the club and take photos, so when a group like Zeppelin was performing - as you can see from some of my Pictures - I was standing on the stage as well taking shots from the crowd.
"And I could go in the dressing room. There was one big dressing room which during the daytime was where the school kids would change their clothes for playing ball or doing gymnastics, which took place in the adjoining hall, the same one they used for the concerts. There was only this one dressing room so all the bands playing on a given night would share the dressing room. And there were GoGo girls - they would probably go into the showers to change."
And so it was that in August 1968, an upcoming show on the Gladsaxe schedule caught Jorgen's attention. "I was told that the Yardbirds were coming and I thought, 'ah, that sounds great.' I was really looking forward to it. Some people have asked me whether they were advertised as The Yardbirds or The New Yardbirds. I am not sure exactly what was listed in our club magazine, but I recall that I was somehow tipped off in advance that something wasn't right. I got suspicious that what we were going to have performing at the club was not the real thing. You could actually say I was disappointed even before the concert started because I was looking forward to seeing The Yardbirds again, and what we were getting was one Yardbirds member and three totally unknown guys.
When September 7th finally came around, it didn't take long for Jorgen - and everyone else - to be won over by the exciting new band. "My disappointment was only up until they started performing, because from what I recall it was a great concert." Led Zeppelin had only been together for about three weeks, but the vision and savagery of the group's musical attack was already in full flower. Peter Grant later recalled, "I remember standing by the side of the stage and being amazed, it was obvious that there was a chemistry."
Opening with "Train Kept A'rollin'"- the first song they had played at their first rehearsal less than a month previous, and a nod to the Yardbirds fans like Jorgen - Zeppelin proceeded to blast through a set containing embryonic versions of the songs that would become their first album. "I Can't Quit You," "You Shook Me," "Dazed and Confused" and "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" were almost certainly played, as well as the hodgepodge of Yardbirds riffs and old blues chestnuts that became "How Many More Times."
Jorgen recalls that right from the start, the band had something special to it. "I think that we were all a bit puzzled [as to] what was going on," he states, "because the stage performance was different from what we had seen before. It was not just a band standing there playing, it was , um
very extroverted. I took a number of photos, and unfortunately, the film has suffered some damage [over the years]. There weren't any actual lights on the stage in those days, at least nothing that you could actually use to take pictures with, so I used a flash. I used my mother's holiday camera and my father's old flash and I just snapped away.
"On many of them there are the backs of the heads of people standing in front of me, and as you can see from some of the photos taken on the stage, there were lots of people in the wings just sitting there watching while the band is sweating away."
As with all their early performances, Led Zeppelin left the crowd stunned and wanting more, and to this day Jorgen remains a fan of those early days. "Among my absolutely favorite albums are the first two Led Zeppelin albums. I recall when I went into a record shop when the first album came out, and listened to it, I heard the first half - the first thirty seconds - of the first song and I bought the album. It was so good. And the same thing happened when the second album was out - just heard a few seconds from it and I knew this I had to have as well."
Jorgen got to see and photograph the band several more times over the next few years, including their return engagement at the Gladsaxe on March15, 1969. "The first concert was a success, and they booked them again shortly after," he recalls.
"At the second concert, they were called Led Zeppelin and I got to take photos in the dressing room. That was the first of several times I met the band, and they were nice guys." Later he witnessed the K.B. Hallen concert of February 28th, 1970, meeting the band once again and snapping some great pictures backstage, and in 1971, Jorgen attended the famous May 3rd Copenhagen concert where "Gallows Pole" and "Four Sticks" received their only known concert performances.
"I have only a very few shots from that concert, the light was not very good and Plant was performing in something that looked like it was from the Aztecs in Mexico or something. I don't really recall very much from that concert - it was not a great show, at least not from a photographer's point of view. Musically it seemed like maybe they were experimenting around this time."
Jorgen's final encounter with the band - this time perhaps an example of being in the right place at the wrong time - came in March 1973, at a legendary event which has been related more than once over the years as an example of the band's legendary offstage antics. "I met them at a press reception that took place in an art gallery called Galerie Birch in Copenhagen," Jorgen recalls. "The reason for the location is that it was understood that the band, or at least Jimmy Page, was very interested in art, so they held the press reception in this gallery. It was an exhibition of modern art and the exhibition hadn't opened yet.
"The atmosphere was sort of mixed. It was OK at the beginning. . .but it was around the time when people were talking about Jimmy Page's interest in Black Magick and that sort of thing, so the reporters were asking him questions about this and that didn't help the atmosphere. "There was an attractive dark-haired woman hanging out and John Paul Jones was trying to charm her. In almost every photo I took he's right next to her looking at her with these half-drunk, goofy eyes. I really think he was, as we say in Danish, 'baking on her.' I recently found out that she was the sister-in-law of the owner of the Gallery."
"We were there for quite some time and as the afternoon wore on the mood didn't get any better, partly because of these questions, and I think maybe they got a little drunk. What I recall is that one of the guys - I can't remember if it was John Bonham or John Paul Jones (most likely Bonham since Jones was preoccupied by charming the lady), had on some knitted gloves. It was the end of the winter in Denmark it was pretty cold. And the paintings on the wall in this exhibition were so new, so fresh, the paint wasn't dry yet. So what he did was smear out some of the paint on the canvas and actually change the paintings.
"This created a very tense atmosphere because these paintings were very expensive. And even though you couldn't see if he had smeared anything, because they were modern abstract images, people started talking about lawsuits and damages and all this. For some reason the band thought that I had taken a photo of the actual incident when paint was being smeared, and that this photo could be used as evidence. So they wouldn't let me leave.
"At the same time, the two reporters who had asked all these questions about Black Magick and everything had been physically thrown out. The gallery was like, five or ten steps up, and though I didn't see this myself, I was told that they were thrown down the stairs, just to get them out. So there was a very tense atmosphere.
"When I approached the exit to get out the bodyguards stood in front of me and said I couldn't go. They wanted me to hand over the film, which I didn't want to do because these were pictures I was going to sell. So they were intimidating me and blocking the exit so I couldn't leave. I managed to get a hold of the promoter and told him that apparently they thought I had taken a photo of this incident, which I hadn't, but nevertheless I wouldn't turn over my photos unless I got something in return.
We reached an agreement whereby on the following evening I would show up at the concert and I would hand them over the film in return for some exclusive photos backstage. I don't know why but for some reason the band accepted this. It was silly because they couldn't tell whether the film they would be given the next day was the genuine stuff, and of course it wasn't.
"What I did was remove the roll of film I'd taken from the camera, put in a roll of blank film, took 36 shots of nothing and went to the backstage in order to roll back the film so they could see it come out of the camera. I didn't get the backstage shots and they didn't get the film. Maybe they figured out that it was too late and that I would have done this anyway, I don't know.
But it was a less pleasant experience than my previous ones with Led Zeppelin. Obviously the Danish press was partly to blame for it, but it was also obvious at the time the band entered the gallery they couldn't care about us or anything. At that time you could say it was a disappointing meeting with them.
"I've tried to do some investigation about that press reception and how it all turned out. Old Mr. Birch is dead now but I tracked down his daughter, who was only fifteen at the time, and she said that her father never filed a complaint or a suit, he never did lawsuits. So we can safely assume that there was not a lawsuit, though there is no way to tell whether or not the band ever paid for damaging the paintings."
Though Jorgen continued photographing rock groups for the next decade, his disillusionment grew to the point where in the early 80's, he abandoned the music business entirely. Now, thanks to the miracle of the world wide web, Jorgen Angel's incredible photos from his years in rock 'n' roll are available to view-and buy-on his website. At www.angel.dk/ you'll find all of the Zeppelin images reproduced here and discussed in this article (plus many more), in addition to a wide range of terrific work including T Rex, Eric Clapton, Hawkwind, Jimi Hendrix, Uriah Heep, The Yardbirds and Ten Years After.
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