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Robert Plant - Paul Rees biography is dazed and confused
on 26 October 2013
The blurb surrounding this new biography of Robert Plant from its publisher declares proudly that "Paul's close professional relationship with Robert is going to make for a revealing read and we can't wait to bring one of the greatest untold rock n' roll stories to the world." The nature of Paul Rees "professional relationship" is an interesting one. As a former Editor of Kerrang and Q, he has certainly interviewed Plant on a couple of occasions although the last time was in 2010. He also points out that "our paths crossed a number of times during the years that followed". This seems to amount to nothing more than bumping into him at "assorted television and music show awards". The result is essentially one of those biographies written by a rock journalist that is unauthorised and makes uses of no new material in its production. This in itself is not always a bad thing. Think of the unauthorised biography of Tom Waits by Barney Hoskyns or The Smiths leading lights Morrissey and Marr by Johnny Rogan where great rock writers delve into the most intricate levels of available evidence and do huge research work around their subject to produce a great read.
Paul Rees, unfortunately, fails on a number of counts and the book reads like one long Q magazine piece. It is littered on every page with writing that can be excruciating and would embarrass a GCSE psychology student. Thus, the author imagines himself in Plant's mind prior to the historic Led Zeppelin reunion gig in London on 10th December 2007 and proposes in language befitting a "Hello" celebrity portrait that for Plant "there would be ghosts in the room. Those of his first born son, of his best friend and of the ...others lost along the way. For each of them he wanted to be the Golden God one last time". Even with basic biographical detail Rees is clumsy, hence we have a remarkable insight that "the thing that Plant thought most on the morning of 10th September 1959 was not music but how little he liked his new school uniform". Worse than this is the sheer amount of padding that occurs throughout in the form of potted histories of events and people in order to fill pages. Thus, we learn that the West Midlands played a role in the Second World War and was tied to it by politicians like "Neville Chamberlain the British Prime Minister at the time of the Wars outbreak who had misguidedly attempted to appease Adolf Hitler, was born into one of Birmingham's great political dynasties". In essence, the book divides into thirds with one of these dealing with Zeppelin, another Plant's post-Zeppelin years and more latterly his recent resurgence. The analysis of his work with both Alison Krauss and Patty Griffin is very thin and holding the book (even in hardback form) you feel its lightness, and quickly plough through the book as the text also seems double spaced.
If this book was cast as an introductory portrait it would have some merit, but as a serious study which proudly claims to be "The definitive biography" of Robert Plant one of rock music's key figures it fails. You will note in hardback this book cost nearly 14 pounds? If you do want to find out more about Robert Plant a better use of your spending power would be to get Mick Wall's "When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography Of Led Zeppelin" and Barney Hoskyns superb "Trampled Under Foot: The Power and Excess of Led Zeppelin". Purchased together they will cost you less and render purchase of Paul Rees's flawed book unnecessary.