Davis’ new book on Led Zeppelin a bit of a letdown
LZ ’75, from Hammer of the Gods scribe Stephen Davis, has some issues. Essentially, the book is the story Led Zeppelin’s 1975 American tour, which mostly absent from Hammer, due to David misplacing the notebooks in a friend’s basement for 30 years or so. So, what would have worked quite well as part of a grander narrative is stretched out into a solo book of its own.
When LZ ’75 works, it’s fascinating. At times, the interaction between Led Zep and their fans – or even their interactions with one another – is much like a battle. The battle can even be seen to be one that’s within, especially considering drummer “Bonzo” John Bonham’s prediliction for the bottle. All of these similarities to war, with each concert taking on the aegis of an incursion into enemy territory, combines with Davis’ in-depth, embedded journalist style of reportage to make this book more akin to that of someone serving with a military unit than of a music journo following a concert tour.
That sort of thing is exciting, interesting, and fun to read: the things fans did to get backstage, the arguments between bandmates, the way their road manager would tussle with anyone, and the like. However, considering Davis covers each and every show, and even goes so far as to revisit bootlegs of those performances, gives the book of an up-and-down quality. You’ve tales of life on the road regularly interspersed with concert reviews, essentially.
While it’s fascinating to see how the band gradually grew into the music, and the fans grew to enjoy the new tunes like “Kashmir,” there are only so many ways one can describe a particular act or song. The umpteenth interpolation of “The Crunge” into some part of the finale is ultimately met with an eye roll, a sigh, and flipping forward to see when something new is going to occur.
Also, in such a situation, one expects the author’s life to make incursions into the narrative, but a story of how Davis slept with a woman and how it affected his interactions with a friend he would ultimately use as a photographer for the tour has absolutely no bearing on the subject at hand. All it seems to add to the story is Davis being able to mention the fact that he slept with an attractive woman that was desired by many other men. Good on you, sir, but what’s that got to do with Zep?
Happily, LZ ’75 is a breezy read, and you’ll kick it out over the course of a couple afternoons on the couch. If you’re a quick reader, or gloss over the rather repetitive concert reviews, you can have it finished in the time it takes to listen to Led Zeppelin’s recorded output. The book’s out now in hardback, but comes out in paperback from Gotham Books on September 6.