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82 of 87 found the following review helpful:
Dark comedy May 18, 2000
This is the first unauthorized Led Zeppelin biography to emerge in the wake of the band's demise. The road-fever antics of the band and it's crew are told here with aplomb: Richard Cole driving his Harley down the corridor of the Hyatt House in LA, Jimmy Page courting a 14 year old groupie, John Bonham's insatiable appetite for booze and carnage, hotel destruction and wild orgies are all well documented. These stories are pretty funny, if sensational and embellished for comedic effect.
But from the mid '70s onwards, a dark cloud followed the band. From Robert Plant's near fatal car accident in 1975 and his son's death in 1977, Page's descent into heroin addiction in 1976, and ultimately Bonham's fatal vodka binge in September, 1980, the Zeppelin saga certainly has a tragic side.
This book is fairly uneven in that Davis documents Zeppelin's timeline fairly meticulously until 1975, and then he seems to be rushing to get to the end. He also fails to acknowledge that Zeppelin became an erratic live act from 1977 onward due to the deteriorating health of Page and Bonham. Davis would have you believe that in spite of the excessive substance abuse, Zeppelin remained in top form, and there is plenty of recorded evidence to refute that. Having Richard Cole as a primary source tends to undercut the credibility of the book as well. That said, it is obvious that Davis certainly respects Zeppelin's musical accomplishments, and ultimately that is the point. Zeppelin may have overindulged, but the music is what the band will be remembered for.
29 of 31 found the following review helpful:
Good Zep Read - even despite inaccuracies Apr 15, 2004
By G. YEO
Stephen Davis isn't a Zep expert, but this book was spot on in its release at a time when Zep didn't exist anymore back in the mid-80s. I remembered reading it and going wow! This is Led Zeppelin! It is a fun read, but take it with a pinch of salt...much of it is attributed to Richard Cole. The book has never been endorsed by the band, but it's the stuff of what legends are made of. Even Plant admitted in a Musician interview that he didn't much remember what went on in the seventies...if even a portion of what's written here is true - then it makes sense why!
This book did much to promote the legend and legacy of Zep - warts and all...
29 of 32 found the following review helpful:
Don't read while on the toilet . . . Mar 10, 1998
An awesome book. Stephen Davis's unauthorized biography of the 70's biggest rock band displays both his wonderful storytelling style (and ability to fudge the truth) and just how great and weird a band Led Zep was. After reading this book, you'll get the picture why Zeppelin still to this day has an unmatched aura of chaos and mystery that is genuine and not cheesy in the way that many current bands try to project a fake and corny image (i.e. Metallica). Even Robert Plant has said the book has done much to enhance the band's legacy. One flaw of the latest edition of "Hammer" is that the new chapter takes away from the books previous ending (the classic Plant quote that ends the Live-Aid chapter). Still, this book covers all the bases from the inspiration for their songs ("Trampled Underfoot" was a takeoff of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition") to the infamous hijinx and backstage debauchery (a drunken Bonzo taking the mike at a Deep Purple concert and announcing to the audience that the guitarist "can't play for %#@!") that made Zep the nightmare of inn keepers around the globe.
12 of 13 found the following review helpful:
What was and what might have been Jul 26, 2010
By O. Buxton
"Olly Buxton (@electricray)"
Stephen Davis' mid-eighties account of the rise, antics and fall of Led Zeppelin is a famously scurrilous affair, cutting a track that a string of copycat efforts concerning the likes of Motley Crue, Black Sabbath and Metallica gleefully followed in much the same way, I suspect, as those bands gleefully followed Led Zeppelin. Looking back at it now, with Led Zeppelin's status ever-more Zeus-like in the rock pantheon, it is difficult to believe that, at the time of publication (1985), the band's credibility could hardly have been at a lower ebb. Everything Led Zep stood for was rejected as, in quick succession, disco, then punk, then new wave and lastly new romance (which I decree to be the noun for which "new romantic" is the adjective) followed hard on each others' heels. To Johnny Rotten (displaying a surprising lack of historical perspective, even for him), Led Zeppelin was the archetypal dinosaur.
In one way it is odd, then, that this unauthorised (and roundly denounced) biography made such a splash. But lusty tales of bondage with sharks, wrecked hotel rooms and satanic backward masking must, for the kids, have been a welcome relief from the glassy neuroticism of A Flock Of Seagulls and their painted, dilettante cohorts - so perhaps no wonder, and it is always darkest before dawn, after all. And day was about to break; in 1985 a young Axl Rose was warming up in the wings. The mighty Zeppelin's legacy hasn't looked back since.
It's quite a legacy, if Stephen Davis is even partly to be believed. (Messrs. Page and Plant would bid you not). Davis writes colourfully, outrageously, bombastically but most of all entertainingly, and in that way as many others does Hammer Of The Gods befit, and reflect the glory of, its subject matter.
For all that it is a little uneven. Davis' attention to the story does wane somewhat as the seventies wears on - far more space is devoted to Jimmy Page's brief dalliance with the Yardbirds than to the two years between Houses of the Holy and Physical Graffiti - to some minds (though not this one) Led Zeppelin's creative apogee. I suppose there's only so much gigging, rooting, boozing and fetishising of Aleister Crowley you can write about without boring your audience, but all the same more effort could have been put into charting Led Zeppelin's hubristic and ultimately tragic decline. The best Davis manages is quashing the transparently silly suggestion that the decline and fall might have been brought by Jimmy's fixation with matters diabolical - thanks for that insight - and noting the increasing reliance on heroin as the seventies wore on took its toll on the creative spark. You have to think there's more to it than that.
Davis is obviously a fan of the band, but all the same he's no stooge: the characters he draws are mainly believable (though I still have trouble crediting a roadworker from Birmingham ("tar in his hair, tar on his hands, and when he opened his mouth it was like an air-raid siren going off") with the insight and deep celtic fascination to pen tunes and lyrics like Kashmir and, yes, Stairway to Heaven. Page remains, throughout, the impish creative genius of the band, Plant the Daltrey-esque Shepherd's Bush screamer (though as mentioned, this doesn't seem to do his intellect justice), Jones the completely unengaged professional, and then there's Bonzo.
Bone of contention here. In my book Davis is far, far more charitable to John Bonham's memory than, on the content he sets out in this book, he has any right to be. To claim the same man to be a caring, loyal and loving family man (* while sober) and a "beast" - by Davis' account, repeatedly guilty of at least aggravated assault and attempted rape - (* while drunk) is frankly an asterisk too far, particularly when Davis' record also tends to suggest Bonham was in any case perpetually drunk, and angry, throughout the seventies, leaving no time for "nice considerate John" to come out. I think Davis should have said it: Bonham was a pig.
And nor is Bonham's unfortunate (but hardly tragic) death, nor his (literally) fabled drumming prowess an excuse. I suspect Bonham's reputation survived largely because his behaviour was of a piece with band manager Richard Cole's, and Cole was a significant source of material for Davis' book, and thus commanded a sympathetic account. No matter: perhaps our 21st century moralising has got to me, but to my mind Davis could, and should, have been more eviscerating than he was.
Hammer of the Gods is now updated to somewhere near the present day, and the comparative lack of any interesting output since the band split (the one genuinely interesting project, Page & Plant's No Quarter, hardly counts as new material) only serves to gives one a sense of what was, and what might have been.
17 of 20 found the following review helpful:
Don't expect too much from this fun read Feb 09, 2004
This book is extremely well researched and contains an incredible amount of detail about the band and its members.
Its weakness, and it's a big one, is that the author gives the reader little sense of perspective or narrative comment. It reads like this: "This happened. Then this happened. And then this happened, then this..."
While it would be a mistake to try and tell readers what to think, this account goes so far in the opposite direction that despite all of the wild and often abusive exploits of these musicians, it reads in the bland way newspaper stories often do. So much more could have been done with the material and while the author occasionally dabbles in the style of Tom Wolfe, not much is holding the narrative together except the paper the words are printed on.
Oddly, the very end of the book contains some wondeful writing that surprisingly appears only there.
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