Gear Breakdown: Led Zeppelin at the Royal Albert Hall
At the end of 1969, one of the most eventful years in modern music history, no one could prepare for the sound that would emerge to define the new decade: Led Zeppelin’s performance at the Royal Albert Hall on January 9th, 1970. The concert meant a great deal to the band, as Jimmy Page describes:
“The Albert Hall was a massive gig for us, and we really wanted to do the best we could. It was a magic venue. It was built in Victorian times, and you’re in there thinking about all the musical history that has preceded you. On top of that, it was something of a homecoming for John Paul Jones and I, because we had both grown up around there. So we were all really paying attention to what we were doing.”
This concert still stands as one of the best performances of all time because of the controversy around its professional filming. After the show, the footage was quickly abandoned due to technical filming errors and overall poor video quality. However, as with many other Led Zeppelin performances, concert-goers created bootlegs widely viewed for decades until the band eventually released the footage in 2003.
Regardless of the medium – bootleg or official release – anyone who watches the performance cannot deny the musical power unleashed by the band. As a result, the gear they used throughout the show will forever remain in our collective memory. For the purposes of this blog, we will focus on the instruments used by John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page.
Starting with the band’s low-end thump, we can see John Paul Jones with his trusty 1962 Fender Jazz Bass in Sunburst, purchased new in 1963. Jones wields the bass throughout the show, and it continued as his primary workhorse during the Zeppelin years until he retired it in 1975. Like many musicians of the era, Jones has admitted to modifying and reworking some of his instruments, including this bass. However, at the time of the Royal Albert Hall gig, it appears all original, albeit missing the bridge cover and mutes, leaving four small holes under the strings. It seems the Fender headstock decal is also missing by this time, which could’ve easily worn off from the rigors of touring. We have a 1961 Fender Jazz Bass in Sunburst just like it, with removed mutes too! Although ours is the rarer “Stack Knob” iteration, whereas Jones’ has a three knob layout.
Moving on to the three guitars used by the legend himself, Jimmy Page. He used his famous “Number 1” Gibson Les Paul in Sunburst for the first three tracks. Since the back of the neck was sanded down and refinished, and the serial number went with it, there is a debate as to which year Jimmy’s guitar was made. Jimmy famously purchased this Les Paul in 1969, after strong insistence from Joe Walsh, and it’s remained with Jimmy ever since as his primary instrument. At this point, the guitar already had gold Grover tuners installed, and the bridge pickup cover was removed, showing off a double white PAF. He plays this Les Paul for most of the show and uses every aspect of the guitar significantly. As a comparison, below is our 1959 Les Paul in Sunburst, also without pickup covers, sporting a double white PAF at the bridge pickup and a zebra at the neck.
The next guitar Jimmy uses is his trusty 1961 Danelectro U2 in Black for “White Summer/Black Mountain Side.” This economically made instrument features a poplar core with a masonite top and back, vinyl sides, and two single-coil lipstick pickups. We have a similar, one-pickup model in the shop with a nice bit of wear and patina! Jimmy always used this guitar for “White Summer/Black Mountain Side” and any other song that required slide or alternate tuning, like “Kashmir” later in the decade.
Lastly, we have Jimmy using his 1960 Gibson Les Paul Custom in Black with a Bigsby for both encores, “C’mon Everybody/Somethin’ Else” and “Bring It On Home.” By the time of the Royal Albert Hall show, Jimmy had removed both pickup covers from the bridge and neck position, with a double black PAF in the bridge and a zebra PAF in the neck position. Later in 1970, Jimmy added two more toggle switches on either side of the factory switch for more tonal options and capabilities. Infamously, this guitar was stolen at the end of the 1970 US tour, and it would not resurface until nearly 50 years later. Our example is a clean 1959 Custom without a Bigsby.
Below is a link to the entire performance, which we highly recommend to anyone who hasn’t seen it before!! On the other hand, if you have seen it, join us in awe as we watch it again.