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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 19 March 2010
Out of the three Zeppelin biographies that I have read, this is by far the best. Diligently researched, and well written it keeps you wanting to return to the albums (always a sign of a good music book) with each record being examined in great detail, which led to me purchasing Moby Grape's "Grape Jam" (1967) Grape Jam] album after discovering that the roots to Zep's "Since I've Been Loving You" lay with Grape.
I also enjoyed the somewhat controversial `flashback' sequences. They add to the story, but without interrupting the flow, and also saves the reader from having to plough through acres of pre-Zep history at the beginning. Using this method, Wall is able to bring the five (LZ plus manager Peter Grant) protagonists together very quickly and thus get on with the main story. His research on Jimmy Page's fascination with the occult and Aleister Crowley is also excellent, devoting as he does an entire chapter to this subject. This is important stuff in understanding the band from "Led Zeppelin IV" (1971) onwards, and I've never come across such in-depth knowledge of Crowley in a Zeppelin book before.
Another standout section is Wall's revelations about the 1979 Knebworth gigs. Far from being the triumphs that they are made out to be, Wall reveals the horrendous mess and disasters that dogged these two concerts from the start. Led Zeppelin should of got the message there - you're time is up!
Unfortunately things do unravel slightly in the final two chapters; Wall seems obsessed with the idea of a Led Zeppelin reunion almost to the extent of everything else, and the various 80's, 90's and 00's album releases are dealt with in a rather offhand manner.
There is no explanation about why the "Remasters" (1990) [[ASIN:B00005RS05 Led Zeppelin Box Set Vol.1
 box set had to happen, and apart from one brief mention early on, the highly acclaimed "BBC Sessions" (1997) BBC Sessions album is ignored altogether!
Even the excellent double DVD (2003) [[ASIN:B00008PX8P Led Zeppelin: DVD (2DVD) [2003] is given short shrift; very strange since Wall penned the liner notes for this set.
Finally whilst Robert Plant's award of the CBE in 2008 for services to music is covered, there is no mention of Jimmy Page's OBE in 2005 for his long time charity work helping to improve the lives of Brazil's impoverished street children. I know that Page likes to keep this work out of the media spotlight, but it does seem extraordinary to not mention it at all.
Despite these few errors this book remains well worth perusing.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 12 February 2009
This book is just fantastic. It really does tell the whole story of the behemoth that was Led Zeppelin. The reviews aren't kidding when they say that this is THE definitive Zep biography. I haven't read any of the other bio's, like Hammer of the Gods, but after reading When Giants Walked the Earth I don't want to.
My only criticism is that at some points the italic "in the mind of" sections can be a bit confusing because you don't instantly know who Wall is impersonating.

Overall, this is a must-read. I think I'll be rereading it in a year or two.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 29 November 2008
I only started reading this because I bought it for my husband for Xmas but once I started I couldn't put it down. I used to read music books when I was younger but stopped when I realised they were nearly always fan books. This isn't like that. It's obvious Mick Wall knows his stuff and has spoken to everyone including the band but he doesn't pull any punches. I don't know if the band will like it but they should because it's not only a great book about them but just a great book anyway. Utterly brilliant.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 28 May 2009
Led Zeppelin's latest author Mick Wall he has previously written books on Black Sabbath and Marillion as well as hastily assembled book on John Peel. I've no interest in Sabbath but have read his Marillion and Peel books and of course know his writing well from many high street rock magazines.

First of, despite some misgivings over Mr. Wall's writing style, I was really looking forward to this book. It isn't an authorised account, but Mick has had plenty of access to the band members in his time covering their solo careers for both Kerrang and Classic Rock. I was tempted to even think this could be the DEFINITIVE account of Led Zep.

It's certainly well researched - I noticed very few errors (although the idea that Genesis recorded at Headley Grange before Zeppelin was one that stood out a mile) and covers their formation in 1968 and those very early tours in excellent detail.

However there are 3 significant areas where the book is very disappointing.

The first is Chapter 9 which is entirely devoted to speculation on Jimmy Page's interest in the Occult. This might have been better included as an appendix rather than given a whole chapter in between the Third and Fourth albums. Aleister Crowley may well be someone that Jimmy Page has taken a lot from - he was an avid collector of his writings, and other memorabilia - he even bought his house on the shores of Loch Ness, but Page has resolutely refused to confirm in any detail precisely what his motives were in this and so far as Mick Wall's insight is concerned, he simply adds to the speculation that has been banded around for years that this interest somehow brought about the many disastrous and tragic events that plagued the group from 1975 onwards.

The second issue is the fairly extensive coverage giving over to the lads' insatiable appetite for sex mainly relayed through the memoirs of Pamela des Barres and a couple of other eye witness accounts to the groupie scene. While this has more relevance to the 'personality' of the band in terms of what they experienced - i.e. it relies far less on speculation for the coverage given to the subject, it's still nothing whatsoever to do with what made Led Zeppelin "Giants that Walked the Earth". They were blokes, a couple of them still in their teens, and given what was on offer, they were doing nothing here that other rock bands had done before. Again I would have thought a few references to other sources of information would give the reader interested in that sort of thing an idea of where to look.

Thirdly though, and this is really where my main disappointment lies, is the regular passages in the book in italicised text. The jacket to the book readily acknowledges that these are "imaginary flashbacks" where the author has taken information from various sources and pieced them all together to summarise in some detail episodes in their formative years, rather than simply report these factually with real quotes. I'm not sure why Wall resorted to this although I suspect he didn't want to over-populate the early chapters with brief snippets of information gleaned from here there and everywhere - in other words he makes these accounts a little more concise, because the source information may not put the various facts into a true historical perspective particularly well. But they pop up in the most obtrusive ways - just when you've got into a period of the band's later career you are suddenly whisked back to the "when Robert met Bonzo" or when "Peter Grant cut his teeth working for Don Arden and Micky Most" - but its not their words we're reading (which would be really worth it I'm sure), they're all Wall's.

So if you are thinking about buying this book - watch out. As Zeppelin biogs go, it's certainly a great read, with particular insight given over to the songs the band stole from in order to make the classic songs that we all know and love. For instance I had no idea that the opening words to Since I've Been Loving You were taken almost without amendment from a Moby Grape song called Never. There are of course plenty of other examples, mainly well documented elsewhere.

But reading this book has still left me wondering when the definitive Zeppelin book will appear? For all its extensive research, I'm not sure this is it.

It has made me dig out all my Zeppelin recordings including a small number of bootlegs (Intimidator from March 1970 is playing while I type) that rarely get played these days as well as their two DVDs and 12 official albums and I must thank Mick Wall for making me take the trouble to listen to these again. When they were at the peak of their prowess, there really was no one else like Zeppelin. Yes, they succumbed to over indulgence and many of their off stage antics leave me shaking my head a lot of the time, but when they gelled and their musical jams came to something special, they were in a class of their own.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 4 May 2012
I was a bit reluctant to come to this book as having read classic rock magazine for years i have always found Mr Wall to be biased for Jimmy Page and blame Robert Plant for not giving Page what he wants and getting the band back together.
The book though gives a fair and impartial view of the band,yes he does hold Page in very high regard as he should be and credit must be given as he does not shy away from showing both sides of Page both good and bad.
At first the "inside thoughts" of each member of the band take some time to get used to but i found it a refreshing way to give background to all of the main players in the Zep story while getting straight into the history of the band.
The story of the band is given proper time and attention and it is full of great insights into how each album came into being...
I very much enjoyed the story of the band and how Mr Wall presented the book.
I am still in camp Plant though.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 21 November 2008
this is an essential read for any fan of led zeppelin. very well researched and beautifully written.
by far the definitive biography on the band so far and very hard to beat i'd say.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 22 May 2012
I have always loved music from the beatles to 70's super groups to punk rock to 80's new romantics but I have always hated heavy rock especially Led Zeppelin!!. However I heard that this book was a good read and being the type who likes to read biographys on people and groups that I don't necessary like I thought I would give it a go. I have to say that the book was so interestling good and I got the feeling from it that I actually knew the group members, when I got to the part about them writing their fourth album containing stairway to heaven I had to order a copy.

This book is a fantastic read and like me if you don't like their music I would still highly recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 21 June 2012
Yawn... YET ANOTHER Led Zeppelin Biography..yawn.. Took me two months before I bothered to read It, & what an excellent read it is too, better than I thought it would be. How Zeppelin were formed proved very interesting, a lot of detail is written about this including a few facts I didn't realize. There's a chapter on Mr Crowley which proved mildly interesting, if you're into that sort of thing, as Page was/is..My only criticism of the book was that it seemed slightly "rushed" towards the end.
All in all though, a superb & very entertaining read on the history of Led Zeppelin.HIGHLY RECOMMENDED !!! I've stopped yawning....
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on 21 May 2013
Just finished the book and I wanted to put down my thoughts on the piece. Apologies that it is subjective in terms of my opinion, but hope that I present a balanced case.

(WARNING: This review contains SPOILERS and uses an inference to a swear word that appears in the book, but is for reference to the actual writing only and not the opinion of the reviewer).

The book (on the whole) is very well written. It has a relaxed style and the language is accessible for the narrative pieces of the historical information. I thought the early days to about 1978 were very detailed and clear. The pace was quick without being too glib. Unfortunately from 1980 onward the historical information gave way to a more subjective style and really missed out major chunks of the solo careers of members. That said there is a lot of focus on Robert Plants 'Raising Sand' project and after-all it is a book about Zeppelin and not their solo careers.

The information regarding the career of Led Zeppelin is very good and doesn't stray too far away from the subject material and if it does it is only to support the historical markers and why certain decisions were made at certain times. However, there are three aspects of the book that I personally found deeply frustrating.

Firstly, the first person pieces that appear from time to time that attempt to put you in the mind a particular person during their early days: In the beginning I found these quite endearing, although I thought it was shame that in order to portray Peter Grant it was felt that using the word C*** over and over was justified. But as the book wore on, the dropping out of narrative in order to put these pieces in just become tedious and sometimes irrelevant, to the point that the last entry for John Bonham made me feel very frustrated. Especially when you're reading about the band say in 1977 one minute and you're thrown back to 1968 by the first person sections. There is also the aspect that it took a while to work out who actually is talking from time to time, which I felt detracted from what is other wise a very well paced book.

(SPOILER ALERT!! - Actual reference to two of the sections is cited here)

Secondly, some of the writing is so utterly subjective that it made me swear out loud sometimes with frustration. For example, the authors inference that it was the band who stole the money from the hotel after the gig is purely subjective and is written more from a headline grabbing attitude than an actual historically founded position. Another example was the review of the 2007 come back gig, where the author decries the event as basically awful and low energy, (when it is pretty much universally acknowledged that it was a complete triumph and success, but that in itself is very subjective. My apologies). Here I think it would have been better just to state the facts, rather than paint a unnecessarily negative picture of the decline of the band in order to play-out the 'rise and fall' nature of the story. It almost came across sometimes that where the author didn't have solid information that he made up a headline grabbing opinion just add spice to the mix, (an accusation he throws at the book 'Hammer of the Gods'), which in honesty he really didn't need to do when the rest of his content is so very well written and researched.

My final gripe was the portrayal of the members of the band, which I personally feel came across as exaggerated in order to make the book again more spicy. (Again SPOILER ALERT!!!). Jimmy Page is depicted initially as a tyrannical dictator who descends into being an emasculated hermit, with no life direction or purpose, which is very unfair and also untrue. His solo work is reasonably glossed over and there is no mention of his charity work in Brazil. Robert Plant on the other hand is the complete opposite, starting out as a weak willed figure who is bossed around by Page and then develops into this evil figure of a man who is selfish; dictatorial when it comes to the come back show and who will do anything to smash the hopes and dreams of Page. Completely over the top! Where he does get it right is the role of John Paul Jones in the band, but again there is little development of him from 1980 onwards.

But, I want to be absolutely fair to Mick Wall because in terms of a biography of Led Zeppelin it scores hands down over Hammer of the Gods and Stairway to Heaven (the Richard Coal biography), in that it avoids the lurid sensationalism of these other two works and really has a lot of excellent detail. (However, I personally feel that "Jimmy Page: Magus, Musician, Man" by George Case is a far superior work in terms of the life if JP when compared to all three).

In conclusion, if you are a well read fan of Zeppelin lore, this makes a worth while read. But if you are using this as your very first entry into the world of Zeppelin history, then do check out other works for a contrasting view point. Especially Magus Musician Man. Jimmy Page: Magus Musician Man
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I was pleased to pick this up for £3 in the HMV sale a few weeks ago. It's a much-publicized and popular biography of Led Zeppelin that appears to be more authoritative than Hammer of the Gods, which is the only other book on this subject that I've read. The basic story of the rise and fall of this remarkable band is well-known, but Wall goes through it all over again with a thoroughness and attention to detail that only falters now and then (as, for example, he carelessly resurrects the canard (p221) that The Rolling Stones were playing "Sympathy For The Devil" when Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death at Altamont).

Indeed, sometimes his thoroughness is misplaced, particularly in the case of a lengthy digression on Aleister Crowley and occult practices. This includes some extraordinarily sloppy writing, such as for example (p229): "As with all great sciences and religions, the teachings of the [Ordo Templi Orientis] are full of arcane and dramatic rituals learned from ancient [grammars of magic] handed down [...] from generation to generation..." which could only be viewed as contentious by anyone opening - say - a chemistry textbook, or the Bible. Elsewhere in this chapter (p222), Wall describes - apparently without a hint of irony - how the drummer in Black Sabbath was awoken one night by what he thought was the Devil standing at the foot of his bed, and was so terrified he was unable to make the connection with the fact that he'd previously taken great care to paint his bedroom walls completely black, and had put "all these inverted crosses around the place and all these posters of Satan and all that that kind of stuff".

The author hauls all this stuff in because of the interest that Jimmy Page has expressed in this subject. But you can tell he's on shaky ground when he tries saying anything else about Page's involvement. For example (p228), "it seems likely" that Page was invited to join the Ordo Templi Orientis (a "secret magical society" led by Crowley) in the early seventies. Moreover, "it is believed" that he still belongs to it. Why, the reader wonders, all the uncertainty? Well, it can't be anything to do with "the vow of silence that being an initiate inevitably entails", because in the very next sentence Wall quotes the authoritative pronouncement of one Dave Dickson: "I would be surprised [...] if Page wasn't a member [...] I don't know for certain because it's not like there's a membership list [...] It seems almost inconceivable that he wouldn't be." The fact that Dickson is identified by Wall as a member of the Ordo Templi Orientis makes you wonder if the society is really all that secret - and, after several pages of speculation along similar lines which end with a blizzard of question marks and blind alleys, what all of this has to do with the music.

Of course it's the music that's the most important thing, and Wall does provide a commendable survey of this - for example, highlighting (p155) the "formidable three-dimensional quality" of the sound of Led Zeppelin II, and detailing the shortcomings of the band's final two albums, produced as their once-mighty powers were on the wane, and the world's attention was shifting elsewhere. Keeping more attention focused on their music and how they made it would have made this book even better, but as it is, it's still a compelling read for fans of this band.
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