The Song Remains the Same

The Song Remains the Same is a 1976 motion picture by English rock band Led Zeppelin. The film was recorded between July 1973 and August 1974, at various locations. It was released by Swan Song Records in conjunction with Warner Bros. Pictures on 20 October 1976 in the United States, and 4 November 1976 in the United Kingdom. The Song Remains the Same was Led Zeppelin's sole feature film during the band's existence. Receiving mostly mixed reviews upon release, with manager Peter Grant called it 'the most expensive home-movie ever made', it mixed fantasy sequences with live performances. Originally intended to be a straight-forward documentary of the band, with two different directors later, it was what multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones described as 'a compromise'. The Song Remains the Same was one of the last Led Zeppelin releases to be given a remastering treatment, with a special collectors DVD edition issued in 2007. An accompanying double album soundtrack was issued with the film's release in 1976.

Overview

Due to increasing demands to see the band live, Led Zeppelin had made plans to film their performance making it easier for fans unable to see them on tour to go to a cinema and watch them perform instead. The band had ruled out television due to the poorer quality of sound. Manager Peter Grant had laid out a strategy to make a concert film of Led Zeppelin as early as 9 January 1970, when the band performed at the Royal Albert Hall, with footage shot with director Peter Whitehead and Stanley Dorfman. Additional footage of the band arriving and performing in Iceland was also filmed on 22 June 1970, in what was to become an hour long semi-documentary theatrical release. However the footage at the Royal Albert Hall was deemed too dark to be useful. These plans were altered to film the band's performance at the Bath Festival instead and to reuse what they could of previous film footage but this was cancelled at the last minute, and the concept shelved.

Plans for a film were again revived when American-born director Joe Massot, a friend of Charlotte Martin and a Berkshire neighbour of Jimmy Page, convinced Page to record a part-fantasy part-live concert film in 1973. The film would be financed entirely by the band. Grant was reluctant at first but agreed with the idea in principle, and at short notice a film crew was assembled by Massot in July 1973, and travelled with the band filming segments from Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and two nights on 27 and 29 July at Madison Square Garden, New York. Massot also managed to record the aftermath of the infamous Drake Hotel Robbery. Massot shot the film to include fantasy footage however there were not enough close-ups of the concert footage recorded, so there were major problems in that the Madison Square Garden shows were the last concerts of their 1973 tour schedule and they could not be refilmed. Following the tour, the band members were asked to submit their fantasy sequences for filming - these included Peter Grant and tour manager Richard Cole dressed as hitmen battling gangsters (the record companies, promoters, and agents), singer Robert Plant in Arthurian mood and with his family on their country farm, John Paul Jones with his family reading fairy tales as well as riding at night as his alter-ego highwayman, Jimmy Page climbing a mountain in search of knowledge, and John Bonham on his family farm the Old Hyde, as well as drag racing in a hot rod.

Because of the slow progress in the film project due to the lack of close-ups, Massot was eventually dismissed by the band and replaced by director Peter Clifton. Clifton acted on the problem and with Grant's assistance, assembled the band at Shepparton Studios in 1974, with a mock-up of the Madison Square Garden stage to film close-ups of the band dressed in their stage gear. Clifton also attempted to gel the fantasy sequences with the concert footage and reshot some of the fantasy sequences. Progress on the film was again hampered by the tax laws in the UK, resulting in the band members being absent during much of the films editing in 1975, and for a time Page considered shelving the project and instead filming their upcoming US concert tour. The car accident to Robert Plant in August 1975 changed plans, and now without Plant able to tour, the film again became a priority. Page later stated in a October 1977 Trouser Press interview that too much of the band's money had already gone into the project to consider pulling out. Page spent most of late 1975 and early 1976 finishing off the film and editing the soundtrack. Relations with director Clifton had soured as patience with the slow pace of the project had run-out. Grant accused Clifton of misusing a chauffeur driven car at the band's expense and Cole was dispatched to recover all remaining film footage.

After many delays, The Song Remains the Same finally had its world premiere at Cinema 1, Ritz Theatre, Manhattan on 20 October 1976. Proceeds from the night went to the Save the Children Fund. Guests who attended included Bad Company's Simon Kirke, Ron Wood, Mick Jagger, Mick Ronson, Linda Rondstadt, and Carly Simon. A lavish party was held at the Pierre Hotel afterwards. On 4 November 1976, the film was simultaneously screened at London's Warner West End and ABC Shaftesbury Avenue cinemas. Roy Harper, Alan Freeman, Billy Connolly, Rick Wakeman, and Paul and Linda McCartney attended with a press party held at the Floral Hall in Covent Garden. A major disappointment for the band was the lack of proper quadraphonic sound systems in most cinemas making the sound less than satisfactory for audiences.

Reception

The Song Remains the Same received mixed reviews by film and music critics. The band admitted it was not a great film but a statement on where they were at that point in time. At the box office, the film generated over US$10 million in earnings in the first 12 months. After it's run, it garnered a cult following with screenings at late night cinemas. Released on laserdisc and VHS shortly afterwards, it generated interest in new fans who had not seen the band before 1980, as it was the only official film document they could access.

The Song Remains the Same film poster 1976 Warner Bros

Track list

Track sequence:

  1. Mob Rubout
  2. Mob Town Credits
  3. Country Life ('Autumn Lake')
  4. 'Bron-Yr-Aur'
  5. 'Rock and Roll'
  6. 'Black Dog'
  7. 'Since I've Been Loving You'
  8. 'No Quarter'
  9. Who's Responsible?
  10. 'The Song Remains the Same'
  11. 'The Rain Song'
  12. Fire and Sword
  13. Capturing the Castle
  14. Not Quite Backstage Pass
  15. 'Dazed and Confused'
  16. Strung Out
  17. Magic in the Night
  18. Gate Crasher
  19. No Comment
  20. 'Stairway to Heaven'
  21. 'Moby Dick'
  22. Country Squire Bonham
  23. 'Heartbreaker'
  24. Grand Theft
  25. 'Whole Lotta Love'
  26. End Credits (w/ 'Stairway to Heaven')

Chart positions

DVD

  • Norwegian Music Chart (2003) 2
  • Finnish Music Chart (2005) 3
  • Italian FIMI Music DVD chart (2008) 18
  • Hungarian MAHASZ Top 20 DVDs Chart (2008) 1

Release history

  • US 1976 Warner Bros VHS NTSC 0853 9113 8938 
  • US 1976 Warner Bros LD 11389 
  • Japan 1976 Warner Bros LD 10WL-4 
  • Japan 1976 Warner Bros LD NJEL 11389 
  • UK 1984 Warner Bros VHS PAL PEV 61389 
  • Italy 1984 Warner Bros VHS PAL PIV 11389 
  • UK 1988 Warner Bros VHS PAL PES 61389 
  • US 1991 Warner Bros VHS NTSC630 027 0424 
  • US 1991 Warner Bros LD 0853 9113 8969 
  • US 1999 Warner Bros DVD 0853 9113 8921 
  • Spain 2000 Warner Bros DVD BoxDVD 11389 
  • US 2007 Warner Bros Double DVD Z1 72654 Special edition
  • US 2007 Warner Bros DVD Box 12569 83780 90 ST Collectors edition
  • US 2007 Warner Bros BL0853 9115 7113 
  • UK 2007 Warner Bros DVD Box 3000015364 Collectors edition
  • UK 2008 Warner Bros DVD Box SD-83780 Collectors edition

Credits

Cast:

Production:

  • Jimmy Page - guitars, backing vocals, producer, sound editor, sound mixer
  • Robert Plant - vocals
  • John Paul Jones - bass guitar, keyboards
  • John Bonham - drums, percussion
  • Peter Grant - executive producer
  • Joe Massot - director
  • Peter Clifton - director
  • Ernie Day - camera operator
  • Robert Freeman - camera operator
  • David Gladwell - editor
  • Eddie Kramer - sound engineer
  • Shelly - special effects
  • Ian Knight - visual effects and lighting
  • Kirby Wyatt - visual effects and lighting
  • Brian Condliffe - technician
  • Mick Hinton - technician
  • Benji LeFevre - technician
  • Ray Thomas - technician
  • Steven Weiss - shoot trouble
  • Cameron Crowe - liner notes

© 2009 SoundHistoria.    All rights reserved.