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When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin

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Veteran rock journalist Mick Wall unflinchingly tells the story of the band that pushed the envelope on both creativity and excess, even by rock'n roll standards. Led Zeppelin was the last great band of the 1960s and the first great band of the 1970's and When Giants Walked the Earth is the full, enthralling story of Zep from the inside, written by a former associate of both Ji Veteran rock journalist Mick Wall unflinchingly tells the story of the band that pushed the envelope on both creativity and excess, even by rock'n roll standards. Led Zeppelin was the last great band of the 1960s and the first great band of the 1970's and When Giants Walked the Earth is the full, enthralling story of Zep from the inside, written by a former associate of both Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Rich and revealing, it bores into not only the disaster, addiction and death that haunted the band but also into the real relationship between Page and Plant, including how it was influenced by Page's interest in the occult. Comprehensive and yet intimately detailed, When Giants Walked the Earth literally gets into the principals' heads to bring to life both an unforgettable band and an unrepeatable slice of rock history.


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Veteran rock journalist Mick Wall unflinchingly tells the story of the band that pushed the envelope on both creativity and excess, even by rock'n roll standards. Led Zeppelin was the last great band of the 1960s and the first great band of the 1970's and When Giants Walked the Earth is the full, enthralling story of Zep from the inside, written by a former associate of both Ji Veteran rock journalist Mick Wall unflinchingly tells the story of the band that pushed the envelope on both creativity and excess, even by rock'n roll standards. Led Zeppelin was the last great band of the 1960s and the first great band of the 1970's and When Giants Walked the Earth is the full, enthralling story of Zep from the inside, written by a former associate of both Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Rich and revealing, it bores into not only the disaster, addiction and death that haunted the band but also into the real relationship between Page and Plant, including how it was influenced by Page's interest in the occult. Comprehensive and yet intimately detailed, When Giants Walked the Earth literally gets into the principals' heads to bring to life both an unforgettable band and an unrepeatable slice of rock history.

30 review for When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    I did not read the more famous Hammer of the Gods biography because I heard it took too much vicarious pleasure in the revelling and partying of the Zep boys and did not talk enough about the music they produced. The Mick Wall biography on the other hand, does mention some of the shameless and shameful behaviour of the band but also talks at length about the backgrounds and stories of the individual musicians that made the group and the unwinding of the binds that ended in the tragic death of Bo I did not read the more famous Hammer of the Gods biography because I heard it took too much vicarious pleasure in the revelling and partying of the Zep boys and did not talk enough about the music they produced. The Mick Wall biography on the other hand, does mention some of the shameless and shameful behaviour of the band but also talks at length about the backgrounds and stories of the individual musicians that made the group and the unwinding of the binds that ended in the tragic death of Bonzo and the dissolution of Led Zeppelin. I felt that Wall's book took a more Jimmy Page-centric view of the band (I believe that some sources told me that he and Jimmy were pretty tight back in London but I could be mistaken), but he still talks more or less objectively about John Paul Jones, Robert Plant and the late great John Bonham. Some revelations for me was how much music that was stolen outright with no credit to the original authors (and I won't accept the 'everyone did that back then excuse') particularly on Led Zeppelin I, II and III or the musical genius of John Paul Jones who would play bass with pedals while soloing on his keyboard and writing a good amount of the music. Of course, there is Jimmy Page and his growing obsession with the occult, Robert's overflowing sexual prowess, and the uncontrollable drinking of Bonzo. A lot of the credit to Zep's success was actually due to Peter Grant's obsessive management of EVERYTHING that concerned Zeppelin from licensing to paraphernalia to concert schedules to interviews. It was a well-oiled if someone off-the-rails train ride that earned all of them millions in a time where musicians were lucky to live off their music for the most part. Of course, G was also a bit of a gangster,Bonham a bullying drunk, Robert completely sex-obsessed, and Jimmy deep into his Crowley cult. All of these factors both added to the mystique of their greatest albums: IV, Houses of the Holy, and Physical Graffiti - but also their slow downfall in Presence, In Through the Out Door, and Coda. This is not to say that I do not adore all the music and indeed I own vinyl originals of all of them including the paper back for Out Door and the spinning psychedelic wheel of III, but there is a qualitative difference that shows through each of them as the band evolved. The Song Remains the Same was remixed in 2009 and sounds far better but as pointed out by Wall, How the West Was Won is actually a better and more accurate portrait of the live Led at their best. So, if you can put aside your disgust at their juvenile behaviour (not to say abusive at times) and just wish to understand why they became and remain so incredibly legendary in the rock-n-roll world, I would highly recommend this Mick Wall biography for both the story and the musical insights.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    Sometimes, I have these moments of personal insight into myself that make me realize that I do not do things the way that "normal" people do. This book definitely brought one of those on. I say this because I literally grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, to the point that I could recognize them from a half-second of playtime as I'm flipping through the radio dial or skipping randomized songs on my phone playlist. I literally cannot remember a time in my life that Led Zeppelin music wasn't there. Sometimes, I have these moments of personal insight into myself that make me realize that I do not do things the way that "normal" people do. This book definitely brought one of those on. I say this because I literally grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, to the point that I could recognize them from a half-second of playtime as I'm flipping through the radio dial or skipping randomized songs on my phone playlist. I literally cannot remember a time in my life that Led Zeppelin music wasn't there. But until I read this book, I couldn't have told you anything about Led Zeppelin themselves. Not how many members were in the band. Or what their names were. Etc. I loved the music in a "this is just the soundtrack of my life" kind of way and I never one time paused to think about it in terms of who the band was or how the music came be. Which is kind of strange, considering that many of y'all might be aware of just how much I love origin stories. (Spoiler alert: A LOT.) So I wasn't a "Led Zeppelin fan" so much as a "Led Zeppelin music lover". I was content with Zeppelin just being there, a constant in the background of my life. They hold a nostalgic place in my heart, reminding me of my dad and of an era (the 70s) that I never experienced and can only appreciate through cultural memory - music, movies, TV, etc. As I got older, and started to get some of the more… mature… references, I only came to love the music more. I mean, now I know why that Led guy loved lemons so much. :P Anyway, considering all of that, I'm not sure how I feel about this book, but I think that my feelings about Led Zeppelin (by which I mean the music of them) are unchanged. I loved the origin story aspect of the book, especially because now knowing what I do about how this band came together, and the perfect combination of factors in each of the members that allowed them to work so well together, so quickly. I loved that bit... but honestly, so much of the rest of it, the antics and the drama and the blah blah blah... I don't care about. Maybe it's a bit shitty, but I am perfectly fine with knowing that Led Zeppelin made music I love, but may have been people I wouldn't have wanted to actually know. I don't really want or need to know anything else but the art. That is enough for me. The same as it is for books and the flawed human beings who write them. Sometimes, the less we know, the better. It's not news to me, or anyone, that alcohol and drugs and groupies and craziness and out of control behavior were a thing that successful bands (and people) got involved with in the 70s. And still do. Led Zeppelin partook. No denying it. Sometimes it was a blast, and sometimes it cost them, heavily. That's the way it goes. I don't need it spelled out in gratuitous detail. It's not surprising to me that there were and are accusations of plagiarism/creative theft/failure to properly attribute credit, etc. But here's the thing - Nothing is created in a vacuum. Everything is inspired by someone or something that came before. Led Zeppelin took old folk songs, blues songs, jazz songs, songs that I never would have listened to in any form otherwise, and made them into something magical and beautiful and haunting, or whatever it was they were going for. If anything, that only makes me appreciate the source music more, to see what was, and then what they did with it. I know that many of their songs were "inspired" by the work of others, and I'm all for it. Many people won't agree with me on that, but that's OK. I can forgive a multitude of sins as long as songs like "In My Time Of Dying" and "When The Levee Breaks" get to exist. And all the rest of them, too. Just sayin'. So. Love Led Zeppelin, always have, always will, despite this book's really strenuous attempts at showing how out of control and shitty they were in a lot of ways. Except one thing, which admittedly does make me rage twitch: John Bonham attempting to "force a flight attendant to have sex with him" should have been called exactly what it was, Mick Wall. Attempted rape. If you're going to show all the warts, don't fucking try to slap a bandaid over the biggest, nastiest one. I had a little bit of a rage aneurysm when I heard that shitty boys-will-be-boys euphemism. Fuck all of that. He was a great drummer, legendary even, but he tried to rape someone. Not OK. Not then, not when this was published 10 years ago. Not now. That being said… it doesn't change the music for me. I can't let knowing that John Bonham had serious alcoholism and uncontrollable behavior and really piss-poor judgement while drinking take away from what they made together. Was he a "bad" person? I don't know. I think probably not. His behavior was erratic but I think he needed help, and didn't get it, and it ultimately killed him. Honestly, it's a tragedy, but I think that at that time, mental health issues were for schizophrenics and everything else was nothing a good kick in the ass or a few (dozen) drinks couldn't solve. But… hindsight is 20/20 as they say. From the things I heard in this book, he was not okay, but it was written off as boys being boys and having well-earned fun that just got out of control. One more note on the "drama", before I move on to the structure of this book. Jimmy Page was apparently into the occult. If you care. I don't. Apparently it was a big deal back in the day. Meh. I don't care if he held a ritual to summon a demon and used his super esoteric knowledge to benefit his talent or career. If so, good for him. The way that this book went on and on and on about the OCCULT made it feel like it was written that way throughout the book, in all caps, like this should be a scandalous shocker that would make people do a double-take and question everything they ever enjoyed about the band - COULD THEIR SUCCESS BE THE RESULT OF DEVIL WORSHIP??! Do not care. Believe in whatever you want, Page. You do you. If he is not hurting anyone, then what the fuck does it matter what the man believed in? Someone eating a piece of bread and claiming that it's the body of Christ, drinking a bit of wine as his blood, and that's all totes normal, apparently, but change the symbolism and suddenly THOSE beliefs become a thing that needs to be hashed and rehashed again and again, even going so far as to make the occult the closing idea of the book, rather than, ohhh… I dunno, something about Led Zeppelin. There's even a biography chapter of Aleister Crowley. Because… reasons? Let's move on. I was totally going to do a parody of the chapter intros here, but the thought of actually trying to imitate second person narration made me throw up in my mouth a little bit. So, nah. I won't do that. It was annoying enough to get through it each chapter, every chapter (except one, because CONSISTENCY!) over and over again. And on top of that, it was written in a really annoying British Limey/Cockney/Something? Slang that made me want to puncture my eardrums with a pencil. Not because of the accent - let's be clear that Simon Vance could read to me in Klingon and I would soak that shit up - but because of the pretentiousness of it. UGH. Not to mention that except for the very first few intros, I never knew who I "was" at any given time in these sections. Was I Page? Was I Plant? Was I some random groupie? Jones now? Who the fuck knows. I think I have MPD after listening to this book. AND on top of that, these intros just kept rehashing (AGAIN!) the same origin story over and over and over. At 84% into the book I had a rant in a voice to text note in the Audible app about the fact that we were EIGHTY-FOUR PERCENT into the book and still fucking talking about Page's previous band, The Yardbirds, Jimmy Page's vision for The New Yardbirds (which would become Led Zeppelin) and how much of a risk it was, yada yada yada. WHY are we still talking about that at this point? WHY, when Led Zeppelin's time together and Bonham's life itself was coming to an end, were we STILL ON THE FORMATION OF THE BAND?? LET'S MOVE THE FUCK ON ALREADY! SO annoying. Dammit. As I've gone along, I've talked myself into rating this book way lower than I ever would have thought. But, aside from Simon Vance, and the FIRST time through the origin story, I don't have anything positive to say about this. I love the music, but this book, in the end, didn't enhance it in any way. It just made me aware of the fact that in this case, the music is enough. I don't need or want anything more.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elaine Kasket

    It's a big improvement on Hammer of the Gods, and I dithered over whether to give it three or four stars. I agree with the reviews here there and everywhere that are calling it the "definitive biography". It boasts thorough research, in depth knowledge both personal and research-based, good writing, and a fantastic book jacket. I would have given it four stars if it were not for the following two problems. Issue One is the italicized second-person detours that are meant to take you "i It's a big improvement on Hammer of the Gods, and I dithered over whether to give it three or four stars. I agree with the reviews here there and everywhere that are calling it the "definitive biography". It boasts thorough research, in depth knowledge both personal and research-based, good writing, and a fantastic book jacket. I would have given it four stars if it were not for the following two problems. Issue One is the italicized second-person detours that are meant to take you "into the head" of various members of Led Zeppelin, Peter Grant, and associates. This awkward literary device is an overly forced way of trying to get you to imagine what it must have been like to have been, say, a young flaxen-haired hippie lad from the Black Country who gets the opportunity of a lifetime. Personally, I don't need italics and the second person to help me imagine that, especially given the richness of the descriptions given elsewhere, in the non-italicized bits. An additional annoying characteristic of the second-person segments is that they are sometimes randomly placed or out of sync, chronology-wise, with the story, and Wall never identifies whose head you're meant to be inside (saying, "You are Robert Plant. You are a young flaxen-haired hippie lad from the Black Country" would be more dorky than it already is), so sometimes you're not entirely sure where you are. Issue Two is a sometimes laughably credulous attitude towards the teachings of Aleister Crowley and the O.T.O., which Wall describes at one point as a "great world religion." Now, I'm not saying anything about whether the great world religions are more or less bonkers than O.T.O., but I would hesitate to classify the O.T.O. in such a manner. Why is it necessary to devote so many pages to this topic? Is it because occultism was *really* such an influence on Led Zep's music that it's necessary to discuss it at this level of earnestness? Is Wall trying to legitimize and respect Jimmy Page as a Smart Guy who wouldn't believe in claptrap? Or does Mick Wall - and this is a hypothesis that I was leaning towards as I read on (and on, and on) - have an undeclared bias, i.e., that he is an O.T.O. member himself? Whatever the reason for the massive word count given over to this topic, all I know is that I often longed to get back to the story of the band and its music and got pretty bloody sick of seeing magic capitalized and spelled with a "K".

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    You are Mick Wall, and boy, do you have a story to tell! Nothing less than the fable of Led Zeppelin, arguably the greatest rock band ever and, unarguably, the biggest band in the world throughout the 1970s. It’s not a tale as popularly told as that of the Beatles or the Stones, outside of the gossipy tabloid focus of Stephen Davis’ Hammer of the Gods. What sets you apart from that dreck is that you can bring to the table an in-depth knowledge of the band’s music. You are Mick Wall and you have a story to tell. You are Mick Wall, and boy, do you have a story to tell! Nothing less than the fable of Led Zeppelin, arguably the greatest rock band ever and, unarguably, the biggest band in the world throughout the 1970s. It’s not a tale as popularly told as that of the Beatles or the Stones, outside of the gossipy tabloid focus of Stephen Davis’ Hammer of the Gods. What sets you apart from that dreck is that you can bring to the table an in-depth knowledge of the band’s music. You are Mick Wall and you have a story to tell. The question is, can you get out of the way of the story long enough not to screw it up? When you think about it, you realise that the Zeppelin saga almost tells itself, with so many tales both whispered and shouted over the years of the drugs, the groupies, the mud shark, the Satanism. All you really have to do is competently address the facts. But you’ve got a better idea! Instead of the same old tired codswallop, why not try something daring? Make the reader the members of the band! Each section will begin with “You are Jimmy Page”, “You are Robert Plant”, et al. These sections will all be written in the second-person present and they will last much longer than anyone could possibly want! Hey, look at that “codswallop” sitting up there! That gives you another brilliant idea. Why not make these second-person sections as densely provincial as possible? Despite the fact that, by your own assertion, Led Zeppelin is one of the few British bands to be “made in America”, where they experienced their first big success, you have an idea to try your hardest to alienate anyone outside the United Kingdom with such a cartoonish overindulgence in Limey slang that the band members come off less like the golden rock gods of the 1970s and more like Pinky and the Brain. Whoops! You almost forgot references to people, places and events that will be almost impenetrable to American readers! There! Mission accomplished! You have now come to the toughest topic to cover in this book; that whole “Satanism” bugaboo. You have an idea. You’ll simply write “Aleister Crowley was a goofy occultist from the early 20th century, and Jimmy Page sure liked Aleister Crowley.” Done and done! But… there’s all that research you did! And you know for a fact that people read Beatles biographies to learn more about the Maharishi. Therefore, you include a whole chapter about Aleister Crowley. Who would skip over that? You are Mick Wall and you have finished your book. It’s printed and you’re holding a copy in your hands. You have never been so proud! This is one of your life’s defining moments! And then that moment is ruined when you open the cover. How is it possible? Where did all these errors come from? You state that Led Zeppelin’s fourth album is second only to The Eagles Greatest Hits in sales. How could you have forgotten about that American bloke? What was his name? Tito Jackson? Geranium Jackson? You can’t remember the album’s name, but you know it has something to do with zombies. Your mention of the “Atlanta Braves football stadium” so bungles two sports that the ridiculous statement has an almost Zen-like effect on American readers, who quickly fall into a trance when contemplating it. Then there’s the creme de la creme of oh, so many errors. You claim that moderately-successful ‘60s TV/pop star Bobby Sherman created the Monkees (!) and had his very own plane to loan the band! Not a single bit of that is true! You are gobsmacked! Are you really that dumb? No… no, of course not! You are Mick Wall! You’re Jack the Lad! Bollocks! Quid! Snog! You are Mick Wall and you have managed what some thought was impossible; you have written a crappy book about Led Zeppelin.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tosh

    Mick Wall has the annoying habit of writing first-person narratives in a biography. But beyond that, this is an interesting biography on one of my NOT favorite bands. If the mood hits me correctly, I usually hate Led Zeppelin. But nevertheless a fascinating band as a subject matter. Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones were great session players during the British Invasion years. We're talking Herman's Hermits, Lulu, and lots of Mickie Most productions. And right away I have to tell you I love that ty Mick Wall has the annoying habit of writing first-person narratives in a biography. But beyond that, this is an interesting biography on one of my NOT favorite bands. If the mood hits me correctly, I usually hate Led Zeppelin. But nevertheless a fascinating band as a subject matter. Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones were great session players during the British Invasion years. We're talking Herman's Hermits, Lulu, and lots of Mickie Most productions. And right away I have to tell you I love that type of music more than the Zeppelin. But to give credit, Page (and Jones) are remarkable arrangers. And the production of Zeppelin records are great. What they are not is songwriters. They steal songs like a boy or girl stealing an apple from a neighbor's apple tree. Listen to Jakes Homes original version of Dazed and Confused! Page stole that song. He did a great arrangement of the song, but nevertheless it is surely not a song by "Jimmy Page' as it is credited on the label. One of the interesting things about Wall is that he writes about Page's fascination with Crowley - who everyone knows is one of Page's passions. He has a huge collection of Crowley editions as well as paintings, etc. And it is pretty certain that Page is one of the top figures in the Crowley group. Which is interesting when you mix Led Zeppelin sounds with the image of the occult. But on the other hand you have these terrible lyrics by Robert Plant ....well, I don't want to go there. So what makes this book depressing is how Page sort of ends up as a sad guy who sort of lost his creation due to his relationship problems with his lead singer Plant and a series of early deaths - Plant's son and their drummer. The decadence part is also an enjoyable read, but that too turns into dark muck, when all of sudden the management became violent and ugly. Their manager Peter Grant is a fascinating character, due that he was the first figure to actually challenge everyday music world practices. It was pretty 'my way and nothing for you.' But later on it became an ugly brutish method in dealing with road crews and especially to groupies. Led Zeppelin wrote the book with respect to Groupie culture. But what was once fun became a really ugly scene. So the book is about having the ultimate power and fame, and then what? And that is the sad part of the book. Plant and Jones had no problem after Zeppelin, but Page one feels, had his moment and is really trying to get that moment back. But it's gone.

  6. 4 out of 5

    DJ Yossarian

    To be honest I couldn't get past about page 30 of this thing -- the writing style grated on me that much. The actual factual historical stuff was insightful enough, but I just can't abide by the particular conceit employed here by the author, of having these multi-page italicized interludes that are supposed to be some kind of interior monologue by the protagonists (but in second person), e.g. You are Peter Grant. It is the summer of 1968, you are thirty-three and sick and tired of earning mone To be honest I couldn't get past about page 30 of this thing -- the writing style grated on me that much. The actual factual historical stuff was insightful enough, but I just can't abide by the particular conceit employed here by the author, of having these multi-page italicized interludes that are supposed to be some kind of interior monologue by the protagonists (but in second person), e.g. You are Peter Grant. It is the summer of 1968, you are thirty-three and sick and tired of earning money for other fucking people. In the days when you'd worked for Don Arden, it hadn't mattered. Don could be a right c*nt to work for, always on your case, giving you a hard time, always taking the piss, but at least you'd been paid regular and in cash. Blah blah blah. I really hate it when biographers or historians try and put words into people's mouths, it just erodes their credibility right from the start. So although I love me some Led Zeppelin, I'm going to look elsewhere for a good book on them.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Alex Robinson

    Pretty decent bio, although it was written in 2009 so doesn’t have anything about their most recent reunions.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Matt Slaybaugh

    Also posted here: AGITREADER I’m not a big Led Zeppelin fan. In fact, I knew relatively little about the band that I didn’t learn from listening to classic rock stations while making pizzas at the Bogey Inn back in the day. That fact, along with an abnormal lust for books with more than 450 pages, is what led me to pick-up Mick Wall’s When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin in the first place. Also, the cover art is really sweet. What I really wanted was a definitive c Also posted here: AGITREADER I’m not a big Led Zeppelin fan. In fact, I knew relatively little about the band that I didn’t learn from listening to classic rock stations while making pizzas at the Bogey Inn back in the day. That fact, along with an abnormal lust for books with more than 450 pages, is what led me to pick-up Mick Wall’s When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin in the first place. Also, the cover art is really sweet. What I really wanted was a definitive chronicle of the band, you know, the one book that’d give me everything I need to know. Yes, I saw Hammer of the Gods sitting there on the shelf too, but newer is better, right? And I really wanted the inside story on that Coverdale/Page album. In the end, this did the job only adequately. I got the inside scoop on the break-up and all the tedious dirt about Page’s plagiarism issues, but to get that I had to suffer through some truly poor writing and Wall’s obsession with Jimmy Page’s “dark side.” Somewhere along the way, Wall got it into his head that the single question Zep fans and book-buyers want answered more than any other was whether Jimmy Page worships the devil, or at least Aleister Crowley. And, while I suppose that may be true for diehard fans who’ve actually tried playing “Stairway to Heaven” in reverse, I’m not sure that even those folks will want the level of attention that Wall gives to the subject. Crowley doesn’t show up in the book till about 180 pages in, in a full chapter devoted to Page’s interest in the “dark arts,” but from that point on he’s a constant presence. I now know as much about Crowley’s personal history as I do about that of John Paul Jones. Wall makes sure that nearly every significant event in the band’s later history gets a thorough analyses for any signs of the occult. Suffice to say, it’s a bit much. Wall’s other agenda seems to be some kind of self-aggrandizing one-up-manship. He’s got the real story. He knows what really happened because Jimmy Page told him so. He attacks several of the more well known Zeppelin myths (like the “shark incident”) with the intent of “setting things straight,” but really just ends up telling the same old story with minute changes in the details or perspective. Meh, so what? First on my list of annoyances, though, is Wall’s attempt at a stylistic departure. Repeatedly, he tries to take readers “inside the minds” of the band and their closest allies, suddenly switching to second-person storytelling. Aside from the obvious phoniness of his technique and his inability to pull anything revealing out of these long, italicized passages, is the fact that the writing is just terrible. Trying to cram facts and epiphanies into his second-person concept forces Wall to torture readers and the English language alike. Imagine three pages like this: “It was while you were with Jackie that you made your own first record: ‘She Just Satisfies.’ Your own song with you singing and Jackie on backing vocals. You were 21 and suddenly it was like you had the whole world by the arse.” I guess we should admire Wall for attempting something interesting, but his editor should have put a stop to it. Bottom line: there may not be a better book on Led Zeppelin out there, but there’s got to be a less irritating one.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Arf Ortiyef

    This is easily some of the worst writing I've ever read in my life. Presumably Mick Wall had to either dictate this book or write it with one hand because he was obviously using his other hand to masturbate furiously the entire time. I hated this book the second I started reading it but I admit I was also hooked. I had to find out the whole story. Unfortunately for all the details about forming the band and who they ripped off and what sex acts were done to whom, there are scant detai This is easily some of the worst writing I've ever read in my life. Presumably Mick Wall had to either dictate this book or write it with one hand because he was obviously using his other hand to masturbate furiously the entire time. I hated this book the second I started reading it but I admit I was also hooked. I had to find out the whole story. Unfortunately for all the details about forming the band and who they ripped off and what sex acts were done to whom, there are scant details about the recording process and songwriting (the parts that are about music). There was barely anything I wanted to read about in it and I was left feeling like I only read part of a story with way too many suppositions. The ridiculously annoying second-person "flashbacks" are apparently works of fiction (as the disclaimer at the beginning notes) so I'm not sure why I should have read them at all. This technique alone, the author's ham-fisted attempt to break up way too much back-story, was a waste of half of a book. Also a waste of time were Wall's opinions about the band's music. It seems like he doesn't care for their later albums and writes them off as a waste of time. I couldn't disagree more about this! Why would you write a book about a band if you didn't like 1/3 of their music? Oh, I know why! Because this guy writes books about every famous band he can get an interview with. So much of this book is written from the author's opinion that everything Page did was about summoning demons so it includes at least a full chapter about the life story of Aleister Crowley. Then Wall brings in his expert on the subject, his friend Dave. Here's what I imagine the book is like: "Don't take my word for it! Dave says: 'Oh yeah Page was big into Crowley, man. They were tight bros from way back in the day.' So there you have irrefutable proof that Good Times, Bad Times, the only good song they ever wrote, was actually written by Satan." Wall spends the first half of this book with a hard-on and then completely loses interest for the second half. This is not only a flaccid disservice to the storytelling, it makes a lot of the book very boring! The last two chapters read like a chore: all about how Page wants Zeppelin to reform and Plant doesn't over and over again and then the book just fucking ends. He had so many sources, why couldn't he just tie that information together? This book stinks and Wall doesn't understand music, Crowley or probably just life in general. This is another trashy book churned out by a guy who has built a career writing trash. On the other hand, where else are you gonna read about all this "bacchanalia"?

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mike Sumner

    Written by Mick Wall, "When Giants Walked The Earth: A Biography Of Led Zeppelin" is the culmination of several years of research, and is written by someone who has known guitarist Jimmy Page for over two decades. Its material is based on interviews the journalist has conducted with every member of the band over the years, as well as those who knew and worked alongside them. I have been a fan of Led Zeppelin for 45 years and I thoroughly enjoyed this momentous opus, running to 534 pages. It is t Written by Mick Wall, "When Giants Walked The Earth: A Biography Of Led Zeppelin" is the culmination of several years of research, and is written by someone who has known guitarist Jimmy Page for over two decades. Its material is based on interviews the journalist has conducted with every member of the band over the years, as well as those who knew and worked alongside them. I have been a fan of Led Zeppelin for 45 years and I thoroughly enjoyed this momentous opus, running to 534 pages. It is therefore beyond my comprehension how anyone on Goodreads could rate this with One Star having read just 30 pages and giving up on the book. Rather like rating a movie after watching just the opening credits. I would qualify my Five Star rating by stating that this is for fans of Led Zeppelin. I doubt that you would enjoy it so much if you weren’t. Mick Wall said in 2009 that he just felt there had never been a really serious book written about Zeppelin. Hammer Of The Gods is great but its 25 years old and not really built on any genuine research or interviews with the band. He thought it was time for something seriously heavyweight. And heavyweight it is, requiring considerable stamina to complete. It has taken me a couple of weeks to read, giving myself time to reflect on the content of each comprehensive chapter. From 1969 to 1975, Led Zeppelin were arguably at the peak of their powers. The book covers all that in detail. But Zep 'II' (1969) and 'IV' (1971) would be the peak of their success. Many, like me, still love 'Houses of the Holy' (1973), and many parts of the others. Following the release of 1975's critically acclaimed 'Physical Graffiti', Led Zeppelin arguably went into a creative decline, attributed to drugs, alcohol abuse and self-immolation. And without drummer John ‘Bonzo’ Bonham, who was the best rock drummer ever, who died at a shocking young age, choked on his own vomit, Led Zeppelin were no more. Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones developed solo careers - Plant the most successful. There is much more to this book that my brief resumé covers. Wall said: "My book came about because Jimmy simply refused to do a book of his own." I for one am glad that it did. Highly recommended for fans. The song remains the same....

  11. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    It's all here - from the build-up to the greatness to Page's absorption in the occult to the legendary excesses that contributed to their demise. The story culminates with the inevitable question about when they'll get back together, the obvious answer being never which leads one to wonder what does Jimmy Page been doing for the past 30+ years waiting for Robert Plant to change his mind.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Josh Lovvorn

    Like probably most readers of this book, I fell into this book thanks to my love of the band Led Zeppelin. As a teenager, I discovered classic rock thanks to my father and my interest in impressing a girl who I was trying to date at the time. Though I spent a long time on the punk rock and ska vibe, I always came back to classics like Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, and of course, Led Zeppelin. I was then quite interested in learning more about he band than the random quips I learned from internet ba Like probably most readers of this book, I fell into this book thanks to my love of the band Led Zeppelin. As a teenager, I discovered classic rock thanks to my father and my interest in impressing a girl who I was trying to date at the time. Though I spent a long time on the punk rock and ska vibe, I always came back to classics like Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, and of course, Led Zeppelin. I was then quite interested in learning more about he band than the random quips I learned from internet babble and various magazines. The book was set up in an interesting format. It started with the time of Jimmy Page in the Yardbirds and his struggle to bring together an "album-centered" band through every obstacle. The book began, and was intermittently interspersed with apparent 2nd-person accounts of all of the members of the band and their manager Peter Grant. At first, these "asides" were nice. It was a way to step back in one sense, and in another sense to get a more personal account of the band's history. However, as the book progressed from album to album, the asides continued to delve into each members' past experiences in the music industry and pub scene. By the end of the book, the asides were more a nuisance than anything. I enjoyed how the book was chronicled nonetheless. Mick Wall takes us on a timeline with the major road signs being the albums themselves. At times I grew a little weary with the amount of time spent on the occult interests of Jimmy Page, but given how paramount he was to the band, and how paramount those interests really were, I cannot really fault Wall for his time spent on the subject. I was also very interested in the comings and goings of Peter Grant, the infamous manager who bludgeoned his way through the American music scene, and Richard Cole, the road man and eternal partner in chaos to John Bonham. The book was fantastic, and I found myself having to pause to pull out my vinyl copies of Led Zeppelin I, III, and Physical Graffiti to listen to them as they should be heard. I also pulled out the DVD, paying great attention to every member of the band in turn to get a good feeling of what the book was describing. I became especially engrossed with Bonzo, listening as closely as I could the drums in each song, finding myself experiencing Led Zeppelin totally differently, and more completely now. I recommend this book to any fan of Zeppelin, and anyone interested in rock and roll in general. It is a good flowing read and primes you to fully appreciate the band and their enormous accomplishments. As an aside, I found myself completely distracted with the asides in the book. I was listening to the audiobook, as read by Simon Vance. He really is a great reader of audiobooks, but these asides were read in the same cant and accent that he reads Duncan Idaho of the Dune novels (which I have on my iTunes and listen to at least a couple of times a year). This bears nothing to the actual book, but if you are an audiobook listener, it's worth a mention.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jim Goodrich

    I remember when I learned of the existence of Led Zeppelin. I was about 13 or so, and my older sister had a boyfriend that would sometimes take my brother and I to the arcade to play video games. I guess he wanted to get in good with us. Anyhow, one time it was just me and him, and on the ride back to my house he played Led Zeppelin IV (the album is actually untitled, but commonly referred to as Led Zeppelin IV, this is also discussed in the book). I thought it was amazing and the artwork on the I remember when I learned of the existence of Led Zeppelin. I was about 13 or so, and my older sister had a boyfriend that would sometimes take my brother and I to the arcade to play video games. I guess he wanted to get in good with us. Anyhow, one time it was just me and him, and on the ride back to my house he played Led Zeppelin IV (the album is actually untitled, but commonly referred to as Led Zeppelin IV, this is also discussed in the book). I thought it was amazing and the artwork on the cassette case was magical. Since then I've always had a special spot for this band, especially the second and fourth albums. This book gave a good history of the bands meteoric ascent to the top spot in the rock world in the early 70's, and their sudden and painful decline. Some things I learned: Jimmy Page was way more into the occult than I ever knew, the four symbols on the fourth album represent the four band members and the book talked about the meaning of each, John Bonham was one of the crazier members on tour, but part of this was due to his frustration at being away from his family for so long, Robert Plant has 10 solo albums since Led Zeppelin broke up. There's a lot covered in this book and I would recommend it to any fan of this band.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    not a whole lot different than Hammer of the Gods, more details maybe, but most interesting to me was the realtionships of the band, especially after Plant's son died, and Page's heroin addiction.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Audible. Narrated by Simon Vance.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rob Epler

    Definitely worth reading if you're a Zeppelin fan, or just interested in the history of the bands of that era. Lots of detail here, including lots of direct quotes from the principal characters.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nate

    I started reading this book after being completely immersed in Mark Blake's "Comfortably Numb: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd". I love the music of the 70's, and was eager to learn more about the era as well as the stories of the people who shaped it. Naturally, I felt that taking on an account of another one of the greatest rock bands of that time was the next step. This led me to pick up "When Giants Walked the Earth", an exhaustive biography of Led Zeppelin by Mick Wall. Soon after starting i I started reading this book after being completely immersed in Mark Blake's "Comfortably Numb: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd". I love the music of the 70's, and was eager to learn more about the era as well as the stories of the people who shaped it. Naturally, I felt that taking on an account of another one of the greatest rock bands of that time was the next step. This led me to pick up "When Giants Walked the Earth", an exhaustive biography of Led Zeppelin by Mick Wall. Soon after starting it, however, my enthusiasm turned to a feeling of literary malaise. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad book by any measure. It is incredibly thorough and packed with information, and as far as I know, is the most comprehensive account of the legendary rock band ever produced. The problem is, it may be too comprehensive. While at moments the biography is inspired and fascinating, it is equally bogged down by detail that slows the flow of the read to a glacial pace. I admire Wall's meticulous effort, but found myself looking forward to the next page turn; not because I was on the edge of my seat curious to see what would come next, but because I was ready to get through that segment in hopes that the next part would be more interesting. Enter Jimmy Page's obsession with Aleister Crowley, the notorious and polarizing occultist prominent in the early 20th century. Maybe it's just my lack of interest in such matters, but the second half of the book focused heavily on Crowley's influence on Page and his work. And I understand that at this time, Zeppelin was Page's baby, but attention to the rest of the band and other goings on was sparse. It became primarily a documentation of Jimmy Page and his obsession rather than an account of a juggernaut band collapsing internally as well as fighting for relevance. I feel that I walked away after reading this book with all the information I could have ever desired to know about Led Zeppelin, but also burdened with so much more detail than I felt was necessary. Do I blame Wall for this? No. He set out to create a work that is unparalleled in its scope and that was certainly accomplished. I just found it to be long winded and incredibly difficult to stay focused upon.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ru

    Tremendous biography of arguably the most acclaimed rock band in history. Having read "Hammer of the Gods" by Stephen Davis many years ago, and being absolutely in awe of just how brilliant a rock bio that is, "When Giants Walked the Earth" had its work cut out for itself, in my view. Mick Wall definitely earned his stripes with me with "Enter Night", the Metallica biography, so I knew at minimum this would be a decent offering. This is much, much more than that. I will likely never get over my Tremendous biography of arguably the most acclaimed rock band in history. Having read "Hammer of the Gods" by Stephen Davis many years ago, and being absolutely in awe of just how brilliant a rock bio that is, "When Giants Walked the Earth" had its work cut out for itself, in my view. Mick Wall definitely earned his stripes with me with "Enter Night", the Metallica biography, so I knew at minimum this would be a decent offering. This is much, much more than that. I will likely never get over my love for "Hammer of the Gods", but this is every bit as good and an excellent companion piece, actually. It would appear that it is virtually impossible to write about Led Zeppelin without complete and utter reverence, understandably so. "Giants" does a great job of individualizing the members and humanizing them as well, without sacrificing their god-like personas. I really enjoyed the depth to which Mick Wall discusses their roots as "The New Yardbirds" and how that name shackled the band to some extent, though providing some success nevertheless. Once Led Zep was born, though, it was like the portal opening to a world you never knew existed. There are great stories here about (but of course not limited to) album covers, management, Elvis, Page's obsession with the occult (which is particularly amazing), Plant's tragedies and reticence in recent years, the rise and sad loss of Bonham, The Who, and of course, no Led Zep bio can be complete without a retelling of "the shark incident." ;) I love rock bios because there's a bit of a "Wizard of Oz" quality to them; they take you to places you'd never normally get to go, and you get to pull the curtain back just a bit. If you're lucky, the mystique of who you're reading about remains. Led Zeppelin has more mystique than perhaps any band in history, and even reading about virtually every aspect of them and their membership doesn't dispel any illusions, thankfully. They are and always will be deities beyond compare.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mark Desrosiers

    A balanced, energetic bio by a writer who clearly has some kind of love/hate relationship with the Zep mythos (not to mention the principals themselves). Sidestepping most of the nasty gossip (though obviously he had to include a detailed consideration of the "mud snapper incident"), this volume is largely of interest to music geeks -- Wall has an almost Tosches-style obsession with locating the origin of some of Zep's most famous tunes. Also, for the first time ever (as far as I can tell), Wall A balanced, energetic bio by a writer who clearly has some kind of love/hate relationship with the Zep mythos (not to mention the principals themselves). Sidestepping most of the nasty gossip (though obviously he had to include a detailed consideration of the "mud snapper incident"), this volume is largely of interest to music geeks -- Wall has an almost Tosches-style obsession with locating the origin of some of Zep's most famous tunes. Also, for the first time ever (as far as I can tell), Wall takes Aleister Crowley seriously, giving lots of fascinating background and detail on how such a bright, drug-addled guitarist like Jimmy Page would become so immersed in the Ordo Templi Orientis. I'll never dismiss this odd world of "magick" and hedonism so readily again. One more thing (since several reviewers here mention it): Wall intersperses the narrative with memoir-style second-person ramblings about the pre-Zep careers of all the principal characters. Kinda similar to what Edmund Morris did with Dutch, and yeah, Wall has clearly taken liberties. To me, these fugues and interludes were annoying at first, often bringing the narrative to a screeching halt. But then I noticed that the vulgar harangues about Peter Grant's pre-Zep career as actor, wrestler, bouncer, and intolerant handler of Gene Vincent were beyond hilarious into another dimension. Forget Bonham: Grant is the nastiest, most fascinating, and obviously essential character in the Zeppelin story, and Wall knows it...

  20. 5 out of 5

    Carl Martinez

    I never was really crazy about Led Zeppelin. One of the greatest rock bands ever I agree, but they are so over-played on classic rock stations that I am just so sick of them...I haven't listened to Led Zeppelin II in a quarter century. I love vanilla ice cream but if I had to eat it everyday I'd eventually want something else. So I got this book free and didn't plan on reading it, but I picked it up and just read little bit of the introduction not intending to read the book...and I finished the I never was really crazy about Led Zeppelin. One of the greatest rock bands ever I agree, but they are so over-played on classic rock stations that I am just so sick of them...I haven't listened to Led Zeppelin II in a quarter century. I love vanilla ice cream but if I had to eat it everyday I'd eventually want something else. So I got this book free and didn't plan on reading it, but I picked it up and just read little bit of the introduction not intending to read the book...and I finished the book four days later. They're still not my favorite band, and I can still go the rest of my life without hearing Led Zeppelin II (ironically as rock radio went more corporate and lifeless, you don't hear "Stairway to Heaven" or "Kashmir" anymore where at one time they practically played their entire back catalog...gotta keep those 3-4 minute songs and advertising dollars flowing)...anyways as others stated the author's 2nd person narrative is annoying, in fact the reason I got into this book I never read a book with 2nd person narrative I was laughing at how stupid it was...but it's done in bits and pieces, it's not the majority of the book but I did get really into the story...Mick Wall goes into depth of the four band members unique personalities and their manager who I actually found the more intriguing of all of them. I liked this book so much it made me pull out my Zeppelin cds collecting dust and investigate the music again...except for Led Zeppelin II. The lengthy parts about the occult I found very interesting but at the same time I think Wall went overboard getting off topic. Yes I know Jimmy Page was a practitioner in the magic arts but if I wanted a history of the Knights Templar I'd buy a history book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mankey

    I was surprised by this book. Having read everything "Led Zeppelin" under the sun I didn't think there was anything new to dig up on the band, but I was wrong. Wall does a surprisingly good job of detailing the problems and tensions that plagued Led Zeppelin the last five or so years of their original run together. He actually writes about John Paul Jones!!! What a concept! Wall also comes across as someone who knows at least a little bit about the occult. After countless references t I was surprised by this book. Having read everything "Led Zeppelin" under the sun I didn't think there was anything new to dig up on the band, but I was wrong. Wall does a surprisingly good job of detailing the problems and tensions that plagued Led Zeppelin the last five or so years of their original run together. He actually writes about John Paul Jones!!! What a concept! Wall also comes across as someone who knows at least a little bit about the occult. After countless references to Aleister Crowley as a "Satanist" by Zep's other biographers, Wall paints a far more accurate picture of the figure Page obsessed about in the 70's. The book also benefits from actual interviews by the author with Page, Plant, and Jones. If you are a big Robert Plant fan you might be disappointed. Wall's portrait of "Percy" makes him seem rather self-serving and manipulative. Plant certainly doesn't come across as the down to Earth chap most people make him out to be. My biggest quibble with the book are the "flashback" sequences focusing on the adolescence and pre-Zep days of the band and manager Peter Grant. These moments are scattered throughout the book and written in the second person, with constant hypothetical questions "Your parents never thought you'd amount to much, did they?" these sections are highly annoying and cost the book one star. I actually began to dread them when I ran into them. All in all though, a must for any serious Zeppelin fan.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    Just to get it out on the table, I love all sorts of music, and I think that Zeppelin is top-tier. In a word, this bio make me appreciate the music of the band all the more and loathe the band members similarly. The author's use of the SECOND person, vocative case (self address, in this instance) is interesting and provides a good cut away to provide the back story of the members of the band. The technique could get old, but I think it was used well in this book. I was born in '77 and didn't pay Just to get it out on the table, I love all sorts of music, and I think that Zeppelin is top-tier. In a word, this bio make me appreciate the music of the band all the more and loathe the band members similarly. The author's use of the SECOND person, vocative case (self address, in this instance) is interesting and provides a good cut away to provide the back story of the members of the band. The technique could get old, but I think it was used well in this book. I was born in '77 and didn't pay any mind to Zep until I was in college. Reading about them in '69 and '70 makes me wish I could time warp back into one of those little venues in Los Angeles, San Fran or NYC to watch them just rip the doors off the building, following the likes of Jefferson Airplane! Powerful band. At the end of the day, this is a good bio. In addition to what you might expect, Wall goes into a lot of detail about the Occult, sexual exploits, and all manner of other stuff that is generally pertinent, but at points seems grandiose and all-too-congratulatory. The members of the band basically turned into animals and beasts on tour. That's worth knowing, but we don't need to roll in the filth with them to get the idea.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Hynes

    I downloaded this audio book from my library, and listened to it while driving and also while working in my studio. The audio book is unabridged, so at over 500 pages, it was a long book, and it went on for many hours. However, it was fascinating in places, and I learned new things I didn't know about Led Zeppelin and its individual members. I agree with other reviewers that the author's literary device of speaking for the characters *as* themselves, as if he had insight into their thoughts, was I downloaded this audio book from my library, and listened to it while driving and also while working in my studio. The audio book is unabridged, so at over 500 pages, it was a long book, and it went on for many hours. However, it was fascinating in places, and I learned new things I didn't know about Led Zeppelin and its individual members. I agree with other reviewers that the author's literary device of speaking for the characters *as* themselves, as if he had insight into their thoughts, was a bit annoying...especially on the audio book, because you don't know who he is talking about at first. It seemed to be a very thorough history; in fact, sometimes it was too thorough and bordered on OCD-inspired trivia. The part that delved into the history of Crowley and Page's obsessive interest with him and collecting his books and artifacts was fascinating. I would only recommend this if you are a devout fan of Led Zeppelin and their music. But for fans, I think the back stories of the band members, and the story of how they got together and their subsequent rise and fall, are interesting to fans of their music. The book does cover the recent London reunion, and comes up to date around 2008.

  24. 4 out of 5

    David Bales

    This is a long one, and rather too detailed about the history of Led Zeppelin. Mick Wall has a slightly annoying style where he adopts the "thoughts" of main subject characters and tries to recreate their dialogue. I hate that technique. Still, this book was interesting about the birth and career of Led Zeppelin, and how the group came out of the Yardbirds, where Jimmy Page was playing half-heartedly in 1968 and decided to put together a super-group of mostly largely unknown musicians, including This is a long one, and rather too detailed about the history of Led Zeppelin. Mick Wall has a slightly annoying style where he adopts the "thoughts" of main subject characters and tries to recreate their dialogue. I hate that technique. Still, this book was interesting about the birth and career of Led Zeppelin, and how the group came out of the Yardbirds, where Jimmy Page was playing half-heartedly in 1968 and decided to put together a super-group of mostly largely unknown musicians, including a 19 year old lead singer from the Midlands named Robert Plant. Led Zeppelin hit the music world like a tornado in early 1969 and had major hit songs and albums for over a decade. The wearying routine of heavy drinking, drug use and problems with women, too much money and bad judgement screwed up the band, so the second part of the book is sort of a cliche. It was interesting about how cutthroat and "gangsterish" the music industry was as late as the early '70s.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    I might be a lone voice, but I thought the imagined reminiscences of the band members (and Peter Grant) were very effective. Although written in the second-person, these passages sought to portray the thoughts and feelings of the subject, and I found them quite convincing and enlightening. There were two bigger problems for me. First, although the book is generally well written, there's a slight tendency to overdo the literary flourishes and not quite do them well enough; as if the au I might be a lone voice, but I thought the imagined reminiscences of the band members (and Peter Grant) were very effective. Although written in the second-person, these passages sought to portray the thoughts and feelings of the subject, and I found them quite convincing and enlightening. There were two bigger problems for me. First, although the book is generally well written, there's a slight tendency to overdo the literary flourishes and not quite do them well enough; as if the author was trying a little too hard to establish that the book is a serious piece of scholarship. The second problem for me was that there was too much description and credulous analysis of occult mumbo-jumbo, way beyond what was needed to describe the importance of such stuff to Jimmy Page. Overall, though, a detailed and authoritative account.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Philippa

    In many ways this was an absolutely brilliant book to read, even if when one considers the material and author combined it may have been inevitable that the outcome would work as well as it did. That being said the final two chapters and epilogue were absolutely grueling to get through. Once Mick Wall reached the tragically premature death of drummer John Bonham the book itself lost its footing. All material afterwards seemed to be a blur of the public and media demanding a painfully nostalgic r In many ways this was an absolutely brilliant book to read, even if when one considers the material and author combined it may have been inevitable that the outcome would work as well as it did. That being said the final two chapters and epilogue were absolutely grueling to get through. Once Mick Wall reached the tragically premature death of drummer John Bonham the book itself lost its footing. All material afterwards seemed to be a blur of the public and media demanding a painfully nostalgic return of Led Zeppelin despite their disbanding in 1980. This ended up tainting my final reaction in a way I disliked by shaping my response predominantly into a wave of relief instead of the much more preferred (even if painful) dismay at the sudden loss of pleasurable reading material.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Very interesting read about the band with great attention to detail and covering all of the legendary tales but almost encyclopedic in nature at times. Definitely a read for the most ardent of fans.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Paul Lyons

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Thorough, well-researched, and fundamentally flawed, WHEN GIANTS WALKED THE EARTH tells the Led Zeppelin story from beginning to end...from its earliest origins in the seminal mid-60's guitar band, The Yardbirds, to the band's formation in the late summer of 1968, to million-selling albums and sold-out tours throughout the 1970's...through highest highs, and darkest tragedies...to comebacks...and cancellations...leading up to Led Zeppelin's abrupt and shocking end in 1980. Wall discusses it all. Thorough, well-researched, and fundamentally flawed, WHEN GIANTS WALKED THE EARTH tells the Led Zeppelin story from beginning to end...from its earliest origins in the seminal mid-60's guitar band, The Yardbirds, to the band's formation in the late summer of 1968, to million-selling albums and sold-out tours throughout the 1970's...through highest highs, and darkest tragedies...to comebacks...and cancellations...leading up to Led Zeppelin's abrupt and shocking end in 1980. Wall discusses it all...and beyond... Rather than a write a straight narrative, Mick Wall chooses to deviate from the story every now and then with an unusual technique. In order to capture the essence of the individual players involved (namely Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, John Bonham and Zeppelin manager Peter Grant), and their respective stories...Mick Wall breaks off into long, italicized passages where he pretends to have an imaginary conversation with each person. For example, at the start of the book he writes "You are Jimmy Page. It is the summer of 1968 and you are one of the best-known guitarists in London - and one of its least famous. Even the past two years in the Yardbirds haven't brought you the recognition you know you deserve." Then later on "At least you know where you stand. Self-confident, well-off, used to being on your own, you've always been someone who knew exactly where you stood, even as a kid playing on sessions for old timers like Val Doonican..." Anyway, you get the idea. Through this process...we get to learn a bit about each person's background and personality...and also take an educated guess as to what their mind-set was back in the day. At first, I found these derivations annoying...as it brought the on-going, chronological story of Led Zeppelin to a halt each time. Then, I began to appreciate the process and felt I was able to get a better deeper sense of who each player was. The problem is, Wall goes too far, and yet not far enough. The increased frequency of italicized passages got old after a while...and I became sick of them. Worse, despite a flurry of events throughout the 1970's, and 1980....Wall refuses to incorporate, nor even reference anything newer than the 1969 in his italicized prose. For example, Wall could be discussing the detail later on in the book about the ill-fated 1977 Zeppelin US tour, then stop and jump into a second or third round of italicized paragraphs about Peter Grant's life and mindset circa 1964. This just killed the momentum of the overall story, and was just plain frustrating to get through. It's a shame, as the idea was good...yet Wall just puts into overkill. Also frustrating, Wall takes liberties with the facts...as the book is filled with various errors, which dismayed me. How hard is it to check dates...particularly an important one? Wall mentions May 25, 1969 as a day that Led Zeppelin played a music festival with Jimi Hendrix...WRONG! Not only is that date wrong, what actually happened that day was an important part of early Zeppelin history. At the Merriweather Post Pavillion in Columbia, Maryland that evening...Led Zeppelin played on a double-bill...serving as the opening act to none-other then The Who! This was the one and only time this ever happened...the two most powerful live British bands together at the same place at the same time. Who guitarist Pete Townshend marked the event by insulting Led Zeppelin on stage. It was quite the evening, and would've provided interesting commentary and comparison between the two legendary band...Yet Mick Wall missed it, or didn't know, or care about it somehow... What he DOES care about is one of the book's major weaknesses...the occult. Because Jimmy Page has dabbled, studied, collected, and practiced teachings in the occult, Mick Wall is insistent upon discussing the occult as much as possible in the book....going so far as to devote an entire chapter to infamous occult practitioner Aleister Crowley. He quotes Crowley through the book, and looks for Crowley and other occult references in all of Led Zeppelin's music...particularly their 1971 masterpiece "Stairway to Heaven." Perhaps he feels the occult is at the heart of Led Zeppelin...yet still, valuable paragraphs and pages are spent on all sorts of details and history of the occult...including lengthy passages about Jimmy Page's houses...and their connection to the occult. It gets to the point where Wall even overshadows his own book...letting occult stories and facts upstage the story and music of Led Zeppelin. Another point of note: Wall is unjustly dismissive about Led Zeppelin's final years (and final album)...insisting that the band was already on a heavy downward spiral before the untimely death of John Bonham in September 1980. Wall characterizes the end of Led Zeppelin as inevitable...as if the death of the band happened just when it was supposed to. He backs his ridiculous claim with painting the final three years as weak, with poor musical output, and lackluster concerts. Anyone who was there. Anyone who has seen the videos, heard the bootlegs...Anyone who loves the 1979 Zeppelin album In Through The Out Door, as well as the music from the 1982 leftovers album Coda, will wholeheartedly beg to differ... Don't get me wrong, WHEN GIANTS WALKED THE EARTH: A BIOGRAPHY OF LED ZEPPELIN is not all bad. At times the book is a very enjoyable read...a real page-turner. I did learn a few things about the making of a number of Led Zeppelin's records...and appreciated the insight into the life and times of Peter Grant, as well as Jimmy Page. I never knew, for example, that Page was friendly with the late Brian Jones (of The Rolling Stones), and had a brief relationship with 60's singer/songwriter Jackie DeShannon. I also appreciated candid interviews with peripheral players in the Zeppelin story... such as concert promoter Freddy Bannister, and legendary manager Don Arden. I liked the fact that Mick Wall would sometimes use quotes directly from the source...having personally interviewed Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones over the years. Yet Wall keeps getting in the way of himself... For example, at the end of the book, Wall insists upon continuing the Zeppelin story past the band's demise...including any and all reunions, as well as solo albums. This wouldn't be so bad, except the post-Zeppelin pages stay well beyond their welcome. It's get to the point where the author goes on and on and on incessantly about current Led Zeppelin reunion rumors, and focusing on the interpretation of coy quips from Robert Plant. The book finally ends with no ending...just one final, desperate attempt to guess what Robert Plant is thinking, and when Led Zeppelin will reunite again. By the time I finished reading WHEN GIANTS WALKED THE EARTH: A BIOGRAPHY OF LED ZEPPELIN, I was left with a bad taste in my mouth. There's much to like in Mick Wall's writing, yet the book's unbalanced nature throws the whole thing off. It certainly was much better than that shameful Stephen Davis' LZ -'75 pamphlet I read...yet still suffered from its own set of errors and issues. I am afraid that The Great Led Zeppelin chronicle has yet to be written. No matter...the real story of Led Zeppelin is all in their music...great songs that go way beyond the prose of ambitious, yet misguided biographers. Listen to their music, and you'll learn everything you wanted to know about Led Zeppelin...

  29. 4 out of 5

    Heath Grant

    Two stars is probably a bit rough. It actually was a very informative and, at times, utterly engrossing read. However, Mick Wall's bullshit second person narrative, randomly interspersed throughout the book (seemingly without relevance), ruined the book entirely for me. It was pure, unaltered wank. As a consequence I would often put the book down for weeks at a time, preferring to do the dishes or pick up the dog shit in the back yard. That said, the last two of these such passages were actually Two stars is probably a bit rough. It actually was a very informative and, at times, utterly engrossing read. However, Mick Wall's bullshit second person narrative, randomly interspersed throughout the book (seemingly without relevance), ruined the book entirely for me. It was pure, unaltered wank. As a consequence I would often put the book down for weeks at a time, preferring to do the dishes or pick up the dog shit in the back yard. That said, the last two of these such passages were actually well written and quite poignant (in context, too), so that's something. The Aleister Crowley side track was probably several pages too many, although I do acknowledge it probably provided contextual relevance to Page's obsession with the bloke which some people may well appreciate. On a positive note - the insight provided, with particular note to the band's decline, was fascinating. The Mud Shark bit was pretty good, certainly deserving of a 3rd or 4th read. On balance, I would recommend it. It's very informative and goes into great detail - you'll definitive learn something new. In fact, I may well re-read the book (I'll just skip the 2nd person and Crowley hand shandy stuff, thanks very much). 18550 characters left? I suppose I could go into a little second person narrative. "You've been reading this fucking book now for months, and each time it gets interesting the author lets out a bellowing stream of sticky jizz..."

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    The Led Zeppelin story seems to write itself - the fatal arc of their career, the occult influence, the lurid tales of excess, the untimely deaths, the gangster-style management style, the glorious moments of musical alchemy and the barefaced theft of other musicians' tunes and lyrics - so that each Led Zeppelin book essentially tells the same story in much the same way, oohing here and ahhing there. Credit to Mick Wall that he tries out a couple of slightly riskier gambits. One is th The Led Zeppelin story seems to write itself - the fatal arc of their career, the occult influence, the lurid tales of excess, the untimely deaths, the gangster-style management style, the glorious moments of musical alchemy and the barefaced theft of other musicians' tunes and lyrics - so that each Led Zeppelin book essentially tells the same story in much the same way, oohing here and ahhing there. Credit to Mick Wall that he tries out a couple of slightly riskier gambits. One is the decidedly odd, probably misguided, attempt to place us in the shoes of each of the four members and Peter Grant by using 2nd person internal monologues to give you their backstory in the years leading up to Zeppelin, then peppering them through the book like Proustian flashbacks to a more innocent time. Unfortunately he repeats a lot of the information in the text too so it's hardly fresh and it's a ploy which is destined to annoy most of the readership, although those with a reasonable Zeppelin background will find something in the use of the various voices and a slightly new approach to some well-trodden ground. Another is Wall's desire to show off all the research he's been doing into Aleister Crowley, almost, it seems, to convince Jimmy Page that he's really not as ignorant as he seemed that day he came around and didn't know how to respond to the guitarist's overtures to start a sophisticated conversation. There are really a lot of pages on Crowley, not enough for a serious book on the man, but a damn sight more than most rock-related books bother to give him. Does it work? It doesn't really manage to tell us more about Jimmy Page's deep interest in the occult except to put a little more meat on what is usually a titillating bone served purely with innuendo. The discussions of the band's music and the pilfering that underpins several of their songs, particularly from the first two albums (Dazed and Confused - title, bass line, melody and sinker - from Jake Holmes; Black Mountain Side cribbed from Bert Jansch's Blackwaterside; How Many More Years from How Many More Times; Whole Lotta Love from Willie Dixon's You Need Love and so on and so on) are pretty thorough and serviceable. There are some glaring howlers (Eagles and Zeppelin the best-selling albums in US, wot no MJ?) and spelling mistakes (e.g. John "Entwhistle"), suggesting this may have been rushed along to cash in on the O2 concert. There's a protean quality to Led Zeppelin that is hard to get down and interpret: it just IS. The lyrics are what they are, whether hippy-dippy or blues-bound or high school poetry. It doesn't matter. They take up their place and wear their clothes well. Your shadow is taller than your soul, you only find the summer's day slips away to grey, it's been a long lonely lonely lonely lonely lonely time… Who cares? They sound… right. The riffs and musical breaks really are just where they need to be on all the albums up to Physical Graffiti, some better than others, but all hard to question or edit. The drummer was ridiculously talented, the singer irreplaceable, the bass player solid and versatile, the guitarist… well, Jimmy Page was in a zone, pilfering or no pilfering, whips or no whips. He was on fire for 8 years. We start to understand why people muttered about Faustian pacts… But the lingering doubt about this book is that too much is still missing to make it supersede or simply elbow out earlier efforts like the luridly breathless-while-squeamish Hammer of the Gods or Richard Cole's roadie opus Stairway To Heaven. Jimmy Page still has the Cheshire Cat smile, refusing to let cats out of bags. Wall's version of the tale of how he fell out with Kenneth Anger is so laughably unconvincing that it makes us question a lot right there, although, as Wall points out, the alleged "curse" Anger put on Page still seems more and more plausible with every passing year… Robert Plant, believably focused on leaving Zeppelin in the past instead of letting it become a soulless cash cow, still sounds less than eloquent when he tries to offer up his reasons. The interviews are mostly from music magazines, many of which have been picked over plenty of times before. The shoehorning of the 1977 tour into the rise and fall story arc (not to mention the "punk took the steam out of their sails" subtext) means that it gets pilloried despite many of the concerts regularly appearing in fans' best-of lists. Many Zepheads indeed swear by that tour and the preceding one as the "only ones worth catching" on bootlegs. But the story arc has been locked in and Zeppelin must have their swan dive, so prophetically invoked in the name they gave their record label - Swan Song Records. Could any more be added to this tale? Do we just need to settle for Bonzo's Jekyll and Hyde motivation, Peter Grant's overprotectiveness meeting up with too much blow, Jimmy Page's pining from the sidelines for his unattainable paramour, Madame Zeppelin, now that Planty won't play ball? Where Beatles books seem to always find some unexpected angle, the only new angle presented by Wall was the 2007 reunion concert, now 'immortalised' on the Celebration Day 2CD/DVD, and the fallout when the worlwide tour didn't appeal to Plant. He writes here as a punter, in turn excited and jaded, willing them on but convinced deep down it won't be special. Some felt it was, while the evidence on the record is that they rehearsed well, they acquitted themselves well, but it was also a little like Mark Spitz at 41 coming back, beating all the PBs of his 23-year-old self, but then coming last at the national US trials. It was laudable but Zeppelin could never pick up where they had got to at their peak (where they left off, after all, was with In Through The Out Door, which wouldn't be such a hard act to follow). And with that, we wind it up: the future may bring us surprises, but time has kept a-rollin' like the famous train. Their story arc was a triumph and a cautionary tale. The albums are still there. They were magnificent dinosaurs, and still sound much younger than many of their punk-fuelled critics. Like the tours themselves, there's plenty in here to get into if it's your first…

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