Led Zeppelin was arguably the biggest, most successful, most influential band of any genre (rock, jazz, disco, whatever) in the 1970s. For rock music, they were almost as iconic in the ‘70s as the Beatles had been in the ‘60s. Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga is a great account of the rise, cruise, and fall of the group, telling and in some cases dispelling the rumors and stories about them. Guitarist Jimmy Page, lead singer Robert Plant, bass player John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham play again through the cosmic ‘70s and open the door to heavy metal and hard rock. It’s an unauthorized bio, so it tells the story whether or not the surviving members of the group (Bonham died in 1980) want it told. I was a fan of Led Zeppelin back in the day, but not a groupie even from a distance, so although I knew the music I didn’t know a lot of these stories. A lot of them are pretty funny even if they’re also outrageous.
A meteor flight of wildness and fame
I found Richard Cole, the Zep’s tour manager, riding his Harley-Davidson through the hallways of the Los Angeles Hyatt, or the “Riot House” as it came to be called – Bonham is supposed to have done the same thing. Jimmy Page is described in his attempt to seduce a 14-year-old girl. And of course there’s the legendary destruction of hotels, although rumor exaggerates that; it did happen at least once in Tokyo and Led Zeppelin was barred forever after from the Tokyo Hilton. But whether Led Zeppelin trashed hotel rooms routinely or just now and then, they certainly got a reputation for that and for wild parties and orgies. The band flew high in the mid-‘70s and by today has sold at least 200 million records, but things went bad from about 1975 on. That was the year Plant had a bad car accident that nearly killed him. A couple of years later, his son died, and three years after that Bonham drank himself to death. After that the group disbanded. It’s a great story. There will probably never be a band quite like Led Zeppelin.