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‘Trampled Under Foot’: Barney Hoskyns’ brilliant oral history of Led Zeppelin
09.16.2012
08:22 pm

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Books
Music
Pop Culture

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I have always liked Barney Hoskyns’ writing. He has a subtle and incisive way of getting to the seed of any story. His biography on Montgomery Clift, Beautiful Loser was sublime. More recently Hotel California: Singer-Songwriters & Cocaine Cowboys In The L.A. Canyons was perhaps the best book written on West Coast music. He also wrote a commendable biography on Tom Waits, and written histories on Glam and Soul, particularly the exceptional Say It One Time For The Brokenhearted: Country Soul In The American South.

Now Hoskyns has delivered Trampled Underfoot: The Power and Excess of Led Zepelin, which is the best biography written about Zeppelin to date.

It’s the best because Hoskyns’ book is a mammoth oral history of the band, told through over 130 interviews, featuring the key players, the management, the wives, the girlfriends, the roadies, the producers, the engineers, the PR people, the record label, the security, the druggies, right down to the designers of the album sleeves and office staff. Where there have been gaps, caused by death (drummer John Bonham, manager Peter Grant) or refusal (Kenneth Anger), Hoskyns has lifted directly from the original, key interviews, to maintain the story’s immediacy.

In an exclusive interview with Dangerous Minds, Barney Hoskyns talked to about Trampled Underfoot and the power and excess of Led Zeppelin.

DM: Why did you choose Led Zeppelin?

Barney Hoskyns: ‘I chose Zeppelin because I love them. The mission really was not to preach to the converted, if you like, it was to an extent to preach to the unconverted. Obviously, I hope that the Led Zeppelin community will read it and take to it, and embrace it. But I think I wanted to pitch it at as much skeptics, to say look a) Zeppelin’s music was incredible and b) the story is extraordinary.

‘And I think there was an opportunity to demystify the story a little bit, just to sort of get away from glorifying the usual larks and antics, and Hell-raising, and to make the story a bit more real. I think, was the mission, and that’s kind of how the book mutated into an oral history. Because it didn’t start out like that, but the more interviews I did, I ended up doing over 130, the more it became clear to me there was an opportunity to tell the story in a different way, with the kind of immediacy you get from people just talking quite openly and candidly. And I thought let’s see if we can tell the story in a kind of continuous way, from start to finish. That was the mission and that was the methodology.’

Hoskyns starts the book from the with the earliest moments in the band member’s careers. This is a youthful Jimmy Page showing his prodigious skills on TV with his skiffle band, before going onto a brief career as a session musician.

Page was so talented a guitar player that unlike most session musicians, he played both acoustic and electric guitar. Jimmy could play anything, and was the guitar on records by The Kinks, Donovan, Lulu and even Val Doonican. As can be seen from Hoskyns’ book, Page dedicated himself so much to playing his guitar that he was removed from the world, becoming that slightly isolated, mysterious figure of his adult years.

Most session men were middle-aged, with an interest in angling and loft-conversion. Yet, it was at one session that Page met a bass player and sometime musical arranger, John Paul Jones. The pair got on because of their age, but also because they had a respect and admiration for each other’s talent.

While Page and Jones were connecting in recording studios, Robert Plant and John Bonham were performing with various bands across Birmingham, which in the mid-1960s was considered to be the next Pop Capital of Britain after Liverpool, as it had so many music acts (The Move, The Moody Blues, Steve Winwood) coming to the fore. Plant and Bonham were equally dedicated to their talents. Bonham was a self-taught drummer, who even then was showing the skill and innovation that his contemporaries found difficult to match. It’s interesting to note that all these years later how many people in Hoskyns’s book still describe Bonham as the best.

Robert Plant was also trying out his skills fronting various bands. He had a love of Blues and Rock, and was developing his powerful and unique way of singing.

The turning point came when Page joined The Yardbirds at Jeff Beck’s insistence, which led Page into the orbit of manager Peter Grant.

Grant had the reputation of a hard man, one that he liked to play up. When stories circulated he had hung some recalcitrant manager over a penthouse balcony by his ankles, Grant neither admitted nor denied the charge, only quipping, “Let’s say I acquainted him with the view.” This was the kind of whispered tale that created the fear and myth about Grant.

As manager, Grant became like a father to Page and helped support the young guitarist with his vision to create a new Supergroup, one that he could lead. Page contacted Jones, and then through different connections, Plant and Bonham were brought in. The foursome that was to become the biggest band of the 1970s was born.
 
barney_hoskyns
Author: Barney Hoskyns
 
DM: Why did Led Zeppelin take-off? Was there a gap, say after The Beatles split?

Barney Hoskyns: ‘I think there was a gap there and Peter Grant spotted the opportunity, if you like. I think he intuitively knew there was room for a new band, a supergroup, you might call it, though Zeppelin weren’t a supergroup in the sense of Cream was a supergroup. The disbanding of Cream left a gap for Atlantic Records. Clapton had decided to mellow out and to calm down, and that allowed some other bands, or Zeppelin to step into the breach.

‘I think it was an evolution musically. ‘There are 4 guys with extraordinary talent, who have respect for each other. And they all kind of liked each other. They hung out with each other. There weren’t ego struggles, until the tensions start coming in as a result of many things, not just drugs. But until that moment, you know, these 4 guys, they weren’t punching each other in the dressing room. They’re having fun.

‘And, it was about the alchemy of these 4 musicians that was at the heart of everything. Without that you can hype a band to death and but it’s not going to mean much if there isn’t some substance and quality there form the outset, and there was that. But that’s not the whole story, as the book makes clear, there was an awful lot else that went on around this. There was the machinery, an extended family, that all contributed in creating this machinery, that all contributed to creating the phenomenon.

‘It was all very sudden and was done by sheer brute force in many ways. Peter Grant was a powerful figure who decided that Zeppelin was going to be his mission then nothing was going to stop him from turning that band into the biggest band on earth. And it was kind of brilliantly done. If the music hadn’t been as great as it was then even Peter Grant would never have succeeded in that mission.

‘The thing is there will always be a wave of adolescents, a new generation coming through that will need a band of its own. I’m not sure that’s the case now, as I think pop culture, rock culture, is very different, but then, there was a new generation, a semi-generation coming through, for whom bands like The Beatles and The Stones belonged to their older siblings, or boys and girls who were 4 or 5 years older. I think Led Zeppelin were the best in every sense technically and mythologically, as they sort of captured the imagination at that time, especially in North America, where there was almost a religious aspect, a mass cult of Zeppelin, the likes of which we will never see again.’
 
More from Barney Hoskyns plus bonus of Led Zeppelin ‘In Concert’, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Cover Versions: Worldwide covers of Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’
09.13.2012
09:03 am

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Books
Dance

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UK Edition, 1961
 
Here are my choice selections from the dozens of book covers of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road posted by the Beat Book Covers website.

Apparently this was Kerouac’s response to all the different cover designs and foreign editions:

“When I’m old, you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to study languages reading these.”

 

Jack Kerouac’s own (unsed) concept for the book jacket, done in 1952.
 
 

USA Edition, 1958
 
More ‘On the Road’ after the jump…
 

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Bad Little Children’s Books
09.11.2012
09:40 am

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Amusing
Books

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American illustrator, cartoonist, author and designer, Bob Staake, has some fun with classic children’s books and turns them into something quite… dark
 

 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Psychedelic Jesus: Interview with the author of ‘The Sacred Mushroom And The Cross’
09.07.2012
01:03 pm

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Belief
Books
Drugs
History

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John Allegro wrote one of the most compelling books about psychedelic mushrooms ever published. The Sacred Mushroom And The Cross argues that Christianity is rooted in an ancient sex-and-mushroom cult and that Jesus was not a man but the psychedelic Amanita Muscaria mushroom.

Allegro’s method is to delve behind the surface meaning and context of biblical words, conjuring instead with their frequently erotic root meaning (“Christian,” he says, is a derivation from the Sumerian meaning “smeared with semen”). These half-forgotten roots, Allegro maintains, link the characters and stories of the Bible to the orgiastic, often outlawed mushroom cults of the Near East.” (from Time magazine, 1970).

Allegro uses etymological arguments to propose that Christianity originated as a hoax in which the rabbi Jesus was invested with the powers and names of the fly agaric (Amanita Muscaria), the true body of Christ. In effect, according the Allegro, Christianity was the exoteric disguise of a secret mushroom cult whose original content was eventually forgotten.”  Roque Nuevo

Come mushroom hunting season in the Rocky Mountains around Boulder, my friends and I used to pick the bountiful Amanita Muscaria and make tea from it. I found it to be a very challenging trip, always riding the fine line between bliss and terror.

Here’s one of the rare filmed interviews Allegro gave in his lifetime. Recorded for and broadcast on Dutch TV in December 1976.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
‘The Beatles Graphic’: Hervé Bourhis’ illustrated history of the Fab Four
09.05.2012
04:33 pm

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Books
Music
Pop Culture

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Multi-award-winning author and graphic artist, Hervé Bourhis has produced a beautiful illustrated history of the world’s most famous pop group, The Beatles Graphic.

The Beatles’ story maybe as well known as certain Biblical tales, but Bourhis’ approach has made the whole saga - from their births, through early years and successful careers, to the untimely deaths of Lennon and Harrison, and up to present day lives and careers of McCartney and Starr - fresh and compelling. Bourhis has written the text, reviewed all of the discs, and drawn the fabulous illustrations to this delightful, fascinating and heartfelt biography.

Already available in the UK, The Beatles Graphic will be released in the US on November 1st. It’s a must for Beatles’s fans and for anyone interested in the history of modern music.

The Beatles Graphic available form the Omnibus Press.
 
herve_bourhis_beatles_graphic_1961
 

 
Bonus pix plus video of French language video of Hervé Bourhis, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Morgan Freeman’ narrates ‘50 Shades’ (NSFW)
09.05.2012
10:02 am

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Amusing
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Yes, it’s totally ridiculous, but actor and comedian Josh Robert Thompson does a spot-on impression of Morgan Freeman.

There are a lot of F-bombs in this one, so NSFW.
 

 
Via High Definite

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
The Godmother: Queen of cocaine Griselda Blanco, shot dead at age 69
09.04.2012
06:47 pm

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Books
Crime
Drugs

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Griselda Blanco
 
One of the most influential drug lords of all time, Griselda Blanco has been shot dead. Credited as the “innovator” of drive-by shooting on motorcycle, Blanco was eventually felled by her own technique. She was known as much for her ruthlessness as the massive amounts of cocaine she smuggled; her body count included multiple late husbands, and her ex-lover said she killed a 10-year-old after his parents refused to pay his ransom.

Outliving Pablo Escobar and serving her time, Griselda Blanco had some of the bloodiest hands in Colombia. Her life was chronicled in 1990’s gloriously pulpy (and-now-out-of-print-so-be-jealous-I-have-one) The Godmother, as well as the 2006 documentary Cocaine Cowboys 2: Hustlin’ With The Godmother, the sequel to the more comprehensive, Cocaine Cowboys.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Naomi Wolf Vagina is now on Twitter
09.03.2012
06:23 am

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Amusing
Books
Feminism
Media
Sex

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NaomiWolfVagina_twitter
 
In the week Naomi Wolf’s Vagina: A New Biography goes on sale, some wit, or more likely some journalist or PR person, has started a Twitter account for NaomiWolfVagina (sensitive flower). Only 3 tweets so far, but I suspect this will increase towards the date of publication.

Follow NaomiWolfVagina on twitter.

Read the Guardian‘s exclusive extract from Naomi Wolf’s Vagina: A New Biography here, plus interview here and the book is available here.
 
naomi_wolf_vagina_tweets
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Comix of the Clan: Unpublished Wu-Tang Clan Comics
08.30.2012
11:36 am

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Art
Books
Hip-hop
Music

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The Wu-Tang comics that never were are now on Animal New York:

Here are some pages ANIMAL exclusively obtained of a short Wu-Tang comic book that was based on the clan’s Wu-Massacre album featuring Method Man, Ghostface Killah and Raekwon. It was never published and never released, until now. The characters were co-created by art director/designer Alex Haldi and comic book illustrator legend Chris Bachalo. There’s one thing missing though, the dialogue, which is unfortunate, but makes for even nicer visuals. Or just add speech bubbles of your own.

See the rest of the comics at ANIMAL.
 

 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Drugstore cowboy, James Fogle, dead at 75
08.27.2012
12:55 pm

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Books
Drugs
Movies

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Of all the great drug movies and novels, none have quite had the romance of Drugstore Cowboy. Gus Van Sant’s 1989 proto-grunge independent film endeared audiences to junkie protagonists who gang up to rob drugstores to support their habit. It was such an engaging story that Van Sant made the movie before author James Fogle even published the book- a literary gem lauded by William S. Burroughs, who appears in the film.

James Fogle wrote 11 novels, all in prison, but Drugstore Cowboy was the only one ever published. Despite the commercial success of the book, Fogle was in and out facilities for theft and drug use most of his life; he actually stole his first car when he was 12. His chances at a successful life in mainstream society always seemed frivolously tossed away in lieu of drugs or (often elaborate) thefts in order to obtain those drugs. In one of the great beautiful ironies of many a beloved junkie artist, he did not die of an overdose, instead passing in prison of a lung cancer related to asbestos. The cancer is believed to have developed as a result of his work pipe-fitting, a trade he was taught in prison so that he might have a skill upon his reform.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
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