Rush’s Geddy Lee recalls watching Led Zeppelin alongside Alex Lifeson in 1969: ‘We wanted to be them instantly’

Led Zep
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Rush vocalist/bassist Geddy Lee has shared his memories of seeing Led Zeppelin for the first time, when Jimmy Page’s band played the The Rock Pile in Toronto on August 18, 1969  on their third North American tour.

“They literally brought the house down,” Lee recalls, in a new interview with Classic Rock magazine.

“They were doing two shows,” Lee remembers. “We were at the first show. I went with [original Rush drummer] John Rutsey and Alex [Lifeson]. 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. They literally brought the house down, because by the end of the night there was plaster falling from the ceiling.”

“I remember when the first album dropped,” Lee adds. “We waited at our local Sam The Record Man store in Willowdale, grabbed the record, ran to my house, put it on and sat on my bed freaking out over Communication Breakdown. They were a huge, huge influence on us. We wanted to be them instantly. But their stuff was 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.”

For Lee, Led Zeppelin were much more than just another heavy metal band, whatever their critics in the late 1960s might have said or written.

“The phrase ‘heavy metal’ didn’t suit Zeppelin,” he insists. “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. 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.”

For more on Led Zeppelin, including a forensic deep dive into the band’s legendary fourth album, pick up the new issue of Classic Rock magazine, which also includes features on ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Blackberry Smoke, Wolfgang Van Halen, Meat Loaf and much more. 

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