Trampled Under Foot: The Power and Excess of Led Zeppelin by Barney Hoskyns

I’m sure most readers are familiar with the great Led Zeppelin, although you may not be aware that both the vocal and percussive powerhouses of the band (Robert Plant and John Bonham) were West Midlands boys, and cut their teeth on the vibrant music scene of the region in the 1960s.  Barney Hoskyns’ new oral history of the biggest band of the seventies provides us with a fascinating insight into those days, where bands would traipse from venue to venue performing multiple gigs a night.  The region is more than just a jumping off point for Plant and Bonham, with the industrial heritage of the area being cited (not for the first time) as a driving force behind the “heaviness” of the music, competing to be heard with the roar of the factories.  Lest we forget, it is perhaps no coincidence that Birmingham and the West Midlands are widely regarded as the birthplace of heavy metal, with Led Zeppelin (arguably) the first metal band.

Barney Hoskyns’ book is based on exhaustive interviews with a wide range of people who “were there” as Zeppelin conquered the world. As well as the band there is testimony from roadies, friends, musicians, management, and many others.  The result is a book that leads the reader into feeling like an insider, from the first gigs as the band rose from the ashes of the Yardbirds, through to the death of John Bonham, the end of the band and their endeavours since.

Zeppelin were renowned for their excess (as the title suggests), and this is presented unflinchingly, painting a rather tragic image of how this side of success ate away at the band.  However, there is also plenty of time devoted to how powerful the band could be (especially live) and how much joy they gave in their huge performances.

The book is divided into four sections which broadly cover the origins, formation and rise of the band, then covering their demise and the subsequent work of the surviving members. Each section is prefaced with a short description of the bare bones of what happened in the period but most of the text is made up of word of mouth descriptions of the action, which leads to a patchwork view of the events in question and a real sense of immediacy.

At 552 pages, the book is heavy in more than once sense, but well worth the effort of picking up.

Blake can be contacted on Twitter  @brum_enthusiast or take a look at his blog.

At The Flix with @Timmy666

.... Here's Timmy!!

Hello gang. So, are you ready for another diatribe of film-related gumph related to what's out this week? Well, you should be, as it's At The Flix time.

This week's releases are a decidedly mixed affair, a few of which I am somewhat curious to see and another few I'd rather substitute for a daytime antiques show instead. Which ones do you think I'm talking about?

Saving Mr. Banks (PG)

One of the big films out this week, this is the story of when  P. L. Travers went to Walt Disney during the production for the adaptation of Mary Poppins, leading to a reflection of her difficult childhood.

There's much that appeals about this film, first and foremost the cast with its acting talent. Messrs Thompson and Hanks in the lead roles seem so ideal. This film also hints at having far more weight than just the coming together of Travers and Walt Disney, principally because it is a character examination, it reflects on each of the main character's childhoods and is very open about the power of storytelling in all its multiple guises here.

I'm hoping that the film doesn't bog itself down in sappiness, sentiment or self-congratulatory, but is actually an affirmation of the power of the story. Fingers crossed.

Carrie (15)

Another remake and another question mark placed against why we need to see another version of the great book after Brian DePalma's classic exists in the pantheon of horror films.

Of course, this is not described as a remake but as a reimagining! With the great Chloe (Hit Girl) Grace Moretz in the lead role of Carrie White and with Julianne Moore as her mother Margaret White, there are definitely the acting chops in play here but I'd rather see Sissy Spacek going to the prom instead.

I'd like to be proven wrong but I've found myself so frustrated at classic horror films or books being adapted, sorry, re-imagined over recent years.

Rather than see remakes, go see great horror films made by original directors like Ben Wheatley, Neil Marshall and the like.

The Best Man Holiday (15)

Christmas movie number one this week is a follow up by director Malcolm D Lee to his 1999 film The Best Film. I never saw the original. College friends reunite after 15 years over the Christmas holidays and discover how easy it is for long-forgotten rivalries and romances to be ignited.

On initial glance, I thought it would be dreary but reviews have been strong Stateside for this film and that it's a properly acted, well written and timely Christmas drama, tapping into social issues that people face, not overplaying stereotypes but dealing with something of weight or substance.

Free Birds (U)

This is not the bio-pic of Lynyrd Skynyrd but a animation about two time-travelling turkeys who go back in time to get turkey off the Christmas menu.

Yes, it's Christmas, so unless you eat nutloaf on Christmas Day, turkey is an absolutely must. With this in mind, how much of a stuffing, yes I said stuffing, will this film get critically and popularity wise?

Either way, it's going to be a turkey whether on the screen or on your plate this Christmas!

I'm not excited about this one but it will be the only time you will get to see animated turkeys in 3D .... I'm pretty sure about that?

Generation Iron

Making its UK premiere at The Electric Cinema on Sunday 1st, Generation Iron is a new documentary from Vlad Yudin following the extreme world of modern-day bodybuilding. At the time of writing this, it is worth noting that are no tickets available but it will be shown on Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th December at 3pm.

A great coup for The Electric especially given the generally strong reviews for this documentary.

Ok, did you get a ticket for Generation Iron? You're a lucky so and so!

Anyhow, that's it from me this week! As always, send your quips, remarks and disagreements on twitter @timmy666 and keep cinema watching prominent in your calendar of entertainments.

Till next week! See you at the party Richter.

Do comment below or tweet Tim on @Timmy666