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In the Houses of the Holy: Led Zeppelin and the Power of Rock Music 1st Edition

3.2 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195147230
ISBN-10: 0195147235
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Documentation rather than biography is the raison d'etre of new books on aging rock superstars. Fast plumbs Led Zeppelin's depths, and though she overuses the dubious critical strategy of describing instrumental riffs in words ("Just under the surface of the melodic and rhythmic squareness is a harmonic and formal openness and irregularity that is highly significant in terms of the semiotics of the piece"), she offers entertaining and rewarding reading. For deconstruction of rock music, Fast has relatively much to work with in the Zep oeuvre, and "Stairway to Heaven," a familiar hit with pretensions to meaning, proves particularly rich. One of Fast's primary sources is Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, who hasn't been party to most of former bandmates Robert Plant and Jimmy Page's recent undertakings. He adds insight, but as ex-Rolling Stone Bill Wyman might about Mick and Keith's music. Mike Tribby
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Susan Fast is Professor in the Department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University, Canada. Her research interests include representations of gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, constructions of self and other, performance and performativity, and geopolitical violence/conflict in contemporary popular music. She is author of In the Houses of the Holy: Led Zeppelin and the Power of Rock Music.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (September 20, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195147235
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195147230
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.7 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,550,425 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Adam J. Jones on October 9, 2003
Format: Paperback
I'm afraid the previous (one-star) review of this book reminds me of some of the clueless press coverage that Led Zeppelin received from certain rock critics during their heyday. (My personal favorite: a 1977 concert review in Rolling Stone that called John Bonham and John Paul Jones "the clumsiest rhythm section in rock.") So here's my take on Susan Fast's "Houses of the Holy": it's a thrilling book, one that should be read not only by every Zeppelin fan, but by anyone interested in popular music. In fact, it's probably the most sustained musicological treatment of any rock artist -- certainly any "hard rock" artist -- ever published. You come away shaking your head at Fast's scholarly energy and her penchant for coming up with striking, original insights into both Zeppelin and the broader "power of rock music."
The book is divided into five chapters, each focused on a particular Zeppelin song, and exploring a different aspect of the band's persona and musical output: intertextuality (musical cross-referencing), myth, "foreign" musical influence, physicality (the music's "pre-linguistic" appeal to the body), and gender. The structure allows for a minutely-detailed breakdown of individual songs -- perhaps too detailed for some readers -- and wider comments about Led Zeppelin and the rock 'n' roll art form they did so much to define.
Is the book a tough read? It depends on your perspective. The run-throughs of particular songs and riffs are, as mentioned, very detailed. There are passages of technical musical criticism that are Greek to me -- but I enjoyed reading them anyway, just for the pleasure of seeing Zeppelin's music receive the sustained and expert attention it deserves. The academic prose?
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Format: Hardcover
Due to subject matter, some books make their way to an audience for whom they are not intended. Books on popular musicians that are published by a UNIVERSITY PRESS are a good example. Maybe you can't judge a book by its cover, but you can judge a book by its publisher. This is from Oxford University Press. By itself, that tells you it's probably worth more than two stars.

So I hate to see this book criticized by three reviewers for being what it is, an academic study. For crying out loud, it's a book with lots of footnotes! The author is a college professor. So of course it's not going to be full of gossip about their manager punching someone out.

It is full of fascinating musicological and sociological insight. But to appreciate the book, those are the things you have to want to get out of it.

For the kind of book it is, it is one of the most READABLE books on a rock band that has ever been published.
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By A Customer on October 22, 2002
Format: Paperback
While I would certainly agree that you can overanalyze and lose touch with the emotional edge critical to LZ's appeal, I found Fast's academic approach refreshing. She brought up a number of aspects of the band's music and performance I'd never thought about before, e.g., the sexual interplay between Page and Plant. I also appreciated Jonesy's insights into the creative process, particularly the fact that the music always came first and then the lyrics. But I have to admit it would be interesting to hear from Page and Plant as well.
This is a good book for the thinking Led Zeppelin fan. And no, that's not an oxymoron. I think there are a number of us trying to understand why this band and its members continue to draw us in 20 years after their disbanding. This book is a step in that direction. But it won't titillate you with gossip about groupies and dionysian orgies. Look to Richard Coles for that.
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Format: Paperback
Thanks to an older brother with little sympathy for a 5-year-old's need to get to sleep, I've been a serious Led Zeppelin fan since I was a young boy. Though I enjoy the Stones, Beatles, Ten Years After, Jimi Hendrix, and others from that era, Zeppelin has always been my favorite, and I know no other band's music like I do Zeppelin's. At one point, I could name not only all the songs on all their albums in the order in which they appeared but also how long they were, both in the studio and live (from "The Song Remains the Same") versions. I did go through a period where I tried to convince myself that such music wasn't worthy of my attention anymore, but ultimately I could deny my love for their music no longer, and now I make no pretenses to being above or beyond them. If anything, I appreciate them more now than ever. The range and power of their music still amazes me. To this day, I remember a quote from Plant: "Every night I look into hundreds of pairs of eyes. I work on those eyes until they glow with warmth."

Though I never thought about analyzing their music in the kind of depth Susan Fast has done, I'm very glad she did. Their music deserves attention from all sorts of people, academics included. While her style can be a little ponderous if you're not used to it, it's not quite as jargon-laden as it might be. The academic tone is greatly relieved by Fast's inclusion of responses from fans to a questionnaire she sent out. Reading those comments made me realize how much others have not merely enjoyed the music but have been tremendously moved by it as well. In addition, Fast's discussion of her own love for the music and her evolving connection with the band added a nice personal element generally lacking in academic works.
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