A Review of Stairway To Heaven

Stairway to Heaven: Led Zeppelin UncensoredStairway to Heaven: Led Zeppelin Uncensored by Richard Cole

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was a quick and easy read, and quite entertaining at times. But I’ve got one word to say: debauchery. I thought I had heard/read it all, but I was wrong. These hedonistic, narcissistic, thoroughly debauched drug addled alcoholics were disgusting human beings, and the author, their road manager for 12 years, is no better, and perhaps even worse. The book is told from his perspective, and I’ve heard that Robert Plant really hated the book, and the band denied most of what is written, so who knows how much of it is true, but the thing that annoyed me the most was Cole’s insinuation that he was virtually a part of the band, that John Bonham was practically his best friend (and apparently his roommate on the road, much of the time), and that Zeppelin couldn’t have done it without him. This from a man who basically confessed to kidnapping, drug trafficking, assault (sexual and otherwise — battery too), bribery, and willful destruction of property. I mean, this book should have been written from prison! Yes, it was fun to read about the hedonism at times, like when the band, Cole, and their manager consumed 260 drinks in four hours, or virtually anything they did, since it was so degrading to others, but Cole was a heroin addicted alcoholic who got prepubescent girls for the guys in the band to, you know, … bang. It was especially appalling to read about Jimmy Page falling for a nubile 14 year old, especially as he was 28 at the time. He apparently liked them very young.

It was interesting to read about the beginnings of the band, back in 1968, and their tours, mainly through America, and the terrible reviews they got even though they sold more records than virtually any other rock group in history. It was interesting to read about the music — how it was created, snippets of information about many of the songs, how it was performed, etc. But the books really is about sex, drugs, and rock and roll — meaning, mostly sex and drugs — and it gets redundant after awhile. I’ve read a lot of band bios over the years. Journey stayed clean. Rush stayed clean. Until now, I thought Queen threw the most debauched parties, but I think Zeppelin beats Queen in this area. Sadly, the band was steeped in moral degradation on the largest possible scale with their craziness, their nutso destruction of property, assaults on concert-goers, out of control spending and alcohol and drug use, and a sexual preference for girls barely into puberty, if even. I was prepared for some debauchery, but nothing like this. Sadly, I think I’ve really lost a lot of respect for the band, and I think it’s fair to say they should all be rotting in prison. I mean, they got away with everything, and they expected to. And Cole was instrumental in helping them get away with anything. He bribed cops, he beat up people, he got them drugs. What a slime ball.

Cole had a crush on John Bonham, clearly, and barely tolerated Robert Plant, which made me wonder how skewed events in the book were. Cole was crushed with Bonham’s death, which incidentally, a lot of people chalk up to Zeppelin’s “curse,” brought on by Jimmy Page’s dabbling in the occult, which Cole really tries to steer clear of. Why? I’m not sure. I wanted to read about Page’s occult fetishes, aside from his obsession with A Crowley, but Cole writes that Jimmy didn’t really introduce them to his occult practices and beliefs. That’s a little hard to believe, but oh well. Other things happened to the members of Zeppelin that helped this curse idea along. Bonham got in a car wreck, as did Plant. It took Plant a long time to recover. Plant’s five year old son died. $230,000 is stolen out of a safe box. There’s more. Cole goes to prison in Italy, accused of terrorism (which is how the book begins).

There’s a lot of craziness that goes on in this book. Televisions are thrown out of hotel windows, hotel rooms are trashed, cars are bought and crashed, girls are bartered like livestock, drugs flow freely, the alcoholic consumption would be enough to kill most people. There are transvestites and transsexuals, hookers and groupies (including the famous Plaster Casters). There’s one memorable moment that involves two groupies, a bathtub, and an octopus, and it’s truly disgusting. Then there’s the girl with the famous red snapper incident, which is also disgusting. The band members have got to be the most immature and spoiled men in the history of the universe, most especially Bonham. It’s rather disappointing.

This book is entertaining, if you can stomach the filth, and it’s a real page turner — I couldn’t put it down. If half the stuff in this book is true, everyone involved should be in prison, as I’ve already alluded to. I hope in their older years, the remaining members of the band have matured. Cole has apparently been sober and clean for over 15 years, so I guess that’s good. If you like reading about rock and roll excess or about Led Zeppelin, this is the book for you. If your stomach is easily turned, maybe you shouldn’t read it. Cautiously recommended.

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One thought on “A Review of Stairway To Heaven

  1. I saw the title of your post and couldn’t resist sharing this haiku I wrote on my blog recently. It’s entitled, “Nostalgia” –

    A game of bingo

    In the church basement

    Humming ”Stairway to Heaven”.


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