Sunday, December 13, 2009

The 12 days of Zeppelin: How the Americas were won

On the seventh day of Zeppelin, my true love gave to me:
Frank Reddon's hardcover and electronic books
Most people who recognize the name J.J. Jackson can tell you he was one of the original MTV hosts, or veejays. Folks in Los Angeles might remember he was a radio personality in their neck of the woods. Bostonians a few years older might remember him from their radio airwaves too. Led Zeppelin fans may recall hearing an often-shared recording of J.J. Jackson's 1979 interview with Robert Plant and John Paul Jones. But how many people know the full story of how J.J. Jackson supported Led Zeppelin in the band's early days and helped to establish them in Boston?

You can read all about it in two publications by author Frank Reddon, who has made the radio personality turned TV star the subject of his e-book, "J.J. Jackson Remembers Led Zeppelin: The Music and the Guys Who Made It." This publication, which emerged only in September, includes complete transcripts of Reddon's interviews with Jackson as he elegantly takes the reader through the local music scene and how Led Zeppelin was able to create such a splash there in a matter of only days. It isn't hard to credit Jackson's on-air promotion of the group, especially since he was playing their music on the air, having received a promo copy of the band's first album before it was released.

What's particularly thrilling to read in the e-book is how Jackson relives those experiences. To help jog his memory, Reddon supplies some bootleg recordings to Jackson and then interviews him again after listening. The second time around, Jackson is probably just as awestruck with Led Zeppelin's live performances as he had been decades earlier. This is the highlight of the book, and it's something Reddon saved from revealing in his 2007 publication, the immense hardcover "Sonic Boom: The Impact of Led Zeppelin, Volume 1 -- Break & Enter."

That book covers the perfect storm that was the environment into which Led Zeppelin arrived in late 1968 and early 1969, on the occasion of the band's first trip to America. Many of the metropolitan areas Led Zeppelin hit during that initial North American tour had a different music scene that was, for its own reasons, ready and willing, or even pleading, to accept something new. For many cities, Led Zeppelin filled that void with onstage theatrics and genuine musicianship. The best sources for this are the firsthand accounts of the people who were drawn to Led Zeppelin in those days for their own personal reasons. Some just happened to be men with gray ponytails whom Reddon walked up to on the street to ask, "Have you ever seen Led Zeppelin in concert?" Some others interviewed in the book are qualified authors, while at least one perhaps questionable interviewee wasn't even a year old by the time John Bonham died (Disclosure: Let the record show that I'm referring to myself there).

There's so much to be consumed in this book, including an array of pictures on almost every page, that it keeps on giving every time it is opened and something on one of the 736 static pages pops out anew, be it a piece of artwork or a little-known factual detail.

One current offer from Enzepplopedia Publishing includes free shipping on the hardcover and a $9.95 discount when both books are purchased together.

Reddon says further volumes in the "Sonic Boom" set are to follow, but now he's concentrating on selling his inventory of the first volume as well as publishing a few e-books. Another published e-book of his, "Led Zeppelin's Music: True Blues & Beyond: Dig Down Deep into Zeppelin's Roots," is offered as a free bonus to those who sign up for his electronic newsletter, the Enzepplozine.

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