Top positive review
34 of 34 people found this helpful
A real page-turner ...
on 12 September 2012
It's a real page-turner (no pun intended). Barney Hoskyns has cultivated impeccable connections during his many years writing about music, and particularly about California, Los Angeles and the musicians and others who together made up the whole 'scene', if that's what we could call it. This comes in particularly useful here, as there is a substantial focus on Zeppelin's US home-from-home, Los Angeles.
Unusually it is an oral history, so aside from a page or so of author contextualizing, which occurs at the beginning of each section, it is all the written equivalent of talking heads. For the most part, this works extremely well and it really helps the book to draw you in as a reader - that's maybe why, although the book is 500-odd pages long, I was able to read it in about three sittings over 2-3 days.
I have some minor gripes, though, which is why I gave it only 4 stars.
There are a great many very interesting and never before seen pictures in the book, not all of which appear in the glossy colour sections. Sometimes thet are not reproduced that well, because the paper used is really not up to the job of reproducing images. It's a pity.
The book also seems, at times, to be beset by quite a few repetitions - especially in relation to the tales of the misdeeds of the likes of Richard Cole and Peter Grant, or the stinginess of Jimmy Page - which seem to reappear chapter after chapter without much sense of chronological anchoring. Often, in other words, it is not clear if comments by witnesses relating to certain behavioural traits, or incidents, are connected to specific events. One minute you think the events that are being retold must be happening around '74 or '75, then all of a sudden it is 1977.
I think that for all that it is a compelling read, what the book lacks is a strong sense of chronology.
I tend to think this is an editorial issue. I don't think it is a coincidence that this book and Barney Hoskyns's previous, on Tom Waits, were published by Faber and Faber, whose stock-in-trade as far - as writing about music goes - is the 600-page tome. If you've read Simon Reynolds' (Faber book) 'Retromania' and felt it was at least 200 pages TOO LONG, then you'll know what I mean about missing editors.
Who knows, Faber may have a special deal on paper, or an agreement with a printer who has said: 'hey, guys, it is cheaper if you just make it over 500 pages'.
But, in the end, it is a great story, and Hoskyns has interviewed far and wide to make it as much of a compelling read as possible.