BOOKS: Led Zeppelin: Bob Spitz

Oct. 29—With exception of the prologue, the first 100-plus pages of Bob Spitz's epic "Led Zeppelin: The Biography" focuses on Jimmy Page.

Page was something of a youth prodigy on guitar. He taught himself to play almost any style. He was playing bands while barely in his teens and was a highly sought-after professional session musician while still a teen.

He played session guitar, an uncredited role, on numerous records in the mid-1960s, including the James Bond song, "Goldfinger."

He was a member of the Yardbirds, which had a hits on the charts. When the Yardbirds faltered and not wanting to return to the non-creative grind of session work, Page sought to forge a new roster of musicians for the Yardbirds.

He knew what he wanted to play and how he wanted the band to sound. He recruited John Paul Jones, a fellow session player on bass. He discovered his front man in singer Robert Plant and drummer John "Bonzo" Bonham on drums playing together in another band.

While dozens of pages are dedicated to Page's early life, Jones, Plant and Bonham's backgrounds are dished out in a few pages each.

After playing a brief stint as the New Yardbirds, the band renames itself Led Zeppelin, and 100 pages into the book, the band is off and running non-stop.

Spitz's telling is striking in how it emphasizes how quickly Led Zeppelin became a rock & roll force. With in a couple of years, Led Zeppelin was packing massive arena concerts and had recorded four albums, with songs that are as familiar today, 50 years later, as when they first hit record stores and radio charts. A band hated by the music press and critics but massively popular with fans.

The band also gained its reputation for epic bad behavior in as little time. Four young men rising to fame, pulling in massive amounts of cash, managed by thugs, and with no concepts of self-restraint with drinking, drugs and girls.

Spitz writes a narrative that is as salacious as Stephen Davis' legendary Zeppelin book, "Hammer of the Gods," which created quite a stir a few decades ago.

Like "Hammer," the Spitz biography closes shortly after the 1980 death of Bonham, which effectively ended Led Zeppelin. But the surviving members have spent more than 40 years past that tragic moment.

And the Spitz biography, published in 2021, spends little time on the past four decades. True, it's Led Zeppelin's biography but more of the post-Zeppelin era of their lives may have proved interesting.

Spitz is a capable rock biographer as he proved with his even more epic "The Beatles: The Biography." Here, he delves not only into Zeppelin's notorious bad behavior but the band's musical genius and how drugs, alcohol and non-stop work threatened and destroyed a lot of that brilliance.

"Led Zeppelin" is a fascinating look into a meteoric rise and a tragic implosion, of artistic brilliance and maddening debauchery.