The Hammer of Ahmet
In the 1970s, decades before YouTube, the 24-hour news cycle and a floodgate of social media, rock music rarely made the six o’clock TV news. Instead, rock was relegated to once-a-week late night and syndicated shows such as NBC’s The Midnight Special, and Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. While Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner helped birth a print media devoted to rock in the mid-1960s, the bands themselves didn’t always reciprocate. During their heyday as Atlantic Records’ biggest act in the mid-to-late 1970s, Led Zeppelin held a near-iron lock on the profiles that music industry journalists wrote about them. Reporters for industry-themed publications such as Rolling Stone and Circus, who longed to be close to the action onboard Led Zeppelin’s Boeing 720 private touring jet, eagerly accepted press orders from the group during their 1977 tour. Those press orders demanded that "objective” journalists obey the band’s rules of engagement:
Rule 1. Never talk to anyone in the band unless they first talk to you.
Rule 1A. Do not make any sort of eye contact with [drummer] John Bonham. This is for your own safety.
Rule 2. Do not talk to [manager] Peter Grant or [road manager] Richard Cole -- for any reason.
Rule 3. Keep your cassette player turned off at all times unless conducting an interview.
Rule 4. Never ask questions about anything other than music.
Rule 5. Most importantly, understand this -- the band will read what is written about them. The band does not like the press nor do they trust them.
Thus, legends of the Zeppelin band members’ assorted dalliances with Satanism, sleeping with under-aged groupies, doing unspeakable things with mudsharks, massive substance abuse, and brutal violence remained just that until 1985, five years after the group’s demise, when rock author Stephen Davis published his best-selling biography, The Hammer of the Gods. However, as with The Godfather, and Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, with its ruthless but suave Gordon Gekko character, Davis’ book also made Led Zeppelin role models for loads of aspiring rock musicians, who viewed The Hammer of the Gods as a how-to guide for obtaining the perks of rock and roll superstardom. Soon after The Hammer of the Gods’ publication, rock bands like Guns & Roses would pick up where Led Zeppelin left off, both musically, and in terms of excess and debauchery.
Meet the Record Label Head Who Signed Led Zep
Flash-forward 33 years. Dorothy Carvello’s new book, Anything for a Hit: An A&R Woman's Story of Surviving the Music Industry, is an inside look at the brutal extremes of the recording industry in the 1980s and 1990s, written from the prism of recent leftist feminist memes such as #MeToo and “Toxic Masculinity” (a phrase Carvello uses often in her book) fresh on the author’s mind. Carvello was hired by Atlantic Records’ legendary co-founder Ahmet Ertegun (1923-2006) in 1986 as the label’s first female artist and repertoire (A&R) executive. According to Carvello, she helped launch the recording careers of hard rock bands Skid Row, the short-lived Hericane Alice, and R&B singer Tara Kemp, among other artists. She was also close (at times very close) with the front man of the best-selling Australian rock group INXS, the late Michael Hutchence.