When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin
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When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  1,062 ratings  ·  113 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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Elaine
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...more
Tosh
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...more
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
...more
Bill

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

...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...more
Tim
Apr 30, 2011 Tim rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
Ru
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
Matt
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...more
Mankey
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...more
Josh Lovvorn
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
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
Nate
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
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
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
Gary
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...more
Patti
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 light...it 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...more
Philippa
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
Ben
I can't say that I enjoyed this book because I was continually disappointed by the animals in Led Zeppelin, particularly Jimmy Page and John Bonham, but the author did a great job of chronicling one of the biggest and most obviously most influential bands in history. I know some people writing reviews don't like the little second-person vignettes, but I thought it was a clever way of illustrating the personalities. For example, it's all the more tragic to hear about John Bonham destroying things...more
Jason
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.
Donna
I do like some of the music of Zeppelin and I do love the behind the scenes stories. In this case I wished I chose another book. I couldn’t stand the author’s “You are so and so”. I do not like that writing style at all. I cringed every time I came across those lines. However…I kept on going….I almost stopped again when the author (Wall) said that Davey Jones started The Monkees. At that point I wondered how many other mistakes there might be.

Other than that…I did know the band members were out...more
Katie
3 stars for quality, 4 only comparatively-- the "definitive" nature of this biography speaks to the mediocre quality of prior efforts. Not so off-putting in its descriptions of rockstar revelry as the slavering Hammer of the Gods, Wall's book is also better researched and maintains a just-bearable balance between editorializing and reporting. The notorious second-person, fanfiction-esque interludes aside, I actually found the prose to be quite readable. Wall pushes his narrative along at a good...more
Linda
A mostly well-written and certainly thorough history of Led Zeppelin by a writer who does his research and clearly has connections to plenty of insiders happy to relate their experiences with the band. I didn't mind the second-person narratives as much as some readers here. They do flesh out the band members' personalities more than straight third-person narrative though I was mildly irritated by the chronological inconsistency toward the end.

I also disagree that Wall spends too much of the book...more
Matti Karjalainen
Mick Wallin "Jättiläisten aika" (Like, 2010) käsittelee Led Zeppelinin kiehtovaa nousua 1960-luvun loppupuolelta aikakautensa suurimmaksi ja legendaarisimmaksi rockyhtyeeksi, yhtyeen hiipumista 1970-luvun lopussa ja viimein John Bonhamin kuoleman sinetöimää hajoamista. Lisäksi oman osuutensa saavat yhtyeen jäsenten myöhemmät vaiheet, aina parin vuoden takaiseen ja toivottavasti myös viimekseksi jääneeseen paluukeikkaan saakka.

Led Zeppelinistä on kirjoitettu paljon, eikä "Jättiläisten aika" ole m...more
Bobby
An illuminating look into the seeds of, the formation of, the career of, and the demise of one of the great rock bands of all time. I felt like the introduction to Page's fascination with the occult was a bit overly long and I was not impressed with some of the author's biases. Namely, his need to keep comparing Page to Jeff Beck, always making it clear that Page was obviously superior, an opinion I would contest. Beck was never as huge as Page & Zeppelin commercially but is the superior gui...more
John
The title might not hold much meaning for you at first. It didn't for me. I always loved Led Zeppelin but I didn't grow up with them - I'd only heard them on Classic Rock stations. By the end of the book, you know that the members of Led Zepp (and their retinue) were truly Giants.

This book made me feel like I had experienced the era. I "feel" the 70s much differently now. I'd always heard how great John Bonham was but this book really gets into detail about just how great a dummer he was. For in...more
Chip'sBookBinge
As with KISS And Make-Up, I never really had a desire to read the history of Led Zeppelin because I pretty much knew all the stories from various sources over the years, be it from on-camera interviews with members of the band or interviews from magazines and such. As far as When Giants Walked The Earth, I was even less inclined to read it for the simple fact that it was written by someone other than a member from Led Zeppelin.

This isn't a knock against the author Mick Wall. The dude did his res...more
Tom Choi
A good read: "When Giants Walked the Earth" is less lascivious than the infamous "Hammer of the Gods" that I read as a wee lad. And this is a good thing, as I was quite traumatized back then from reading about the band's lurid sex practices, occult rituals, and unholy pacts of the band from that book. Well, this is all mostly true in Jimmy Page's case, but Mick Wall's biography sticks pretty closely to the facts. Yes, Jimmy Page was a notorious and quite famous follower of the occult (he was act...more
William Lubold
This would have been a better book if Mick Wall had done two things differently. First, he could have skipped the second-person narratives that served as intermezzos between chapters. Second, he could have taken Jimmy Page's dick out of his mouth for like five minutes. In the first case, second person writing always sucks. Yes, even when it's Italo Calvino. Period. In the second case, obviously, Page was the creative leader of the band. However, to essentially blame Robert Plant for the band's f...more
Paul Lyons
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