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NEWSFLASHBACK: The Seattle Times Aug 17 1992

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The Seattle Times

Entertainment & the Arts: Monday, August 17, 1992

A `Stairway To Heaven' - And Other Locales

Ken Hunt

Richard Cole spent 12 years as tour manager for Led Zeppelin, a band noted for its chemical excesses and sexual escapades. However, if you believe Cole's new book, "Stairway To Heaven," you ain't heard the half of it.

"Stairway To Heaven" (Harper Collins, $20) is 379 pages of Cole's reminiscences of those years with the seminal hard-rock band. He wants to tell you every little ragged detail he can, and given the amount of heroin and alcohol he ingested between the early '60s and 1985, the volume of detail is, shall we say, striking.

Consequently, "Stairway To Heaven" moves practically in real time. It begins with drummer John Bonham's death in 1980 from alcohol poisoning while Cole was in an Italian jail for unsubstantiated charges of terrorism.

He manages to summarize himself, Bonham, singer Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page and bassist John Paul Jones by page 28.

By page 81 it's become an endless cycle of groupies and drugs, roadie brutality and whiny fights with the press. Oh, yeah - there's some timeless music and brilliant concerts, too.

The introduction contains a very telling passage: "I routinely overdosed on this nightlife, never growing weary of the partying, the alcohol and drugs, the loud music, the easy girls," followed four sentences later by "We were bursting with anger, furious at our economic circumstances." Oh. It was the economy.

Later it was the boredom and stress of touring and fame that drove them to performing lurid acts on groupies with sea creatures, down up to 40 drinks every night and risk lives by throwing furniture out of high hotel rooms.

Cole dismisses personal responsibility with a smirk and a swagger all through the book. Not even when he pulled a prank on Plant by more or less kidnapping five early-teen girls and "accidentally" flying them to New York does he think that he, God forbid, did anything wrong.

There's little of that smirk and swagger in the Cole of today.

In person, he bears little outward trace of the decades of drug abuse. He speaks with an understated British accent that belies the fact that he is capable of kicking out a window of an airborne jet, as he once did.

He wrote "Stairway To Heaven" over the past few years, while managing such acts as Lita Ford, Ozzy Osbourne and the London Quireboys. "I was traveling a lot when I was writing, and going to the cities I had gone to with Led Zeppelin," he said. "Going back there would bring back different memories."

Richard Trubo, a longtime rock journalist, co-wrote "Stairway To Heaven," although Cole said that Trubo's role mainly involved fact-checking and research on concert and studio dates. "It's very hard to believe that people who did as much drugs and drank as much as I did aren't totally fried," Cole said. "But after a while he realized he didn't have to do it. He just goes on what I said."

Most striking about "Stairway To Heaven" is that unlike other rock biographies, in which the stars generally clean up and moralize, this one doesn't. Cole insisted: "There's a message in there: You can die if you use too many drugs. You have a realization when you're sober that things in life just go on before you and you don't notice them."

(Page 378: " . . . drugs were such an important part of the culture at the time, perhaps there was no way we could have avoided them." Oh. It was the culture.)

Cole speaks much more sincerely about his sobriety. He said that in 1985 - after five years in which he "didn't do anything except get drunk" - his mother kicked him out of the house with $2 and a Cartier watch to his name.

He bought a drink and hocked the watch to get more. He began to sound like his book at that point, but spoke of a friend who took him to a meeting for recovering alcoholics.

"I haven't looked back since," he said.

Except in print.

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I kind of remember that guy but there were so many people around Zeppelin; possibly there were others like him. Usually the music was more of a draw anyway. Even Robert Plant had to spend some time on stage singing and dancing and all that rock and roll stuff. He couldn't hang out in hotels all the time. B)

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Currently, if you click the link below you'll see a VH1 feature on the shark incident

which includes a brief interview with Jimmy's former girlfriend Lori Maddix:

That poor mud shark :( I remember this Vh1 feature. I hope everyone finally came to their senses. Bottles? :blink: That was interesting. B)

I had that album by Zappa on vinyl. When I first heard the song about the mudshark I quite literally rolled on the floor laughing; could not stop. That recording is hilarious.

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