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4.2 out of 5 stars45
4.2 out of 5 stars
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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.
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Led Zeppelin bestrode the 70s rock world like a colossus and perhaps it is right that any book about them should have equally epic proportions. This latest "reveal" by Barney Hoskyns sometimes borders on the obsessional yet for Zeppelin aficionados it is a hugely welcome addition to the bands colorful history from a first class rock journalist who has previously taken on such luminaries as The Band and Tom Waits. In another setting he also charts the rise of fall of the cocaine cowboys of Laurel Canyon scene in "Hotel California". His new book "Trampled Under Foot: The Power and Excess of Led Zeppelin" does revisit some of the themes of the latter book since it is the city of Los Angeles which casts a huge shadow over proceedings as the "default" base for Plant, Page, Jones and Bonham during their all conquering American Tours. This witnessed them take residency in the legendary "Riot House" (Continental Hyatt House) on Sunset Strip where they occupied the top floor of the hotel and created a modern day bacchanalia. Their infamous and lurid excesses has formed the basis for previous books not least Stephen Davis "Hammer of the Gods" a tale of a band "drenched in sex, drugs and psychic abuse". In truth Davis relied much on the wild and often-unreliable recollections of tour manager Richard Cole whose later "Stairway to Heaven" repeated much of what had already been published. Clearly while Cole was an untrustworthy witness he was at the heart of the Zeppelin juggernaut particularly with his friendship to the brilliant but often brutish Jon Bonham. Hence the protestations of Jimmy Page and other band members about his "ridiculously false" account may fall into the "me thinks they doth protest to much" category. Whatever the case it evident that the more mature ex Led Zep members have been keen to put considerable distance between their former hellraiser exploits and current status as Grammy winning wizened old bluesmen.

Hoskyns book draws on a much wider evidential base and attempts to get to the heart of the matter by extensive interviews of over 200 people producing what is the definitive oral history of the band. Hoskyns stated purpose was to peel away the myths and legends. As he states most existing books "recycle tales of groupies and mudsharks and chucking TV sets out of windows. For me, this is terribly boring. I wanted to demystify the band". And yet the reality does not allow a complete revision for as he states "at the same time, I uncovered stuff that's even more shocking". These include the fact that the Zeppelin machine constructed by Peter Grant was so big and powerful that it was virtually above the the law" and could "pay our way out of any trouble, any scandal'. In the last analysis however is this a great shock to any Led Zeppelin fan? They came at a time when the a new and aggressive breed of British managers fought tooth and nail for their artists including through physical violence. They were an "albums" band in a pre internet/download area when record sales were stratospheric and money almost unlimited. They conquered the US at the time in terms of tours and album sales which the Beatles could only dream of. But most of all they were the most exciting thing on the planet in terms of rock music, despite the derision of nearly every rock critic at the time including Hoskyns house magazine the NME.

In the last analysis if you love Zeppelin you will adore "Trampled Underfoot". It is well put together (if a tad long and sometimes repetitive) and charts the story of a singularly unique band of brilliant young musicians with the world at their feet, woman on every arm and unassailable repertoire of hard rock and metallic funk. In short if you own "Physical Graffiti" buy it. For the curious Hoskyns does an interesting list of his top Zeppelin songs marked by the absence of the "usual suspects". Here is his top 15 (No Stairway!) -

1. Ramble On' (Led Zeppelin II)
2. The Lemon Song' (Led Zeppelin II)
3. `Friends' (Led Zeppelin III)
4. `The Ocean' (Houses of the Holy)
5. `Bring It On Home' (Led Zeppelin II).
6. `Gallows Pole' (Led Zeppelin III)
7. `Over the Hills and Far Away' (Houses of the Holy)
8. `Communication Breakdown' (Led Zeppelin)
9. `Black Dog' (Led Zeppelin IV)
10. `Kashmir' (Physical Graffiti)
11. `Since I've Been Loving You' (Led Zeppelin III)
12. `In My Time of Dying' (Physical Graffiti)
13. `Immigrant Song' (Led Zeppelin III)
14. `The Girl I Love She Got Long Black Wavy Hair' (BBC Sessions)
15. `Whole Lotta Love' (Led Zeppelin II)

What do you think? (Personally "Since I've been loving you" would top my list)
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on 1 October 2012
Not before time, a chronicle of the biggest and perhaps best rock band since The Beatles which not only tells the story with all its complex and, up until now, often hidden twists and turns, but digs deep into the dramatis personae, both within the group but also the friends, hangers-on and the machine that helped create and sustain the success.

The oral history format really works, bringing to vivid life everyone involved, leaving only a few unanswered questions, most notably on Jimmy Page's childhood and upbringing. My guess is an absent or ineffectual father but a driven, snobbish mother wanting the very best for her boy but acutely aware that they were relatively unprosperous people living in a very well-to-do suburb. But I may be dead wrong, and, sadly, the amazing array of witnesses who contribute to this history touch only lightly on why JP is the strange way he is. Otherwise, this is a book that sets the bar a notch higher for any history of a modern music phenomenon.
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on 5 November 2012
Must admit here, I'm a Led Zeppelin addict. I was born in '55, hit puberty in the late 60's and first heard this mighty band's music blasting out of a student house when Zep 1 came out. I had no idea who it was, but what I heard did something to me deep inside. I can't describe the feeling, but I remember banging on the door of the house and asking a long haired guy who it was. I was invited in, handed a can of beer, and the album was started again for me. And that was it - I was hooked for life. I was lucky enough to see them twice - simply the greatest band ever. A fusion of 4 perfect talents at just the right time in history.

This book is amazing. It's not a written history, it's a series of quotes from interviews. At first I found it a little difficult to get into, but once I got used to the format I found it utterly compelling and read it in a day and a half. I couldn't put it down. It truly is "warts and all" tho, so if you expect a fanzine type book, this will probably disappoint.

What emerges here is a portrait of 4 very different guys, (5 if you include the amazing Peter Grant), who created something unique in music history. They were a runaway train, fuelled by coke, booze and underage groupies, yet they left a musical legacy which will never fade away. Bigger than the Beatles, The Stones, The Who, they conquered the USA in a way no other Brit band had before or since. It's a pity they weren't as big here or in Europe, but even the punk revolution couldn't quite kill off the "dinosaurs". Zeppelin still sell millions of albums a year!!

This great book takes you on a ride - start to finish - including the 2009 reunion at the O2. You will laugh, cry, get angry. You will wish someone had the balls to bang some heads together. But you will love it.

Best book I've read for years.
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on 15 June 2013
I have been a Zeppelin fan since I was 11 years old when I first heard Four Symbols. I saw them at their first Knebworth date in 1979 and have kept the faith even through the eighties when their currency was at its lowest.

I have also bought plenty of Zep biographies over the years (Mylett, Welch, Lewis, Yorke, Davis, Cole, Wall) and with the arrival of any new book on them I hope the author gets the best out of this fairly familiar tale. As with Mick Wall's attempt at getting really in the Zep story I had great hopes for Hoskyn's work - hoping that finally we might get the definitive book.

Unlike most reviewers on here I have to report a deep sense of disappointment with the lack of balance achieved in Trampled Underfoot. Led Zeppelin were all about light and shade both on stage, off stage, and behind closed doors. This book is heavily skewed towards the dark side of their exploits - drink, women, drugs, hotel rooms, security guys - all were treated with contempt by the Zep men and if you didn't know better you'd think that was all they did........

Anyone looking for a Revolution in the Head style appreciation of Zeppelin music are not going to find it here among the 500 plus pages of eyewitness accounts of what the band and their entourage, as well as the entire stable of Swan Song artists it appears, got up to.

So this is not the definitive account of the band that I was hoping for - but is it worth reading? Yes it is. In it you do get a very clear picture of how messed up the whole Zep camp became particularly post-1975. But you get very little critical insight into thier music and practically no social context either. While Page and Grant in particualr were out of their brains trying to come to terms with the death of their friend a lot of people in the UK were dealing with mass unemployment and confronting equally unsettling times. The author of the book has left it to the reader to contemplate such ironies.

The lack of narrative is another failing of the book in my view - it just feels like such a lazy approach that would, if tackled differently, have provided a better better read as well as editing out some of the repetitive tales of gore that had me wincing at least once a session. I'm not naiive - I know this is what bands did - but they also got in the charts, sold gig tickets faster than anyone else around them, commanded great respect from fans and other musicians. When you've read one bitter account of how someone got treated badly by the band, you've probably read them all. Yes there are a lot of new accounts in this book from Swan Song employees and I gained a lot of insight from what they had to say on the running of the company. And while I have no idea who Vicky Hodge was/is, I wish I had been on the Starship as she did cart wheels down the central aisle........

Zeppelin were Giants that Walked the Earth - their music was everything at some point - it marketed itself like no other before it or since. Page was an inventive, hugely influential guitarist and in rock music terms, lifted the genre to uncomparable heights at times. Plant wrote some interesting lyrics and sang them with passion and humour that others could have learned from. Jones and Bonham kept the whole thing steady as a rock and pegged to the ground.

Trampled Underfoot gets nowhere near to the brilliance they once displayed as a rock band. An oportunity missed (again).

To anyone considering writing a Zeppelin book - try a new angle next time. Tell us about the music AND the times it was made in, but leave some space for the stuff they would wish for us to forget.
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on 28 December 2015
This isn't a book, in such, more just a collection of anecdotes from the management, roadies, groupies, hangers-on and record company people. Oh, and occasionally from the band themselves. Many of these anecdotes have been in print before; look up Mick Wall's "Giants" book or Steven Davis' "Hammer Of The Gods". It is nice to see some pictures of the band's offices and some of the actual locations, but really this is just another rainforest-felling exercise that tells us what we already knew; which was that Zepp were on another plane musically and off-stage to their contemporaries, until the drugs took over.
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on 3 March 2014
Quite some book, really enjoyed it. The turmoil of starting a band and then getting swallowed up with what goes with the music industry. Unfortunately money doesn't bring you everything although a successful band there's sadness along the way loss of family, friends and band members. Love and Hate it is all there. Talented people, mix in money, fame and drugs and the end result is in the book. I really liked the book and felt sorry for the band members when things did not go to plan. Fame, fortune and heartache can be found in this book.
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on 2 April 2013
Wow what a fantastic read on the biggest and best musically creative heavy rock band of all time. What you have here is the story created from cleverly sequenced anecdotal accounts of the band's pre history, its history and what happened post Zep from a variety of people who had some real connection with the band. Relevant quotes from the band are included as well. Common themes appear across the interviews which suggest some accuracy to these accounts. I have been a big fan of Zep for the past 35 years (and was lucky enough to have seen them at Knebworth in 79 when I was just 16) and whilst this book was a really enjoyable read for me, I was left with real sadness from the period of the mid 70's, when their excess tipped the balance. The apparent substance abuse was pretty horrific (if it was true) which brought so much paranoia and utlimately ended Zep's majesty. The real casualty of course was Bonzo and his family. Luckily Jimmy Page managed to pull himself out of the mire and is now a 'clean' ambassador for the band. The only downside to this book is the print quality of the b&w photos, which is a shame as many of them have never been published before. All in all a fascinating book. There will never be another band like this.
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on 9 March 2013
I'm not the biggest fan of Led Zepplin, but respect the band for the musicianship and for what they achieved at their peak. This book allows the band members and those connected to them to tell their stories through snippets trawled from various sources and interviews over the years. Sometimes you're not sure if the quotes are in a proper chronology and it can be difficult to tell if people are talking with hindsight or with rather blurred memories but, overall, I think you do get a good picture of the people and the times described. Apart from the four band members, Peter Grant looms large throughout the account but, like the band itself, it's Page and Plant who dominate, Bonham lurks darkly in the background and John Paul Jones keeps himself to himself. I can't say that there are any really scandalous accounts of the legendary debauchery and indecency and, in these days of internet porn and familiarity with drugs, that side of it all seems almost rather quaint. Overall, however, I doubt I'l need to read another book about Led Zepplin because this one seems to cover all the bases.
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on 3 December 2012
As a massive Zeppelin fan I have read pretty much every book published on the band. Barney Hoskyns has produced an outstanding addition which could probably only have been written now, over 30 years after the tragic demise of the group following John Bonham's untimely death.
Hoskyns has succeeded in bringing several new voices and perspectives to the story by a plethora of interviews with personnel involved in the Zeppelin machine in the 70's. I found the material compelling and the manner in which the book is presented (via a narrative of quotes) is incredibly skillfully achieved.
I don't think Jimmy Page will be too pleased with the book however as he portrayed as being a rather sinister figure, the darkness verses the light of Robert Plant.
I couldn't put this book down and have already read it twice. I really want to thank the author for his invaluable contribution to the Zeppelin bibliography. This is a vital book, fascinating and superbly executed. I can't wait for the yet to be written 'Peter Guralnick' book - go for it Barney !
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