[10 August 2011]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Celebration Day: The Led Zeppelin Encyclopedia is an unofficial compendium covering various facts about the band, its members, their associates and of course, the music. Written by rock journalists Malcolm Dome and Jerry Ewing, Celebration Day is exactly what its subtitle states, an encyclopedia. The reference-style entries are alphabetical with black and white photos interspersed throughout.
Celebration Day is a rather slim volume at less than 300 pages, but it does contain material from the pre-Zeppelin days right up through the relatively current projects of the surviving members. That’s not to say it’s by any means complete, and that’s where one begins to question its existence. Who is this publication meant to target? The book jacket states “Facts and figures that even the keenest follower might have missed…”, so one would think that this is for die-hard fans. Well, being quite a fan myself, I can tell you it isn’t. There isn’t one entry here that told me anything new. To be fair, I am a music journalist, so I tend to know more details about bands I like than the average music lover, but I am by no means anywhere near the “keenest” of Led Zeppelin’s followers.
So I think perhaps Celebration Day is meant for the new fan, or the odd person who has never read anything else about Led Zeppelin. It’s for some strange creature who never had an older sibling, who never talked to any of the stoners in the high school parking lot, but who wakes up one day with “Stairway to Heaven” blaring from a dorm-mate’s iPod, suddenly wanting to know where the musical alchemy originated. It’s debatable whether that information can be found in this book, though.
Despite the claims of “in-depth” information, most entries have a piecemeal quality with all the random bits taken from various places, and, in many entries, it appears no attempt was made to fit these pieces together. The facts in some entries are, of course, arguable, but there were several places where this stitching—either by accidental context or sloppy editing—made me question (and, if I’m honest, refute) the factual accuracy of even the easily verifiable information. This could probably have been largely avoided with a bit more attention to integrating sources and, perhaps, better editing.
Another thing that could be better is the layout. While the shortest entries are fine with a bold-type title and one or two brief paragraphs immediately beneath, the longer entries (such as the ones that cover the individual albums or remastered box sets) run on and on. There’s no demarcation or indication that there’s a new topic, or an alternate opinion within entries, particularly those not broken up by photographs, and some of the longest entries span many pages. In a two-column, text-heavy, tightly kerned format, it becomes a bit monotonous. Maybe it is because this is a paperback edition, with only black and white photos, that an absence of typographical variance becomes an issue. Or maybe it’s simply because I expected more.
For a book that says “Everything you’ll ever need to know about the band is covered.”, Celebration Day: The Led Zeppelin Encyclopedia is somewhat lacking. It may well be a suitable initial reference for the neophyte Zeppelin fan, but not for acolytes and aficionados.