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When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin

3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,915 Ratings  ·  160 Reviews
Veteran rock journalist Mick Wall unflinchingly tells the story of the band that pushed the envelope on both creativity and excess, even by rock'n roll standards. Led Zeppelin was the last great band of the 1960s and the first great band of the 1970's and When Giants Walked the Earth is the full, enthralling story of Zep from the inside, written by a former associate of bo ...more
Paperback, 534 pages
Published 2009 by Orion (first published 2008)
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May 03, 2009 Elaine rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a big improvement on Hammer of the Gods, and I dithered over whether to give it three or four stars. I agree with the reviews here there and everywhere that are calling it the "definitive biography". It boasts thorough research, in depth knowledge both personal and research-based, good writing, and a fantastic book jacket. I would have given it four stars if it were not for the following two problems.

Issue One is the italicized second-person detours that are meant to take you "into the head
Jul 11, 2009 Tosh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mick Wall has the annoying habit of writing first-person narratives in a biography. But beyond that, this is an interesting biography on one of my NOT favorite bands. If the mood hits me correctly, I usually hate Led Zeppelin. But nevertheless a fascinating band as a subject matter.

Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones were great session players during the British Invasion years. We're talking Herman's Hermits, Lulu, and lots of Mickie Most productions. And right away I have to tell you I love that ty
Dec 04, 2015 Bill rated it did not like it
Shelves: reviewed

You are Mick Wall, and boy, do you have a story to tell! Nothing less than the fable of Led Zeppelin, arguably the greatest rock band ever and, unarguably, the biggest band in the world throughout the 1970s. It’s not a tale as popularly told as that of the Beatles or the Stones, outside of the gossipy tabloid focus of Stephen Davis’ Hammer of the Gods. What sets you apart from that dreck is that you can bring to the table an in-depth knowledge of the band’s music. You are Mick Wall and you have

DJ Yossarian
To be honest I couldn't get past about page 30 of this thing -- the writing style grated on me that much. The actual factual historical stuff was insightful enough, but I just can't abide by the particular conceit employed here by the author, of having these multi-page italicized interludes that are supposed to be some kind of interior monologue by the protagonists (but in second person), e.g.

You are Peter Grant. It is the summer of 1968, you are thirty-three and sick and tired of earning mone
Mike Sumner
Aug 10, 2015 Mike Sumner rated it it was amazing
Written by Mick Wall, "When Giants Walked The Earth: A Biography Of Led Zeppelin" is the culmination of several years of research, and is written by someone who has known guitarist Jimmy Page for over two decades. Its material is based on interviews the journalist has conducted with every member of the band over the years, as well as those who knew and worked alongside them. I have been a fan of Led Zeppelin for 45 years and I thoroughly enjoyed this momentous opus, running to 534 pages. It is t ...more
Arf Ortiyef
This is easily some of the worst writing I've ever read in my life. Presumably Mick Wall had to either dictate this book or write it with one hand because he was obviously using his other hand to masturbate furiously the entire time.

I hated this book the second I started reading it but I admit I was also hooked. I had to find out the whole story. Unfortunately for all the details about forming the band and who they ripped off and what sex acts were done to whom, there are scant details about the
Mar 19, 2013 Jason rated it liked it
not a whole lot different than Hammer of the Gods, more details maybe, but most interesting to me was the realtionships of the band, especially after Plant's son died, and Page's heroin addiction.
Apr 30, 2011 Tim rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Just to get it out on the table, I love all sorts of music, and I think that Zeppelin is top-tier. In a word, this bio make me appreciate the music of the band all the more and loathe the band members similarly. The author's use of the SECOND person, vocative case (self address, in this instance) is interesting and provides a good cut away to provide the back story of the members of the band. The technique could get old, but I think it was used well in this book.

I was born in '77 and didn't pay
May 05, 2013 Ru rated it really liked it
Tremendous biography of arguably the most acclaimed rock band in history. Having read "Hammer of the Gods" by Stephen Davis many years ago, and being absolutely in awe of just how brilliant a rock bio that is, "When Giants Walked the Earth" had its work cut out for itself, in my view. Mick Wall definitely earned his stripes with me with "Enter Night", the Metallica biography, so I knew at minimum this would be a decent offering. This is much, much more than that. I will likely never get over my ...more
Jan 05, 2010 Matt rated it it was ok
Also posted here: AGITREADER

I’m not a big Led Zeppelin fan. In fact, I knew relatively little about the band that I didn’t learn from listening to classic rock stations while making pizzas at the Bogey Inn back in the day. That fact, along with an abnormal lust for books with more than 450 pages, is what led me to pick-up Mick Wall’s When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin in the first place. Also, the cover art is really sweet.

What I really wanted was a definitive chronicle of
Mar 02, 2012 Mankey rated it really liked it
I was surprised by this book. Having read everything "Led Zeppelin" under the sun I didn't think there was anything new to dig up on the band, but I was wrong. Wall does a surprisingly good job of detailing the problems and tensions that plagued Led Zeppelin the last five or so years of their original run together. He actually writes about John Paul Jones!!! What a concept!

Wall also comes across as someone who knows at least a little bit about the occult. After countless references to Aleister C
Josh Lovvorn
Sep 12, 2012 Josh Lovvorn rated it really liked it
Like probably most readers of this book, I fell into this book thanks to my love of the band Led Zeppelin. As a teenager, I discovered classic rock thanks to my father and my interest in impressing a girl who I was trying to date at the time. Though I spent a long time on the punk rock and ska vibe, I always came back to classics like Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, and of course, Led Zeppelin. I was then quite interested in learning more about he band than the random quips I learned from internet ba ...more
Carl Martinez
Dec 13, 2013 Carl Martinez rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies
I never was really crazy about Led Zeppelin. One of the greatest rock bands ever I agree, but they are so over-played on classic rock stations that I am just so sick of them...I haven't listened to Led Zeppelin II in a quarter century. I love vanilla ice cream but if I had to eat it everyday I'd eventually want something else. So I got this book free and didn't plan on reading it, but I picked it up and just read little bit of the introduction not intending to read the book...and I finished the ...more
Jan 09, 2013 Nate rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I started reading this book after being completely immersed in Mark Blake's "Comfortably Numb: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd". I love the music of the 70's, and was eager to learn more about the era as well as the stories of the people who shaped it. Naturally, I felt that taking on an account of another one of the greatest rock bands of that time was the next step. This led me to pick up "When Giants Walked the Earth", an exhaustive biography of Led Zeppelin by Mick Wall. Soon after starting i ...more
Mark Desrosiers
Jun 18, 2010 Mark Desrosiers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
A balanced, energetic bio by a writer who clearly has some kind of love/hate relationship with the Zep mythos (not to mention the principals themselves). Sidestepping most of the nasty gossip (though obviously he had to include a detailed consideration of the "mud snapper incident"), this volume is largely of interest to music geeks -- Wall has an almost Tosches-style obsession with locating the origin of some of Zep's most famous tunes. Also, for the first time ever (as far as I can tell), Wall ...more
Barbara Hynes
Apr 07, 2013 Barbara Hynes rated it it was amazing
I downloaded this audio book from my library, and listened to it while driving and also while working in my studio. The audio book is unabridged, so at over 500 pages, it was a long book, and it went on for many hours. However, it was fascinating in places, and I learned new things I didn't know about Led Zeppelin and its individual members. I agree with other reviewers that the author's literary device of speaking for the characters *as* themselves, as if he had insight into their thoughts, was ...more
David Bales
This is a long one, and rather too detailed about the history of Led Zeppelin. Mick Wall has a slightly annoying style where he adopts the "thoughts" of main subject characters and tries to recreate their dialogue. I hate that technique. Still, this book was interesting about the birth and career of Led Zeppelin, and how the group came out of the Yardbirds, where Jimmy Page was playing half-heartedly in 1968 and decided to put together a super-group of mostly largely unknown musicians, including ...more
Apr 23, 2016 John rated it really liked it
What a great book! I wouldn't consider myself a fan of the band, but I know the hits and think they're great. This book covers everything, from the beginning with the Yardbirds, the gathering of the members, recording the music, the concerts and becoming the legends they truly are. I read this as an audio book and must give props to the narrator who presents the material with gusto and just the right amount of attitude and British accent. Be warned that there is a LOT of cussing. I learned a lot ...more
Apr 12, 2012 Gary rated it really liked it
I might be a lone voice, but I thought the imagined reminiscences of the band members (and Peter Grant) were very effective. Although written in the second-person, these passages sought to portray the thoughts and feelings of the subject, and I found them quite convincing and enlightening.

There were two bigger problems for me. First, although the book is generally well written, there's a slight tendency to overdo the literary flourishes and not quite do them well enough; as if the author was try
Feb 08, 2013 Patti rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was just waking up to music when Zep split up. My older siblings introduced me to this noise, but being a teenybopper, I didn't quite appreciate them. Until I got older. The intricacies of the music and the vocals, the weaving of the dark and the was stellar.

I've read every book on Zep that I could get my hands on - From the original "Hammer of the Gods" to Richard Cole's "Stairway to Heaven" to "LZ '75." This book was better than them all.

Intricately researched, sometimes a little
Jun 20, 2011 Philippa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In many ways this was an absolutely brilliant book to read, even if when one considers the material and author combined it may have been inevitable that the outcome would work as well as it did. That being said the final two chapters and epilogue were absolutely grueling to get through. Once Mick Wall reached the tragically premature death of drummer John Bonham the book itself lost its footing. All material afterwards seemed to be a blur of the public and media demanding a painfully nostalgic r ...more
Chris Hansen
Feb 27, 2015 Chris Hansen rated it liked it
The book is truly an wealth of you information on the genesis of what could arguably be the greatest rock band of all time. It gives you the highs and the lows (sadly mostly lows) of the lives of each member during the heyday of Led Zeppelin.
What I came away with was that John Paul Jones was a really good guy. Robert Plant was more talented than people give him credit for. Page is less. John Bonham was aman whose demons eventually got the better of him.
I'd recommend the book more highly but ever
Oct 05, 2014 Larry rated it really liked it
OK. This is Rock History. My era. - - - Led Zeppelin!

You REALLY have to be a Zeppelin fan to appreciate and enjoy this book. I am. (“I know it's only rock 'n roll but I like it.” – Mick Jagger, circa 1974)

For me, the book contains a lot of interesting stuff. I kind-of knew that Jimmy Page was a prominent sessions musician. But I didn’t know he played on “Baby Please Don’t Go” by Them – and the theme from the music “Goldfinger”…OMG! I knew that Led Zeppelin started out as the Yardbirds. But I did
Emily Moore
May 17, 2014 Emily Moore rated it really liked it
Admittedly, I'm only about 1/2 way through this book, but already I have some ''issues'':
One, as said before by some reviewers, is the weird second person story thing that Wall adds every now and again. Quite what the point of this is I'm not sure. We don't need that to ''get inside'' what each person was like: the book alone is giving us information which we can use to build up our own idea. I'm reading a biography, not fiction, so don't give me made up ''thoughts''.

Secondly, the Page worshippi
Dec 19, 2014 Rob rated it liked it
The Led Zeppelin story seems to write itself - the fatal arc of their career, the occult influence, the lurid tales of excess, the untimely deaths, the gangster-style management style, the glorious moments of musical alchemy and the barefaced theft of other musicians' tunes and lyrics - so that each Led Zeppelin book essentially tells the same story in much the same way, oohing here and ahhing there.

Credit to Mick Wall that he tries out a couple of slightly riskier gambits. One is the decidedly
Oct 26, 2014 Murray rated it it was amazing
From about 1974 to 1980 or so, Led Zeppelin was one of my favorite bands. Like most teenage boys at that time, I wore the grooves out of Led Zeppelin IV (side one -- I didn't even know that there was a side two until I read about it years later) and was fortunate enough to see them perform live in 1977 (just got my hearing back in 2003). They put on a great show and I can still remember many aspects of it today with crystal clear recall. But, I realized that I don't really know that much about t ...more
Caio Duayer
Jun 06, 2015 Caio Duayer rated it really liked it
Journalistic overall, but still taking a refreshing approach to Biographies, covering from the childhood of all the members, as well as the recording studio periods that the band had, and the live performances, over all a very well rounded biography that doesn't fall into the samey category as Keith Richards or Schwarzenegger for example, Mick switches between perspectives of band members and even conflicting opinions to give a unbiased and insightful read.

However there is no Chronological orde
May 09, 2014 James rated it really liked it
This is the most complete Led Zeppelin biography I’ve read. It starts with Led Zeppelin’s creator and leader, Jimmy Page, a young but experienced session guitarist who joined the Yardbirds and eventually got stuck with that band’s name and contractual obligations when the rest of the members left the group. After a lot of fruitless searching for new band members in a music scene that had dismissed the Yardbirds as dead, Page found bassist, keyboard player, and arranger John Paul Jones, and lifte ...more
Paul Brown
Dec 06, 2015 Paul Brown rated it really liked it
At the heart of it this is an excellent music biography when it sticks to the facts retelling the rise and fall of Britain's greatest Hard Rock band. However its failings are Wall's insistence on inserting homespun psychology (helpfully signposted in italics) to flesh out the individual band members and his insistence on unfairly siding with Page over Plant on the resurrection of Led Zeppelin.
Overall as an amateur musician and artist I found reading about the creative process of so many legenda
Jun 25, 2014 Brett rated it really liked it
I never got around to reading Stephen Davis’ 'Hammer of the Gods', which had been universally regarded among Zeppelin fans as the quintessential biography of the band. However, after reading 'Tune In' (Volume 1 of Mark Lewisohn's 'All These Years' epic Beatles Trilogy), I felt guilty at not devoting the same time to the one band that I have loved my entire life. While preparing to download 'Hammer', I stumbled across this book and dove right in.

Definitive and comprehensive, this will take you fr
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Mick Wall is an author, journalist, film, television and radio writer-producer, who’s worked inside the music industry for over 35 years. He began his career contributing to the music weekly Sounds in 1977, where he wrote about punk and the new wave, and then rockabilly, funk, New Romantic pop and, eventually, hard rock and heavy metal. By 1983, Wall become one of the main journalists in the early ...more
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