A full-length biography of Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page (b. 1944), whose reclusive habits have only added to his mythic status.
London-based music journalist Salewicz (Dead Gods: The 27 Club, 2015, etc.), who has interviewed his subject many times over the decades, chronicles Page’s rise from working-class London roots. Like many of his generation, Page went to art school on the way to finding a musical career. Inspired by American rockabilly records, Page became proficient enough at a young age to find work as a studio guitarist, making good money backing up popular acts. As the British blues revival flowered, he became the lead guitar player for the Yardbirds, following Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. When that group broke up, Page formed Zeppelin, mapping out the band’s path with iron control. Salewicz follows the group through recording sessions and world tours—Zeppelin was especially popular in the United States—with attention to the band’s excesses, which included destruction of hotels along with other violent outbursts, heavy use of drugs and alcohol, and sexual encounters of all sorts. The author also devotes considerable attention to Page’s mystical side, especially his fascination with Aleister Crowley, perhaps giving it more credence than it deserves. Salewicz delves into Page’s battle with drugs, especially heroin and cocaine, and includes copious reminiscences from groupies who linked up with Page over the years, along with plenty of quotes from interviews with the famously reticent musician and with others who were part of the scene. With the band’s dissolution, Page’s hermetic tendencies became more pronounced. Salewicz chronicles the solo projects, the reunions with singer Robert Plant, and the painstaking project of reissuing Zeppelin’s recorded legacy. Dedicated listeners may want more analytical explorations of the music, and, like many rock journalists, the author tosses around superlatives with a free hand. Still, the book is a must-read for die-hard Zeppelin fans.
This close look at one of the ultimate guitar gods should find plenty of readers interested in 1960s and ’70s rock.