Now this is a fuckin' rock band.
The Shark episode or Mudshark incident was an event which took place at the Edgewater Inn in Seattle, WA, on 28 July 1969, involving members of the English rock band Led Zeppelin and members of the American psychedelic rock band Vanilla Fudge. The bands were in Seattle for their appearance at the Seattle Pop Festival at Gold Creek Park on 27 July 1969, and were staying at the Edgewater Inn. This hotel, now known as the Edgewater Hotel, is located directly on Puget Sound, and at the time allowed guests to fish directly from their room windows.
The Shark episode is alleged to have involved some type of sexual act with a fish.
However, though no one disputes that the event took place, there are many variations on the story, all involving one or some of the band members, as well as variations of the type of fish (often claimed to be a shark), and the nature of the acts performed.
Rock journalist Stephen Davis, in his Led Zeppelin biography Hammer of the Gods, provided the following account of the event:
“One girl, a pretty young groupie with red hair, was disrobed and tied to the bed. According to the legend of the Shark Episode, Led Zeppelin then proceeded to stuff pieces of shark into her vagina and rectum.”
Davis notes that Led Zeppelin's road manager Richard Cole, disputed this version, and quotes him as saying:
“It wasn't Bonzo, it was me. It wasn't shark parts anyway: It was the nose that got put in. We caught a lot of big sharks, at least two dozen, stuck coat hangers through the gills and left 'em in the closet . . . But the true shark story was that it wasn't even a shark. It was a red snapper and the chick happened to be a fucking redheaded broad with a ginger pussy.
And that is the truth. Bonzo was in the room, but I did it. Mark Stein [of Vanilla Fudge] filmed the whole thing. And she loved it. It was like, "You'd like a bit of fucking, eh? Let's see how your red snapper likes this red snapper!"
That was it. It was the nose of the fish, and that girl must have cum 20 times. But it was nothing malicious or harmful, no way! No one was ever hurt.”
Cole elaborates on this version in his own book, Stairway to Heaven: Led Zeppelin Uncensored. He explains that:
“Word about the escapade spread quickly. Rumors circulated that the girl had been raped...that she had been crying hysterically...that she had pleaded for me to stop...that she had struggled to escape...that a shark had been used to penetrate her. None of the stories was true.”
Whatever the exact series of events which took place at the Edgewater Inn, the Mudshark incident quickly became known and was representative of the general atmosphere of excess which permeated the early years of Led Zeppelin. According to Cole, "it was probably the most notorious off-stage incident ever associated with Led Zeppelin."
The incident was immortalized in the song "The Mud Shark" by Frank Zappa, recorded live during a Fillmore East gig in June 1971. It is featured on his album, Fillmore East - June 1971. A brief interview with the then-manager of the Edgewater was released on the Zappa album Playground Psychotics in 1992 (and re-released on the budget compilation CD Cheap Thrills in 1998). The manager does not confirm or deny the incident but he has clearly heard the rumours and admits it is possible.