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| 17 November 2018 | Reply

Harper Collins
July 2018
Paperback, biography

Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

Veteran scribe Chris Salewicz draws from his own meetings and interviews with the enigmatic Led Zeppelin guitarist, as well as many others who circled the force of nature that was Zeppelin, to assemble this attempt to properly analyse his notoriously reclusive life.

A man spoken of in hushed terms due to his flirtations with the works of Aleister Crowley and study of the occult, Page is often painted as a demonic harbinger of the bad luck which hung over the band during their final years.

The truth, of course, is far more prosaic.

Page was a star during his tie with The Yardbirds, and a much-sought-after and highly paid session musician in London when he recruited fellow session player John Paul Jones, heavy hitting drummer John Bonham and shy singer Robert Plant to form a new band in the late ‘60s. Initially fulfilling contractual agreements as The New Yardbirds, they were an instant smash as Led Zeppelin and ascended the pantheon of rock gods in record time, especially in America, where they incited fervour wherever they went.

Page ruled the band with an iron fist, taking half the money for starters, and calling most of the shots musically, while man-giant manager Peter Grant handled the rest of the band’s affairs with an ever-heavier hand.

With insane fame comes impossible excess. Drink and escalating drug use and the bad decisions which accompany them, ever-younger groupies, bottomless pits of money with which to indulge every vice all led to them being elevated out of reach of normal fans, and lose touch with the reality of their situation.

Violence and disaster followed, all documented here with car crash fascination and unputdownable intensity. After their dramatic fall from grace – car accidents, fatal illness, irrational violence, court cases about the provenance of their music and, finally, the tragic death of Bonham – Page became even more of a recluse, releasing very little music over the past thirty five or so years other than curated re-issues of their back catalogue. This in contrast to Plant’s stellar solo career, and Jones’ enviable reputation as a producer of note, as well as his own musical forays including Them Crooked Vultures.

It took Page some years to shake off the weight of drug addiction and reinvent himself post-Zeppelin, yet still his musical output has been lacking. There was one solo album in the late 1980’s, a couple of albums with Plant as Page & Plant, but apart from that his musical focus remains Led Zeppelin.

If Salewicz could have illuminated Page’s life any better it would have been to more closely examine why so little new music has come from the guitarist since the demise of Zeppelin. His career is covered here, but the reasons remain unexplained. Perhaps not even Page knows. That said, this book is a must for fans of the band and its enigmatic guitarist, producer and guiding light.

Category: Book Reviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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