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Jimmy Page: Magus Musician Man - An Unauthorized Biography

George Case

(Backbeat Books; US: Apr 2009)

Jimmy Page: Magus Musician Man—An Unauthorized Biography is, as the subtitle tells us, an unauthorized peek into the life and myth of the guitarist. Obviously, this means two things, that Jimmy Page was not in any way directly involved in the content of this book, and that he more than likely does not approve of it. But more than those things, the unauthorized status means that everything George Case includes is merely collected from secondary sources, and so not really much of a peek into anything but previous publications about Page.


While there is a treasure trove of information out there on Page, the Yardbirds, and Led Zeppelin, Case’s assembly of old interviews and tour accounts treads the same well-worn grounds countless other writers have mined without uncovering anything new and interesting about the man (or the musician, or the magus). It would be another story if Case provided a critique or made some sort of unique statement about all of this information, but unfortunately he doesn’t, and so the book reads like a loosely, chronologically biographical blurb, or perhaps the bare bones of a tour itinerary devoid of details. One actually hopes that tidbits will be revealed at various points when Case does begin to talk about tours.


Except road manager Richard Cole already did that (Stairway to Heaven: Led Zeppelin Uncensored), and much better. Even when Case does dare to delve into the drugs and debauchery that are so much a part of Page’s legend, he does so with kid gloves. All of the unsavory episodes concerning groupies, violence and addiction on the road are minimally discussed in an apparent attempt to explain away any offensiveness. However, these things are established parts of the image of Jimmy Page, and therefore, glossing over negativities is just disappointing.


While, as a fan, the impulse to protect Page’s image by downplaying certain aspects of his life is certainly understandable, Case seems to carry this urge into his coverage of the music. I can’t even call it coverage, honestly, because it is so lamentably sparse. We’re talking about Jimmy Page here, Mr. Case, the music should be the meat of the story! That it isn’t Case’s main focus is bad enough, yet what little musical discussion is included gets several of the details wrong, which is just annoying (although the more technically-minded and obsessive Zeppelin fans might have fun playing “spot the mistake”).


Jimmy Page: Magus Musician Man mentions “magus” first in the title, and its prominence seems to be an excuse for Case’s own personal fascination (He’s worshiped! He’s wealthy! He’s mysterious! He must’ve used black magic!). Coupled with rather cursory comments on Aleister Crowley as well as on Page’s associations with various other mystical people and events, the exploration of this facet of Page takes up the lion’s share of the second half of the book, but like the biographical bits and musical asides, it’s mainly cobbled together from various sources, and as such, provides no illumination beyond what most Page fans already heard in hushed and stoned tones from their older siblings during middle school.


And that, sadly, sums up Jimmy Page: Magus Musician Man—An Unauthorized Biography. Fans will have to wait to hear anything new until the man himself breaks his silence, or risk being disillusioned with yet another rehashing of the basic facts. Those looking for an introduction to Jimmy Page, the mage, the musician, or the man, might enjoy this overview, but are just as likely to enjoy the information from any of the books that came before.

Rating:

Christel Loar is a freelance writer and editor, a part-time music publicist, and a full-time music fan. She is often an overreactor and sometimes an overachiever. When not dodging raindrops or devising escape plans, Christel is usually found down front and slightly left of center stage reveling in a performance by yet another new favorite band.


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