More ELP – Meeting Led Zeppelin chapter 5

(My music journey eventually led to my understanding the Publius Enigma mystery and the Division Bell by Pink Floyd. I have to tell everything from the beginning in order to show how I know it. It’s all basically relevant. I’m not here to brag about who I met. I wouldn’t be writing this if that’s all I had to talk about)

On November 15 and 16 of 1971, Emerson, Lake & Palmer played at the Eastown and the band Yes opened for them. I can’t recall anything that happened those two days. I’m sure I enjoyed watching the band play. If there was an ELP get together or party with Yes, my girlfriend and I weren’t invited. It seemed that things between me and Carl weren’t going in any real romantic direction as I had hoped. But I loved his drumming and I cared for him and I felt we were friends at the very least. I loved the band and their adaptations of classical music and symphonic rock style.

On November 17th, the third night, the concert switched to Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit and it was a much larger venue that seated over 12,000 people. After the show, many of the ELP entourage, the band my girlfriend, Carl and I got into limousines that we’re parked outside the door. I overheard someone shout “We’re gonna be in a movie!” I didn’t like the sound of that because I wasn’t anyone special, didn’t want to get in the way and besides I hated cameras.

After a short drive and still in Detroit, the limo pulled up to Mario’s Restaurant, an old world style Italian restaurant. We walked in and then into a private room. The scene was really pretty. The tables had white linen tablecloths, tall white taper candles glowing and several arrangements of red flowers which all seemed a bit much for a bunch of guys. I believe my girlfriend and I were the only girls there.

We sat down at the table, but I couldn’t find Carl. I figured he had gone to the restroom. We saw a guy with a movie camera filming, so my girlfriend and I just faced each other and avoided it. Then Carl came in and sat down where there were empty seats at the table. A band assistant sitting next to me told me that I should go have a seat next to Carl, so we moved and I sat next to him.

I told him that I started playing drums and that I really liked it and my teacher was a jazz drummer. Then he said “you might get a job in a cabaret”. I didn’t know what he meant, but sadly it wasn’t very encouraging. And that’s all he said on that subject. I think he meant in a nightclub which was fine with me.

When the waiter came up behind us asking what kind of dressing I wanted on my salad, I think I said French. Then Carl turned and looked at me closely and said “why don’t you get the kind that I got” and I told the waiter “yeah”. It was strange how all of a sudden he seemed concerned and interested in what I was doing. I wondered why he did that.

We talked about the album Tarkus and the artwork on the album. I loved the creature called Tarkus which was an armadillo with tank threads and guns. And how you could imagine him rolling down the street to the marching snare drum rudiments in the instrumental “Aquatarkus”. Emerson’s talent on Keyboards and Moog synthesizer on that piece is amazing. It sounds as though Tarkus is rolling through water.

I asked him how his brother Steven was and he said that he was doing good. I read that he was also a drummer. Then he seemed suspicious of my intentions when he asked “why do you know so much”? That was a rude question and I didn’t reply. I had subscriptions to British rock magazines and everything I knew about him I learned from the articles. Melody Maker was my favorite. He was voted number one drummer by them. I was clipping out all the articles of him and was a fan after all. I was just trying to make conversation.

After the dinner there was cheesecake for dessert and Carl and I argued over whether cheesecake was best with cherries or strawberries. I kept saying cherry and he kept saying strawberry.

(I didn’t know it at that time, but I was filmed when I was eating and Carl took my attention away. It wasn’t until 20 years later that I saw myself in an ELP film that was first shown in England in December of 1973. I bought an ELP bootleg VHS called the Manticore film at a music memorabilia show in 1992 and that’s when I first realized I was in it. I talk more about it later in the book and how that film was used again for several more projects.

Photo from the Manticore film
Hiding from the camera when I first saw it

I never really liked being photographed or having a camera pointed at my face. I felt it was rude to do without someone’s permission.)

After the restaurant, not much happened that I can recall, so my girlfriend and I went home. I didn’t know it then, but I unknowingly played a part and years later I found out what part I played.

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I decided that following my drummer friend wasn’t going anywhere at the moment, so at a party with friends, I met a guy that I liked a lot. Rocky was a real popular guy within our large circle of friends. Most of the girls that knew him adored him, which was a pain. He was a bit of a party boy though, but then I loved music and my rock stars. I enjoyed his company and he was fun to go out with. Finally, an almost normal guy who liked me and wanted sex. Sometimes he’d call me and want to go out, but I’d say I couldn’t because I had to practice my drumming. I went out with him on and off for over a year and a half.

I believe the date was 4/17/72 and ELP were about to play Cobo again. I thought about not going because I was tired of the games. But, it didn’t seem right that I not show up to see them in Detroit. I still cared for Carl and I loved his drumming and the band itself and it was an exciting atmosphere.

I went to the hotel, I believe it was called the Sheraton Cadillac Hotel at the time, now called the Westin Book Cadillac. I asked for Carl’s room number and they asked for my name, I gave it to them and then they gave me the number. I knocked on his door and he said “who is it” and I said my name. And he said come in. I walked in and he was in his usual karate style robe propped up with pillows and lying on the bed. I put my purse down on the bed and I sat down in a comfortable chair.

He wanted to know which bands had been in the area recently and I mentioned Rod Stewart and he seemed a bit jealous of him because he repeated his name in a funny sarcastic way.

He reached over and took my purse to look at it. It was a new red leather custom made handbag and it had a very colorful hand painted dragon on it.

It had been in the window at a leather shop and I had to have it to go with the red leather boots I was wearing that had been custom made in London. He was looking at my handbag and asked “where did you get this” and I said “Birmingham” and he asked “Birmingham England?” And I said “No, Birmingham Michigan”. That was a strange coincidence because he was born in Birmingham England. There was something he really liked about that hand bag though, and I couldn’t figure out what it was. I would find out a year later.

A friend of Carl’s who was on the tour, walked into the room and Carl introduced us. His name was Mark and when he heard my name he immediately yelled at Carl to “get her number!”. But he never asked me for it.

After that they told me to call a girlfriend and have her come over, probably so Mark would have a date. So Carl grabs the phone and I sat on the bed and I called my girlfriend T and asked her if she wanted to come over. She told me she had to wash her hair and I told the guys what she said and Carl grabbed the phone and tried to convince her to come over. That was so funny. The biggest rock concert in Detroit that night and the drummer tells her over the phone to come over, but she couldn’t because she had to wash her hair. After that Carl told me to get the limo outside and go to the show and he’d be there later.

After the show and back at the hotel, not sure whose room and suite we in, but there were a lot of people talking and walking around. I overheard someone say that an executive from Atlantic Records was to arrive there.

Carl and some of the guys were breaking out the cocaine and needed something to chop it with to make lines. I gave them my drivers license to use. Carl grabbed it to look at it, but I grabbed it back. Drivers license pictures are the worse.

Several fans were crowding around in the hallway when the door was opened and looking in and asking “Is Carl here”. I saw it all happening from a distance and wondered who they were. The manager told them “It’s not cool for you to be here” and they left.

The evening ended up as a casual business meeting. Carl and I sat on the love seat and Greg and a woman sat on a sofa across from us, Keith and a few others were there. The Atlantic executive at the meeting may have been Ahmet Ertegun. I’m not exactly sure. Greg basically did all the talking on behalf of himself and the band. A year later Manticore Records was founded by Greg Lake and owned by the members of the band Emerson, Lake & Palmer. The manticore symbol was first featured in the artwork of their second album Tarkus.

So that’s what they were discussing, having their own record label. On the coffee table was a pile of cocaine and big English joints were being passed around. It wasn’t strong weed and it just made me more tired.

It was getting late and I didn’t want to get too high because I had to drive home alone. I really didn’t want to be rude and leave during the meeting, but I had to go. I started getting ready to leave when Carl put his hand on my knee. It was like a signal for me to stay put and so I did.

It was early in the morning and I was so tired and the meeting was finally over. Everyone walked out of the room into the hallway and Carl said “Goodbye” to me. I said “what? I can’t go home, I’m too high”. I couldn’t even imagine myself walking in downtown Detroit at such an early hour in the morning wearing a sweater-skirt outfit and red leather boots. And then driving while I was so tired and high. Someone wasn’t thinking of my well being at all. It was a very scary moment. Then he told me that I could sleep in his friend Mark’s suite. As Carl was walking away to his room, I looked at Mark and behind Carl’s back he waved his hand at him and said “He’s weird”. I didn’t know what he meant by that. I was still pretty naive. All I wanted was a safe place to sleep. I wanted to leave earlier, but he didn’t want me to. I slept on a sofa in Mark’s suite and left in the morning.

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My girlfriend and I wanted to go to the Led Zeppelin concert at Cobo Hall. The concert was on June 6 and Detroit was the first gig of their 1972 North American tour. I had a new cassette tape recorder and I wanted to record some of the show because John Bonham was a great drummer and Carl admired him and I wanted to play it back to Carl when I saw him next. They were both the top rock drummers in the world at the time. We didn’t have tickets, but we thought we’d take our chances that someone might have extra tickets or we could get in backstage somehow.

I clearly remember deciding on what to wear to the concert. It had to be cool and classy. I wore my new Native American jewelry. A silver butterfly bracelet with inlaid with turquoise and coral stones and matching butterfly ring. And another silver bracelet and more rings with turquoise. I wore my snakeskin boots from London, black trousers and a long black and white silky top that tied around the waist and had long flowy sleeves Since I was such a conservative dresser, I thought I might add something a little bit more fun and flirty. All I could find that might make me look a bit of a tart we’re my dangling antique rainier cherry earrings and cherries were tart.

When we arrived outside of Cobo Hall, we realized there wasn’t any way that we could get tickets. And I had heard security would be very tight backstage because of some recent events that took place at another show.

We went around to the backstage door area and there were people standing around probably waiting to see if the band would come out or they were trying to get backstage themselves, but no one was getting in. Standing there for a while, I remembered that one of my girlfriends in England knew a guy who was a roadie for Led Zeppelin and I tried to recall his name and I remembered a name Chris Hinton (I got the name wrong and got it mixed up with the musician Chris Hillman from The Byrds). I decided to try and ask for him at the door.

So, I went and knocked on the back stage door and a guy opened the door and I asked for Chris Hinton and the guy said you mean “Mick Hinton”? and I said “oh yes that’s right” and then he said “just a minute” and shut the door. Then someone else opened the door and said he was Mick Hinton and I told him about our mutual friend and I asked if he could get us in. Then he told us that since security was really tight we could come in but we had to stay in a particular area of the backstage, so we said “Okay thanks”.

When we walked in and he showed us to the area that we had to stay in, I looked and there was no one around. A few people did walk into the building and one was the promoter for the show Bob Bageris the head of Bamboo Productions. He looked at us as if to ask, how in the hell did you get in? The band was probably getting ready to go on stage and we weren’t about to go snooping around because we’d get kicked out without backstage passes. I felt like Hinton was playing a trick on us, but he had a job to do and did let us in.

So we stood in that same area throughout the entire concert and there was no one around. I’m not sure how much of the concert I recorded, but I know I recorded some of John Bonham’s drum solo.

After the show, it was such a surprise that our old friends Sonya and his sister walked out of the dressing room. They had been friends with Zeppelin for several years. When we were in London the prior year, Sonya came to my girlfriends flat to invite us to a Zeppelin party, but we couldn’t go because we were leaving to go home that same hour. I ran up to them and gave each of them a hug. So here we were together again, like we were in London a year earlier.

I was leaning against the wall, when John Bonham and John Paul Jones walked out of the dressing room and stood to the side of the door. I was almost starring at Bonham. Then Jimmy Page walked out and walked by right in front of me about 3 feet away. He went over to the other girls standing next to me. I thought wow this is really cool.

Robert Plant followed behind Jimmy and Robert stopped right in front of me, was facing me and he stood there. My first thoughts were Oh wow he’s so tall, look at all that hair its massive and so angelic, he has a beautiful face with such pretty skin. Then Sonya introduced us to the band. She said “This is Tammy and Denise”. Then Robert looked at Sonya and pointed towards me and said “Her name is underneath? and Sonya said “No, it’s Denise”. Then Robert said “Oh, like words have two meanings”. They both laughed and I thought, Oh no is he laughing at me, this isn’t good.

Then he looked at me, smiled and said “Hello” and then I said “Hi”. He seemed almost unearthly as he walked closer towards me and we looked into each other’s eyes. Instead of saying anything, I was thinking Are you the magic I’ve been looking for? Will you make my dreams comes true? He moved his face closer and closer to mine and he was looking all around my face. I felt self conscious and didn’t want him seeing my face up close, so I turned my head.I didn’t know what he wanted. Looking back, maybe he wanted to kiss me. I never forgot those moments.

After that, I was in a total daze. All I remember is my girlfriend saying “Let’s go” and I heard some goodbyes and we went out the backstage door where we came in. I remember thinking what’s the rush? I think my girlfriend was jealous that nobody was paying attention to her.

When we got into the car to leave, I had a strange feeling again. It was like the feeling I had in London when we were invited to the party, but couldn’t go because we were leaving to go back home. And now that I had met them, I was leaving again. It was Iike I wasn’t suppose to leave this time, but fate had other plans and was pulling me away.

I went to see them, so I could record their show and play it back to Palmer and maybe meet John Bonham. I never dreamed I’d meet the entire band and have magical moments with Robert Plant. He seemed so sincere and kind that the next year I thought about trying my luck again backstage after I watched the show, but I didn’t. Even though he was mostly a really nice and very cool guy, he was sadly for me, incredibly famous and married. So, I went on with my music journey, but I always carried the memory of our meeting in my heart.

From the LedZeppelin.com website (R. Barrett collection)

Next up – Chapter 6

“Hangin’ Out w/Pink Floyd + CP goes creepy”