Geddy Lee has shared fond memories of seeing Led Zeppelin play live for the first time in a recent interview. The Rush bassist and vocalist saw Jimmy Page’s group play at The Rock Pile in Toronto, August 18th, 1969.
In an interview with Classic Rock, the Tom Sawyer singer recalled the heavy rock group “literally brought the house down”. Zeppelin performed twice at the time, with Lee attending the second show with Alex Lifeson and original Rush drummer, John Rutsey.
“It was general admission. We lined up for hours. We got in and we sat in the second row. And I swear they didn’t walk out on stage – they floated out,” recalled Geddy. “They literally brought the house down, because by the end of the night there was plaster falling from the ceiling.”
Geddy remembers “when the first album dropped” as they waited at their local Sam The Record Man store in Willowdale. They “grabbed the record, ran to my house, put it on and sat on my bed freaking out over Communication Breakdown”.
Geddy admits the Zepp were “a huge, huge influence” on Rush, who “wanted to be them instantly” but their music was “too hard” to play. “We tried a number of Zeppelin songs when we played in the bars, but we felt we couldn’t pull them off. We did have Livin’ Lovin’ Maid in our set for a while though.”
With Zeppelin facing criticism for being “just another heavy metal band”, Geddy was unconvinced and felt they were so much more. He said the phrase ‘heavy metal’ did not suit the London rock group as they “had a sound that constantly surprised”.
“They used influences and they took chances that other heavy metal bands just would not conceive of, maybe sparked by Robert Plant’s lyrics. He had that Tolkienesque majesty about his lyrics, and people don’t like that about his writing, but I do,” Geddy declared.
“I love the imagery that he uses. And it is the combination of the way Jimmy’s acoustic guitar is used and the presence of that blues background. It gives their music much more depth than your average heavy metal band.”
Rush are a Canadian rock group who formed in Toronto in 1968 with Geddy Lee on bass and vocals, Alex Lifeson on guitar, and John Rutsey on drums. Following Neil Peart’s introduction as Rutsey’s replacement on the skins, Rush went on to have great commercial success, releasing 24 Gold records and 14 Platinum records. The band recently celebrated the 45th anniversary of the 1976 album in The Stories Behind History’s Greatest Rock Bands.
Check out the video below to hear the funny story of when Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson met Jimmy Page and Robert Plant in an interview with CBC’s The Hour.