Wednesday, 28 January 2015

LZ-’75: The Lost Chronicles Of Led Zeppelin’s 1975 American Tour by Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis recalls the summer of ’75. Although I was only ten years old at the time, his memory of things rings true to me. I was watching the older long-haired kids do their thing. And the hippie girl who babysat me and my siblings told me a few stories. We all knew “Peggy Day.” And we all had at least one “Peggy Day” in our acquaintance who never returned from the adventure.

Peter and Peggy broke up somewhere around 1972, and she disappeared, having lit out for the territory. A postcard to me had been mailed from Santa Cruz, California. We’d last heard that she was in Central America, where she’d gone on a spiritual quest of some kind. So it was good to know she was alive and coming to visit Peter. He was living alone; maybe their old love would rekindle. It was a beautiful concept. But then she moved in with me instead.

I’d gone to Boston for the day, and when I returned to the island on the midnight freight boat, Peggy Day was lying there -- in my bed, really beautiful in the glow of a glass oil lamp. Beautiful, but also damaged. She was rail-thin and dark brown, her blond hair very long and braided for bed. We talked a little. She said she was hitchhiking up-island on her way to Peter’s but decided my house was closer, and she knew the key was in the mailbox. She said she’d been through hard times in Guatemala. She said she was now twenty-four years old. She said she needed looking after. I had a girlfriend who was off in graduate school for the summer, so I told Peggy to get some rest, and I had a cold shower and slept on the daybed in the parlor.

The next day, she went to see Peter, and I figured I’d see Peggy at the beach. But they didn’t show up. That night was a hot one, and I went to bed early with Tender Is The Night. An hour later, I heard soft footsteps, the screen door opening, and there she was, slipping out of her summer dress, turning down the wick of the oil lamp until it was too dark to read. We made love in the morning as well.

So Peggy Day spent about three weeks in my care, which is the only way I can put it. She had come to the island to recover from some trauma she had suffered. She was very quiet, preferring not to be specific about her experiences in Guatemala. She needed to eat fresh food, swim in the warm sea, walk in the cool woods every day, and be looked after. She was indeed quite spooked and stayed close by my side every day she was with me. Later, she told me that she’d gone to Central America with a boyfriend, but he had somehow died. I couldn’t get much info from her. She was more a mysterious presence than a person.

After a week, Peggy had gained some weight and developed a healthy glow. After two, she’d become voluptuous again, and was turning heads when we went into town. She liked being driven around the island in my old blue BMW, her long hair streaming in the breeze. At home she moved around like a sylph, soundlessly, making clever arrangements with the wildflowers she picked. I bought her some watercolors at Alley’s Store, and she began painting again. When she smiled, it was like diamonds and sunrays. But she had her darker moods, too, and when she was in one of them, it was a good time to make love to her. She said that helped.

Through all this, I managed to stay friends with Peter. He had several other girlfriends anyway, and it was all over between him and Margaret Day. Then summer began to wane, and my girlfriend was coming to the island. Peggy said she wanted to stay and live with us, maybe have a child. I told her that my girlfriend might kill both of us. There were tears, and not hers alone, as I drove her to the ferry.

After that, I didn’t see Peter for a while. Then, around the time I needed a photographer, I got a postcard from him in Los Angeles, which is exactly where I would be covering the Led Zeppelin tour in a fortnight.

So we worked it out. Peter Simon and I were on the job once again. The story was Led Zeppelin, and we had to get the goods.

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