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this book deserved a better editor
on 12 February 2016
As a Zeppelin fan of over 30 years' standing I have mixed feelings about this book. There is very interesting stuff in here dealing with "before and after" the band's career. I learned interesting things about the individual members' family backgrounds and upbringings, and about Jimmy's astonishingly successful career as a session musician through the 1960s. I also found out more about the ongoing relationships, dialogues and tensions between the surviving members (and specifically between Jimmy and Robert) over the long years since John Bonham's death and the band's demise in 1979. There is plenty here, too, about legendary manager Peter Grant - some of it disturbing, some of it sad, some of it very funny. Grant's personal downfall during the 80s was, of course, spectacular, but given what we know about the brutality and cynicism of his career I am still not quite sure why Wall concludes (in the acknowledgements to the book) that he "deserved better".
As an analysis of what really made Led Zeppelin tick, however, I came away disappointed, and feeling somehow that this very large book delivered less than it promised. I was shocked at how many specific anecdotes of rock'n'roll carnage and "bad behaviour" I had come across before - I read Stephen Davies Hammer Of The Gods back in 1984, and my impression is that many of the hoary old stories are repeated almost verbatim from that book. Déjà vu, over and over as the pages turned! Wall's written style seems to me elaborate and self-indulgent, with a love of long compound sentences rather than plain speech. I know you can't please everyone (!) but the italicised imagined "recollections" of the four band members that punctuate the book don't convince me at all, with swear words and "common speech" laid on with a trowel. The long chapter on Jimmy Page's interest in the occult obstructs the flow of the book while remaining (inevitably) pretty speculative.
This book would have been improved massively had it been subjected to a damned good, clear-eyed edit. An effective editor could have sorted out the many stylistic problems, shortened it somewhat, and also identified the many passages where Wall seems to slide (unconsciously I am sure) into something that verges upon plagiarism of Stephen Davis's earlier book. He or she would also have saved us from one absolute howler, the consistent mis-spelling of the title of Zeppelin's last album!