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Led Zepagain Turns Back the Clock : Band to perform its Zeppelin tribute gig Friday at the Ventura Theatre. It is copying the best, and has the talent to do so.

NIGHT LIFE

August 05, 1993|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

When "Stairway to Heaven" comes on the radio, would you rather run down Mother Teresa in your big Chrysler than listen to more than five seconds of that classic rock biggie? Then Led Zepagain may not be for you.

Led Zepagain, the group that believes equally in Jimmy Page as well as truth in advertising, will be doing its Led Zeppelin tribute show Friday at the Ventura Theatre. And since the originals broke up, what else is there besides the stereo? Also on the bill is Strutter, a KISS tribute band.

What this means to you should be obvious: Two fake bands will try to generate some real excitement at the voluminous venue. Opening will be an original local rock band, Resin.

If you're going to copy, then copy from the best. Led Zepagain, with a "whole lotta love," certainly chose a popular band with an ever-increasing legion of fans to imitate. You can hardly spin that old FM dial an inch without hearing some Led Zep tunes.

But copying this group also takes talent. Led Zeppelin's Page is one of rock's best guitarist, and Led Zepagain's guitarist Tracy Longo more than holds his own. Bassist Bruce Corney is the John Paul Jones guy, drummer Marc Sauer is John Bonham, and vocalist Swan Montgomery, a two-year member, is the Robert Plant guy in this rockin' scenario.

Longo, Sauer, Corney and another singer formed Eclpse in the late '70s, a band of few spellers but many gigs. Eclpse went away in the mid-80s, but Led Zepagain has been doing its tribute gig, mostly out-of-town, for four years now. Longo, at his guitar clinic at Heck Music in Ventura, recently described the life and times of his favorite Led Zeppelin tribute band.

What's the story on Eclpse?

We all got together in 1979 while we were still in high school at Buena. We started playing high school dances on campus. We won three battles of the bands--one in Camarillo and two in Ventura. We took a letter out of Eclpse just like Zeppelin took an "e" out of "Led." Later, I was in a band called Keeper; after that Secret, a Top 40 band that played Bombay, the Holiday Inn and Maxie's. Our first gig as Led Zepagain was in 1989 at the Ventura Theatre.

Why Led Zeppelin? Why not Raging Arbagain? Moody Blues-anew or the Neville Brothers by Others?

Because when we were in Eclpse, we all liked Led Zeppelin. Back in '82, people would put us down, but we couldn't get away from that sound. We actually fell apart because our originals sounded too much like Zeppelin. When the Zep sound got back in vogue, Bill Detko, who used to work at the Ventura Theatre, told us the Zep thing was a great idea and we could make a lot of money. We hooked up with Barracuda Management out of Anaheim, who also handled Wild Child, the Doors tribute band. There's another Led Zep band on the East Coast, Physical Graffiti.

Did you ever see Led Zeppelin?

No, but I had tickets for the 1980 tour. Then John Bonham died on my birthday, and spoiled my birthday. I'm their biggest fan. I have over 250 of their bootleg tapes, and about 20 or 30 of their live shows. Those are pretty grainy, because back then, people smuggled in Super 8 cameras or something.

What's the attraction with the past?

I think everything started to sound like everything else and people got fed up and went back to the roots. Everyone in the band grew up with Led Zeppelin; that's what we were into. We were into them before they were cool. Back in the early '80s, the Knack were doing "My Sharona" on the radio.

Do you feel stifled doing other people's music all the time?

We're still working on some originals even as we speak. We're real tight as a band but our originals sound a lot like Zeppelin. Also, our singer is pursuing his own career. He lives in Van Nuys.

What's the best thing about playing?

It's a blessing and a curse. I love it, but I consider playing like surfing. It's 75% paddling, but when you get that good ride . . .

What's the story on your day job?

I've been working in a music store since 1981 and I'm 31 now. I build and recondition guitars and basses. I got my first guitar when I was 13 years old, a beat-up old acoustic. Now I've got 10 guitars. I'm a self-taught guitarist.

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