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It Was Never Quiet at the Riot Hyatt

I got a phone call on a quiet Monday in February of 1973 from Led Zeppelin’s publicist.  I had been working the rounds in Los Angeles and between the PR guys and record companies I had made a few good contacts.  I had run into the publicist for Led Zeppelin a few weeks earlier and asked if I could have some time with the band the next time that they were in town.

The band had just come from a tour of England and was taking a month to relax before starting a big U.S. tour.  They had four eponymous albums on the charts and were waiting for the release of number 5, Houses of the Holy.  The album had hits in No Quarter and The Song Remains the Same.  While it departed from much of their blues influences it had funky tracks in The Ocean and D’yer Mak’er.  It also had a beautiful acoustic based track, The Rain Song.  Much of the initial buzz, however, was about the risqué cover featuring young, naked children.

The call from Zeppelin’s people invited me to meet them at The Continental Hyatt House on the Sunset Strip.  The Continental Hyatt had become a base of operations for many up and coming bands as it was close to the Whiskey-A-Go-Go and the many clubs and recording studios in West Hollywood.  After spending a few evenings with bands at the Hyatt my friends and I began calling it The Continental Riot House.  Led Zeppelin did much to bring about this nickname.

The lads of Zeppelin would typically rent out several entire floors for their antics.  Keith Richards became famous for throwing a television out of one of the windows.  Keith Moon threw a larger one out of one of the windows.  Never one to be outdone, John Bonham liked to unwind with a ride on a Harley Davidson…down the hallways between the suites.  Orgies with Jimmy Page, groupies chasing Robert Plant, John Paul Jones’ reserved debauchery, to Bonham being Bonzo; if you’ve read it it’s probably true.

I had hoped to catch the band for dinner and establish a rapport but when I arrived at 6:30 the night’s revelries were obviously well under way.  I followed a hotel bartender with a crate of liquor and found a mostly incoherent Robert Plant holding court.  I started talking to him about my ideas for some shots but found myself getting nowhere so after a half hour or so I grabbed a drink myself.

I had just about given up on an organized shoot when Peter Grant lumbered in.  At 6 foot 5 and well over 350 pounds, I knew Grant’s reputation for getting things done and enlisted his help in making photography happen. 

Any pictures of the band that I had seen up until this point had either been stage shots or big horizontal panoramas and I began looking for props to create something different.  I found an ugly orange armchair in one of the rooms and asked Grant to help me round up the lads.  My idea was a vertical grouping of the band.  Newspapers and magazines would love it for the ease of a print layout and it was different than all of the other photos that I’d seen.

Plant and Page arrived and mulled participation.  Jones was in another mood and Grant physically put him in place for me.  Page and Plant began laughing and plopped down on either arm of the chair.  Seeming to sense that he was being left out, Bonham wandered in, smoking a cigarette, and threw his arms around them.

I began furiously working my two cameras, an old favorite loaded with color and my newer Nikon with black and white.  I managed to get almost 20 shots before the peace dissolved and chaos returned.

A few days later I was able to get my shots to Led Zeppelin’s publicist and they chose one of the black and whites.  Through them I was contacted by Grant who made an offer to buy the whole lot of the color shots.  He wanted to buy them all but I saved the best one and never showed it to them.

Since that night I’ve gone on to see the black and white in numerous books about Led Zeppelin.  It’s been in magazines and even VH1’s Behind the Music.  I’ve had a devil of a time tracking down publishers and receiving photographer credits but one thing is for sure.  None of those guys ever had an evening like mine with Led Zeppelin at the Continental Riot House.

 

 

Keith, Pete, and John


Keith Moon, John Entwistle & Peter Townshend, The Houston Oaks Hotel, Houston, TX 1976

14×11 Print: $300.00
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Keith Moon with Topless Woman

1976 Houston Texas

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Keith Moon and Linda Lovelace

Keith Moon’s birthday party at the Brown Derby restaurant.
That evening, MCA Records presented Moon with Robert Redford’s suit from The Sting (which Moon wore constantly)

11×14 Print: $600.00
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