Led Zeppelin IV by Erik Davis

I’ve never been a big Led Zeppelin fan. I completely missed their lengthy reign on arenas and male libidos. You see, my parents aren’t into music, and I have no older siblings. This left me to my own devices as a young lad in search of music, and for some reason, Zeppelin was always at the periphery of my sonic gaze.

Led Zepplin IVNone of that, however, undermined my experience while reading Erik Davis‘ entry into Continuum Books’ 33 1/3 series, Led Zeppelin IV. An expert on media and mysticism, Davis chose the perfect album to dissect. Led Zeppelin IV is the product of the intersection of both vastly experimental recording techniques and extravagant occult ritual. Zeppelin, and especially this record, are as shrouded in mysticism and mystery as they are in testosterone. Davis explores both with intellectual heft and erudite humor. Much of his analysis feels quite over-the-top — and it’s meant to be. He pushes your disbelief to just the point when you feel your eyes are about to roll, then he brings it all back to the point. And the point a lot of times is that the four guys in Zeppelin may or may not have meant all of the gods and goblins stuff, but their fans have made every connection to the dark netherworld possible. Throughout the book, Davis’ extensive research on the band, the occult, and the culture of the time leaves no rock unturned, no dot unconnected.

The connections to fantasy in this book were not lost on me. Though I never had any of their records at the time, I have faint memories of Led Zeppelin records providing the soundtrack to preteen games of D&D and Pong. Davis does an excellent job of showing just what these connections meant to males coming of age in the seventies — and what they still mean today: what they really mean to fans of the band and this record, not what extreme fanatics and scholars would have you think they mean.

Reading Led Zeppelin IV made me want to read more Crowley, but more than that, it made me want to listen to the record. And I think that’s really the point.