This is a terrible book.
But I finished it anyway.
You see I was there. When the Beatles broke, when FM radio ruled, when Led Zeppelin sold out stadiums and musicians were independent thinkers as rich as anybody in America.
But those days are in the rearview mirror. There’s a music business, that’s for sure. But it’s mature, it’s about entertainment and dollars whereas back then, it was EVERYTHING!
Sure, there was a renaissance with MTV. But ultimately it was about visuals, not music, and one thing’s for sure, before that it was about the music. In an era where you didn’t even have to put the band’s name on the cover, the audience knew who it was.
And Napster was utterly fascinating, but it was about technology, music was just the fuel, no different from the gas in your car. We ooh and aah over your vehicle, we don’t have long discussions on petrol.
Now there was music before the Beatles, but the Liverpool foursome blew up and then revolutionized the business, by refusing to conform to strictures, ultimately releasing a song with only one chord. And their manager, Brian Epstein, was notoriously bad at math, his deals were execrable, but it didn’t matter if the band was underpaid for wigs and lunch boxes, you see there was just that much money in the music, to the point where they no longer had to go on the road and play it. And when that got boring, they did. McCartney and Ringo ply the boards constantly today, because first and foremost they’re musicians, their stardom is secondary.
And no one embodies this ethos more than Robert Plant. Who has no problem appearing bedraggled and trying new things. He’ll give you a bit of what you want, but he’s on his own path. He’s eviscerated his charisma, and become a party of one in the process. A beacon. Dylan is removed and mysterious, Plant is up front and available.
But he was once the biggest rock star in the world.
Funny how history turns on you. It was Page’s band, but Plant was the front man. And it’s Plant who survives. Jimmy’s loaded, but he doesn’t know what to do all day. Kinda like Peter Grant… After you manage Led Zeppelin, what’s next? NOTHING!
It’s the thrill of the chase, the building of something, the energy is palpable when Zeppelin comes together and starts selling records and tickets. Meanwhile, Grant grows into the role. Makes it up as he goes. And despite uproar from the mainstream, unlike Zuckerberg and Facebook Grant and his charges don’t change a thing, they don’t blink, they don’t give up, because they’re selling music, it’s all based on substance, which lasts to this day.
And the holier-than-thou reviewers excoriated the band.
And promoters tried to rip them off.
Meanwhile, the lemmings, the public, just could not get enough.
This is unlike traditional business, where an enterprise is built to last. In music, the tunes are built for now, and if they survive it’s a surprise. Ironically, the more time-stamped, the more immediate the tunes are, the longer they last. Art is run on instinct. And once you second-guess yourself, you’re history.
So this is how it was then, and how it will never be again.
Those over forty want a return to yesteryear.
Those under forty never knew how it once was. They’ve got no idea what a rock star really is. They think it’s about money and TMZ. But back then, these men making the music, and they were mostly men, couldn’t do much else. And their handlers spoke for them and everything happened on the fly.
Until it crashed.
It always crashes.
So why did I finish this book?
Because I was looking for nuggets, stuff I didn’t know. Like Grant’s daughter marrying Denny Laine… Really? And Peter having contempt for the musician, who was essentially broke.
And the most significant point in the whole book is Grant’s wife leaving him for their farm manager, and him never getting over it. No matter how rich and powerful you might be, that does not ensure love. Women want men who will listen to them, and be there for them. Turns out Grant was a great raconteur who loved women who loved him, but he was too caught up in his own world to be available, and it bit him in the ass.
But that’s what being a rock fan is all about. Getting hooked by the music and then vacuuming up knowledge, which won’t get you into college, which won’t get you a gig as a professional, but will bond you to like-minded people, millions.
Music gets no respect. Otherwise, how could a publisher allow this paste-up job to hit the shelves? With no proofreading. Mo AUSTIN? How can I trust anything in this tome?
But I trust Led Zeppelin.
I hear “Dazed and Confused” in my brain all day long.
“Your Time Is Gonna Come” is my go-to ski song, it emanates from my lips when I’m swooping down the slope elated.
And the dynamics in “Ten Years Gone”… That was Page’s secret sauce, the dynamics.
What do you do when your skills leave you? When you just cannot get it up anymore?
Some drink themselves to death. O.D.
Others sit around telling stories.
And despite so much info, most go unheard. Because they’re private, because they’re offensive, because they would cause lawsuits, because you had to be there to get them.
It’s no different from the rest of us. Telling the stories of the bands we saw and…
Ultimately, that’s all we’re left with, our stories. Possessions mean nothing.
But the music…
You can talk about a film you’ve seen.
But you can sing a song.
And the song remains the same, never forget that.