23.9.15

When you know the internet is wrong: Led Zeppelin's first gig


I'm at that age when you question your own memory of things, but some things I do remember well. Whilst browsing the Guildford page of Wikipedia last night  (to check that The Hospital of the Holy Trinity in the above postcard was also known as Abbot's Hospital), I came across this old chestnut:
The University Hall on the campus of the University of Surrey was the site of the first ever Led Zeppelin gig on 25 October 1968.[147]
Now, it's an easy assumption to make. Led Zep's first gig (and even this is disputed as they were originally billed as the New Yardbirds) took place on 25 October 1968 at the University of Surrey, and Surrey Uni is in Guildford, so… the gig must have been in Guildford, right? It's even repeated on the UoS wiki page.
Early visitors to the new campus were Led Zeppelin, who performed their very first gig at the university on 15 October 1968.[11]
Wrong! The University in 1968 was on split sites: Battersea (Battersea College of Advanced Technology became the University of Surrey in 1966), and Guildford, which was pretty much a building site with the hall not yet built. The first gig I remember attending in the new Guildford hall was The Who (with John Sebastion on harmonica) in 1971. Adrian Boot of Boogle Enterprises used to put on gigs in the basement of the Chemical Engineering building, mainly featuring Blackhill bands.


The Guildford wiki page cites Led Zep's own website, which clearly says Battersea in the heading, and there is even a poster (which I don't remember) which gives the address as Battersea Park Road - and they are billed as 'New Yardbirds featuring Jimmy Page' - but the comments below it still argue it happened in Guildford!

On 20 December 2003 a plaque commemorating the event was unveiled in Guildford, outside the hall. However when they discovered it had the wrong date (15 October 1968 - see above) and site, it was removed. On 20 June 2008 the University awarded an honorary Doctorate to Jimmy Page in a ceremony at the Cathedral.

There is another website that clears up this muddle, saying in a footnote:
*Note that this first Led Zeppelin gig was in Battersea. Although the University had substantially moved out to Guildford from Battersea by this time, this gig was at the ORIGINAL university site, in Battersea Park Road.
The original Battersea building that contained the Great Hall (where I did see the Animals, Steam Packet with Rod Stewart and Long John Baldry, and the Bonzos - I was on the stage crew) is now yuppy apartments.

There is also some slight confusion about when David Bowie played in Guildford, with John 'Hutch' Hutchinson, as part of the duo Feathers, on 11 March 1969. The gig was part of the Guildford Arts Festival late night club, held each night in the upstairs theatre club at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre. The arts festival was organised by the University of Surrey Students Union and directed by Rick Welton. It was not held up at the Stag Hill campus, and the website of Bowie's gigs has been amended partially!

I was at both these historic gigs (I think!). The question I can't answer however is did I or did I not see Joy Division at Guildford Civic Hall on 1 November 1979, supporting Buzzcocks? I was a big fan of Buzzcocks so I would have been there, but was I in the bar? To my shame, watching support bands was not a thing we did back then!
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