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Jimmy Page Interview


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Encore: Jimmy Page.(Interview).

Author(s):Tom Wheeler

Guitar Player Feb 2004

Jimmy Page was a busy, widely herod session guitarist before joining one of the U.K.'s most influential and successful rock bands, the Yardbirds--all this before co-founding Led Zeppelin. Here are brief, edited excerpts from Steve Rosen's July '77 cover story

When you first started playing, what was going on musically?

I got really stimulated by early rock and roll-which was being suppressed by the media. You had to listen to overseas radio to heat Little Richard and firings like that.

What sort of music did you play on sessions?

I might do a film session in the morning, then a rock band, then maybe a folk session in the evening. I didn't know what was coming. It gave me a chance to develop all the different styles.

What do you remember most about your early days with the Yardbirds?

The recordings were chaotic! I mean, we did one tune, and we didn't really know what it was. Without even hearing it, [producer] Mickie Most said, "Next." I said, "I've never worked like this in my life," and he said, "Don't worry about it."

Can you describe your interactions with Jeff Beck during the Yardbirds period?

Sometimes it worked really great, and sometimes it didn't. There were a lot of harmonies that I don't think anyone else had done--not like we did. The Stones were the only ones who got into two guitars at the same time, from old Muddy Waters records. But we were more into solos, rather than a rhythm thing. You've got to have the parts worked out, and I'd find that I was doing what I was supposed to, while something really different would be coming from Jeff. That was all right for the improvisations, but there were other parts where it just did not work.

Tell us about "Beck's Bolero."

Even though Jeff says he wrote it, I wrote it. I'm playing electric 12, Becks doing the slide bits, and I'm basically playing around the chords. The idea was built around Ravel's "Bolero." It has a lot of drama to it. It was a good lineup, too--[ Who drummer] Keith Moon, [future Led Zep bassist] John Paul Jones, and [keyboardist] Nicky Hopkins.

Wasn't that band going to be Led Zeppelin ?

It was. Moony wanted to get out of fire Who. The choice of vocalist came down to Steve Marriott, but the group was dropped because of Marriott's commitment to the Small Faces. I think it would have been the first of all those bands sort of like Cream.

You've played quite a few stringed instruments other than guitar.

It goes back to the studio days and developing a certain amount of technique--at least enough to be adapted and used. My fingerpicking is sort of a cross between Pete Seeger, Earl Scruggs, and total incompetence.

You were doing all sorts of things with feedback.

I don't know who did it first. I don't think anybody consciously nicked it from anybody else, but Pete Townshend made use of feedback more his style, so it's related to him, whereas players like Jeff and myself were playing more single notes than chords.

How did you do the descending riff in "Whole Lotta Love'?

A metal slide and backwards echo.

Is the rest of the band in the studio when you put down the solos?

Never. I don't like anybody else in the studio when I'm putting on the guitar parts.

The Telecaster that Beck gave you, which you used on the first Led Zeppelin album, sounded more like a Les Paul

That's the amp and everything. I could get a lot Of tones out of the guitar, which you normally couldn't. If you crank it up to the distortion point so you can sustain notes, it's bound to sound like a Les Paul. I was using my Supro amp for the first album, and I still do. The "Stairway to Heaven" solo was done when I pulled out the Telecaster, plugged it into the Supro, and away it went. This confusion goes back to those early sessions. Those might not sound like a Les Paul, but that's what I used. It's just different amps, mic placement, and different things. Everyone has gotten so carried away with EQ pots that they have forgotten the science of microphone placement. The whole idea--the essence of recording--is to capture the sound of the room and the emotion of the moment.

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