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A Biography of Led Zeppelin

by Mick Wall

Pub Date: Nov. 10th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-312-59000-0
Publisher: St. Martin's

The whirlwind story of the rock legends.

Led Zeppelin remains more popular now than ever, writes British journalist Wall (W.A.R.: The Unauthorized Biography of William Axl Rose, 2008, etc.). Based on interviews and new research, he offers a vivid, anecdote-crammed account of the spectacular rise and dark decline of the four young rock musicians—Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham and John Paul Jones—who created one of the all-time best bands and pushed the outer limits of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll. Much of the story is familiar, but Wall ably captures the mix of creativity and depravity. Formed by guitarist Page, Led Zeppelin clicked immediately. Fans adored them, while critics called their hard rock/blues hybrid overhyped and too loud. The band just played louder and longer—one Boston concert lasted nearly five hours—and assumed an outsider persona (they refused to appear at Woodstock), playing trippy set pieces for hippie kids and embodying the paranoid atmosphere in America in the wake of the Charles Manson murders. As years passed, their on- and offstage antics grew, as did audiences and album sales, and Led Zeppelin moved into a “full-on, town-owning, party-head mode,” engaging in raucous behavior and debauchery fueled by rampant drug use. Amid graphic descriptions of the band’s notorious groupie moments, Wall offers thoughtful discussions of their tours, albums, and talents and peculiarities. Page, deeply interested in the occult, bought English hedonist Aleister Crowley’s infamous Scotland home; singer Plant long hankered to go solo and found success with bluegrass singer Alison Krauss in 2007; bassist Jones remained ever-sensible; and drummer Bonham, drug-addled and thuggish, died in 1980, which led to the band’s breakup. In their last years, writes Wall, the band played under a “cold, black cloud,” with U.S. fans sometimes rampaging. Now in their 60s, surviving members appear to have few regrets; they reunite occasionally, and their albums bring in millions annually.

Some fresh reporting and colorful description amid a well-known tale—fans will love it.