Classic Rock Review

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Jimmy Page: Magus, Musician, Man: An Unauthorized Biography by George Case (2009)

music_roundup-39410From amazon.com

Review For those who grew up ‘worshipping’ Jimmy Page as the cream of the pantheon of guitar-gods & rock royalty, they will undoubtedly find this to be the best biography of Jimmy in existence.

The author does not hide the fact that he is a massive fan, but despite that, he seems to have maintained as unbiased an approach as possible. The bibliography shows a huge list of materials that the author pulled from. His exhaustive research has provided the best insight into one of the most mysterious and elusive musicians of the rock era. My assumption is you can’t find anything more accurate out there. I believe the author when he said he did not make up anything, and he did his best to corroborate everything he included.

It naturally starts when Jimmy was a young lad and runs all the way through the Beijing Olympics where he made a surprise showing at the closing ceremony, and of course everything in between. The book covers all aspects of Jimmy’s life, including the dark side of his drinking, drugs, and occult interests. The good news is that unlike other books, the author does not glorify or sensationalize it in order to increase sales. It happened, therefore he recorded it, end of story. The book is also excellent for guitarists since the author mentions some of the technical side of Jimmy’s playing e.g. the guitars he used, his tunings, scales, etc.

The author is very good with a phrase, and along with his broad vocabulary & knowledge of adjectives, he sometimes comes across as trying a bit too hard to sound like a literary master when this is just a biography. Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable, fast read that brings back a lot of memories for those of us who grew up in this era and were massive fans. The book also contains a nice number of excellent photos and a section listing every song Jimmy has ever played guitar on (which is quite useful for the completist or fanatical fan). Overall Highly Recommended and rated five stars (although I took one off since Jimmy never endorsed or commented on this book). Zoso forever…..

Review This is easily one of the best-written rock biographies anywhere, what with being clear-eyed and analytical about the artist and his group, and not at all beyond turning out a critical assessment of the admired musician who’s its subject. The discussion about the musician, more so than about Jimmy Page the person, is detailed, probing and well-informed — in fact, musicologically it often ranges well beyond me, what with spelling out special tunings of his guitar, niceties about Page’s sound-board wizardry as a producer, the array of amps and legendary guitars used onstage, etc. And it’s well-written to boot! Can’t complain…

Once George Case has done the above, traversing the career chronologically, he suddenly has a full section where he compares Page to his contemporaries and peers (Jeff Beck, Clapton, Hendrix, etc.), as well as to his progeny (guitarists for Grand Funk, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Rush, Van Halen, Guns ‘n Roses, etc). His analyses and observations, and these guitarists’ own cited views, were illuminating. They even helped me nail down just why I admired and tapped to this music, and still do, while I never quite came to love it. In Clapton’s words, very often it was “…unnecessarily loud …a lot of it was just too much. They overemphasized whatever point they were making” (p. 87) I’m no Clapton worshipper — well, not beyond the ‘Layla & Other Love Songs’ double LP — but he’s pretty much on the money here.

Apparently Page was annoyed that Led Zeppelin was often compared to and lumped in with Grand Funk, Black Sabbath and the heavy metal crew. But heavy metal was generally earnest, not known for humour, dark and unsubtle, and sometimes malevolent. And Zep were, in fact, often loud and hard. Apart from the tenor of the music, their roadies’ decree that there’d be “No backstage passes without head” for gals wanting to welcome their idols, plus their manager’s and crew’s reputation for occasional send-you-to-the-hospital violence, certainly placed them in the malevolent sector of rock, and of music.

Mind you, when I hear the music, especially their early songs, I realize just how outstanding it is, and after reading this book I plan to invest in a better collection of that material.

A rewarding read, then, even if you’re not a devoted fan.

May 14, 2013 Posted by | Jimmy Page: Magus, Musician, Man: An Unauthorized Biography by George Case | , | Leave a comment