Muggy Night in Mumbai ...
Published in Times of India
Pune, on 7th July, 2001 )
afternoon, in the winter of 1972, I got a call from an excited Ramzan, the
owner of Slip Disc, the happening discotheque and live band show place of our
time. He told me that Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin were in town
and are to visit the Slip Disc and perform that evening so please get there as
early as I could. If only you could imagine the excitement and turmoil that
took place for the next few hours in the life of this fledging young Rock
singer! A hundred telephone calls later I was on my way to distant Colaba from
our bungalow in Chembur and reached the Slip Disc to find it almost full. And
this was a good four hours before their scheduled arrival! Good news sure
travels fast and as we waited for the arrival of our Rock Icons, we prepared
for their performance with a last minute check on the music equipment
available. Those were the tough days of import control and we had really poor
stuff that was scrounged and smuggled with the help of relatives from abroad
and rich benefactors. We were hoping that this would not mar the enthusiasm of
the Rock Superstars who were used to the very best!
As the next few hours slowly crawled and H hour
arrived, the Slip Disc began to burst at the seams and the crowd was getting
difficult to manage, It was weird seeing a discotheque with no music playing,
filled to capacity with people just waiting for the stars to arrive and the
excitement levels were at danger levels. We received minute-by-minute
information about the progress of their arrival from the Taj Mahal Hotel where
the duo was staying. Fortunately it was just a hop skip and a jump away and
Ramzan was in their room waiting to escort them to his noisy club on Bombay’s
waterfront. Just as it seemed that the wait was getting unbearable, Robert
Plant and Jimmy Page made their entrance into the discotheque to the
spontaneous applause of their crazy fans myself included.
The next hour was like a blur to me especially
after all these years, as just too much seemed to be happening. As Robert and
Jimmy were busy signing autographs for the crowd that descended on them, for a
brief instance, I could not help but feel a sense of disappointment on seeing
my idols in person. I had imagined a very strong male and macho presence
especially from the tall Plant and their music exuded such incredible energy,
yet both of them were so soft-spoken and almost effeminate in their behavior!
Their apparent frail exteriors made me more aware of the thousands of
misconceptions that we must have been carrying around with us. Don’t
forget we did not have television at that time and we were always craving for
information. We only had their music to inspire us and we were using our
imagination to carve out the entire personas of our idols!
Soon these thoughts were out of my mind as it
was time for the duo to perform. It had been decided that Xerxes Gobhai, the
talented bassist from the Human Bondage and Jameel Shaikh, the drummer from my
band would back them but nobody had any idea what they would perform. There was
just no time to get into any details, as anything would do for us music-starved
fans and before we knew it, Led Zeppelin, Bombay
style were announced to the audience. Jimmy and Plant got into the groove from
the word go as they launched into Rock and Roll, the hit from Led Zep 4 and the
audience went wild! They followed that with an extended blues where their stay
seemed to feature a lot. Black Dog followed and before we knew it was all over.
They must have been on stage for a maximum of 25 minutes and we savored every
second of that. At that time, Led Zeppelin were on top of the charts and it was
a great opportunity for us to see at least two of them perform live in Bombay
and they were just a few feet away!
In later years, the story of the Plant/Page
visit took on an unbelievable aura around it and everybody seemed to have
different recollections of that night… myself included. But I guess that
is what legends are made of. Today it even seems ridiculous as it to how much
hysteria a couple of Rock Stars could generate! Yet this was the barometer with
which you could judge the passion with which we loved our music. Please, keep
the fire burning and Rock on!