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When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin Paperback – November 9, 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 554 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st edition (November 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312590393
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312590390
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,163 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this ambitious biography, Wall narrates the history of a band that became one of the biggest musical and cultural phenomena of the 1970s. The brainchild of studio wizard Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin marked the transition from flower-power good vibrations to the rough sounds of a disillusioned era. More than just another hard-rock band, however, Zeppelin drew on elements from reggae, soul, blues and R&B, as well as more exotic sounds from India and the Middle East. The trashed hotel rooms and violated groupies Zeppelin left in its wake helped to create an enduring rock and roll road archetype. Wall painstakingly traces Zeppelin's development and musical pedigree. His access and attention to detail make this a definitive work. However, he falls short in substance and style when he tries to move beyond the music. Flashback segments written from the perspective of the various principals are confusing, and his forays into nonmusical subjects—such as Page's interest in the occult—are often portentous. Nevertheless, this volume is an essential source for anyone eager to learn about the era when rock stars ruled the world. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"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)

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Customer Reviews

I would highly recommend this book for Zeppelin fans.
Charlie Rountree
Wall tends to make too much about Page's dabbling in the occult and tries to analyse if this song or that song was due to his interest in the occult.
Jerry Wilt
I have recently finished reading this book, and I will have to say I like it.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 66 people found the following review helpful By 334 on August 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
To say that "When Giants Walked the Earth" is the best available biography of Led Zeppelin actually is not saying much. The book's only real competition, not including lavish illustration-based books, is Stephen Davis' "Hammer of the Gods," and that book, though well written, is flawed by its obsession with the band's violent excesses during tours and its overreliance on oral testimony from people like Richard Cole and aggrieved groupies and journalists, who were all too willing to feed that obsession. In many instances, "Giants" beats "Hammer" in terms of detail and breadth of research (the number of people interviewed is very impressive). In other instances, "Hammer" is the winner. For instance, if you want to get a traditional narrative sense of the build-up of the band from Page and Jones' time as session musicians, Page's Yardbird days, and Plant and Bonham's days in Birmingham-based bands, "Hammer" is the book that provides it. "Giants" author Mick Wall, on the other hand, decided to intersperse most of this history throughout the book in the form of italicized "flashback" sequences written directly to the protagonists in the second person ("It all changed for you the night you went out after a Bo Diddley shown in Newcastle..."). I found these passages not only boring to read, but irritating because they interrupted the flow of the book, and often you have to read through half a page of one before figuring out which person is being referred to. Be warned that nearly all of the pre-Zeppelin history of the band members is imparted in these "flashback" passages, so that if you want to learn about the protagonists' childhoods, teenaged years, and early bands, the only way to do so is to force your way through them. I tried at first, but decided it wasn't worth it and gave up.Read more ›
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79 of 87 people found the following review helpful By M. Bauer on February 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"When Giants Walked The Earth" is without question the best-researched and "insiders" biography of Led Zeppelin.

Author Nick Wall traces the band's history chronologically, with the use of italic second person (author talking to the band member within the text) narrative text to flesh out historical and personal information. This device is interesting at first, but does become tiresome.

Unlike "Hammer of the Gods" and Richard Cole's book, author Nick Wall does not glamorize the (at times) gross excess of the band's offstage behavior. He also doesn't sweep it under the table. Instead, he places it in the proper context: hugely successful bands in the late 60s and early 70s, including the Beatles, Stones, and The Who, indulged in horrendous excess, but it doesn't erase the amazing music they made.

Wall has spent considerable time interviewing Jimmy Page, and he addresses Page's interest in Crowley and "the occult" in an objective way. Page studied and had an interest in these matters, but was not sacrificing children or virgins and was far less "evil" in his exploits than the drunken, depraved antics and brutality that John Bohnam and Richard Cole particpated in when homesick or bored. Wall now depicts Page as a straight, lucid, exceedingly talented, and gentle man who would like to have the grand body of work he masterminded in the 1970s stay alive.

Wall depicts Plant in a simlarly objective manner. Bonham and Plant were not the industry insider London muscians that Page and Jones were. However, their talents were undeniable, and one is impressed with how quickly all four of these musicians were making true magic together.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Steve S. on December 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
When Mick Wall's "When Giants Walked the Earth" was published in a hardcover edition last year for the U.K. market, it contained some timely commentary about their highly successful one-night show staged at the end of 2007. The author notes that Plant, who had been interested enough in the making of a re-released The Song Remains the Same movie and soundtrack that year to actually sit in, thought the Led Zeppelin reunion show ought to be a proper farewell from the band. Wall says Plant had a bigger say in what songs would and would not be included; gone were songs that were "too heavy metal," and he would do "Stairway to Heaven" but only buried in the middle of their two-hour set, not as a finale or an encore.

Of course, the others had learned by then to cater to his wishes; after all, the last time a Zeppelin reunion had been seriously considered with Plant going along with it had been back about 16 years earlier. He even cites a remark made in 1993 by Peter Grant to Dave Lewis: "You've got to realize Robert always wanted to be the boss of the band anyway. He finally got his own way." This appears to be Wall's thesis, that the band was, in essence, hijacked over the course of time by Robert Plant, stolen from the reins of founder Jimmy Page. To illustrate this concept, Wall starts by going to the very beginning of the story: Page as a child learning from the earliest rock 'n' roll in existence and wanting to be a part of it, and eventually wanting to do certain things with a band of his own. Wall, leaving no part of the story unturned, lists it all.

"When Giants Walked the Earth," now available in paperback and hardcover editions in the United States, is quite perhaps the most detailed a book has been in attempting to uncover the mindsets of the men behind Led Zeppelin.
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