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So is Jimmy Page a 'sloppy' player?


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For those not in the know, Albert King, B.B. King and Freddie King were not only Kings in name, but Kings of the Blues. None were

really fast or flashy like Buddy Guy for example. I saw B.B live(unfortunately in Vegas mode ) but a smokin' Albert in NYC. They were

mainly about squeezing the most out of each note , although Freddie live in particular could race a little. Page definetly copped some

B.B., you can really hear it in the opening verses of D&C live past the wah stuff. These players all had very clean technique.

There are so many examples of Page exhibiting great technique, and poor technique, even in the same song . Remember that

Page is a ARTIST, not a robot replicating past emotion, he is playing what he feels. Of course he sometimes may punch the clock,

but 95% less than other musicians.

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There are only 2 songs zeppelin ever did that jimmy sounds Sloppy (to me, at least).

The solo to Hot Dog from ITTOD, and 'We're gonna groove' from CODA.

The solo in Hot Dog was constructed that way on purpose according to Page, he was supposedly going for a psycho-billy feel to the tune.

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Actually I love the moods in the solos fo WGG and HD(studio). WGG has a almost psychedelic solo, totally unlike the furious live versions.

HD is purposely sloppy but Page sounds very unique in tone and totally follows the changes. However live Page never got the changes

down when soloing to HD; not only sloppy, but out of key and close to a train wreck every time. Forget being creative; the live solos

were simply incompetent.

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Yup - he was/is a super sloppy player.

He often made mistakes and fluffed notes - the more so towards the end of Zep. It seems there were times that his picking hand, his fretting hand and his brain were all in different places at the same time.

But.

He gets away with it (generally), because for him the guitar is more about feel than technical ability. There are times you can hear he's playing beyond the limits of his technical ability, and sometimes it's awful and other times it strays into absolute genius.

From the beginning of Zeppelin up until the end of 1973 his playing did nothing but improve - the constant touring and constant playing did absolute wonders for fluidity and lyricism in his technique. After that the long lay-offs and the drugs & booze, and most importantly lack of practice didn't really do him any favours at all. He seems to have spent most of the latter years of Zeppelin relying on muscle memory and the many years of touring beforehand to carry his playing, and, yes he continued to have moments of genius, but the lack of proper practice translated into sloppines and lots more fluffs and mistakes and some out-and-out dreadful playing.

Technical ability isn't everything, but if you don't practice and don't play enough you get rusty. Complacency - the 'I know that so I don't have to practise it' attitude is death to progress as a musician.

You can see a similar curve in his playing throughout the Page/Plant project - at the beginning he was playing decently, but by 1998, after extensive touring his playing was finally almost back to his 1972/73 level. He's a great player, but as far as I can see he doesn't practice (enough) and this has held him back.

There's no doubt he was a great player - but I think he could've been so much better.

I have not read through this whole thread but this post above says it all and I totally agree. Plus you further spoke about his loose wrist versus scrubbing from the elbow later on which is a very telltale sign. But a sign of what I am not sure? Did his technique degrade because of lack of practice or did the drug and booze abuse actually affect his motor skills? I know I'm being technical here and only speaking of playing ability. But he did absolutely peak in 1973 and went downhill from there as far as ability and technique is concerned. That's not to say that he still didn't have creative moments of genius in later years.

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The solo in Hot Dog was constructed that way on purpose according to Page, he was supposedly going for a psycho-billy feel to the tune.

Page can say that, sure, but IMO he was just trying to cover his ass...listen to the intro to "Hot Dog" with the song slowed down a bit, then try and keep track of the amount of notes Jimmy either misses or muffles. I can see him standing in the middle of the control room, Telecaster slung low, ciggie hanging out of his mouth and laying down that guitar track with the same caution-be-damned approach he took in his live playing. Except this was for a record which millions of people would buy and listen to. A couple more takes and he might have nailed it, just not what was released on In Through The Out Door.

Having said though, I listened to the first LZ album for the first time in years this weekend and I said, "I never said he was sloppy in the studio". In the cases of "Hot Dog" and the like, I personally blame the drugs...

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Page can say that, sure, but IMO he was just trying to cover his ass...listen to the intro to "Hot Dog" with the song slowed down a bit, then try and keep track of the amount of notes Jimmy either misses or muffles. I can see him standing in the middle of the control room, Telecaster slung low, ciggie hanging out of his mouth and laying down that guitar track with the same caution-be-damned approach he took in his live playing. Except this was for a record which millions of people would buy and listen to. A couple more takes and he might have nailed it, just not what was released on In Through The Out Door.

I agree. It sounds very genuinely sloppy.

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One thing I'd like to point out is that he probably wouldn't have gotten all that session work before LZ if he had always been sloppy. He was clearly one of the best guitarists working in London in those days. The sloppiness came years later from being burned out from the road and all the pitfalls associated with it, and then later on from falling out of practice. But he definitely wasn't always a sloppy player.

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Heh. I blame the Swedish winter for that, and the probability that Frida and Agnetha were probably hanging around and batting their eyes at him.

Don't blame Agnetha. Page mentioned during an interview that he and his band mates didn't get to meet her though they wanted to.

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Of course Hot Dog is sloppy and actually I was a guitarist in a band who played it. The solo at times actually has two guitars (lead)

coming in and out. I don't have a quarrel with the studio solo because Page doesn't play a blues solo like others would; he actually

follows the changes and plays a country solo. However live he never practiced the changes(in country you usually can't just stick with a

5 note scale like for blues)and ALL of Page's solos for HD live were not only sloppy but out of key(not musical).

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  • 5 months later...

I was talking about something similar to this on a general music forum but wanted to find a more in depth discussion.

 

The first time I saw Led Zeppelin live was at Ally Pally in 1972 and I was blown away, especially by Jimmy. The next time I saw them live was at Knebworth in 1979 and I couldn't believe how bad Jimmy was. I don't mean sloppy or a bit off, but dreadful. Most of the solos had gone AWOL but he was also struggling with the absolute basics, such as an inability to form simple chords properly or even to keep time. Clearly something catastrophic had happened.

 

From the various sources I've read it would seem Jimmy's drug taking, more specifically, his heroin addiction, started to become a serious problem around 75/76. Jimmy himself says the excessive drug taking and general overindulgence was out of control by the time of the 73 US tour, but that it didn't have an effect on his playing until several years later. Either way, from the late 70s until the present day, Jimmy has been unable to reach anywhere near the standard he performed at in the early 70s. Drugs effectively destroyed a World class guitarist.

 

To illustrate his decline, here are 2 clips of The Song Remains The Same, the first from the 73 US tour, the second from Knebworth in 79:

 

US tour 73


Here Jimmy displays World class brilliance. He's got the lot; speed, precision, originality and, above all, musicality. There are so many highlights but, for instance, there's the traditional style lead solo (ie, 2:48 to 2:57) but also a very original and rapid arpeggio solo (3:08 to 3:17). 

Compare that with the same song from Knebworth 79:


Very sad. Jimmy is, quite simply, dreadful. All the lead solos have gone and he struggles even to play rudimentary chords, and when he attempts the arpeggio solo at 2:49 to 2:59 all he can manage is a succession of out of time bum notes and his laughter suggests he too realises how abysmal he is. 4:10 to 4:20 is embarrassingly bad, 4:34 to 4:40 even worse, as if someone has picked up a guitar for the first time and is just messing around.

 

So, is Jimmy a sloppy player? No. He's worse than than that, but was brilliant until st least 1973. At the end of the day though he has given us some outstanding music and enriched our lives. That alone warrants extreme gratitude.

Edited by heavybluesfan
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Page as a lead guitarist? very hit and miss live (Ritchie Blackmore is far better lead guitarist, Rory Gallagher/Stevie Ray Vaughan played with more feel, even players like Schenker and Lifeson are more precise and dynamic soloists )-but as a rock music composer/songwriter/arranger Page is  peerless.

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4 hours ago, heavybluesfan said:

I was talking about something similar to this on a general music forum but wanted to find a more in depth discussion.

 

The first time I saw Led Zeppelin live was at Ally Pally in 1972 and I was blown away, especially by Jimmy. The next time I saw them live was at Knebworth in 1979 and I couldn't believe how bad Jimmy was. I don't mean sloppy or a bit off, but dreadful. Most of the solos had gone AWOL but he was also struggling with the absolute basics, such as an inability to form simple chords properly or even to keep time. Clearly something catastrophic had happened.

 

From the various sources I've read it would seem Jimmy's drug taking, more specifically, his heroin addiction, started to become a serious problem around 75/76. Jimmy himself says the excessive drug taking and general overindulgence was out of control by the time of the 73 US tour, but that it didn't have an effect on his playing until several years later. Either way, from the late 70s until the present day, Jimmy has been unable to reach anywhere near the standard he performed at in the early 70s. Drugs effectively destroyed a World class guitarist.

 

To illustrate his decline, here are 2 clips of The Song Remains The Same, the first from the 73 US tour, the second from Knebworth in 79:

 

US tour 73


Here Jimmy displays World class brilliance. He's got the lot; speed, precision, originality and, above all, musicality. There are so many highlights but, for instance, there's the traditional style lead solo (ie, 2:48 to 2:57) but also a very original and rapid arpeggio solo (3:08 to 3:17). 

Compare that with the same song from Knebworth 79:


Very sad. Jimmy is, quite simply, dreadful. All the lead solos have gone and he struggles even to play rudimentary chords, and when he attempts the arpeggio solo at 2:49 to 2:59 all he can manage is a succession of out of time bum notes and his laughter suggests he too realises how abysmal he is. 4:10 to 4:20 is embarrassingly bad, 4:34 to 4:40 even worse, as if someone has picked up a guitar for the first time and is just messing around.

 

So, is Jimmy a sloppy player? No. He's worse than than that, but was brilliant until st least 1973. At the end of the day though he has given us some outstanding music and enriched our lives. That alone warrants extreme gratitude.

Good post but you're showing an abysmal TSRTS from '79 to basically represent his playing from 77 on as subpar and it's not nearly that simple.  Check out any number of clips since then and it's clear that if 73 was a peak, 77-83 was the valley.  There's still a lot of great live playing from Jimmy after he got off the drugs, the O2 version of TSRTS has nothing in common with Knebworth.

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Every Zep fan and Jimmy Page fan has their own personal opinion on this subject.
Jimmy and sloppy playing post '73?  For me I can't lump Jimmy's live playing after '73
into the word "sloppy."  Are there some gigs where Jimmy mucks up songs and solos
horrifically? 
Well yeah of course, but I won't and can't say once the '73 USA tour was
over that was it folks. Go home the great Jimmy Page guitar playing all over.  No way!
That's not coming from my lips.

1975-80 has some trainwrecks.. BUT it it also gives me some my favourite Jimmy playing -
even the bad rep that '77 seems to carry, there are songs/solos from the '77 tour that I
really enjoy.

As for song Hot Dog?  Haha
:lol: yeah that's not on my listen to LZ list, so I can't comment
on that one.

Edited by KellyGirl
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I too find it incredible when Zep fans call Knebworth some last hurrah. Actually the rest of the band  tends to hold

its' own. I also want to know, in what article or interview did Page say his alcohol/drug use tanked many 73' shows ??

He never quite admits the drug destruction really at any point. Anyway there is plenty of excellent playing after 73',

even in 79' the 2nd Copenhagen show is by any standards  a great show, even for Jimmy.

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13 hours ago, WD52 said:

Page as a lead guitarist? very hit and miss live (Ritchie Blackmore is far better lead guitarist, Rory Gallagher/Stevie Ray Vaughan played with more feel, even players like Schenker and Lifeson are more precise and dynamic soloists )-but as a rock music composer/songwriter/arranger Page is  peerless.

Hit or miss, really? He was very good on a consistent basis until the end of 73. In 75 he was brilliant, even better than 73 for most of the February - May shows and I am sure he would have been better for the January shows had he not had a BROKEN FINGER! 77' is where Jimmy begins to go off the rails but again, 1/3 of those shows played he was brilliant, better than any prior year however when he was off he was horrible, train wreck, embarrassingly so. 79' has Page playing two absolutely brilliant gigs in Copenhagen, a mediocre gig on the 4th and a shitty gig on the 11th. The majority of the 80' European shows Jimmy is in fine form and playing well but again when he is off, he is a disaster. However, that being said, have a listen to the Rotterdam Heartbreaker from 80' and tell me Jimmy was sloppy or lost it. That is arguably one of the best Heartbreakers ever performed by Jimmy and makes every single 73' Heartbreaker sound average.

The fact is Jimmy was a drug & alcohol addict from late 75' - 83' and thus was inconsistent as a player. Tommy Bolin was just as good as Blackmore was until he spiraled into addiction. Eric Clapton stopped playing for a time because of Heroin. EVH has played almost an equal number of horrible, what the fuck shows as he has played great ones. This is rock and roll and Page's era was an era of excess and death as a result. The fact that Page came out of it and became, once again, a brilliant guitarist is testament. BTW, if anyone thinks Page was never as good, consistently as 73' I suggest you head on over to YouTube and check out his performances from the 92' Coverdale / Page tour through to his stint with the Black Crowes in 2000; 98' P&P tour in particular should place all doubt to rest.

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Yeah I agree with a lot of that. All the players WD mentioned are/were excellent, but few of them played as unpredictably

live as Page(actually Blackmore sort of), most solos were an adventure, good or bad. And the first 5-6 years live there

were plenty of good/great guitar antics overall during the majority of shows. Strangely enough EVH actually compared

his live soloing approach to Page, being an acrobat on guitar. Which Page certainly especially was when his technique

was up there.

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interesting points all. Hit and miss-well i stand by that (I have around 300 Zep boots) and performance varies night by night even on the same tour (and often within the same concert!). First  I would like to make the distinction between Page as a lead guitarist live, and lead guitarist in the studio. Live as a soloist (and not helped by his oddly weedy guitar tone) I don't rate him as highly as, say, Blackmore. In the studio-with time for multiple takes and patches-as a lead player he is right up there with the best. Secondly as a constructor of songs/chordsmith I cannot think of a better rock guitarist songwriter. 

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People have argued that he got his mojo back on the outrider tour and p/p 98 tour, but for me after '73 he never fully regained his fluency, timing and confidence. The big question is not why he lost it in the first place - clearly heroin and alcohol - but why he never got back to his best after kicking smack. i don't buy the lack of practice argument. its a bit of mystery.

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Well I haven't been playing a guitar for 30+ years, (I did play the recorder when I was 6 though LOL), so I don't notice when he plays a bad note on an album. I wouldn't know if he did or didn't intend the intro to Hotdog to sound how it does. I do know though that I think he writes and plays brilliant music. That to me is more important..

Everyone has a bad day in the office. But Page on form plays some of the most amazing music out there. I have always thought that Jeff Beck is a better technical player, but I don't think he writes or produces music anywhere near as well as Page. So, yes, maybe Jimmy is a bit "sloppy" at times but he makes up for it in his own brilliant way. That's my take on it.

I would also hazard a guess that he vast majority of the population would not recognise a badly played note in a song on any album. We don't know what was meant to be played, so accept the result.

I am 56 and fortunate to have seen Zep play in 1975. During any live performance it is not so obvious when a few notes or chords are played badly, however if you get the chance to listen to the tapes over and again, mistakes will always be there. Thats the problem with "live" albums I guess.

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Is Jimmy Page a "sloppy" guitarist? 

Was Michelangelo a "messy" painter?

Was Aliester Crowley a "polite" occultist?

Was Benjamin Franklin a "gentleman" toward his lady friends?

All these questions can be asked of genius....and 9 of 10 can be found lacking.

Edited by nirvana
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22 hours ago, IpMan said:

Hit or miss, really? He was very good on a consistent basis until the end of 73. In 75 he was brilliant, even better than 73 for most of the February - May shows and I am sure he would have been better for the January shows had he not had a BROKEN FINGER! 77' is where Jimmy begins to go off the rails but again, 1/3 of those shows played he was brilliant, better than any prior year however when he was off he was horrible, train wreck, embarrassingly so. 79' has Page playing two absolutely brilliant gigs in Copenhagen, a mediocre gig on the 4th and a shitty gig on the 11th. The majority of the 80' European shows Jimmy is in fine form and playing well but again when he is off, he is a disaster. However, that being said, have a listen to the Rotterdam Heartbreaker from 80' and tell me Jimmy was sloppy or lost it. That is arguably one of the best Heartbreakers ever performed by Jimmy and makes every single 73' Heartbreaker sound average.

The fact is Jimmy was a drug & alcohol addict from late 75' - 83' and thus was inconsistent as a player. Tommy Bolin was just as good as Blackmore was until he spiraled into addiction. Eric Clapton stopped playing for a time because of Heroin. EVH has played almost an equal number of horrible, what the fuck shows as he has played great ones. This is rock and roll and Page's era was an era of excess and death as a result. The fact that Page came out of it and became, once again, a brilliant guitarist is testament. BTW, if anyone thinks Page was never as good, consistently as 73' I suggest you head on over to YouTube and check out his performances from the 92' Coverdale / Page tour through to his stint with the Black Crowes in 2000; 98' P&P tour in particular should place all doubt to rest.

Nicely said. 

As as an aside, I would love to see another compare / contrast, but this time between TSRTS Knebworth '79, and TSRTS O2 '07.

Edited by The Dark Lord
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On 31-7-2015 at 3:08 PM, rain in the fool said:

was going to try and say something deeper than what i will, but i guess its all been said by one of the first replys. you cant exactly play a song like whole lotta love with a 'lotta' accuracy and make it sound good. its one of those songs. and i guess that goes for a lot of led zep stuff. youve just gotta throw your pick around the strings.

I suppose I agree, everything about JImmy being sloppy or not has been said in this topic. Yes, I guess that indeed is the thing with many Led Zep songs, they oftem require more "attitude" than flawless technique to make them sound right.....

Ha ha,  for me personally as a hobby guitar player,  that is very hard to accomplish. My teacher is teaching me to play Stevie Ray Vaugn's Pride and joy, I know Stevie Ray did have an incredible technique and still managed to make the songs sound very loose. Ha ha, I do get the chords and notes right, now I have to see if I can play the blues with the right attitude.....(the hardest part....)

 

Maaike 

Edited by Maaike Roeleveld
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