Thursday, August 22, 2013

Led Zeppelin's dirty laundry: Hammer of the Gods and how the super-rich are different to the rest of us

Infamous Led Zeppelin bio Hammer of the Gods has more or less been talked out down the years. It's enough to say here that its accuracy has been disputed and that it's more interested in who Page, Plant et al did then what they did. 

As such, it might not be a very good music biography but it is a) wildly entertaining and b) a great illustration of how things can be very different for the super-rich. And unlike many of their contemporaries Led Zeppelin were very good at making money.

Enablers, privateers and hangers-on

Money allowed the lucky Zeps to insulate themselves from the world and bourgeois disapproval with a network of enablers (doctors or drug dealers) enforcers (road crew) and boosters (consorts and journalists). And in the case of Jimmy Page, an additional chorus of occultists.

They could afford - literally and metaphorically - to turn their back in private on conventional mores to a greater extent than ever before.

Generally, the mainstream can cope with all of this - the road of excess and its consequences lends itself well to a tragedy and the return of the moral status quo (see pretty much most confessional rock autobiographies ever written, with the possible exception of Lemmy's).

And in many ways - the hyper-masculinity and alleged cases of terrible, misogynistic behaviour by band members and road crew - Led Zeppelin were part of the problem rather than part of the solution in any event.

But then again, as Hammer of the Gods notes in passing between groupie stories, they took the counter-culture (and Robert Plant appears to have been painfully sincere about this) to the American Heartland like no other band of the 1970's.

Conclusion with sphinx-like utterances : Money isn't just value, it creates values, sometimes bad ones, but not always, often a mix of good and bad.

Over- or under-estimate its effect at your peril.

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