Stairway to Heaven: Led Zeppelin Uncensored

Stairway to Heaven: Led Zeppelin Uncensored

by Richard Cole


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No one knew Led Zeppelin like Richard Cole. The band's tour manager for more than a decade, Cole was there when they burst onto the music scene, achieved cult status, cut platinum records, and transformed popular music. Second only to the Beatles in sales for years, Led Zeppelin was rock's premier group. But unlike the boys from Liverpool, the excitement of this band"s music was matched by the fever pitch of their antics on and off the stage....

In hotel rooms and stadiums, in a customized private Boeing 707 jet and country estates, Richard Cole saw it all — and here he tells it all in this close-up, down-and-dirty, no-holds-barred account that records the highs, the lows, and the occasional in-betweens. This revised edition brings fans up to date on the band members' lives and careers, which may be a little quieter now, but their songs remain the same.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060938376
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/08/2002
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 531,902
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.01(d)

About the Author

Richard Cole was the tour manager for Led Zeppelin for twelve years. He has also traveled with other rock bands and artists, including Black Sabbath, The Who, Eric Clapton, The Yardbirds, Ozzy Osbourne, and, most recently, Crazy Town. He now divides his time between Venice, California, and London.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Crash Landing

“Richard, something bad has happened to one of your Led Zeppelin boys.”

Julio Gradaloni had a grim expression on his face as he nervously shuffled through his briefcase, finally pulling out a newspaper and placing it on the table in front of us.

“What do you mean?” I asked him, feeling some anxiety starting to chill my body. “What's happened?”

Julio was my attorney, a stocky, no-nonsense lawyer in his middle fifties. He was sitting across from me in the visiting room at Rebibia Prison near Rome. I had been imprisoned there for nearly two months -- on suspicion of terrorism, of all things. During those weeks behind bars, I was bewildered and frustrated, desperately and futilely trying to convince the police and prosecutors that my arrest had been some kind of blunder, that I was no more likely to blow up buildings in Italy than would the Pope himself. But on this particular morning in late September 1980, Julio took my mind off my own problems.

“One of your musicians has died,” Julio said, trying to remain as composed as possible.

“Died!” I froze. After nearly twelve years as tour manager of Led Zeppelin, the four members of the band -- Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham -- had become like brothers to me.

Neither Julio nor I said anything for a few seconds. Then I stammered, “Was it -- was it Pagey?” Jimmy is so frail, I thought, so weak. Maybe the cocaine, the heroin had finally taken their toll. Jimmy's body must have justgiven out.

Julio wasn't making eye contact, perusing the Italian newspaper, preparing to translate the article about Led Zeppelin for me.

“No,” he said in a steady tone of voice. “Not Jimmy Page. Here's what the article says. ‘John Bonham, drummer of Led Zeppelin, was found dead yesterday in the home of another member of the world-famous rock band....' ”

Julio continued to read. But after that first sentence, I stopped hearing his words. I became numb, braced my hands against the table, and bowed my head. I swallowed hard, and could feel my heart palpitating.

“Bonham is dead,” I began repeating silently to myself. “Shit, I just can't believe it. Not Bonzo. Why Bonzo?”

I leaned back in my chair. There must be some mistake, I thought. It doesn't make sense. He's so strong. What could possibly kill him?

I interrupted Julio in midsentence. “Does the newspaper say what he died of? Was it drugs?”

“Well,” Julio said, “they don't know yet. But they say he had used a lot of alcohol that day. It sounds like he drank himself to death.”

Julio tried to change the subject. He wanted to talk with me about my own case. But I just couldn't. “Let's do it another day, Julio,” I mumbled. “I'm not thinking too clearly right now.”

I barely remember walking back to my cell. I crawled onto my bunk and stared silently at the sixteen-foot-high ceilings. I had this queasy feeling in my gut while pondering life without Bonham...without those high-voltage drum solos, his contagious laugh, and the sense of adventure that propelled us through many long nights of revelry.

“Are you all right?” one of my cell mates, Pietro, finally asked over the din of a nearby transistor radio.

“I'm not sure,” I told him. “One of my friends has died.”

My cell mates tried to be comforting, but I wasn't particularly receptive to their words. Finally, with an onslaught of emotions rushing through me, I snapped. Throwing a pillow against one of he walls, I shouted, “Damn it! Here I am rotting in this fucking jail for something I didn't do! I wasn't even with my friend when he died!”

I began pacing the cell. “Maybe I could have done something to help him. Maybe I could have kept him from self-destructing.”

It had already been a difficult two months in that prison cell. I had been put through a forced withdrawal from a heroin addiction, enduring many uncomfortable days and nights of nausea, muscle cramps, body aches, and diarrhea, while trying to figure out how I was going to extricate myself from the bum rap that had put me behind bars. One minute, I had been relaxing at the Excelsior, one of Rome's most elegant hotels; the next, policemen with their guns drawn had burst into my room, accusing me of a terrorist attack that had occurred 150 miles away. Since then, my day-to-day existence had become difficult -- even before the stunning news about John Bonham.

In the days and weeks after Bonzo's death, I received several letters from Unity MacLaine, my secretary in Zeppelin's office. “The coroner's report,” she wrote, “says that Bonzo suffocated on his own vomit. It says he had downed 40 shots of vodka that night. They call it an ‘accidental death.' ”

Bonham had died at Jimmy's home, the Old Mill House, in Windsor -- a home Pagey had purchased earlier in the year from actor Michael Caine. The band had congregated there on September 24 to begin rehearsals for an upcoming American tour, scheduled to start in mid-October 1980. Beginning early that afternoon, John had started drinking vodkas and orange juices at a nearby pub before overindulging in double vodkas at Jimmy's home. His behavior became erratic, loud, and abrasive. He bitched about being away from home during the nineteen-date American tour.

When John finally passed out well past midnight, Rick Hobbs, Jimmy's valet and chauffeur, helped him into bed. Rick positioned the Zeppelin drummer on his side, placed a blanket over him, and quietly closed the bedroom door.

The next afternoon, John Paul Jones and Benji Le Fevre, one of the band's roadies, tiptoed into the bedroom where Bonham was sleeping. Benji shook Bonzo, first gently, then more...

Stairway to Heaven. Copyright © by Richard Cole. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Lisa Robinson

“[E]ven though I know all the dirt, I couldn’t put my copy down.”

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Stairway to Heaven: Led Zeppelin Uncensored 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
svsu More than 1 year ago
If your into Led Zeppelin, you will have no problem reading this book. Very informative written by the bands tour manager so it is very accurate in my opinion. I have always wanted to read more on Zeppelin since I read "Hammer of the Gods" back in the 80's. I got the ebook edition. Liking it very much so far! I highly recommend this book to all Zeppelin fans.
SweepsWR More than 1 year ago
It was nice to see a non band members view on life back then. I think he told some hard truths about egos and attitudes but also the kinder side of each member. I would put this one up there with Hammer of the Gods.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm currently reading this book for the second time around - that's how much I loved it the first time. Though I'm a big Led Zeppelin fan, it's the first biography-style book I'd read on them. Because of that, I was almost afraid to read it, thinking it would be filled with pointless/useless facts, with nothing really giving it any substance or telling us some things we didn't already know. I had no reason to worry, though! This book takes you from the beginning to the end of the Led Zep glory days with great humor, insight and care. You really feel like you get to know everyone in the book and I think this may be what makes it so endearing. You can totally imagine the scenes playing out. Cole tells the story as he saw it, and I would like to think it's mostly true, since he was very close to the band for all those years. Sure, there may be some embellishments or stretches here and there but it all makes for great reading. It made me laugh out loud many times, and how often do books make us do that anyhow? There are many great passages in the book that make you wish you were part of the fun. The sadder moments for the band are also there, described in a way that really makes you feel for everyone. Nothing is left out. I think this book should be read by any Led Zeppelin fan. It's really enjoyable and a light read. It may be a thick book, but you'll find you go through it in no time because it's just so fun.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was pretty good, it had many anecdotes and your not sure if the members of Led Zeppelin actually would ever say the things the book says they did. You do find out information on the band, but its not from their point of view (which I would prefer), it's how their tour manager viewed everything...
Guest More than 1 year ago
The novel Stairway To Heaven: Led Zeppelin Uncensored is a truly adventurous novel that provides a candid portrayal of the colossal band, Led Zeppelin. Throughout the lengthy novel the reader discovers the most vivid description of each of the band members. After reading the book I feel as if I have drunken tea with Robert Plant or even jammed with Jimmy Page. The author and former road manager, Richard Cole, leads the reader on a wild escapade from the band¿s heroin addiction to their obsession to J.R.R. Tolkien¿s Lord Of The Rings. The book provides an ample background for each of the band members¿ pre-Zeppelin days and also follows up on the members¿ lives after the band¿s downfall. The vast range of the novel touches lightly on many events while only focusing much attention on certain events. While describing the band¿s many wild experiences, Cole eloquently adds extra meaning and depth to many of Led Zeppelin¿s songs, which turns a fan like myself into a raving zealot. After reading the biography I have found myself even more passionate about the band¿s music and it has fed my hunger to learn more about the seemingly mysterious band of generations past. The novel was very well written, providing both a pinch of drama to an abundance of comedy. The best feature of the novel was the author¿s input on many of the songs that the band produced. His input usually derived from what Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, the two main writers of most of their songs, had to say about the music they produced. The most interesting piece of information is that the song ¿Stairway to Heaven¿ was originally written with reggae-style music and accent but on the band¿s first cut they played it without their intended reggae influence and produced that copy. Cole also invites the reader into each of the band members¿ lives outside of the band, which is usually not done because rock stars treasure the little privacy they receive. The worst thing about the book is that some events of the band¿s long journey are not touched upon very strongly. Some events draw much interest but because there is so much to say, Cole neglects to elaborate on many interesting events that the band experienced. Also, the time period for much of the biography is not very clear, which isn¿t too bad, but it is good to know when all the events occurred. Cole toured with the band for many years and developed a much stronger relationship with Jimmy Page than with Robert Plant, which produces a biased opinion on some conflicts and also directs much of the book¿s focus on Jimmy Page while largely neglecting John Paul Jones. Jimmy and Robert are the most famous and many readers know plenty about them already, and a main reason for reading the book could have been to discover more about the less popular members.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The most comprehensive and interesting Led Zeppelin book around. If you are a Led Zeppelin fan and haven't read this, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR??!!??!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was an excellent book. It says the whole story. I can never put it down.This has everything anyone wanted to know about 'Led Zeppelin' Definitely a must for any Led Zeppelin fan.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My mom loves Led Zepplin. So when i showed her this book her jaw dropped.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is terrible. it is all about richard cole's life. like anyone cares about him. the info is OK, but he puts too much info on himself in it. if you look at the pictures, they are all about him. its like, 'me with ----' 'and me with---' this is terrible. do not buy