Led Zeppelin: Shadows Taller Than Our Souls
by Charles R. Cross
With its title lifted from the band’s 1972 classic “Stairway to Heaven,” Shadows Taller Than Our Souls is much more than just “another” Led Zeppelin bio. Rather than simply regurgitating the same old “Mud Shark” stories that fans (should) have long since grown weary of, veteran rock critic and best-selling author Charles R. Cross chooses to focus on Led Zeppelin’s groundbreaking and timeless music. From their early, wide-eyed, Led Zeppelin I sessions in 1968 to their final disconnected recordings in 1978, Cross allows the reader to become a fly on the wall and experience the entire creative process behind each of the band’s legendary LPs — from Jimmy Page and Robert Plant’s initial writing sessions, to primitive portable tape recorder demos, to the grandiose final mix.
In addition to providing detailed technical production tidbits, final LP and singles chart positions, label marketing schemes, and various tour details, Cross also reveals some of the very real life drama behind the music. In 1968 Jimmy Page enjoyed a distinguished reputation as one of Britain’s top session guitarists and had recently made a name for himself worldwide as a member of The Yardbirds. From the beginning, Led Zeppelin was his vision and he ruled the band with an iron fist. During rehearsal for the band’s first record, Page found fault with how then unknown drummer John Bonham was playing a particular passage. After exchanging words over the issue, the band’s infamous and rather intimidating, six-foot-plus, three-hundred pound manager Peter Grant ordered Bonham to, “Do as the man says, or fuck off!” Given the legendary, larger than life status that Bonham would ultimately attain, it’s hard to imagine anyone ever having the audacity to speak to him such a way.
And yes, “Mud Shark” fans. Cross does briefly reference that story as well as revealing other salacious tales of sex, drugs, money, violence, and even Page’s well-known obsession with the occult. While Shadows Taller Than Our Souls certainly offers the reader fresh, behind-the-scenes dish on one of rock’s greatest bands, it’s also an interactive treat for fans of the ever-mighty Zep. In fact, with its multiple fold-out pages, hidden pockets full of rare memorabilia reproductions, amazing photos, and snazzy, protective cardboard case, the book is actually packaged more like a deluxe LP box set. It even contains a CD of a rare Jimmy Page interview from 1977.
So much has been written on Led Zeppelin since its inception in 1968 that creating a book that’s both unique and compelling forty years on seems like quite a tall order. However, with Shadows Taller Than Our Souls, Cross seems to have accomplished that very objective.
It Books/Herper Collins: www.harpercollins.com