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A BIOGRAPHY OF LED ZEPPELIN: WHEN GIANTS WALKED THE EARTH - MICK WALL (ORION BOOKS)

You are one of Britain’s best-known music journalists, broadcasters and authors. Your time as editor-in-chief of Classic Rock Magazine has become a legend in your own mind. Your work has graced volumes as diverse as Mojo, Music Week . . . and, erm, The Mail On Sunday. You have presented programs for Sky TV, BBC Radio 1, Capital Radio and BBC TV. Your 30-year career has taken in stints as a ‘high-profile PR’ (is that some kind of sports tyre?), manager, and record company executive . . . but no one’s ever going to forgive you for cashing in on John Peel’s death!

 

Already touted elsewhere as the most definitive ‘definitive’ Zeppelin biography thus far, ‘Giants’ arrives swathed in a jacket that knowingly (some would say ‘cynically’) apes the ‘Mothership’ artwork so cloyingly, you begin to search in vain for the credit: PRODUCED BY JIMMY PAGE! In all, it would appear there are six Abra-Melin demon egos that plague these pages: those of Page, Plant, Bonham, Jones, Grant . . . and Wall himself.

 

Alarm bells began to ring early doors when I was presented with this tome as a festive gift by my fiancé, Madame Encoule. Having been a Zeppelinite since the days of short trousers, I was eager to devour the latest remix of ‘Hammer Of The Gods’/’Stairway To Heaven’. Still emotionally stoked from the comparative fervour of Zep activity that was 2007: the ‘Mothership’ set (a collection, incidentally, Wall casually dismisses on Page 439 as ‘an unsatisfactory unbalanced Zeppelin compilation CD’ . . . before instructing his design guru, one assumes!), the ‘Song Remains The Same’ DVD and expanded CD/Vinyl set, and the O2 Arena bash, I thumbed this latest volume with eagerness and expectation.

 

Perusing the index, I spotted an entry for Burzam (nee Burzum), and turned immediately to Page 212. Wall had cited Varg Vikernes contribution to the history of devil worship in rock and roll as part of his idiots’ guide to Crowley, namely, Chapter 9: ‘So Mote It Be’. This particularly vexed me, not because I’m any kind of Vikernes apologiser, you understand, but simply because such a sloppy mistake betrays an ill-advised nonchalance with regard to Pagan Metal values, emitting an arrogant disregard for ‘anything that came next’. Even my 10-year old daughter knows how to spell Burzum, for Beelzebub’s sake!

 

As I began to explore ‘Giants’ further, I noted the dedication to David Peace in the acknowledgements. Now, as anyone who’s ever read any of my stuff will attest, I’m a great admirer of David Peace’s work, and have myself paid homage to him in my own reviews of both the immensely talented author’s ‘GB84’ and ‘The Damned United’ (available elsewhere in the cyber pages of Mudkiss, parody fans!). I thus wasted no time in finding Mr Wall on MySpace and informed him that I was slightly nervous about reading a book about a rock and roll group very dear to my heart who’s biographer had employed a second-person-italicised-narrative-construct lifted wholesale from a writer very dear to my heart: namely, David Peace. Sadly, Mr Wall declined to respond.

 

As I prepared to dive into the luxurious pages of ‘Giants’, I busied myself reading existing press copy and customer reviews at places like Amazon, the majority of them rich with superlatives. In the evening, the final score hit the tele-printers: Love Of Zeppelin 1 – Over Protective Streak For Favourite Author 0.

 

Privately, you were still smarting from the considerable kicking you’d received for your ill-advised and poorly-timed tribute to the nation’s favourite DJ: ‘John Peel – A Tribute To The Much-Loved DJ And Broadcaster’. Who cares if you didn’t even meet Jimmy Page until early in 1988, nobody was going to stop you collating the cannon of Zeplit already out there and weaving it into your current obsession with David Peace! You’d fucking well show them. Who’s the daddy now?

 

Narrative construct duly accepted, I began to turn the pages. Peace’s gravitas and timbre immediately strayed out of italics and into the main body of the text. Somewhat surprisingly, the application of fiction, the influence of Peace’s Ellroy-inspired crime-noire, and the aching adaptability of the Zeppelin myth per se, all combined to present a veritable thriller, performed live and direct from the massive Orion Books’ playhouse stage. The velum literally hummed with essence of LA Drone as I hoovered up every cocaine-covered word. All the usual suspects were in town at the Riot House to party: Ricardo Cole, Stephen Davis, various hacks too numerous to mention . . . the quotes: some old, some new, some borrowed, some from Noddy Holder. Even my near neighbour, Bev Bevan, had made the cut.

 

Truth be told, you’re actually shitting yourself about where to go next. How can you top writing the greatest book ever about the greatest rock and roll band ever? Holidays on Saturn? I should coco . . . its back to 12-page Saxon exclusives and semi-legit straight-to-DVD interviews with Venom for you, boy!

  

Digesting ‘Giants’ in the twilight between Christmas and New Year, the truth is that despite the caveats, I did enjoy it immensely. Having read the odd rock book in my life, it made a refreshing change to be entertained by one, rather than be appalled, as is so often the case. I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know, but I did rise with the band as the Zeppelin took off, and duly fell along with one and all as the lead balloon crashed back down to earth. Wall’s literary pretensions notwithstanding, there is something of the gangster flick about the story of Led Zeppelin. On paper, it’s got it all: sex, drugs, the occult, success, excess, rock and fucking roll . . .

 

The true irony of all this is that fans always know, and, consequently, understand, far more about the myriad ways in which their idols affect them personally than any biographer could ever hope to articulate. Who gives a fuck about the spurious facts? My copy of ‘Giants’ commands it’s place on my Led Zeppelin shelf, along with its sympathetically colour-coded aural companion: ‘Mothership’, but I suspect that has more to do with Messers Page, Plant, Bonham and Jones, and possibly Mr Rock’s design guru, than Mr Rock himself. As Jimmy Page knows, myth is far more powerful than truth.

 

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.

 

www.ledzeppelin.com

www.orionbooks.co.uk

 

Jean Encoule – Jan 09

 

Mudkiss© 2009