by Keith Shadwick
Backbeat Books, 320 pp., $29.95 (paper)
Mud sharks and all, Led Zeppelin bestrode the Seventies like a rock & roll re-creation of the ancient myths: two fair-haired boys, a whale of a drummer, and a skinny guitar wizard, goaded by the fates into immortality and doomed to a tragic end. Even today their albums outsell a healthy percentage of so-called "new" music, as they stoke the flames with periodic releases like last year's 3-DVD opus. Their story, which began when seasoned London session men Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones met up with Birmingham boys Robert Plant and John Bonham in that epochal year 1968, is far too epic to be confined to the printed page, but Keith Shadwick doesn't let that stop him. Shadwick has several similar Herculean undertakings under his belt Jimi Hendrix: Musician, The Illustrated Story of Jazz so he's up to the task, daunting as it is. He begins with Zeppelin's origins in the wake of the Yardbirds' split and microscopically parses every last bit of recorded material and utterance to Melody Maker until Bonham's untimely 1980 demise, after which, he writes, "It is the story of a band, not four individuals, and it ends here." And that's it. Not for anyone who thinks the story begins and ends with "Stairway to Heaven," Shadwick's lavishly illustrated tome spells it out step by step, song by song, tour by tour, until there's no more tale left to tell. It's a tale for the ages, to be sure, and this hefty volume beckons you to open the cover and ramble on.
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