Classic Rock Review

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Led Zeppelin: The Oral History Of The World’s Greatest Rock Band by Barney Hoskyns (2012)


Review A comprehensive oral history by Barney Hoskyns which includes interviews, past and present from 200 sources to complete a page turning 576 page book with a bunch of mostly rare photos thrown in.

One of the most incredible things about Led Zeppelin that comes through from this
book is how the whole thing lasted as long as it did. While writing and recording the greatest rock albums of all time in mobile trucks and freezing cold rural cottages, Zeppelin re-wrote the rule book on how to rip it up on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. The groupies came crawling out of the woodwork. No one was exempt from manager Peter Grants take on how things were to be done, not even the legendary Bill Graham. The 1977 Oakland incident is quite incredible even today. But 1977 was a tragic year for Zeppelin and probably the beginning of the end. Cocaine, booze and worst of all Heroin had crept in. Robert lost his son, Bonzo just wanted to go home.

As if things were not bad enough, other famous characters pop up like Keith Moon and Iggy Pop and with road manager Richard Coles recollections, events take on an almost comical nature, with TVs and pianos flying through the air. Press people assigned to cover the ’77 Tour were instructed not to even look at John Bonham or Richard Cole. Paranoia set in, phones were not answered. Swan Song became a mess.

You know what’s coming, but Hoskyns delivers the news as if September 25th happened last week. Just before he died, Bonham and Jimmy Page planned a hard rock album for 1981 to counter In Through The Outdoor. An album and an new era we can only speculate about.

With all the hedonism, tragedy and 70’s excess, Hoskyns book reaffirms that the final winners are still Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Bonham, John Paul Jones and the music they made between 1968 and 1980.


Review I really enjoyed the way this book unfolded. In depth interviews from the people who were closest to the scene give the reader a real insight into the friendships and rivalries that permeated the pre-Zeppelin, Yardbirds era. However, as the book unfolded chronologically, I found myself liking the individual band members less and less.

I knew that these guys were rock gods, but holy crap, this band and their management team was a hell-raising crusade that crushed everything in its path, at home and abroad! It seems that John Paul Jones may have been the only member of Zeppelin that was able to retain his character and composure during two decades of absolute debauchery, epic creativity, physical violence and tragic loss.

I can’t imagine that the remaining three band members are very happy with Mr. Hoskyns sordid rendering. This book tells the no-holds barred, ground truth behind the ultimate bad-boys of rock and roll. It’s all here; groupies dripping with butter, mountains of pure cocaine, random head-bashing, endless touring, crippling inter-personal conflict and the flawed genius that was Led Zeppelin.

Review As a long-time fan of Led Zep (since 1970), I have been collecting books on the band since the 1st bio (Ritchie Yorke’s-with the PEZ candy-cover) released in 1976. 36 years later, Mr. Hoskyns has taken the time to track down a lot of band “insiders”, and actually got them to talk about the Zep.

It probably took this long for these people to no longer be afraid to speak their minds, given the “heavy-vibe” of paranoia surrounding the tight Zep camp. With the exception of road manager Richard Cole, there was previously precious little in print from the dozens of people who worked with Zep over the years-until now.

Sadly, the additional input only makes clearer what was suspect since “Hammer of the Gods” came out years ago: Hard drugs and Alcoholism destroyed LZ. Plant emerges as a hero, with Jones fully intact. Grant, Page, and Bonham : well the truth does hurt, and BADLY. By 1977-1980, I would have not even wanted to meet them. This said, there are people who will say, “who cares what they were like; just pay attention to the music”.

Decide for yourself when you read this book, but if Page used to be your “hero”, be prepared for a bad taste in your mouth when you finish this book.

April 24, 2013 Posted by | Book Led Zeppelin The Oral History Of The Worlds Greatest Rock Band by Barney Hoskyns | , , | Leave a comment