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When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin

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Veteran rock journalist Mick Wall unflinchingly tells the story of the band that pushed the envelope on both creativity and excess, even by rock'n roll standards. Led Zeppelin was the last great band of the 1960s and the first great band of the 1970's and When Giants Walked the Earth is the full, enthralling story of Zep from the inside, written by a former associate of bo Veteran rock journalist Mick Wall unflinchingly tells the story of the band that pushed the envelope on both creativity and excess, even by rock'n roll standards. Led Zeppelin was the last great band of the 1960s and the first great band of the 1970's and When Giants Walked the Earth is the full, enthralling story of Zep from the inside, written by a former associate of both Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Rich and revealing, it bores into not only the disaster, addiction and death that haunted the band but also into the real relationship between Page and Plant, including how it was influenced by Page's interest in the occult. Comprehensive and yet intimately detailed, When Giants Walked the Earth literally gets into the principals' heads to bring to life both an unforgettable band and an unrepeatable slice of rock history.


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Veteran rock journalist Mick Wall unflinchingly tells the story of the band that pushed the envelope on both creativity and excess, even by rock'n roll standards. Led Zeppelin was the last great band of the 1960s and the first great band of the 1970's and When Giants Walked the Earth is the full, enthralling story of Zep from the inside, written by a former associate of bo Veteran rock journalist Mick Wall unflinchingly tells the story of the band that pushed the envelope on both creativity and excess, even by rock'n roll standards. Led Zeppelin was the last great band of the 1960s and the first great band of the 1970's and When Giants Walked the Earth is the full, enthralling story of Zep from the inside, written by a former associate of both Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Rich and revealing, it bores into not only the disaster, addiction and death that haunted the band but also into the real relationship between Page and Plant, including how it was influenced by Page's interest in the occult. Comprehensive and yet intimately detailed, When Giants Walked the Earth literally gets into the principals' heads to bring to life both an unforgettable band and an unrepeatable slice of rock history.

30 review for When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    I did not read the more famous Hammer of the Gods biography because I heard it took too much vicarious pleasure in the revelling and partying of the Zep boys and did not talk enough about the music they produced. The Mick Wall biography on the other hand, does mention some of the shameless and shameful behaviour of the band but also talks at length about the backgrounds and stories of the individual musicians that made the group and the unwinding of the binds that ended in the tragic death of Bo I did not read the more famous Hammer of the Gods biography because I heard it took too much vicarious pleasure in the revelling and partying of the Zep boys and did not talk enough about the music they produced. The Mick Wall biography on the other hand, does mention some of the shameless and shameful behaviour of the band but also talks at length about the backgrounds and stories of the individual musicians that made the group and the unwinding of the binds that ended in the tragic death of Bonzo and the dissolution of Led Zeppelin. I felt that Wall's book took a more Jimmy Page-centric view of the band (I believe that some sources told me that he and Jimmy were pretty tight back in London but I could be mistaken), but he still talks more or less objectively about John Paul Jones, Robert Plant and the late great John Bonham. Some revelations for me was how much music that was stolen outright with no credit to the original authors (and I won't accept the 'everyone did that back then excuse') particularly on Led Zeppelin I, II and III or the musical genius of John Paul Jones who would play bass with pedals while soloing on his keyboard and writing a good amount of the music. Of course, there is Jimmy Page and his growing obsession with the occult, Robert's overflowing sexual prowess, and the uncontrollable drinking of Bonzo. A lot of the credit to Zep's success was actually due to Peter Grant's obsessive management of EVERYTHING that concerned Zeppelin from licensing to paraphernalia to concert schedules to interviews. It was a well-oiled if someone off-the-rails train ride that earned all of them millions in a time where musicians were lucky to live off their music for the most part. Of course, G was also a bit of a gangster,Bonham a bullying drunk, Robert completely sex-obsessed, and Jimmy deep into his Crowley cult. All of these factors both added to the mystique of their greatest albums: IV, Houses of the Holy, and Physical Graffiti - but also their slow downfall in Presence, In Through the Out Door, and Coda. This is not to say that I do not adore all the music and indeed I own vinyl originals of all of them including the paper back for Out Door and the spinning psychedelic wheel of III, but there is a qualitative difference that shows through each of them as the band evolved. The Song Remains the Same was remixed in 2009 and sounds far better but as pointed out by Wall, How the West Was Won is actually a better and more accurate portrait of the live Led at their best. So, if you can put aside your disgust at their juvenile behaviour (not to say abusive at times) and just wish to understand why they became and remain so incredibly legendary in the rock-n-roll world, I would highly recommend this Mick Wall biography for both the story and the musical insights.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    Sometimes, I have these moments of personal insight into myself that make me realize that I do not do things the way that "normal" people do. This book definitely brought one of those on. I say this because I literally grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, to the point that I could recognize them from a half-second of playtime as I'm flipping through the radio dial or skipping randomized songs on my phone playlist. I literally cannot remember a time in my life that Led Zeppelin music wasn't there. Sometimes, I have these moments of personal insight into myself that make me realize that I do not do things the way that "normal" people do. This book definitely brought one of those on. I say this because I literally grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, to the point that I could recognize them from a half-second of playtime as I'm flipping through the radio dial or skipping randomized songs on my phone playlist. I literally cannot remember a time in my life that Led Zeppelin music wasn't there. But until I read this book, I couldn't have told you anything about Led Zeppelin themselves. Not how many members were in the band. Or what their names were. Etc. I loved the music in a "this is just the soundtrack of my life" kind of way and I never one time paused to think about it in terms of who the band was or how the music came be. Which is kind of strange, considering that many of y'all might be aware of just how much I love origin stories. (Spoiler alert: A LOT.) So I wasn't a "Led Zeppelin fan" so much as a "Led Zeppelin music lover". I was content with Zeppelin just being there, a constant in the background of my life. They hold a nostalgic place in my heart, reminding me of my dad and of an era (the 70s) that I never experienced and can only appreciate through cultural memory - music, movies, TV, etc. As I got older, and started to get some of the more… mature… references, I only came to love the music more. I mean, now I know why that Led guy loved lemons so much. :P Anyway, considering all of that, I'm not sure how I feel about this book, but I think that my feelings about Led Zeppelin (by which I mean the music of them) are unchanged. I loved the origin story aspect of the book, especially because now knowing what I do about how this band came together, and the perfect combination of factors in each of the members that allowed them to work so well together, so quickly. I loved that bit... but honestly, so much of the rest of it, the antics and the drama and the blah blah blah... I don't care about. Maybe it's a bit shitty, but I am perfectly fine with knowing that Led Zeppelin made music I love, but may have been people I wouldn't have wanted to actually know. I don't really want or need to know anything else but the art. That is enough for me. The same as it is for books and the flawed human beings who write them. Sometimes, the less we know, the better. It's not news to me, or anyone, that alcohol and drugs and groupies and craziness and out of control behavior were a thing that successful bands (and people) got involved with in the 70s. And still do. Led Zeppelin partook. No denying it. Sometimes it was a blast, and sometimes it cost them, heavily. That's the way it goes. I don't need it spelled out in gratuitous detail. It's not surprising to me that there were and are accusations of plagiarism/creative theft/failure to properly attribute credit, etc. But here's the thing - Nothing is created in a vacuum. Everything is inspired by someone or something that came before. Led Zeppelin took old folk songs, blues songs, jazz songs, songs that I never would have listened to in any form otherwise, and made them into something magical and beautiful and haunting, or whatever it was they were going for. If anything, that only makes me appreciate the source music more, to see what was, and then what they did with it. I know that many of their songs were "inspired" by the work of others, and I'm all for it. Many people won't agree with me on that, but that's OK. I can forgive a multitude of sins as long as songs like "In My Time Of Dying" and "When The Levee Breaks" get to exist. And all the rest of them, too. Just sayin'. So. Love Led Zeppelin, always have, always will, despite this book's really strenuous attempts at showing how out of control and shitty they were in a lot of ways. Except one thing, which admittedly does make me rage twitch: John Bonham attempting to "force a flight attendant to have sex with him" should have been called exactly what it was, Mick Wall. Attempted rape. If you're going to show all the warts, don't fucking try to slap a bandaid over the biggest, nastiest one. I had a little bit of a rage aneurysm when I heard that shitty boys-will-be-boys euphemism. Fuck all of that. He was a great drummer, legendary even, but he tried to rape someone. Not OK. Not then, not when this was published 10 years ago. Not now. That being said… it doesn't change the music for me. I can't let knowing that John Bonham had serious alcoholism and uncontrollable behavior and really piss-poor judgement while drinking take away from what they made together. Was he a "bad" person? I don't know. I think probably not. His behavior was erratic but I think he needed help, and didn't get it, and it ultimately killed him. Honestly, it's a tragedy, but I think that at that time, mental health issues were for schizophrenics and everything else was nothing a good kick in the ass or a few (dozen) drinks couldn't solve. But… hindsight is 20/20 as they say. From the things I heard in this book, he was not okay, but it was written off as boys being boys and having well-earned fun that just got out of control. One more note on the "drama", before I move on to the structure of this book. Jimmy Page was apparently into the occult. If you care. I don't. Apparently it was a big deal back in the day. Meh. I don't care if he held a ritual to summon a demon and used his super esoteric knowledge to benefit his talent or career. If so, good for him. The way that this book went on and on and on about the OCCULT made it feel like it was written that way throughout the book, in all caps, like this should be a scandalous shocker that would make people do a double-take and question everything they ever enjoyed about the band - COULD THEIR SUCCESS BE THE RESULT OF DEVIL WORSHIP??! Do not care. Believe in whatever you want, Page. You do you. If he is not hurting anyone, then what the fuck does it matter what the man believed in? Someone eating a piece of bread and claiming that it's the body of Christ, drinking a bit of wine as his blood, and that's all totes normal, apparently, but change the symbolism and suddenly THOSE beliefs become a thing that needs to be hashed and rehashed again and again, even going so far as to make the occult the closing idea of the book, rather than, ohhh… I dunno, something about Led Zeppelin. There's even a biography chapter of Aleister Crowley. Because… reasons? Let's move on. I was totally going to do a parody of the chapter intros here, but the thought of actually trying to imitate second person narration made me throw up in my mouth a little bit. So, nah. I won't do that. It was annoying enough to get through it each chapter, every chapter (except one, because CONSISTENCY!) over and over again. And on top of that, it was written in a really annoying British Limey/Cockney/Something? Slang that made me want to puncture my eardrums with a pencil. Not because of the accent - let's be clear that Simon Vance could read to me in Klingon and I would soak that shit up - but because of the pretentiousness of it. UGH. Not to mention that except for the very first few intros, I never knew who I "was" at any given time in these sections. Was I Page? Was I Plant? Was I some random groupie? Jones now? Who the fuck knows. I think I have MPD after listening to this book. AND on top of that, these intros just kept rehashing (AGAIN!) the same origin story over and over and over. At 84% into the book I had a rant in a voice to text note in the Audible app about the fact that we were EIGHTY-FOUR PERCENT into the book and still fucking talking about Page's previous band, The Yardbirds, Jimmy Page's vision for The New Yardbirds (which would become Led Zeppelin) and how much of a risk it was, yada yada yada. WHY are we still talking about that at this point? WHY, when Led Zeppelin's time together and Bonham's life itself was coming to an end, were we STILL ON THE FORMATION OF THE BAND?? LET'S MOVE THE FUCK ON ALREADY! SO annoying. Dammit. As I've gone along, I've talked myself into rating this book way lower than I ever would have thought. But, aside from Simon Vance, and the FIRST time through the origin story, I don't have anything positive to say about this. I love the music, but this book, in the end, didn't enhance it in any way. It just made me aware of the fact that in this case, the music is enough. I don't need or want anything more.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bill

    You are Mick Wall, and boy, do you have a story to tell! Nothing less than the fable of Led Zeppelin, arguably the greatest rock band ever and, unarguably, the biggest band in the world throughout the 1970s. It’s not a tale as popularly told as that of the Beatles or the Stones, outside of the gossipy tabloid focus of Stephen Davis’ Hammer of the Gods. What sets you apart from that dreck is that you can bring to the table an in-depth knowledge of the band’s music. You are Mick Wall and you have You are Mick Wall, and boy, do you have a story to tell! Nothing less than the fable of Led Zeppelin, arguably the greatest rock band ever and, unarguably, the biggest band in the world throughout the 1970s. It’s not a tale as popularly told as that of the Beatles or the Stones, outside of the gossipy tabloid focus of Stephen Davis’ Hammer of the Gods. What sets you apart from that dreck is that you can bring to the table an in-depth knowledge of the band’s music. You are Mick Wall and you have a story to tell. The question is, can you get out of the way of the story long enough not to screw it up? When you think about it, you realise that the Zeppelin saga almost tells itself, with so many tales both whispered and shouted over the years of the drugs, the groupies, the mud shark, the Satanism. All you really have to do is competently address the facts. But you’ve got a better idea! Instead of the same old tired codswallop, why not try something daring? Make the reader the members of the band! Each section will begin with “You are Jimmy Page”, “You are Robert Plant”, et al. These sections will all be written in the second-person present and they will last much longer than anyone could possibly want! Hey, look at that “codswallop” sitting up there! That gives you another brilliant idea. Why not make these second-person sections as densely provincial as possible? Despite the fact that, by your own assertion, Led Zeppelin is one of the few British bands to be “made in America”, where they experienced their first big success, you have an idea to try your hardest to alienate anyone outside the United Kingdom with such a cartoonish overindulgence in Limey slang that the band members come off less like the golden rock gods of the 1970s and more like Pinky and the Brain. Whoops! You almost forgot references to people, places and events that will be almost impenetrable to American readers! There! Mission accomplished! You have now come to the toughest topic to cover in this book; that whole “Satanism” bugaboo. You have an idea. You’ll simply write “Aleister Crowley was a goofy occultist from the early 20th century, and Jimmy Page sure liked Aleister Crowley.” Done and done! But… there’s all that research you did! And you know for a fact that people read Beatles biographies to learn more about the Maharishi. Therefore, you include a whole chapter about Aleister Crowley. Who would skip over that? You are Mick Wall and you have finished your book. It’s printed and you’re holding a copy in your hands. You have never been so proud! This is one of your life’s defining moments! And then that moment is ruined when you open the cover. How is it possible? Where did all these errors come from? You state that Led Zeppelin’s fourth album is second only to The Eagles Greatest Hits in sales. How could you have forgotten about that American bloke? What was his name? Tito Jackson? Geranium Jackson? You can’t remember the album’s name, but you know it has something to do with zombies. Your mention of the “Atlanta Braves football stadium” so bungles two sports that the ridiculous statement has an almost Zen-like effect on American readers, who quickly fall into a trance when contemplating it. Then there’s the creme de la creme of oh, so many errors. You claim that moderately-successful ‘60s TV/pop star Bobby Sherman created the Monkees (!) Not a single bit of that is true! You are gobsmacked! Are you really that dumb? No… no, of course not! You are Mick Wall! You’re Jack the Lad! Bollocks! Quid! Snog! You are Mick Wall and you have managed what some thought was impossible; you have written a crappy book about Led Zeppelin.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Elaine Kasket

    It's a big improvement on Hammer of the Gods, and I dithered over whether to give it three or four stars. I agree with the reviews here there and everywhere that are calling it the "definitive biography". It boasts thorough research, in depth knowledge both personal and research-based, good writing, and a fantastic book jacket. I would have given it four stars if it were not for the following two problems. Issue One is the italicized second-person detours that are meant to take you "into the head It's a big improvement on Hammer of the Gods, and I dithered over whether to give it three or four stars. I agree with the reviews here there and everywhere that are calling it the "definitive biography". It boasts thorough research, in depth knowledge both personal and research-based, good writing, and a fantastic book jacket. I would have given it four stars if it were not for the following two problems. Issue One is the italicized second-person detours that are meant to take you "into the head" of various members of Led Zeppelin, Peter Grant, and associates. This awkward literary device is an overly forced way of trying to get you to imagine what it must have been like to have been, say, a young flaxen-haired hippie lad from the Black Country who gets the opportunity of a lifetime. Personally, I don't need italics and the second person to help me imagine that, especially given the richness of the descriptions given elsewhere, in the non-italicized bits. An additional annoying characteristic of the second-person segments is that they are sometimes randomly placed or out of sync, chronology-wise, with the story, and Wall never identifies whose head you're meant to be inside (saying, "You are Robert Plant. You are a young flaxen-haired hippie lad from the Black Country" would be more dorky than it already is), so sometimes you're not entirely sure where you are. Issue Two is a sometimes laughably credulous attitude towards the teachings of Aleister Crowley and the O.T.O., which Wall describes at one point as a "great world religion." Now, I'm not saying anything about whether the great world religions are more or less bonkers than O.T.O., but I would hesitate to classify the O.T.O. in such a manner. Why is it necessary to devote so many pages to this topic? Is it because occultism was *really* such an influence on Led Zep's music that it's necessary to discuss it at this level of earnestness? Is Wall trying to legitimize and respect Jimmy Page as a Smart Guy who wouldn't believe in claptrap? Or does Mick Wall - and this is a hypothesis that I was leaning towards as I read on (and on, and on) - have an undeclared bias, i.e., that he is an O.T.O. member himself? Whatever the reason for the massive word count given over to this topic, all I know is that I often longed to get back to the story of the band and its music and got pretty bloody sick of seeing magic capitalized and spelled with a "K".

  5. 4 out of 5

    DJ Yossarian

    To be honest I couldn't get past about page 30 of this thing -- the writing style grated on me that much. The actual factual historical stuff was insightful enough, but I just can't abide by the particular conceit employed here by the author, of having these multi-page italicized interludes that are supposed to be some kind of interior monologue by the protagonists (but in second person), e.g. You are Peter Grant. It is the summer of 1968, you are thirty-three and sick and tired of earning mone To be honest I couldn't get past about page 30 of this thing -- the writing style grated on me that much. The actual factual historical stuff was insightful enough, but I just can't abide by the particular conceit employed here by the author, of having these multi-page italicized interludes that are supposed to be some kind of interior monologue by the protagonists (but in second person), e.g. You are Peter Grant. It is the summer of 1968, you are thirty-three and sick and tired of earning money for other fucking people. In the days when you'd worked for Don Arden, it hadn't mattered. Don could be a right c*nt to work for, always on your case, giving you a hard time, always taking the piss, but at least you'd been paid regular and in cash. Blah blah blah. I really hate it when biographers or historians try and put words into people's mouths, it just erodes their credibility right from the start. So although I love me some Led Zeppelin, I'm going to look elsewhere for a good book on them.

  6. 4 out of 5

    *TUDOR^QUEEN* (on hiatus)

    I love reading rock biographies and had never enjoyed one about Led Zeppelin. This seems to be one of the best books about this iconic band, and I was familiar with the author from some other fine rock bios he's written. I was lucky enough to pick this gem up on a kindle sale. This was a very thorough and well-written biography of the band. I was a little thrown off by some of the chapter lead-ins of imagined narratives from each member of the band that were in italic form and not identified as t I love reading rock biographies and had never enjoyed one about Led Zeppelin. This seems to be one of the best books about this iconic band, and I was familiar with the author from some other fine rock bios he's written. I was lucky enough to pick this gem up on a kindle sale. This was a very thorough and well-written biography of the band. I was a little thrown off by some of the chapter lead-ins of imagined narratives from each member of the band that were in italic form and not identified as to who was speaking. You had to eventually realize yourself who was "talking". Other than this slight annoyance, I highly recommend this wonderful book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Karen Witzler

    They were so young. Enjoyed the Jimmy/Aleister exposition. Read in a bout of Easter manic insomnia.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tosh

    Mick Wall has the annoying habit of writing first-person narratives in a biography. But beyond that, this is an interesting biography on one of my NOT favorite bands. If the mood hits me correctly, I usually hate Led Zeppelin. But nevertheless a fascinating band as a subject matter. Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones were great session players during the British Invasion years. We're talking Herman's Hermits, Lulu, and lots of Mickie Most productions. And right away I have to tell you I love that ty Mick Wall has the annoying habit of writing first-person narratives in a biography. But beyond that, this is an interesting biography on one of my NOT favorite bands. If the mood hits me correctly, I usually hate Led Zeppelin. But nevertheless a fascinating band as a subject matter. Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones were great session players during the British Invasion years. We're talking Herman's Hermits, Lulu, and lots of Mickie Most productions. And right away I have to tell you I love that type of music more than the Zeppelin. But to give credit, Page (and Jones) are remarkable arrangers. And the production of Zeppelin records are great. What they are not is songwriters. They steal songs like a boy or girl stealing an apple from a neighbor's apple tree. Listen to Jakes Homes original version of Dazed and Confused! Page stole that song. He did a great arrangement of the song, but nevertheless it is surely not a song by "Jimmy Page' as it is credited on the label. One of the interesting things about Wall is that he writes about Page's fascination with Crowley - who everyone knows is one of Page's passions. He has a huge collection of Crowley editions as well as paintings, etc. And it is pretty certain that Page is one of the top figures in the Crowley group. Which is interesting when you mix Led Zeppelin sounds with the image of the occult. But on the other hand you have these terrible lyrics by Robert Plant ....well, I don't want to go there. So what makes this book depressing is how Page sort of ends up as a sad guy who sort of lost his creation due to his relationship problems with his lead singer Plant and a series of early deaths - Plant's son and their drummer. The decadence part is also an enjoyable read, but that too turns into dark muck, when all of sudden the management became violent and ugly. Their manager Peter Grant is a fascinating character, due that he was the first figure to actually challenge everyday music world practices. It was pretty 'my way and nothing for you.' But later on it became an ugly brutish method in dealing with road crews and especially to groupies. Led Zeppelin wrote the book with respect to Groupie culture. But what was once fun became a really ugly scene. So the book is about having the ultimate power and fame, and then what? And that is the sad part of the book. Plant and Jones had no problem after Zeppelin, but Page one feels, had his moment and is really trying to get that moment back. But it's gone.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Arf Ortiyef

    This is easily some of the worst writing I've ever read in my life. Presumably Mick Wall had to either dictate this book or write it with one hand because he was obviously using his other hand to masturbate furiously the entire time. I hated this book the second I started reading it but I admit I was also hooked. I had to find out the whole story. Unfortunately for all the details about forming the band and who they ripped off and what sex acts were done to whom, there are scant details about the This is easily some of the worst writing I've ever read in my life. Presumably Mick Wall had to either dictate this book or write it with one hand because he was obviously using his other hand to masturbate furiously the entire time. I hated this book the second I started reading it but I admit I was also hooked. I had to find out the whole story. Unfortunately for all the details about forming the band and who they ripped off and what sex acts were done to whom, there are scant details about the recording process and songwriting (the parts that are about music). There was barely anything I wanted to read about in it and I was left feeling like I only read part of a story with way too many suppositions. The ridiculously annoying second-person "flashbacks" are apparently works of fiction (as the disclaimer at the beginning notes) so I'm not sure why I should have read them at all. This technique alone, the author's ham-fisted attempt to break up way too much back-story, was a waste of half of a book. Also a waste of time were Wall's opinions about the band's music. It seems like he doesn't care for their later albums and writes them off as a waste of time. I couldn't disagree more about this! Why would you write a book about a band if you didn't like 1/3 of their music? Oh, I know why! Because this guy writes books about every famous band he can get an interview with. So much of this book is written from the author's opinion that everything Page did was about summoning demons so it includes at least a full chapter about the life story of Aleister Crowley. Then Wall brings in his expert on the subject, his friend Dave. Here's what I imagine the book is like: "Don't take my word for it! Dave says: 'Oh yeah Page was big into Crowley, man. They were tight bros from way back in the day.' So there you have irrefutable proof that Good Times, Bad Times, the only good song they ever wrote, was actually written by Satan." Wall spends the first half of this book with a hard-on and then completely loses interest for the second half. This is not only a flaccid disservice to the storytelling, it makes a lot of the book very boring! The last two chapters read like a chore: all about how Page wants Zeppelin to reform and Plant doesn't over and over again and then the book just fucking ends. He had so many sources, why couldn't he just tie that information together? This book stinks and Wall doesn't understand music, Crowley or probably just life in general. This is another trashy book churned out by a guy who has built a career writing trash. On the other hand, where else are you gonna read about all this "bacchanalia"?

  10. 5 out of 5

    Alex Robinson

    Pretty decent bio, although it was written in 2009 so doesn’t have anything about their most recent reunions.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Matt Slaybaugh

    Also posted here: AGITREADER I’m not a big Led Zeppelin fan. In fact, I knew relatively little about the band that I didn’t learn from listening to classic rock stations while making pizzas at the Bogey Inn back in the day. That fact, along with an abnormal lust for books with more than 450 pages, is what led me to pick-up Mick Wall’s When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin in the first place. Also, the cover art is really sweet. What I really wanted was a definitive chronicle of Also posted here: AGITREADER I’m not a big Led Zeppelin fan. In fact, I knew relatively little about the band that I didn’t learn from listening to classic rock stations while making pizzas at the Bogey Inn back in the day. That fact, along with an abnormal lust for books with more than 450 pages, is what led me to pick-up Mick Wall’s When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin in the first place. Also, the cover art is really sweet. What I really wanted was a definitive chronicle of the band, you know, the one book that’d give me everything I need to know. Yes, I saw Hammer of the Gods sitting there on the shelf too, but newer is better, right? And I really wanted the inside story on that Coverdale/Page album. In the end, this did the job only adequately. I got the inside scoop on the break-up and all the tedious dirt about Page’s plagiarism issues, but to get that I had to suffer through some truly poor writing and Wall’s obsession with Jimmy Page’s “dark side.” Somewhere along the way, Wall got it into his head that the single question Zep fans and book-buyers want answered more than any other was whether Jimmy Page worships the devil, or at least Aleister Crowley. And, while I suppose that may be true for diehard fans who’ve actually tried playing “Stairway to Heaven” in reverse, I’m not sure that even those folks will want the level of attention that Wall gives to the subject. Crowley doesn’t show up in the book till about 180 pages in, in a full chapter devoted to Page’s interest in the “dark arts,” but from that point on he’s a constant presence. I now know as much about Crowley’s personal history as I do about that of John Paul Jones. Wall makes sure that nearly every significant event in the band’s later history gets a thorough analyses for any signs of the occult. Suffice to say, it’s a bit much. Wall’s other agenda seems to be some kind of self-aggrandizing one-up-manship. He’s got the real story. He knows what really happened because Jimmy Page told him so. He attacks several of the more well known Zeppelin myths (like the “shark incident”) with the intent of “setting things straight,” but really just ends up telling the same old story with minute changes in the details or perspective. Meh, so what? First on my list of annoyances, though, is Wall’s attempt at a stylistic departure. Repeatedly, he tries to take readers “inside the minds” of the band and their closest allies, suddenly switching to second-person storytelling. Aside from the obvious phoniness of his technique and his inability to pull anything revealing out of these long, italicized passages, is the fact that the writing is just terrible. Trying to cram facts and epiphanies into his second-person concept forces Wall to torture readers and the English language alike. Imagine three pages like this: “It was while you were with Jackie that you made your own first record: ‘She Just Satisfies.’ Your own song with you singing and Jackie on backing vocals. You were 21 and suddenly it was like you had the whole world by the arse.” I guess we should admire Wall for attempting something interesting, but his editor should have put a stop to it. Bottom line: there may not be a better book on Led Zeppelin out there, but there’s got to be a less irritating one.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Bagan Horseman

    ‘My personal view is that [the fourth album] is the best thing we’ve ever done,’ John Bonsham told Melody Maker at the time of its release — Mick Wall, When Giants Walked The Earth (2008) This is unauthorized biography written by Mick Wall. I repeat, an unauthorized biography! This book is based on Wall’s personal view and his research. Everything I’ve read here are not actual quotes. When I received this book from a friend I thought it would be a great read. I love Led Zeppelin. However, when I s ‘My personal view is that [the fourth album] is the best thing we’ve ever done,’ John Bonsham told Melody Maker at the time of its release — Mick Wall, When Giants Walked The Earth (2008) This is unauthorized biography written by Mick Wall. I repeat, an unauthorized biography! This book is based on Wall’s personal view and his research. Everything I’ve read here are not actual quotes. When I received this book from a friend I thought it would be a great read. I love Led Zeppelin. However, when I started to read this book, it feels like jumps into the void. I can’t find any sensation by reading this. He views this book by projecting the reader as the person written like ‘You’re Jimmy Page’ whereupon I don’t like his writing style. Besides that, Wall likely wants to put everything in a chapter which makes me unmotivated to read it. The book is long and not concisely. I read some important parts but I also skip some other parts. Nevertheless, a lot of information I gained related to this giant. At least I know who are the most influential person in developing New Yardbirds. Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly are some of the influential figures besides Chuck Berry and Robert Johnson. Basically, Led Zeppelin is a blues fan. Also, not to forget the Yardbirds was a band that comprised Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. It’s just only Page who chooses to stay and develops into the new Yardbirds by recruiting Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham. I always love Led Zeppelin but this book makes me ambiguous. I can’t find the essence of Led Zeppelin. Like Mick Wall emphasizes on his epilogue, this book is based on his research. Anyway, this is not my best music biography read so far compared to Dylan Jones work. Yet, I still appreciate on Mick Wall’s commitment to complete his research.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mike Sumner

    Written by Mick Wall, "When Giants Walked The Earth: A Biography Of Led Zeppelin" is the culmination of several years of research, and is written by someone who has known guitarist Jimmy Page for over two decades. Its material is based on interviews the journalist has conducted with every member of the band over the years, as well as those who knew and worked alongside them. I have been a fan of Led Zeppelin for 45 years and I thoroughly enjoyed this momentous opus, running to 534 pages. It is t Written by Mick Wall, "When Giants Walked The Earth: A Biography Of Led Zeppelin" is the culmination of several years of research, and is written by someone who has known guitarist Jimmy Page for over two decades. Its material is based on interviews the journalist has conducted with every member of the band over the years, as well as those who knew and worked alongside them. I have been a fan of Led Zeppelin for 45 years and I thoroughly enjoyed this momentous opus, running to 534 pages. It is therefore beyond my comprehension how anyone on Goodreads could rate this with One Star having read just 30 pages and giving up on the book. Rather like rating a movie after watching just the opening credits. I would qualify my Five Star rating by stating that this is for fans of Led Zeppelin. I doubt that you would enjoy it so much if you weren’t. Mick Wall said in 2009 that he just felt there had never been a really serious book written about Zeppelin. Hammer Of The Gods is great but its 25 years old and not really built on any genuine research or interviews with the band. He thought it was time for something seriously heavyweight. And heavyweight it is, requiring considerable stamina to complete. It has taken me a couple of weeks to read, giving myself time to reflect on the content of each comprehensive chapter. From 1969 to 1975, Led Zeppelin were arguably at the peak of their powers. The book covers all that in detail. But Zep 'II' (1969) and 'IV' (1971) would be the peak of their success. Many, like me, still love 'Houses of the Holy' (1973), and many parts of the others. Following the release of 1975's critically acclaimed 'Physical Graffiti', Led Zeppelin arguably went into a creative decline, attributed to drugs, alcohol abuse and self-immolation. And without drummer John ‘Bonzo’ Bonham, who was the best rock drummer ever, who died at a shocking young age, choked on his own vomit, Led Zeppelin were no more. Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones developed solo careers - Plant the most successful. There is much more to this book that my brief resumé covers. Wall said: "My book came about because Jimmy simply refused to do a book of his own." I for one am glad that it did. Highly recommended for fans. The song remains the same....

  14. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    It's all here - from the build-up to the greatness to Page's absorption in the occult to the legendary excesses that contributed to their demise. The story culminates with the inevitable question about when they'll get back together, the obvious answer being never which leads one to wonder what does Jimmy Page been doing for the past 30+ years waiting for Robert Plant to change his mind. It's all here - from the build-up to the greatness to Page's absorption in the occult to the legendary excesses that contributed to their demise. The story culminates with the inevitable question about when they'll get back together, the obvious answer being never which leads one to wonder what does Jimmy Page been doing for the past 30+ years waiting for Robert Plant to change his mind.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Maximilian Wolf

    A great book focused on all about one of my favorite rock bands. I do like many details regarding various Led Zeppelin songs and song origins. I wouldn't say I like narrative parts focusing on the personal development aspect of the band members. The impression that many details about Robert Plant are missing by purpose makes the book less juicy. A great book focused on all about one of my favorite rock bands. I do like many details regarding various Led Zeppelin songs and song origins. I wouldn't say I like narrative parts focusing on the personal development aspect of the band members. The impression that many details about Robert Plant are missing by purpose makes the book less juicy.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Josh Lovvorn

    Like probably most readers of this book, I fell into this book thanks to my love of the band Led Zeppelin. As a teenager, I discovered classic rock thanks to my father and my interest in impressing a girl who I was trying to date at the time. Though I spent a long time on the punk rock and ska vibe, I always came back to classics like Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, and of course, Led Zeppelin. I was then quite interested in learning more about he band than the random quips I learned from internet ba Like probably most readers of this book, I fell into this book thanks to my love of the band Led Zeppelin. As a teenager, I discovered classic rock thanks to my father and my interest in impressing a girl who I was trying to date at the time. Though I spent a long time on the punk rock and ska vibe, I always came back to classics like Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, and of course, Led Zeppelin. I was then quite interested in learning more about he band than the random quips I learned from internet babble and various magazines. The book was set up in an interesting format. It started with the time of Jimmy Page in the Yardbirds and his struggle to bring together an "album-centered" band through every obstacle. The book began, and was intermittently interspersed with apparent 2nd-person accounts of all of the members of the band and their manager Peter Grant. At first, these "asides" were nice. It was a way to step back in one sense, and in another sense to get a more personal account of the band's history. However, as the book progressed from album to album, the asides continued to delve into each members' past experiences in the music industry and pub scene. By the end of the book, the asides were more a nuisance than anything. I enjoyed how the book was chronicled nonetheless. Mick Wall takes us on a timeline with the major road signs being the albums themselves. At times I grew a little weary with the amount of time spent on the occult interests of Jimmy Page, but given how paramount he was to the band, and how paramount those interests really were, I cannot really fault Wall for his time spent on the subject. I was also very interested in the comings and goings of Peter Grant, the infamous manager who bludgeoned his way through the American music scene, and Richard Cole, the road man and eternal partner in chaos to John Bonham. The book was fantastic, and I found myself having to pause to pull out my vinyl copies of Led Zeppelin I, III, and Physical Graffiti to listen to them as they should be heard. I also pulled out the DVD, paying great attention to every member of the band in turn to get a good feeling of what the book was describing. I became especially engrossed with Bonzo, listening as closely as I could the drums in each song, finding myself experiencing Led Zeppelin totally differently, and more completely now. I recommend this book to any fan of Zeppelin, and anyone interested in rock and roll in general. It is a good flowing read and primes you to fully appreciate the band and their enormous accomplishments. As an aside, I found myself completely distracted with the asides in the book. I was listening to the audiobook, as read by Simon Vance. He really is a great reader of audiobooks, but these asides were read in the same cant and accent that he reads Duncan Idaho of the Dune novels (which I have on my iTunes and listen to at least a couple of times a year). This bears nothing to the actual book, but if you are an audiobook listener, it's worth a mention.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jim Goodrich

    I remember when I learned of the existence of Led Zeppelin. I was about 13 or so, and my older sister had a boyfriend that would sometimes take my brother and I to the arcade to play video games. I guess he wanted to get in good with us. Anyhow, one time it was just me and him, and on the ride back to my house he played Led Zeppelin IV (the album is actually untitled, but commonly referred to as Led Zeppelin IV, this is also discussed in the book). I thought it was amazing and the artwork on the I remember when I learned of the existence of Led Zeppelin. I was about 13 or so, and my older sister had a boyfriend that would sometimes take my brother and I to the arcade to play video games. I guess he wanted to get in good with us. Anyhow, one time it was just me and him, and on the ride back to my house he played Led Zeppelin IV (the album is actually untitled, but commonly referred to as Led Zeppelin IV, this is also discussed in the book). I thought it was amazing and the artwork on the cassette case was magical. Since then I've always had a special spot for this band, especially the second and fourth albums. This book gave a good history of the bands meteoric ascent to the top spot in the rock world in the early 70's, and their sudden and painful decline. Some things I learned: Jimmy Page was way more into the occult than I ever knew, the four symbols on the fourth album represent the four band members and the book talked about the meaning of each, John Bonham was one of the crazier members on tour, but part of this was due to his frustration at being away from his family for so long, Robert Plant has 10 solo albums since Led Zeppelin broke up. There's a lot covered in this book and I would recommend it to any fan of this band.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Chris Fluit

    Goodreads should really add an "I quit" or "Then I threw it in the trash" option alongside "I finished." This book was awful. The second-person conceit was aggravating ("You are Jimmy Page, you are 23 and one of the best session musicians in London..."). I was also annoyed by the internal inconsistencies (Page's relationship with Jeff Beck seemed to change with each paragraph) and the inaccurate revisions. Save your time (and your money) and read something else. Goodreads should really add an "I quit" or "Then I threw it in the trash" option alongside "I finished." This book was awful. The second-person conceit was aggravating ("You are Jimmy Page, you are 23 and one of the best session musicians in London..."). I was also annoyed by the internal inconsistencies (Page's relationship with Jeff Beck seemed to change with each paragraph) and the inaccurate revisions. Save your time (and your money) and read something else.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Zachary

    The straightforward bio sections are okay but the 2nd person mini chapters and the witchcraft / crawley stuff are beyond dumb. And there's a lot if that. Blurg. The straightforward bio sections are okay but the 2nd person mini chapters and the witchcraft / crawley stuff are beyond dumb. And there's a lot if that. Blurg.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    not a whole lot different than Hammer of the Gods, more details maybe, but most interesting to me was the realtionships of the band, especially after Plant's son died, and Page's heroin addiction. not a whole lot different than Hammer of the Gods, more details maybe, but most interesting to me was the realtionships of the band, especially after Plant's son died, and Page's heroin addiction.

  21. 4 out of 5

    A Cesspool

    Aborted after only two chapters -- the first person/2nd persons narrative narration is a total dealbreaker.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Libby

    I would call myself a huge fan of Led Zeppelin's music...but somehow in 30 or so years I have managed to avoid knowing anything about the band and its members. All I ever cared about was the music. I picked this book up in a second hand bookstore for $6. My partner read it first and warned me against reading it. His logic was that I might like the music less if I knew all the gory details about the band and all their shitty behaviour. I took the risk and took the ride. Somehow, after everything, I would call myself a huge fan of Led Zeppelin's music...but somehow in 30 or so years I have managed to avoid knowing anything about the band and its members. All I ever cared about was the music. I picked this book up in a second hand bookstore for $6. My partner read it first and warned me against reading it. His logic was that I might like the music less if I knew all the gory details about the band and all their shitty behaviour. I took the risk and took the ride. Somehow, after everything, I can still manage to love the music made by people that I would not necessarily have ever wanted to know. I cant "un-know" the story of the band now but at the same time the music is such a strong force that it allows me to compartmentalise it as seperate from its makers. Thankfully. Some have criticised what they see as the overemphasis Wall placed on the whole occult Page/Crowley influence. IMHO anyone that knows even a small amount about such topics knows that their influence should not be underestimated and Wall's delving in to the subject as much as he did was brave in itself, or stupid, or both. I heard somewhere that Page didn't like the book (he featured heavily and more than any other member). I wonder if this is true and of course if so then why? Wall comes across as a rabid fan. I guess it must be so strange to have someone else, who wasn't even there, write a fairly forensic account of your life.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Reyanne

    Reread for the sections on Jimmy Page and his obsession w/ Aleister Crowley and the Occult One of the things that makes Zeppelin so great is the fact that the subjects of their songs are so beyond the limits of empirical realism, evoking a touch of light, a beam of eternal illumination that shines through this temporal world. This book provided me with all that I was looking for - a sense of how art could inspire such feelings of awe and wonder that one can reach towards or grasp the great beyond Reread for the sections on Jimmy Page and his obsession w/ Aleister Crowley and the Occult One of the things that makes Zeppelin so great is the fact that the subjects of their songs are so beyond the limits of empirical realism, evoking a touch of light, a beam of eternal illumination that shines through this temporal world. This book provided me with all that I was looking for - a sense of how art could inspire such feelings of awe and wonder that one can reach towards or grasp the great beyond, the end of the clouds, or change time itself. now please excuse me while I transform into the dreamless sleep of a newborn or the darkness of the Scottish highlands at night, cause I have a new sense of fulfillment that surpasses any state of serenity or longing that I have ever known or experienced in my lifetime!!! Never underestimate the power of music

  24. 4 out of 5

    Frank Murtaugh

    Best of four books I've read on Led Zeppelin, one of rock's truly singular tales. Thorough, without sensationalizing or titillating efforts on the part of Wall. (The actual story needs no embellishment.) Sources include several supporting players in the Zep chronicle, and myriad books/articles/documents about a foursome that changed the way rock-and-roll is seen and heard. Having absorbed the 550 pages, I'm still left with wonder at the outsized "miracle" of Page finding Jones, and Page/Jones fin Best of four books I've read on Led Zeppelin, one of rock's truly singular tales. Thorough, without sensationalizing or titillating efforts on the part of Wall. (The actual story needs no embellishment.) Sources include several supporting players in the Zep chronicle, and myriad books/articles/documents about a foursome that changed the way rock-and-roll is seen and heard. Having absorbed the 550 pages, I'm still left with wonder at the outsized "miracle" of Page finding Jones, and Page/Jones finding Plant/Bonham. Then the four of them . . . making soundtracks for the lives of so many. There will never be another. There won't be anything close. Ever.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rob Epler

    Definitely worth reading if you're a Zeppelin fan, or just interested in the history of the bands of that era. Lots of detail here, including lots of direct quotes from the principal characters. Definitely worth reading if you're a Zeppelin fan, or just interested in the history of the bands of that era. Lots of detail here, including lots of direct quotes from the principal characters.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    *Listened to audiobook* I'm sure there's much better Zeppelin books put there.. *Listened to audiobook* I'm sure there's much better Zeppelin books put there..

  27. 4 out of 5

    layla

    3.5 stars ✨

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nate

    I started reading this book after being completely immersed in Mark Blake's "Comfortably Numb: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd". I love the music of the 70's, and was eager to learn more about the era as well as the stories of the people who shaped it. Naturally, I felt that taking on an account of another one of the greatest rock bands of that time was the next step. This led me to pick up "When Giants Walked the Earth", an exhaustive biography of Led Zeppelin by Mick Wall. Soon after starting i I started reading this book after being completely immersed in Mark Blake's "Comfortably Numb: The Inside Story of Pink Floyd". I love the music of the 70's, and was eager to learn more about the era as well as the stories of the people who shaped it. Naturally, I felt that taking on an account of another one of the greatest rock bands of that time was the next step. This led me to pick up "When Giants Walked the Earth", an exhaustive biography of Led Zeppelin by Mick Wall. Soon after starting it, however, my enthusiasm turned to a feeling of literary malaise. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad book by any measure. It is incredibly thorough and packed with information, and as far as I know, is the most comprehensive account of the legendary rock band ever produced. The problem is, it may be too comprehensive. While at moments the biography is inspired and fascinating, it is equally bogged down by detail that slows the flow of the read to a glacial pace. I admire Wall's meticulous effort, but found myself looking forward to the next page turn; not because I was on the edge of my seat curious to see what would come next, but because I was ready to get through that segment in hopes that the next part would be more interesting. Enter Jimmy Page's obsession with Aleister Crowley, the notorious and polarizing occultist prominent in the early 20th century. Maybe it's just my lack of interest in such matters, but the second half of the book focused heavily on Crowley's influence on Page and his work. And I understand that at this time, Zeppelin was Page's baby, but attention to the rest of the band and other goings on was sparse. It became primarily a documentation of Jimmy Page and his obsession rather than an account of a juggernaut band collapsing internally as well as fighting for relevance. I feel that I walked away after reading this book with all the information I could have ever desired to know about Led Zeppelin, but also burdened with so much more detail than I felt was necessary. Do I blame Wall for this? No. He set out to create a work that is unparalleled in its scope and that was certainly accomplished. I just found it to be long winded and incredibly difficult to stay focused upon.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ru

    Tremendous biography of arguably the most acclaimed rock band in history. Having read "Hammer of the Gods" by Stephen Davis many years ago, and being absolutely in awe of just how brilliant a rock bio that is, "When Giants Walked the Earth" had its work cut out for itself, in my view. Mick Wall definitely earned his stripes with me with "Enter Night", the Metallica biography, so I knew at minimum this would be a decent offering. This is much, much more than that. I will likely never get over my Tremendous biography of arguably the most acclaimed rock band in history. Having read "Hammer of the Gods" by Stephen Davis many years ago, and being absolutely in awe of just how brilliant a rock bio that is, "When Giants Walked the Earth" had its work cut out for itself, in my view. Mick Wall definitely earned his stripes with me with "Enter Night", the Metallica biography, so I knew at minimum this would be a decent offering. This is much, much more than that. I will likely never get over my love for "Hammer of the Gods", but this is every bit as good and an excellent companion piece, actually. It would appear that it is virtually impossible to write about Led Zeppelin without complete and utter reverence, understandably so. "Giants" does a great job of individualizing the members and humanizing them as well, without sacrificing their god-like personas. I really enjoyed the depth to which Mick Wall discusses their roots as "The New Yardbirds" and how that name shackled the band to some extent, though providing some success nevertheless. Once Led Zep was born, though, it was like the portal opening to a world you never knew existed. There are great stories here about (but of course not limited to) album covers, management, Elvis, Page's obsession with the occult (which is particularly amazing), Plant's tragedies and reticence in recent years, the rise and sad loss of Bonham, The Who, and of course, no Led Zep bio can be complete without a retelling of "the shark incident." ;) I love rock bios because there's a bit of a "Wizard of Oz" quality to them; they take you to places you'd never normally get to go, and you get to pull the curtain back just a bit. If you're lucky, the mystique of who you're reading about remains. Led Zeppelin has more mystique than perhaps any band in history, and even reading about virtually every aspect of them and their membership doesn't dispel any illusions, thankfully. They are and always will be deities beyond compare.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mark Desrosiers

    A balanced, energetic bio by a writer who clearly has some kind of love/hate relationship with the Zep mythos (not to mention the principals themselves). Sidestepping most of the nasty gossip (though obviously he had to include a detailed consideration of the "mud snapper incident"), this volume is largely of interest to music geeks -- Wall has an almost Tosches-style obsession with locating the origin of some of Zep's most famous tunes. Also, for the first time ever (as far as I can tell), Wall A balanced, energetic bio by a writer who clearly has some kind of love/hate relationship with the Zep mythos (not to mention the principals themselves). Sidestepping most of the nasty gossip (though obviously he had to include a detailed consideration of the "mud snapper incident"), this volume is largely of interest to music geeks -- Wall has an almost Tosches-style obsession with locating the origin of some of Zep's most famous tunes. Also, for the first time ever (as far as I can tell), Wall takes Aleister Crowley seriously, giving lots of fascinating background and detail on how such a bright, drug-addled guitarist like Jimmy Page would become so immersed in the Ordo Templi Orientis. I'll never dismiss this odd world of "magick" and hedonism so readily again. One more thing (since several reviewers here mention it): Wall intersperses the narrative with memoir-style second-person ramblings about the pre-Zep careers of all the principal characters. Kinda similar to what Edmund Morris did with Dutch, and yeah, Wall has clearly taken liberties. To me, these fugues and interludes were annoying at first, often bringing the narrative to a screeching halt. But then I noticed that the vulgar harangues about Peter Grant's pre-Zep career as actor, wrestler, bouncer, and intolerant handler of Gene Vincent were beyond hilarious into another dimension. Forget Bonham: Grant is the nastiest, most fascinating, and obviously essential character in the Zeppelin story, and Wall knows it...

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