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When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography Of Led Zeppelin Hardcover – 30 Oct 2008
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So this is the big one: a fat, juicy biography of the biggest band ever...Mick Wall, the veteran rock journalist, lays it all bare in a book that can only be described as definitive. (DAILY TELEGRAPH)
As well as being the most complete account yet of a great British rock band, When Giants Walked the Earth is, as its name implies, a document of a bygone age....Wall has done his subject proud. (SUNDAY TIMES)
'It deftly strikes the balance between lofty authority and finding a way to get inside the heads of its subjects' (GUARDIAN)
This fantastic account of Led Zeppelin's wild and decadent heyday is as detailed and definitive as music biographies get. (LONDON LITE)
The definitive account of rock legends Led Zeppelin (DAILY RECORD)
A fascinating and diligently reseached account of rock'n'roll excess. (YORKSHIRE EVENING POST)
The definitive book about Led Zeppelin... Mick Wall has done a fine job here and certainly knows his stuff. (BIRMINGHAM POST)
That Wall can add so much fresh details to the Led Zep story is in itself an extraordinary achievements. That he manages to humanise these planet-striding giants while doing so puts this book into the "definitive" category. (CLASSIC ROCK MAGAZINE)
We've read about the booze, drugs, devil worship and deviant sex... Mick Wall delves a loot deeper into the dark stuff (IRISH TIMES)
The final word on the world's greatest rock bandSee all Product description
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Neither does the book shy away from analysing the band’s gradual decline and fall from grace with the corresponding rise of punk and new wave music which coincided with John Bonham’s death. Equally their subsequent rehabilitation in recent years is also discussed along with Robert Plant’s reluctance to reignite the Led Zeppelin flame.
If you want to understand what made Led Zeppelin a behemoth in the 1970s and afterthought in the early 1980s and now bona fide rock gods, this book reveals the whole story without fear or favour, a must for any Zeppelin fan.
This is the Zeppelin book we've been waiting for, short of a book from one of the surviving members, which isn't looking likely.
(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
All in all though, a superb & very entertaining read on the history of Led Zeppelin.HIGHLY RECOMMENDED !!!...now I've stopped yawning....
Certainly worth a read if you're a Zeppelin fan or just a music fan in general. In fact, if you're into hedonistic stories, you'll love this book as well.
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