- Paperback: 504 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (9 November 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312590393
- ISBN-13: 978-0312590390
- Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 3.6 x 21 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 499 g
- Customer Reviews: 226 customer ratings
When Giants Walked the Earth Paperback – 9 November 2010
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"Sensational." --New York Times
"Entertaining, thoughtful." --Los Angeles Times
"His access and attention to detail make this a definitive work...an essential source for anyone eager to learn about the era when rock stars ruled the world." --Publishers Weekly
"Wall does well to shine light on the myths and music magic of Led Zep--rendering what could have been cartoonish real and sincere." --TimeOut Chicago
"[T]hat Wall can add so much fresh detail to the Led Zep story is in itself an extraordinary achievement...(and) he manages to humanize these planet-striding giants while doing so..." --Classic Rock Magazine
"It deftly strikes the balance between lofty authority and finding a way to get inside the heads of its subjects." --The Guardian (UK)
"[T]his is the big one: a fat, juicy biography of the biggest band ever." --Daily Telegraph (UK)
About the Author
MICK WALL has written about music since 1977. He is one of England's best known music journalists: his work has appeared in Mojo, the Mail on Sunday and a variety of other publications, and he has written ten rock 'n' roll biographies. He has also served as a trusted on-camera source for a number of BBC-TV music documentaries. He lives in England.
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Top international reviews
Apart from this which is honestly dominating my reading of the book, there are other things which I don't like much. If you're not a big music buff, you probably won't have heard of the constant references to obsure blues artists who influenced Jimmy Page et al... I know I hadn't. The other thing that has irritated me is the constant speculation about Jimmy Page's obsession with the occult. I suppose it has to have some mention in relation to Jimmy Page, but I didn't appreciate SO much information about Aleister Crowely and occult rituals ect... as frankly I don't believe in it, I also couldn't care less the reasons behind his Zoso or whatever it is Symbol, and think it may just have been him being a bit pretentious …
I haven't finished the book yet, and I know that John Bonham has a tragic untimely death, but what about all the people he beat up, kicked , punched ( just for smiling at him) threatened with guns, I fail to find him a very sympathetic character.
I almost wish I hadn't read this book, as I would have preferred to carry on loving the music without finding out that I actually quite dislike all the musicians.
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.
However, which would have been even better had it not be skewed in favour of Jimmy Page. We even get a long winded, off tangent section about his interest in the occult which after a few pages I simply skipped over. Counter this with the way the rest of the band are portrayed Robert Plant an awkward killjoy not wishing to jeopardise the progress of his solo career by turning back time, and increasing his bank balance, by joining up with the rest of the band and reform Zeppelin. John Bonham is branded a drunken bully and John Paul Jones as an aloof “Mr Dull”. Peter Grant, the band’s manager, is often portrayed as thuggish.
Wall tries to break away from the traditional start to finish documentation by slotting in italicised flash backs to the early days of the band members and manager. It is a nice idea and they are informative however they are written as if they are personal recollections by the band in a style that doesn’t convince.
(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
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.