When Led Zeppelin played the Baths Hall - and more memories from iconic venue
- Credit: Nigel Rea
News that the Baths Hall in Ipswich is to stage concerts again has brought back memories, including the famous Led Zeppelin gig staged there almost 50 years ago.
The former St Matthew's Baths in Civic Drive was a popular gig venue in the 1960s and 70s, when boards were laid over the pool for visits by top names.
It was announced this week that the venue is to stage gigs as part of the Sound City Ipswich festival from October 1-2, and could become a regular venue once again.
Nigel Rea captured photos of the memorable Led Zeppelin concert at the hall, on November 16, 1971 - after smuggling his camera into the venue.
"I can remember my friends and I were quite surprised when we learned Led Zeppelin were coming, because they had just been on tour in Japan and America," he said.
"I was a director and cameraman for educational film maker Boulton-Hawker Films in Hadleigh, and I used to take my camera everywhere. At the time, not many people were taking cameras into gigs."
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He added there were rumours that Peter Grant, Led Zeppelin’s manager, had been confiscating cameras and recording equipment and putting them in a bucket of water.
Fortunately Nigel's camera escaped that fate, and he was able to get on to a balcony where he had a good view.
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His photos show just how small the stage was where the band played.
"Robert Plant asked which was the deep end, and he was talking about his trip to America," he recalled.
Nigel said Led Zep did their full set despite the intimacy of the venue, including full encores. "For their acoustic set, they all lined up at the front - they were so close to the audience."
Bootleg recordings of the set appeared on CD, and can now be heard on YouTube.
Many other concerts and events were staged at St Matthew's Baths Hall, and Nigel remembers seeing Geno Washington, The Equals and many more.
Other famous acts to appear included Deep Purple, The Who, Cream featuring Eric Clapton, The Move, The Sweet and Status Quo.
David Vincent writes: "Back in the day they used to cover the pool with floorboards.
"When there was a rock band on and the crowd on the floor danced, the whole place would shake and bounce. It was a wonder it never collapsed.
"I remember seeing Rod Stewart, twice I think, Cream, Julie Driscoll and the Brian Auger Trinity and many more."
Do you remember gigs at the Baths Hall? Send us an email.
To order copies of staff photos, visit our website or call Diane Townsend on 01603 772449.