Led Zeppelin: The Biography …by Bob Spitz

This is the second Led Zeppelin book I’ve reviewed in a row…hope you are not getting too tired of it. I’m moving on to something else with my next book.

This is a good book about Led Zeppelin by Bob Spitz. This book surprised me when I read it. The reason is that Spitz wrote a biography of the Beatles that felt uninspired with no new info…I was thinking this one might be the same. Well, I was wrong…this book is the best book I’ve read on Led Zeppelin and that includes Hammer of the Gods and others.

The book uncovered things I didn’t know and gave a different point of view on instances that happened. There are constants about the band that run through every book about them. John Paul Jones was the constant professional and multi-instrumentalist of the band. John Bonham was an incredible drummer but could flash in a violent rage at any minute. Robert Plant the optimistic never say die singer who would change after his family’s bad car accident. Jimmy Page was the absolute leader of the band until he couldn’t function in that role because of the different chemicals he was taking.

Below is a Swan Song band Detective with a weary Jimmy Page asleep on the couch behind them.

Detective Band
Detective… A Swan Song band with Jimmy Page fast asleep at the photo session.

One thing that was known about the band is that they had an inferiority complex about The Rolling Stones. This is explored more in this book. They couldn’t understand why the press and celebrities hung out and liked the Stones and not them… although Zeppelin outsold them. The answer to that was pretty obvious…other bands such as The Who could shrug off bad reviews and go on…Led Zeppelin would call the critics out from the stage. The press was also threatened by manager Peter Grant and touring manager Richard Cole to give good reviews. Zeppelin also barred the press for years…so it wasn’t a big mystery here except to them.

On the 1977 tour the press was given some rules by the band:

  1. Never talk to anyone in the band unless they first talk to you.
  2. Do not make any sort of eye contact with John Bonham. This is for your own safety.
  3. Do not talk to Peter Grant or Richard Cole – for any reason.
  4. Keep your cassette player turned off at all times unless conducting an interview.
  5. Never ask questions about anything other than music.
  6. Most importantly, understand this – the band will read what is written about them. The band does not like the press nor do they trust them.

Hmmm….wonder why they weren’t as liked as much as the Rolling Stones by the press and public? They also became more separated from their audience in the later 70s.

The book also focuses on their vanity label Swan Song. Drugs had taken over by that time and no artists were really cared for except Bad Company who was hot right out of the gate. Any questions from a Swan Song artist would fall on deaf ears because no one was really running the label. By this time, Grant carried a bag of cocaine and dipped it out with a bowie knife. He stayed secluded at his mansion surrounded by his security cameras… like in a scene out of Scarface.

The band was the top band in the world but in 1975 it all changed with Robert Plant’s car accident that left him recouping for months while his wife was hurt more seriously. In 1977 a guard that worked for Bill Graham stopped a kid from getting a Led Zeppelin sign off their door…all hell broke loose. That was Peter Grant’s son. Grant rounded up his “security” people and beat the guard and they almost popped his eye out.  After that happened they played what was to be their last show in America. A few days later Robert Plant’s son Karac died of a respiratory virus.

All in all, it was a good book and I would recommend it to any rock fan. I am a fan of the band, especially the albums between Led Zeppelin III and Physical Graffiti. I wasn’t a big fan of the bombastic blues songs as much as the light-heavy moments. The book tells you how management built walls around them while being surrounded by violence, threats, and later on drugs.

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

20 thoughts on “Led Zeppelin: The Biography …by Bob Spitz”

    1. It’s a shocking book… To put it in perspective I’ve read Beatle books where they surrounded themselves with grounded good people for the most part…Zeppelin…many were unhinged. I can see why Plant didn’t want to reunite.
      I still need to get back on my Dead book and finish.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Don’t make eye contact with Bonzo lol… They were so massive that they could dictate the rules as I remember Peter Grant would punch out people if they were pissing off Page as Grant told Jimmy he needs to protect his hands. In other words…no money is being made if you break your hand..
    Fascinating stuff Max

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That atmosphere eventually caught up with them but yea…the don’t make eye contact with Bonzo lol.
      It was a good read Deke…you sure learn how different 1975 is to 2022…some good some bad.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. sounds interesting. The more I listen to and the more I learn about music, I come to think JPJ was the real super-talent in the band yet he was the guy most people would have trouble remembering out of the 4. Funny that they wondered why they didn’t know why the press couldn’t stand them, eh!
    On a similar but different note, I ended up just selling my Jann Wenner bio on e-bay, since it is still on best sellers list and I paid about $20 for it… I got about 100 pages in and just could not get into it at all. It was like a chore to pick it up. go figure. With his magazine and all his contacts in rock, it should be a book I’d devour…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. John Paul Jones I think was the most talented all around. The guy can produce, arrange, write, and play a mean bass.

      To put Led Zeppelin in perspective….I’m reading a book now about an American lady (Chris O’Dell) who started working at Apple Records in 1968…she couldn’t get over how nice The Beatles were and all the people around them were…they were surrounded by good people. Peter Grant had mobsters working for them…it was no need for that.

      The WORST book I have in my library is “Sticky Fingers” about Jann Wenner…he is so unlikeable that I couldn’t finish. Sounds like the new one isn’t any better.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. MIne was written b someone else but it’s so bad…or he was so just…a bad person is what I get…morally and ethically.

        Like

  3. I’m glad Zep stayed together as long as they did and made the music they did. It doesn’t matter now how shut off they were then as we have full access to their discography. It does help us to look at them as human beings instead of the rock gods they were. I don’t mind looking behind the curtain. I am glad that at least JPJ and Plant are making new music. I love the “Them Crooked Vultures” album JPJ made with Dave Grohl, and Josh Homme and the collaborations Plant has been doing with Alison Krauss.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The music is good so yes…I’m glad that came out of it. I’m pretty good separating the art from the artist… it was just shocking on some of their story.

      Plant and Jones did well….Jones was their secret weapon….he was steady and very talented. It is amazing that they stayed together that long… JPJ wanted out in 1973 and Plant thought serious about getting out in 77.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. When I heard Zep for the first time, I knew right away there was something brilliant there, so I really tried to love them. While overall, they were an acquired taste, now they are without out doubt one of my favorite rock bands – musically speaking. If I could pick only one rock song, I’d go with Stairway, not a Beatles tune, though overall, The Beatles remain my all-time favorite band.

    My pick of Stairway is kind of ironical. I loved the acoustic part of it right away. At the time, I was taking acoustic guitar lessons, and my great guitar teacher showed me how to play the tune, especially the acoustic part. On the radio in Germany, they would always fade out Stairway in the transition to becoming a flow blown rock song. When I heard the tune for the first time in its entirety, I couldn’t believe how they “ruined” the song by turning it from this beautiful acoustic tune into a heavy rock song. Obviously, I didn’t get the brilliance of the build at all – initially.

    What I always disliked about Zep is that they repeatedly borrowed from other artists without giving them credit. Stairway, of course, is perhaps the best example. Acknowledging the intro clearly was based on “Taurus”, a band Zep had toured with, wouldn’t have taken anything away from Stairway’s brilliance, in my view. But I guess Messrs. Page’s and Plant’s egos were just too big, or perhaps it was greed, or both – I don’t know.

    Based on your post, it doesn’t sound the book would further endear Zep as people to me, though it also sounds like Peter Grant was a pretty questionable character…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The one thing I will say about Peter Grant. He took care of his artists and never was sued taking money from them….ever. Led Zeppelin was paid period…where many managers took the money and run BUT….he made some of his deals through intimidation of promoters and other people….but was it worth the violence in the organization that he created? I would say no.
      He listened to the band members…all they would have had to say was stop…but they didn’t. At the end Plant finally said no… he wanted a strip down tour and different tour managers….but by then it was too late. That was the last tour through Germany in 1980.

      Yea the book mentioned the stealing of songs…they always thought they changed things around enough to get by with it…but no they didn’t.

      I like Stairway…although it’s not my favorite by any means…but my favorite song by them is Hey Hey What Can I Do released as a B side.

      If I had to pick a favorite song of all time… I would probably pick A Day In The Life…but that is different for everyone. I do believe Stairway, Freebird and others are epic songs.

      Their start was great! They were popular off the bat but around 75 the rot set in.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I never looked at it that way before…I always add the Beatles to a rock group category but that is just me. One one hand you have Here Comes The Sun…on another you have Revolution and Helter Skelter….which ever both songs are epic.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: