Led Zeppelin: The Biography

Bob Spitz

Zeppelin has been the subject of countless books, but Spitz delivers a fresh, insightful examination of their saga – both the rock and roll exceptionalism and wretched excesses.

There’s an exploration of Jimmy Page’s formative years; at a 1960 Eddie Cochran concert, teenaged Jimmy catcalls the rocker’s Gretsch 6120, as if it were an attractive woman. During a train ride, bassist John Paul Jones thinks up a riff that “…didn’t end when you thought it was going to end,” and notates it on the back of his ticket. In later rehearsals, Bonzo plays the groove in 4/4, while Jones and Page attack that devilish riff in 5/4 – this became “Black Dog.” Conversely, the author addresses the bloated machine Zep became in the ’70s – disturbing fan violence, along with bullying by gangster-wannabe manager Peter Grant.

Fortunately, Zeppelin’s music was the glue that kept them from imploding. In a fascinating passage about the November, 1975, recording of “Achilles Last Stand,” Plant sat in a wheelchair from a near-fatal car accident, while Page was a heroin-addicted zombie. Bonham was also on heroin and battling extreme alcoholism (which killed him five years later). Somehow, as many times before, the music came together.

This article originally appeared in VG’s April 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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