In 1973, at the height of their glory, the legendary rock group Led Zeppelin taped a three-night performance at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The band played 32 gigs in 30 locations for their North American tour, serving as its capping event. Their concert movie, The Song Remains The Same, released three years later, was made from the video. The same-named live CD was released in conjunction with the film.
The Song Remains The Same’s cinematic adaptation was advertised as, “the band’s special way of giving their millions of friends what they had been clamouring for – a personal and private tour of Led Zeppelin. For the first time, the world has a front-row seat on Led Zeppelin.”
In order to make up for the lack of live footage, which was evident despite all efforts, replacement director Peter Clinton blended it with close-ups and other behind-the-scenes images of the group, including scenes surrounding the theft of $200,000 from Led Zeppelin’s hotel room just before their final performance.
Jimmy Page even appeared in one shot climbing a Scottish mountain, which he subsequently expressed sorrow for. Jimmy Page recalls that “We shot it in December, so there was snow on the ground, and these great clouds were going past the full moon” in Brad Tolinski’s book Light and Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page. But Page’s issues went beyond the weather.
Jimmy added, “We created this scaffold for filming the shot, and everything was perfect and ready to go, but I’d forgotten the most obvious thing – that I was going to have to do multiple takes climbing up and down. I kept thinking, ‘What have I done!’ It was bloody cold up there, too.”
The fact that the movie was not well received by critics probably made Page regret it more. In an interview with New Musical Express the year the movie came out, Page addressed this. He declared: “The Song Remains The Same is not a great film, but there’s no point in making excuses. It’s just a reasonably honest statement of where we were at that particular time. It’s very difficult for me to watch it now, but I’d like to see it in a year’s time just to see how it stands up.”
Fans praised the release despite his problems. In actuality, the film’s initial creation was motivated by Led Zep’s fervent fan base. Page said, “That’s why we did it. It made sense to do it. The decision to act was logical. This target market found The Song Remains The Same to be incredibly successful, and it earned roughly $10 million in its first year.
Led Zeppelin re-released the movie and the record that went along with it in 2007, updating the audio to go along with the visual. Due to the re-release’s enhanced audio quality, it received higher reviews. In 2018, the album had a second remastering.