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.
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:
- Never talk to anyone in the band unless they first talk to you.
- Do not make any sort of eye contact with John Bonham. This is for your own safety.
- Do not talk to Peter Grant or Richard Cole – for any reason.
- Keep your cassette player turned off at all times unless conducting an interview.
- Never ask questions about anything other than music.
- 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.