Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Review: 'When Giants Walked the Earth' by Mick Wall for Tom Magazine

For http://www.tommagazine.com.au/.

Title: When Giants Walked the Earth: a Biography of Led Zeppelin
Author: Mick Wall
Publisher: Weidenfeld and Nicolson
Reviewed by Anna Angel

Forget sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. Mick Wall presents groupies in handcuffs, heroin addiction, and Led Zeppelin. When Giants Walked the Earth is an unrestrained look at the spectacular rise and eventual fall of arguably the world’s biggest rock band, Led Zeppelin. This is not just another half-arsed attempt at a biography by someone who knows little more than what a Wikipedia stub would reveal. Wall, a renowned music journalist who has been a confidant to members of the band for many years, presents the story as it is - no fluff, no favouritism. Comments from guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant and bassist John Paul Jones, as well as other major figures, pepper the biography. Interestingly, Wall has used fictional ‘flashbacks’ to significant moments in the band member’s lives to introduce each chapter.

Wall follows the band from its formation in a dingy room in London’s Chinatown, where, as Jimmy Page put it, "It was like a thunderbolt, a lightning flash-boosh!" Led Zeppelin was born. The musical and personal lives of the group - often intertwining - are charted, noting everything from Page’s obsession with the occult, and the ‘jinx’ that many believed to be on the band, to the punches and TV sets thrown by John Bonham.

Their rise to fame saw them becoming ‘rock gods’ in a sense, untouchable, worshipped, and powerful. With this came a life of excess; excess drugs, booze, women, and partying. The tragic accidents, deaths, and drug addictions that plagued Led Zeppelin powered their premature demise and disbanding. When Giants Walked the Earth comments that even without such personal troubles, Led Zeppelin’s career was already heading downhill, in what was then a rapidly changing musical landscape.

The story of Led Zeppelin is funny, tragic, musically significant, and in no way dull. Wall has compiled a definitive and comprehensive account of the quintessential rock outfit, their music, the member’s lives, their reputation, and their legacy.

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