Originally Published on January 10th, 2019
Mark Blake’s Bring It On Home: Peter Grant, Led Zeppelin and Beyond – The Story of Rock’s Greatest Manager tells the life story of Led Zeppelin’s manager of Peter Grant, a man who lived a life that has become part myth and legend. Throughout, Blake tells stories such as Grant holding a promoter out the window by his ankles to get the money owed, but we never quite know if the stories told are in fact true.
Peter Grant was born to a single mother and grew into a physical giant, and by his early twenties was acting as a bouncer at some of London’s clubs. He started working as a promoter and manager, and used his physical size to his advantage, often scaring club owners who tried to underpay the bands hired. Eventually, Grant started working with acts such as the Everly Brothers and Gene Vincent. Grant really learned the job while managing Vincent, who was known for tantrums and drunken rages which Grant had to diffuse. When Grant started working with the Yardbirds, he developed an affinity for Jimmy Page and realized the guitarist’s true talent, and decided to hitch his carriage to the young rising star. The two became great friends and confidantes.
Led Zeppelin was Jimmy Page’s band, and Grant managed the band on that principle. He negotiated deals with the record companies that gave Led Zeppelin total artistic control of the music production and album covers. These deals were unheard of at the time. In an even more brazen move, once Led Zeppelin quickly became a hot band, Grant demanded the band get a 90/10 split from ticket sales compared to the standard 60/40 split. Grant also played hardball, insisting the band be paid in cash before their shows, and he and his crew were often carrying around satchels with tens of thousands of dollars on them. He often had the band wait at the hotel until he was given the satchels with cash. Only after they were paid, would they hop in the limos to the venue.
Some people have referred to Peter Grant as the fifth member of the band. His work behind the scenes gave Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham the chance to develop and shine while he sheltered them from any distractions or legal troubles. Grant is said to be one of the last managers to have served the band first. Early on, he decided the band would not do TV appearances which helped foster their mystique. At times, Grant played up his reputation as a tough guy, and the rumors of his exploits to get his bands paid grew over time until many in the music business feared him. Images of Grant in the Zeppelin film The Song Remains the Same reinforced this stereotype. How many of these stories were true, or grew through exaggeration through the years, is left unsaid.
Success brought the band many temptations – including cocaine and heroin – and Grant and the crew did more than their fair share of coke. Drunken nights at the hotels with the best booze, the finest drugs and beautiful young women became common, and then a problem. When John Bonham died after a night of heavy drinking, the band was shattered and decided they could not to go on. Peter Grant was particularly fond of Bonham, and blamed himself for not being with the band that night when he possibly could have changed the tragic night. Blake also takes us into the creation of Swan Song Records, which Led Zeppelin started to produce other bands, most notably Bad Company. But when the music ended for Zeppelin, the money flow also slowed, and Grant became a recluse in his mansion, quietly removing himself from the music scene for years. Friends and family discuss the complicated man, and how he often regretted the hard ball tactics he used as a young man in the music business. In the end, months before his death, Grant received honors from the music industry.
I’m a fan of Led Zeppelin but didn’t know the details behind the band, so I found Bring It On Home an interesting look at backstage lives of the band, and more importantly, how this man and his and strived to balance the art and business of music.