Led Zeppelin: The Biography - book cover
  • Publisher : Penguin Press
  • Published : 09 Nov 2021
  • Pages : 688
  • ISBN-10 : 0399562427
  • ISBN-13 : 9780399562426
  • Language : English

Led Zeppelin: The Biography

From the author of the definitive New York Times bestselling history of the Beatles comes the authoritative account of the group many call the greatest rock band of all time, arguably the most successful, and certainly one of the most notorious

Rock star. Whatever that term means to you, chances are it owes a debt to Led Zeppelin. No one before or since has lived the dream quite like Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham. In Led Zeppelin, Bob Spitz takes their full measure, separating the myth from the reality with his trademark connoisseurship and storytelling flair.

From the opening notes of their first album, the band announced itself as something different, a collision of grand artistic ambition and brute primal force, of English folk music and African American blues. That record sold over 10 million copies, and it was just the beginning; Led Zeppelin's albums have sold over 300 million certified copies worldwide, and the dust has never settled. 

The band is notoriously guarded, and previous books provided more heat than light. But Spitz's authority is undeniable and irresistible. His feel for the atmosphere, the context--the music, the business, the recording studios, the touring life, the whole ecosystem of popular music--is unparalleled. His account of the melding of Page and Jones, the virtuosic London sophisticates, with Plant and Bonham, the wild men from the Midlands, in a scene dominated by the Beatles and the Stones but changing fast, is in itself a revelation. Spitz takes the music seriously and brings the band's artistic journey to full and vivid life.

The music, however, is only part of the legend: Led Zeppelin is also the story of how the sixties became the seventies, of how playing clubs became playing stadiums, of how innocence became decadence. Led Zeppelin wasn't the first rock band to let loose on the road, but as with everything else, they took it to an entirely new level. Not all the legends are true, but in Spitz's careful accounting, what is true is astonishing and sometimes disturbing.

Led Zeppelin gave no quarter, and neither has Bob Spitz. Led Zeppelin is the full and honest reckoning the band has long awaited, and richly deserves.

Editorial Reviews

"In this authoritative, unsparing history of the biggest rock group of the 1970s, Spitz delivers inside details and analysis with his well-known gift for storytelling." -People

"Spitz, who has written well-regarded biographies of the Beatles and Julia Child, delivers a 600-page tome that collects every (reliable) story previously reported, and is bolstered by original reporting and interviews-all delivered in brisk and straightforward prose . . . The book is peppered with musical references that Spitz describes as evocatively as mere writing can describe music." -Washington Post

"The book is a towering achievement of research and storytelling that eschews rock hagiography to tell the full story of the humans who comprised the legend. The eliciting of complicated feelings is a testament to Spitz's work, not a mark against it." -Chicago Tribune

"Big and definitive . . . . Led Zeppelin: The Biography by Beatles biographer Bob Spitz glides past the rowdy fun of past histories for something more authoritative . . . It finds room for both the hedonistic superstar cruelty and a well-researched appreciation." -Chicago Tribune

"A doorstop biography befitting the premier rock band of the 1970s." -Kirkus

"Music biographer Spitz (The Beatles) calls on his supreme research and analytical skills to deliver the definitive story of one of the greatest rock groups of the 1970s. While this isn't the first (or second) telling of the Zeppelin saga, it reigns superior to its predecessors with an exhaustive history that never flags in momentum or spirit. He takes an unsparing look at how the band's massive success snowballed into a ‘heedless hedonism' that led to their decline and disbanding . . . For all the excess and cruelty Spitz recounts, his passion for the band's musical genius will captivate rock enthusiasts." -Publishers Weekly (starred)

"Wielding his signature tools of meticulous reporting, piercing analysis and trenchant writing, Bob Spitz proves again that he's a modern master of cultural biography. Led Zeppelin: The Biography cuts through the myth and murk to reveal the true story of the biggest, bawdiest rock 'n' roll band of the 1970s. Like the music they made, Led Zeppelin's story is equal parts inspiring, electrifying and shocking. Led by the most brutal manager in the business, the quartet blitzed the world like a marauding army, crushing critical resistance and sales records as easily as they seduced groupies and consumed mammoth quantities of booze and drugs. Spitz goes deeper and sees more clearly than any previous biographer, and his storytelling powers make it spellbinding." -Peter Carlin, author of Bruce and Sonic Boom

Readers Top Reviews

Mystic ManBrian Down
After skimming the book, I' m approaching this book with some apprehension, after noting the dates for a lot of the photographs in the book are incorrect. As I read through the prologue about the band's gig at the Boston Tea Party in January 1969, I noted another inaccuracy; that is, the author noted that Jimmy Page played a Gibson Les Paul guitar at these gigs. It's well known that Jimmy Page performed with a Fender Telecaster guitar during the band's first American tour in December 1968 - January 1969. Page transitioned to the use of a Gibson Les Paul guitar during Zeppelin's second American tour in April/May 1969. There are numerous photos from the early period of Zeppelin of Jimmy Page with the Telecaster as well as photos of Jimmy Page performing at the Tea Party with the Telecaster that are the displayed on the official Led Zeppelin website and elsewhere. It makes one wonder just how diligent the author was in terms of his research for the book. I wonder what else I'll find in terms of inaccuracies as I read through the book.
MarilynCorey M.Gozma
I've just received my copy of the book. I headed to the photo sections immediately and noticed right off the bat that many of the pictures included have incorrect dates attributed to them. Photos taken in Oakland, 1977 are mistakenly listed by the author as taken in 1979. A famous pic of Jimmy in his storm trooper garb from Chicago 1977 is listed as 1975...I'll not bore anyone with all the other glaring errors just in the photo sections alone, but this is NOT a good sign. As a mega Zep fan for 40 yrs, how can I take this book seriously when it's already loaded with BS before I've even picked it up to read it?! Are we to assume that the rest of this book is full of innacuracies as well? I think so. Though I may waste my time reading the whole thing at some point, I'm really put off by multiple errors already for things this author could have so easily looked up. These are lazy mistakes, and this author's credibility is now in the toilet. **To say that there is a plethora of misinformation out there regarding Led Zeppelin is a gross understatement.** The internet has become a stinking cesspool of false information - especially on this band in particular - and here we have yet another new book to add to a VERY LONG line of others that include fake "myths" and innacuracies (yeah, I'm looking at YOU, 'Hammer of the Gods' and 'Stairway To Heaven'). Zeppelin fans know better and deserve much more than...well, more of the same. * if somehow this book is mostly accurate with LZ history, I will edit my comment here and happily praise this author.

Short Excerpt Teaser


Sunday, January 26, 1969

They had been playing the band throughout the week. Entire sides of the album. FM radio, the underground free-form pipeline, was a godsend. He'd been tuned in to WNEW-FM, New York's preeminent alternative outlet, when it started: "Dazed and Confused," "Communication Breakdown," "You Shook Me," even "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You," a Joan Baez number that had been hot-wired and jacked. Scott Muni, the station's afternoon deejay, couldn't help himself. He played the grooves off that record. Alison Steele, NEW's Nightbird, programmed it as though it were on a loop.

Led Zeppelin.

The name alone had visceral power. Sure, it was incongruous. A lead zeppelin was the ultimate sick joke, but spelling it "Led" took nerve. It told you everything you needed to know about this band-it was dynamic, irreverent, subversive, extreme-primed to rock 'n roll, not a toady to Top 40 populism. Led Zeppelin wasn't gonna hold your hand or take your daddy's T-Bird away. They meant business. This was serious, meaty stuff.

He loved what he'd heard. All that was left was to see them for himself.

As luck would have it, his friend Henry Smith was humping Led Zeppelin's equipment into a club in Boston that weekend. If he could get himself to the gig, Smith had agreed to slip him into the show. But how? He was basically broke. They'd been crashing at his parents' apartment in Yonkers, where his band, Chain Reaction, had been scratching for work. If he was going to get to Boston, he'd have to hitch.

Sunday-afternoon traffic was sparse along the I-95 corridor. The weather hadn't cooperated. An area of low pressure in Oklahoma had been creeping its way eastward, dropping temperatures below the freezing point along the Atlantic coastline. The sky was grim. The forecast predicted a nor'easter would hit Boston later that night or tomorrow morning. With a little luck, he might beat it to the gig.

A ride . . . then another, as the succession of cars plowed up the interstate, stitching a seam from Stamford to Bridgeport to New Haven to Providence and beyond. The songs in his head carried him through dozens of miles. These days, you couldn't take a breath without inhaling a killer. "Jumpin' Jack Flash," "Dock of the Bay," "All Along the Watchtower," "White Room," "Hey Jude," "Heard It Through the Grapevine," "Hurdy Gurdy Man," "Fire." You could feast all day on those babies and never go hungry. But Led Zeppelin had thrown him an emotional curve. Their songs hit him deep. There was something dark and sensual about them, something strangely provocative in their nature. They rolled over him, allowing his imagination to run wild.

Small wonder that they'd erupted via Jimmy Page. He knew all about Page, a guitar virtuoso in the tradition of Clapton, Stills, and Jimmy's itchy alter ego Jeff Beck, with whom Page had served a brief but stormy stretch in the Yardbirds as that seminal band was coming apart at the seams. There was already a heady mystique about Page. He'd contributed uncredited licks to scores of hit records, not least on sessions with the Who, the Kinks, and Them. But Page had taken Led Zeppelin into another dimension, a province of rock 'n roll that was hard to define. Sometimes it was basic and bluesy, sometimes improvisational, other times a hybrid strain they were calling heavy metal, and all of it seasoned with enough folk, funk, and rockabilly elements to blur the lines. That was a lot to take in for a budding rock 'n roller. Seeing Page and his band would help to put things in perspective.

It was dark by the time he pulled up at the gig, a club called the Tea Party in a converted Unitarian meeting house-cum-synagogue that stood halfway along a solitary street. A hallucinatory gloom had fallen over the South End of Boston, casting East Berkeley Street in a desolate embrace. This was not the Boston of wealthy Brahmins, of culture and entitlement. "It was a tough neighborhood, a place you didn't want to hang out at night," says Don Law, who ran the joint. There was no sign of life in the surrounding tenements, aside from a bodega next door, whose light threw a waxy fluorescence across the pitted sidewalk. In the silhouette it projected, he could make out the outlines of heads, shoulders hunched against the cold, stretching down the street and around the corner. There must have been-what?-a couple hundred people waiting in line to get in. More.

Where the hell did everyone come from?

Led Zeppelin was hardly a household name. Until recently, they'd actually been billing themselves as the New Yardbirds. Their debut album had been released o...