Seventies rock did not come any bigger, harder or heavier than Led Zeppelin. Singer Robert Plant's macho shriek and guitarist Jimmy Page's bludgeoning chords and chain-saw solos became the blueprint for all the heavy-metal bands that would follow. When Page formed Led Zeppelin in 1968, he envisioned a band that combined the gutsy sexuality of vintage blues and rockabilly with the awesome might of rock's new technology. Led Zeppelin's record sales, consistently in the multimillions, and the ruthless administration of the band's affairs by burly manager Peter Grant, brought the band members enormous wealth, which they reveled in with an imperial arrogance that became a textbook example of rock's Me Decade excess.
Few fans, however, probably ever realized the graphic extent to which the members of Led Zeppelin lived out their hard-porn, megarock fantasies and how it eventually brought about the group's demise. In his new book, 'Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga', writer Stephen Davis charts the band's swift ascension to superstardom and the willful abuse of the money and power that came with it, as the group terrorized not only groupies and hangers-on but close friends and hired employees. Davis, a former Rolling Stone writer and the author of three books on reggae, traveled with Led Zeppelin during the group's 1975 American tour. For 'Hammer of the Gods', he gathered firsthand accounts from former girlfriends of band members and from business associates, like Richard Cole, the band's road manager, who Davis says "was responsible for much of the mayhem around Led Zeppelin." Surprisingly, given Peter Grant's reputation for thuglike violence during Zeppelin's heyday and the continuing specter of Jimmy Page's interest in black magic, Davis claims that none of his interview subjects were reluctant to speak frankly about their misadventures. On the contrary, he says, "People were afraid of being left out."