Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Devil's in his hole

The wonderful blog A Holiday in the Sun used to blog in 2008 on political issues in Jersey, sometimes with detailed comments, and sometimes with sharp pithy little notes, such as this one:

A Quick One

At a press conference yesterday Frank Walker spoke of political U-turns, asking "What sort of government and what sort of Council of Ministers would we be if we did not respond to changes?" I think you'll find the answer is simple, Frank. Exactly the same type of government who habitually ignore the views and wishes of the public.

But there were also historical features, which have sadly been lost as the blog is no longer extant. So with thanks to Holiday in the Sun, here's a a re-run of his piece that was presented on that blog in June 2008 on Led Zeppelin in Jersey. It's a vivid and lively story you won't find in Balleine's History of Jersey! And the Rolls-Royce tale unforgettable!

Led Zeppelin In Jersey
(from A Holiday in the Sun blog)

Here's an interesting fact that most local people seem completely unaware of. Unlikely as it may seem, in 1975 the Rock band Led Zeppelin lived in Jersey. Back in the 70's the island was still a premier holiday destination, and as such (combined with its tax haven status) attracted big spenders and money-makers. Many of the popular stars of the era  holidayed on Jersey, but Led Zeppelin arrived through rather less fortunate circumstances.

In early August of 1975 Zeppelin's vocalist, Robert Plant, was severely injured in a car crash whilst holidaying in Greece. As a result the band were forced into hiatus, cancelling a planned 1975-1976 world tour. Partly for taxation reasons, and partly because Plant had friends on the island, he headed to Jersey to recuperate - with fellow band members John Bonham (drums) and Jimmy Page (guitar) in tow.

At Jersey Airport their time on the island got off to an amusing start. As fellow passengers disembarked the flight in the normal manner, a heavily plaster-castered Plant had to be removed from the aircraft by a fork-lift truck!

The first and only order of business to take place following Zeppelin's arrival on the island was a press conference, given to the international media to announce the cancellation of the forthcoming world tour. With this duty out of the way the band could settle down and relax.

Whilst Plant stayed with friends, Page and Bonham rented accommodation. Bonham lived in the St Peter's area of the island, and liking a drink or ten, frequented the Victoria pub in St Peter's Valley. Richard Cole, Led Zeppelin's Road-Manager, wrote a book about his time with the band which included an account of an incident that took place outside the Victoria. An upper-class gentleman taking a Sunday afternoon stroll saw Bonham washing his Rolls Royce in the pub car park. He paused to chat, making the assumption that Bonham was simply a hired hand cleaning his master's car. The conversation took a downward turn when the gentleman refused to believe that such a long-haired and loutish looking young man could be the owner of such an expensive and prestigious vehicle. According to Cole, the sneered phrase "Well I've never seen a man wash his own Rolls Royce before" flicked a switch in the head of the notoriously wild Bonham. The drummer walked to the boot of the car, removed a hammer, then began to mercilessly pummel the vehicle, pausing only to shout at the astounded gentleman "Well I bet you've never seen a man smash up his own Rolls Rolls before, have you?!". History does not record the response of the upper-class gentleman...

For evening entertainment John Bonham and Jimmy Page would often go to a nightclub on the seafront of St. Helier, just a few of doors up from what is now The Cosmopolitan (The club in question was called 'Thackerays', 'Tigers' and 'The Buzz Bar' in more recent times. I have no idea what is was called in 1975). On one occasion the pair arrived whilst a local band were playing, and spontaneously joined them onstage. That evening the punters had a free performance from 50% of one of the world's most in-demand Rock acts. The impromptu set included Blues and Rock and Roll classics. The nightclub was demolished about ten years ago and a Bank now stands on the site.

In September of 1975 John Bonham and Jimmy Page flew briefly back to London to attend the Melody Maker awards ceremony. At that time Melody Maker was the top selling UK music weekly, and Led Zeppelin scooped an unprecedented seven awards in their annual readers poll. They were voted International Band Of The Year, International Live Act Of The Year, and individual members picked up assorted awards for their vocal, instrumental and compositional talents. 'Physical Graffiti', Zeppelin's then current release, was voted best album of the year.

Led Zeppelin's residence in Jersey came to an end in October of 1975, whereupon they relocated to Malibu to continue a combination of resting-up and working on material for their next album.

In December the band returned to the island to play a surprise free gig at Behans (more recently known as The Inn On The Park), a venue situated on the seafront at West Park. Their set lasted 45 minutes, with Robert Plant on crutches and a stool, still suffering from his car crash injuries. Just 350 islanders were lucky enough to attend the gig.

The show was the band's first in 6 months. They performed a mixture of their own material and Rock and Roll covers, with a friend of the band,
Normal Hale, sitting in on keyboards for renditions of Jailhouse Rock and Blue Suede Shoes.

Speaking of Behans in a later interview, Robert Plant said "It was like a dance hall that was like some place 10 years gone by, in the best old English tradition. Guys with dicky-bows and evening jackets ready to bang your head against a wall if you stepped out of line, and chairs and tables lined up in escalation. Chicks wearing suspenders and stockings....and a lot of rock and roll."

Just a handful of months later, in March 1976, the band released their seventh album, 'Presence'. It made number 1 in the both the US and UK charts. Its opening track, 'Achilles Last Stand', contains the line "the Devil's in his hole". A Jersey reference? You decide...

As for Behans, after having operated under a number of names, the venue permanently closed its doors in the mid 1990's. Following what can only be described as a case of disgustingly wilful neglect, over the next decade the building fell into a state of dereliction. Despite heavy protest from locals, it was demolished, and the land sold to a property developer. Expensive art-deco style apartments now grace the location.

The band returned briefly to Jersey in 1980. On September the 25th of that year John Bonham had been found dead at Jimmy Page's home in Windsor. His death was alcohol related, he was just 32 years old. Shortly after the funeral the surviving 3 members of the band met on the
island to discuss the future of Led Zeppelin. Upon returning to London they released an official statement:

"The loss of our dear friend, and the deep sense of harmony felt by ourselves and our manager, have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were".

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