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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Suzy, Led Zeppelin and Me

by
Martin Millar


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Suzy, Led Zeppelin and Me



Title: Suzy, Led Zeppelin and Me
Author: Martin Millar
Genre: Novel
Written: 2002
Length: 203 pages
Availability: Suzy, Led Zeppelin and Me - US
Suzy, Led Zeppelin and Me - UK
Suzy, Led Zeppelin and Me - Canada

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Our Assessment:

B+ : genial reminiscences of youth and youthful passions

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 11/5/2002 J.C. Grimwood
The Guardian . 25/10/2008 Alfred Hickling


  From the Reviews:
  • "This is a novel about growing up to be Martin Millar, and like all of his work is massively indulgent but undeniably brilliant." - Jon Courtenay Grimwood, The Guardian

  • "It's quite nice; but not very big." - Alfred Hickling, The Guardian

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Suzy, Led Zeppelin and Me is narrated in the first person. The narrator describes it as a novel (from the first page on, so that there's no misunderstanding), but it is very much a personal account -- and the narrator is, very much, Martin Millar. The novel follows two time-lines: one is in the past, focussing on a Led Zeppelin concert in Glasgow in December, 1972 which the narrator goes to with his friends. The other is the present, as the narrator describes the writing of the book itself, spends time with his friend, depressed single mother Manx, and judges a literary competition.
       The contrast serves to show what has (and hasn't) become of the narrator: what he's learnt, what he misses. It is not merely a wallow in nostalgia: he remembers this period of his youth fondly, but also recognizes the faults and foolishness of his younger self.
       The sections on the past focus on the one great highpoint: Led Zeppelin play Glasgow. It happened in 1972, to the surprise of the narrator and his friends in the Scottish boondocks, Glasgow seeming to them pretty much as out of the way and provincial as it could get, and hardly likely to attract a band that elsewhere filled stadiums. The narrator makes clear from the beginning that it was a seminal event for him, one of the greatest in his life:

I am always dissatisfied with something or other. I always have been. The only time I can remember being totally satisfied was when Led Zeppelin walked on stage and started playing. They played for two hours. Two hours of complete satisfaction. You can't argue with that.
       Though he is tempted to write just about the concert, noting every impression and note, he doesn't. Instead, he cleverly leads up to (and then away from) it, describing his life and friends around that time, the concert always the goal and focus, but daily life also going on. The narrator was fifteen or so at the time. He had one close friend, Greg. Not particularly cool, they shared similar fantasies and were interested in the same unattainable girl. The girl is the Suzy of the title -- a year older and apparently far out of reach, dating the very cool rebellious Zed who was, however, also a friend, of sorts, of the two boys. There was also Cherry, tolerated because Suzy tolerated her, but truly uncool.
       The narrator is an obsessive Led Zeppelin fan, and news that they are to play in Glasgow is a dream come true. Music is one of the escapes youths have, something to lose themselves in completely. The narrator finds, at that time (and until punk comes around), in Led Zeppelin his absolute ideal. Their coming to Glasgow means something to the others as well, but leading up to the concert it doesn't seem to mean quite as much. As it turns out, all their lives are dramatically changed by the concert.
       The narrator constantly harps on the specialness of the concert, of what it meant:
Before it I was frustrated and after it I was disappointed. But when the band played everything was right.
       It is that brief escape music -- and a beloved band live in performance -- affords. Life itself is harsher, as he warns the reader repeatedly.
       Along the way the girl gets in the way. As long as she is unattainable, Suzy remains some sort of ideal, a friend one can lust after. But Zed isn't the perfect boyfriend, and a glimmer of hope begins to drive a wedge between the narrator and Greg.
       There's the other girl too: plain Cherry. A nice girl, the narrator fears she is too uncool for him, repeatedly treating her very shabbily.
       Millar nicely leads up to the concert, offering a resonant portrait of early 70s Glaswegian schoolboy life. He revels very well in the concert itself too, using it to good effect. He offers considerable detail, but not too much: the defining highpoint, it gets just the attention it deserves.
       The concert and its aftermath lead to dramatic changes, especially in terms of personal relationships: the friendships and pairings are almost all radically changed. The narrator matures, but describes it as almost incidental. He offers only a sketch of all the fallout and the remaining schoolyears, the proper fadeout after the overwhelming experience.
       The contemporary author writing about his youth pops up again and again in the narrative. The book is told in very short chapters: 104 of them (for a 204-page book). He wants to keep things short and simple: it's the way he likes it:
I can't read anything complicated these days, my attention span is too short. Everyone else probably feels the same way.
       A modestly successful writer, still without the best of luck with women, he is now considerably older if not so much wiser. He has left some of youth behind him, and he seems to miss some of that naïve exuberance he used to have. It sounds downright melancholy when he writes:
I never play imaginary instruments any more, not even a single chord on an air guitar.
       Manx and her Nefertiti hat and watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and pretending to judge a literary competition and a few other small odds and ends are the main foci of his present-day life. There's not nearly as much detail as about 1972, and the narrator seems much more tired in describing it, missing that youthful energy and passion that crops up again when he looks back -- an effective contrast.
       The book works nicely as whole. The authorial insistence on simple presentation (short sentences and chapters) is perhaps repeated too often: attention spans may be short, but telling readers that he is making it easier for them need only be done once or twice. Otherwise, it is a nice, honest, self-deprecating, often funny (and poignant) look at youth in the early 70s -- and a pretty good (and not completely uncritical) tribute to Led Zeppelin (and rock music in general). An enjoyable light read.

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Links:

Suzy, Led Zeppelin and Me: Reviews: Martin Millar: Led Zeppelin: Other books by Martin Millar under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • Musical reminiscences like Julian Cope's Head-On and Bill Drummond's 45
  • See Index of Contemporary British fiction at the complete review

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About the Author:

       British author Martin Millar has written numerous novels, both under his own name and as Martin Scott.

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© 2002-2008 the complete review

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