More on (Led) zeppelins

9 02 2009

As we’re talking about zeppelins in Stornoway, it would be a good time to remind readers of another important visit to the town of a zeppelin of an entirely different variety. Led Zeppelin, and their long forgotten 1975 gig in Stornoway.

In 1975, at the height of their popularity, Led Zeppelin were about to start yet another chaos inducing tour of North America. The band, manager, groupies, road-crew and hanger-on’s all assembled at Heathrow Airport and embarked onto their very own Boeing 737 for the flight across the Atlantic.

Whilst en route to New York, the aircraft had to make a precautionary stop at Stornoway Airport due to a minor technical problem – the drinks trolley had run out of brandy.

On landing the jet taxied over to the Gaydon Hanger to try and keep prying eyes from seeing the huge Led Zep logo on the side of the fuselage. One of the flight attendants was dispatched to Henderson’s Off-license on Bayhead Street with a wallet full of £50.00 notes in order to buy up the entire stock of brandy.

The original plan was for the flight to be on the ground for no more than half an hour. However, the band members, all being the worse for wear, were totally oblivious that they were in Stornoway, far less than they were still on the wrong side of the Atlantic. They thought as the plane had stopped, that they must be at their destination and so demanded that ‘they be taken to the gig’.

In the absence of a fleet of stretch limos, a Mitchell’s bus was hastily arranged to take the band and their road crew in to town and a MacBrayne Haulage lorry was chartered to take the bands gear to the non existent gig. As the four band members descended the steps of the plane, the road crew got busy loading up the gear, enough to fill the backstage area at Madison Square Gardens, and set off, equally oblivious to the fact that they weren’t in New York.

The band and their manager, Peter Grant, piled onto the bus and asked the driver to take them ‘to the gig’. The bus driver knew there was a disco in the Scout Hall that night and so assumed that this must be the place to go. With the MacBrayne’s lorry in tow, Led Zeppelin made their stately way in to Stornoway. The bus pulled up outside the Scout Hall and the four members of the band staggered in, looking for the dressing rooms and muttering things about a ‘sound check’. They were ushered into the kitchen and plied with the newly arrived brandy. Meanwhile, the roadies set up Bonham’s drumkit at the back of the Scout Hall and plugged the guitars into the Disco Unit.

The bemused Cubs, Scouts, Brownies and Guides looked on in anticipation of hearing a ‘real pop band’ and put bets on which Mud, Bay City Rollers and Slade songs would get played (as this was what all Stornoway bands played). After a 2 hour delay, due to John Bonham sneaking out for a chicken supper at the Church Street chipshop, Led Zeppelin took the stage and let lose a frenzy of drink and drug infused rock music, complete with an hour long drum solo.

The band played a huge selection of their songs, all with a Stornowegian slant, including The Scouthall Remains the Same, Communion Service Breakdown, and Trampled Under Professor Foot. House’s Of The Holy went down really well with the Free Church element, as did Stairway to Heaven.

At 11.00, the Scout Leader pulled the plugs and the band was ushered out of the Hall and into the waiting bus. Ten minutes later they were on board their plane and taxing down the runway, oblivious to the fact that they had just played a gig in the Outer Hebrides.