Sunday, April 27, 2014

Book Review: Lisa Robinson -There Goes Gravity: A Life in Rock and Roll

"Jimmy Page wore a pink satin jacket."

The first lines Mick Jagger said to Lisa Robinson, quoting her work to her side-stage at an Eric Clapton concert, mark Robinson's style of criticism. In her own words: "I never felt like a "combatant," or reporter; I felt like an ally." Robinson is a music critic because she, like the acts she covers, loves the music. She's a fan, not a cynic and her "defense attorney" approach to writing about bands ingratiated her with a closed group like Led Zeppelin.

Robinson travelled with Zeppelin on their 1973, '75 and '77 tours, as well as attended Knebworth in '79. She reported for Hit Parader, where I used to read her tour accounts as a teenager, and, more importantly for the band, in England for New Music Express. Robinson was one of the select few journalists allowed inside the Zeppelin bubble.

In her book, There Goes Gravity: A Life in Rock and Roll, (available now from the usual book sellers) Robinson recounts her career. In Chapter 2 she gives us look at her time With Led Zeppelin, from her second time seeing them in Jacksonville, Florida in 1973 she was a fan (she recounts a disappointing first time seeing Zeppelin at Madison Square Garden in 1970):
... it was exciting, complex and majestic... I heard strains of blues and American roots music and a combination of everything from the 1960s Eastern-influenced British band Kaleidoscope to the acoustic, hippie-ish Incredible String Band, to Willie Dixon... They were bigger and more complex than Pink Floyd or Cream.
She recounts all her tours, and recounts the key people she dealt with, including Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Bonham, the latter of whom she says, "Drunk, he was a madman... sober, to me, he was a sweetheart - articulate and a gentleman." She did interviews, snippets of which she provides and recounts stories of the road. She was in the room during Bonham's somewhat famous rant about Karen Carpenter winning the Playboy magazine best drummer award, and was in the plane, at 25,000 feet, when Richard Cole pulled a gun to settle a dispute between Jimmy and a reporter from the London Daily Express, a reporter Robert wanted to make nice with because his father read that paper.

If you are planning to read There Goes Gravity: A Life in Rock and Roll for the Led Zeppelin content, however, you will be disappointed. Other than Led Zeppelin, Robinson travelled with or spent significant time with The Rolling Stones, John and Yoko, David Bowie, The New York Dolls, The Ramones, Patti Smith, The Clash, the Sex Pistols, U2, Eminem, Kanye West and Lady Gaga (did I miss any?). The book covers all these artist and more. It is a sharp, interesting and often fun read, but it is not a Led Zeppelin book.


No comments: