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Led Zeppelin: The Oral History of the World's Greatest Rock Band Hardcover – October 1, 2012

3.9 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

*

""An exhaustive and exemplary portrait""—Bernadette McNulty, London Daily Telegraph

""This meticulously compiled oral history… has a wonderful humour and a careful examination of the how and why of the darkness that surrounded the band and its entourage.""—Hugh MacDonald, Sunday Herald (Scotland)

""An engrossing trip through the sordid '70s.""—Will Hodgkinson, The Times (London)

""Barney Hoskyns's exhaustive history… never forgets that behind the caricature was an extraordinary band, lithe and limber.""—Michael Hann, The Guardian (London)

""Hoskyns leaves no stone unturned."" —Publishers' Weekly

""Every time I think I know everything about Led Zeppelin, a book like this comes along and reminds me that I know nothing.""—Chuck Klosterman

""This is the proper book Zeppelin have always deserved.""—Nick Coleman, author of The Train in the Night 

""Barney Hoskyns is rock's poet of observation, a journalist with a very valuable gift for separating the nugget from the slag. [This oral history] is a complex tale that makes sense of the senseless, weighing artistic triumph against human tragedy.""—Fred Goodman, author of The Mansion on the Hill

""The saga of Led Zeppelin told by those who knew them when, this intimate oral history goes beyond scandal to reveal the all-too-humans behind this most Promethean of rock bands.""—Lenny Kaye

From the Inside Flap

"The saga of Led Zeppelin told by those who knew them when, this intimate oral history goes beyond scandal to reveal the all-too-human beings behind this most Promethean of rock bands, illuminating their expansive body of work and the times in which they exemplified the very essence of rock stardom."
—Lenny Kaye, author of You Call It Madness

In Led Zeppelin: The Oral History of the World's Greatest Rock Band, celebrated music writer Barney Hoskyns presents the definitive account of this iconic band, sharing riveting firsthand stories from the people who knew the group best. Based on more than two hundred interviews with insiders including Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and road manager Richard Cole, this comprehensive exposé explores the legends and pares away the myths. Led Zeppelin reveals what actually happened before, during, and after the group's twelve-year run as the biggest band on earth and what life was really like for four young men on top of the world as they enjoyed fame on a scale that not even the Beatles experienced as a touring live act.

Priceless accounts from fellow musicians, including Jeff Beck, members of the Rolling Stones, record company executives, recording engineers, roadies, and more than a few groupies reveal how Jimmy Page originally envisioned the band and how it was assembled, promoted, and primed for success. These insiders tell wild tales about the group's antics as they embarked on four U.S. tours in a single year yet were able to write, record, and release Led Zeppelin II at the same time. You'll discover new insights into the band's writing, arranging, and recording methods, from how they created the stupendous sound and dynamics on "Dazed and Confused" and "Whole Lotta Love" to the creation of the group's folk-suffused acoustic side.

Perhaps the most surprising fact you'll discover about Page, Plant, Jones, and Bonham is the loyalty they felt toward each other and the band. Their sense of themselves as four irreplaceable members of an inseparable unit is displayed movingly in the account of their decision to break up the band following John Bonham's untimely death in 1980.

Filled with dozens of never-before-published photos of the band and its members from early childhood through the glory years, this book is essential reading for every Led Zeppelin fan and for anyone interested in rock history.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (October 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470894326
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470894323
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.7 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #655,649 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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. Jimmy became weird, 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 assinged 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 whats 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.

Recommended.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm a long-time aficionado with many Zep bios in my collection - I learned a number of new things from this book so it was a worthwhile read for me. I'd recommend it to anyone who is a serious fan of the band or classic rock of the 70s. He wrangled interviews with quite a few people who haven't spoken often to the press so I got the feeling the information presented had been well-vetted. There are also black & white photos sprinkled throughout the text pages (a few I don't recall seeing) and a select few color photos on glossy stock in the center. Caveat: this is no hagiography and Page/Bonham/Grant, while extraordinarily gifted, were definitely more sinner than saint. If you're a Plant or JPJ fan, they will stay mostly perched on your pedestal.

The oral history style of the book doesn't allow for a smooth narrative and I can understand other reviewers who were bored into putting it down. If you want a fun, beach-type read that bundles the whole Zep saga into a page-turner, you can't go wrong with the venerable Hammer of the Gods by Stephen Davis. It focuses too heavily on the hoary bluesman fables of souls sold to the devil but if you ignore that as a product of the "backwards masking/Tipper Gore" mid 80s era when it was originally written, it contains a lot of the same information as this book but in an easier format. It has been updated through the 2007 reunion, too.

If, as some reviewers mentioned, you want a book that focuses on the music and not the gossip, Led Zeppelin 1968-80 by Keith Shadwick is my go-to source.

Until one of the surviving members writes an autobiography, I'll keep those mentioned to complete the picture for me.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Wow, I haven't had this much fun reading an oral history since 'A Drink With Shane McGowen.' The format of interspersing interviews with a wide variety of players from the Zeppelin saga makes for a diverse, sometimes contradictory, but ultimately illuminating look behind the scenes. I was surprised at how emotionally compelling the book is - when I approached the end the line for the band (and even if you don't know the story, you feel it coming in the building dread of some of the interviews), the beautiful, world-weary playing and singing of "Ten Years Gone" kept running through my head. These guys set themselves on fire for the better part of a decade, and the price they paid was steep. But we get to reap the benefits of music that still sounds fresh and ambitious after so much music of the era has become smaller and more cautious with age.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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