Jimmy Page was born James Patrick Page, Jr. in Heston, Middlesex, on the 9th of January 1944.
After moving house in 1952 Jimmy came across his first guitar, Jimmy has been quoted saying that he wasn’t sure whether the guitar had been left in the house by the previous tenants or whether it belonged to a family friend, either way Jimmy began playing it, learning by ear and receiving guitar lessons in a neighbouring town and from fellow school mates who also played.
Jimmy Page left secondary school early to pursue a career in music playing with any groups that could acquire gigs for themselves. Not long after this Jimmy was asked to join “The Crusaders” the backing band of singer Neil Christian. Page completed a two year long tour with Neil Christian and recorded guitar for several Neil Christian records.
After becoming sick due to glandular fever, Jimmy decided to take a break from touring life. For the next 18 months he studied painting at art college while regaining his former health.
On his return to professional music Jimmy become a session guitarist recording guitar for the tracks “I’m a Lover Not a Fighter” and “I’ve Been Driving On Bald Mountain” from The Kinks first album as well as guitar for The Who’s first single “I Can’t Explain” and on the B-side “Bald Headed Woman”.
Jimmy also played guitar on Van Morrison and Them’s rendition of “Baby Please Don’t Go”, The Rolling Stone’s track “Heart of Stone” and contributed five guitar tracks for Joe Cockers debut album “With a Little Help From My Friends.” Jimmy also contributed guitar to the music of The Beatles 1964 movie “A Hard Days Night”.
Jimmy left his career as a session guitarists after he began to receive requests to do muzak but always considered it to have been an irreplaceable part of his musical education. A week or so after he left his previous musical role he filled Paul Samwell-Smith’s role as bass guitarists for The Yardbirds.
A year later Eric Clapton left The Yardbirds and Jimmy was once again offered the position of lead guitarist, this time Jimmy suggested Jeff Beck because he was reluctant to leave his well paying session position and didn’t want to risk his health on the road.
Soon after Jeff Beck departed and The Yardbirds become a quartet.
With new room to move Jimmy began to take musical liberties with the band introducing heavier and more experimental sounds that he would later perfect with Led Zeppelin.
In 1968 the sudden departure of Yardbirds band members Keith Relf and Jim McCarty forced Jimmy to reconstruct the band in order to full fill unplayed shows in Scandinavia.
Jimmy recruited the vocals of Robert Plant, the drums of John Bonham and the bass guitar of John Paul Jones. While touring Scandinavia the band played under the name The New Yardbirds but changed the name to Led Zeppelin after either Keith Moon or John Entwistle of The Who predicted the group would “go down like a lead balloon… more like a lead zeppelin”. Led Zeppelin’s manager Peter Grant decided to have the name spelt “Led Zeppelin” to avoid mispronunciation with “Lead Zeppelin”.
Jimmy used a vast array of guitars during his time with Led Zeppelin but the guitar he become most well known for was a 1959 Gibson Les Paul sold to him by Joe Walsh of The Eagles.
This particular guitar was used for the majority of Led Zeppelin’s recordings along with Marshall amplifiers. Other guitar’s Jimmy was known for was a painted Fender Telecaster he used during his time with The Yardbirds and with early Led Zeppelin and a Danelectroc 3021 he used for songs with tunings, such as the celebrated DADGAD tuning for the song “Kashmir”.
Jimmy also played his guitar with a cello bow for certain songs like “Dazed and Confused” and “How Many More Times”.
Though Jimmy primarily relied on Marshall amplification for live performances he would often use a selection of amplifiers for studio recordings. Some of these amplifiers included Vox, Orange, Fender, Axis and Hiwatt. Led Zeppelin’s icon first album was in fact recorded using a Fender Telecaster and a Supro amplifier.
Jimmy also used a Dunlop and Vox Cry Baby wah pedal that can be heard in the solos of such tracks as “Whole Lotta Love” and “Trampled Under Foot”. Other effects pedals Jimmy occasionally utilised where the Maestro Echoplex, the MXR Phase 90 and the MXR Blue Box.
During live performances of the song “Dazed and Confused” and in the studio Jimmy would occasionally use a Theremin.
Musical Techniques, Concepts and Approaches
Jimmy’s heavy blues based rhythms and riff’s are cited by musicologists as one of the most important links in the development of hard rock and heavy metal music. Jimmy’s rock guitar playing and rock composition style has since been adopted as the universal reference for rock compositions.
Power chords, chugging rhythms on the low strings and heavy blues based riffs made up a majority of Jimmy’s rock compositions and has since cast an inescapable influence throughout the world of rock guitar playing.
The balanced appearance of acoustic material in Led Zeppelin’s catalogue also contributed to the common appearance of acoustic songs by rock bands. Jimmy’s unique use of guitar tunings as heard in such songs as “The Rain Song” and “Kashmir” also inspired a new approach to acoustic guitar playing and songwriting in the rock guitar playing world as well as others.
Jimmy’s lead guitar style was both fast and intense, and melodic and soulful. Largely blues based Jimmy would utilise wild bends in the style of both Albert King and Buddy Guy, and tasteful mixtures of major and minor pentatonic in the style of B.B. King. Jimmy would also use a great deal of minor scales in particular solos inspired by folk and Spanish style guitar playing, as well as major pentatonic playing inspired by country guitarist’s.
Though Jimmy Page could play soulfully and tastefully is lead guitar playing ability is most celebrated for its speed. Jimmy would achieve is fast blues rock runs utilising rapid hammer ons and pulls, this technique can be heard in such solos as “Good Times Bad Times”, “Since I Been Loving You”, “Rock N Roll”, “Black Dog”, “Heartbreaker” and many others.
Jimmy’s extensive experience as a session musician taught him many invaluable lessons in the recording studio. During this time Jimmy would experiment with microphone placements and appropriate rooms for recording drums. Jimmy become one of the first British producers to capture the ambient sound of a band by placing a microphone a certain distant from an amplifier.
During his time with Led Zeppelin Jimmy become an accomplished producer, producing all of Led Zeppelins albums.
Jimmy also introduced a new recording technique he called “reverse echo” that involved the echo of a recording being heard before the recorded material instead of after it. He achieved this effect by turning the tape over and transferring the echo to a separate track, then turing the tape back around so the echo comes before the recorded material.
Influence In Rock Guitar Playing
Jimmy’s profound command of different guitar playing styles and musical compositions has greatly influenced many notable artists in many different genres. Jimmy is considered the pioneer of the rock riff, setting the rock n roll standard with such notable riffs as “Whole Lotta Love”, “Communication Breakdown”, “Heartbreaker” and “Dazed and Confused”.
Jimmy’s powerful blues based, power chord driven rock rhythms have since become the foundation of great rock riffing. And his fast and restless lead guitar style has been cited as the blue print for rock lead guitar playing.
Jimmy’s acoustic guitar prowess and mastery of exotic tunings also influenced the common appearance of acoustic guitar songs on rock n roll albums, and his combination of a Gibson Les Paul and Marshall amplification during live performances has solidified these two instruments has one of the prevailing musical voices of rock n roll.
Jimmy’s iconic “Stairway To Heaven” solo has been cited as the greatest rock guitar solo in history.
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