1977 Jimmy Page Interview (Audio/Text) by Steven Rosen. * * * Interview as it appeared in the July, 1977, issue of Guitar Player Lets start at the beginning. When you first started playing, what was going on musically? Jimmy Page:I got really stimulated by hearing early rock and roll; knowing that something was going on that was being suppressed by the media. Which it really was at the time. You had to stick by the radio and listen to overseas radio to hear good recordsLittle Richard and things like that. The record that made me want to play guitar was Baby, Lets Play House by Elvis Presley. I just sort of heard two guitars and bass and thought, Yeah, I want to be a part of this. There was just so much vitality and energy coming out of it. When did you get your first guitar? JP: When I was fourteen. It was all a matter of trying to pick up tips and stuff. There werent many method books, really apart from jazz, which had no bearing on rock whatsoever at the time. But the first guitar was a Grazzioso, which was a copy of a Stratocaster; then I got a real Stratocaster; then those Gibson Black Beauties which stayed with me for a long time until some thieving magpie took it to his nest. Thats the guitar I did all the Sixties sessions on. Were your parents musical? JP: No, not at all. But they didnt mind me getting into it; I think that they were quite relieved to see something being done instead of an artwork, which they thought was a losers game. What music did you play when you first started? JP: I wasnt really playing anything properly. I just knew a few bits of solos and things, not much. I just kept getting records and learning that way. It was the obvious influences at the beginning, Scotty Moore, James Burton, Cliff Galluphe was Gene Vincents guitaristJohnny Weeks, later and those seemed to be the most sustaining influences until I began to hear blues guitarists Elmore James, B.B. King, and people like that. Basically, that was the start: a mixture between rock and blues. Then I stretched out a lot more, and I started doing studio work. I had to branch out, and I did. I might do three sessions a day: a film in the morning, and then thered be something like a rock band, and then maybe a folk one in the evening. I didnt know what was coming! But it was a really good disciplinary area to work in, the studio. And it also gave me a chance to develop all of the different styles. Do you remember the first band you were in? JP: Just friends and things. I played in a lot of different small bands around, but nothing you could ever get any records of. What kind of music were you playing with (early English rock band) Neil Christian And The Crusaders? JP: This was before the Stones happened, so we were doing Chuck Berry, Gene Vincent, and Bo Diddley things mainly. At the time, public taste was more engineered towards Top 10 records, so it was a bit of a struggle. But thered always be a small section of the audience into what we were doing. Wasnt there a break in your music career at this point? JP: Yes, I stopped playing and went to art college for about two years, while concentrating more on blues playing on my own. And then from art college to the (early British rock mecca) Marquee Club in London. I used to go up and jam on a Thursday night with the interlude band. One night somebody said, Would you like to play on a record? and I said, Yeah, why not. It did quite well, and that was it after that. I cant remember the title of it now. From that point I started getting all this studio work. There was a crossroads: is it an art career or is it going to be music? Well anyway, I had to stop going to the art college because I was really getting into music. Big Jim Sullivanwho was really brilliantand I were the only guitarists doing those sessions. Then a point came where Stax Records (Memphis-based rhythm and blues label) started influencing music to have more brass and orchestral stuff. The guitar started to take a back trend with just the occasional riff. I didnt realize how rusty I was going to get until a rock and roll session turned up from France, and I could hardly play. I thought it was time to get out, and I did. You just stopped playing? JP: For a while I just worked on my stuff alone, and then I went to a Yardbirds concert at Oxford, and they were all walking around in their penguin suits. (Lead singer) Keith Relf got really drunk and was saying Fuck you right in the mike and falling into the drums. I thought it was a great anarchistic night, and I went back into the dressing room and said, What a brilliant show! There was this great argument going on; (bass player) Paul Samwell-Smith saying, Well, Im leaving the group, and if I was you, Keith, Id do the very same thing. So he left the group, and Keith didnt. But they were stuck, you see, because they had commitments and dates, so I said, Ill play the bass if you like. And then it worked out that we did the dual lead guitar thing as soon as (previously on rhythm guitar) Chris Dreja could get it together with bass, which happened, though not for long. But then came the question of discipline. If youre going to do dual lead guitar riffs and patterns, then youve got to be playing the same things. Jeff Beck had discipline occasionally, but he was an inconsistent player in that when hes on, hes probably the best there is, but at that time, and for a period afterwards, he had no respect whatsoever for audiences. You were playing acoustic guitar during your session period? JP: Yes, I had to do it on studio work. And you come to grips with it very quickly too, very quickly, because it's what is expected. There was a lot of busking (singing on street corners) in the earlier days, but as they say, I had to come to grips with it, and it was a good schooling. You were using the Les Paul for those sessions? JP: The Gibson Black Beauty Les Paul Custom. I was one of the first people in England to have one, but I didnt know that then.I just saw it on the wall, had a go with it, and it was good. I traded a Gretsch Chet Atkins Id had before for the Les Paul. What kind of amplifiers were you using for session work? JP: A small Supro, which I used until someone, I dont know who, smashed it up for me. Im going to try to get another one. Its like a Harmony amp, I think, and all of the first album (Led Zeppelin) was done on that. What do you remember most about your early days with the Yardbirds? JP: One thing is it was chaotic in recording. I mean we did one tune and didnt really know what it was. We had Ian Stewart from The Stones on piano, and wed just finished the take, and without even hearing it (producer) Mickie Most said, Next. I said, Ive never worked like this in my life, and he said, Dont worry about it. It was all done very quickly, as it sounds. It was things like that that really led to the general state of mind and depression of Relf and (drummer) Jim McCarty that broke the group up. I tried to keep it together, but there was no chance; they just wouldnt have it. In fact Relf said the magic of the band disappeared when Clapton left (British rock/blues guitarist Eric Clapton played with The Yardbids prior to Becks joining). I was really keen on doing anything, though, probably because of having had all that studio work and variety beforehand. So it didnt matter what way we wanted to go; they were definitely talented people, but they couldnt really see the woods for the trees at the time. You thought the best period of the Yardbirds was when Jeff Beck was with them? JP: I did, Giorgio Gomelsky (the Yardbirds manager and producer) was good for him because he got him thinking and attempting new things. Thats when they started all sorts of departures. Apparently (co-producer) Simon Napier-Bell sang the guitar riff of Over Under Sideways Down (on LP of the same name) to Jeff to demonstrate what he wanted, but I dont know whether thats true or not. I never spoke to him about it. I know the idea of the record was to sort of emulate the sound of the old Rock Around The Clock type record; that bass and backbeat thing. But it wouldnt be evident at all; every now and again hed say, Lets make a record around such and such, and no one would ever know what the example was at the end of the song. Can you describe some of your musical interaction with Beck during the Yardbirds period? JP: Sometimes it worked really great, and sometimes it didnt. There were a lot of harmonies that I dont think anyone else had really done, not like we did. The Stones were the only ones who got into two guitars going at the same time from old Muddy Waters records. But we were more into solos rather than a rhythm thing. The point is, youve got to have the parts worked out, and Id find that I was doing what I was supposed to, while something totally different would be coming from Jeff. That was all right for the areas of improvisation but there were other parts where it just did not work. Youve got to understand that Beck and I came from the same sort of roots. If youve got things you enjoy, then you want to do themto the horrifying point where wed done our first LP (Led Zeppelin) with You Shook Me, and then I heard hed done You Shook Me (Truth). I was terrified because I thought theyd be the same. But I hadnt even known hed done it, and he hadnt known that we had. Did Beck play bass on Over Under Sideways Down? JP: No. In fact for that LP they just got him in to do the solos because theyd had a lot of trouble with him. But then when I joined the band, he supposedly wasnt going to walk off anymore. Well, he did a couple of times. Its strange; if hed had a bad day, hed take it out on the audience. I dont know whether hes the same now; his playing sounds far more consistent on records. You see on the Becks Bolero (Truth) thing I was working with that, the track was done and then the producer just disappeared. He was never seen again; he simply didnt come back. (Simon) Napier-Bell just sort of left me and Jeff to it. Jeff was playing, and I was in the box (recording booth). And even though it says he wrote it, I wrote it. Im playing the electric 12-string on it. Becks doing the slide bits, and Im basically playing around the chords. The idea was built around (classical composer) Maurice Ravels Bolero. Its got a lot of drama to it; it came off right. It was a good lineup too, with (the Whos drummer) Keith Moon and everything. Wasnt that band going to be Led Zeppelin? JP: It was, yeah. Not Led Zeppelin as a name; the name came afterwards. But it was said afterwards that thats what it could have been called. Because Moonie wanted to get out of the Who, and so did (Who bass player) John Entwistle, but when it came down to getting hold of a singer, it was either going to be (guitarist/organist/singer with English pop group Traffic) Steve Winwood or (guitarist/vocalist with Small Faces) Steve Marriott. Finally it came down to Marriott. He was contacted, and the reply came back from his managers office: How would you like to have a group with no fingers, boys? Or words to that effect. So the group was dropped because of Marriotts other commitment, to the Small Faces. But I think it would have been the first of all those bands sort of like the Cream and everything. Instead it didnt happenapart from the Bolero. Thats the closest it got. John Paul (Jones) is on that too; so is Nicky Hopkins (studio keyboard player with various British rock groups). You only recorded a few songs with Beck on record? JP: Yeah. Happenings Ten Years Time Ago (The Yardbirds' Greatest Hits), Stroll On (Blow Up), The Train Kept A Rollin (Having A Rave-up with the Yardbirds), and Psycho Daisies, Bolero and a few other things. None of them were with the Yardbirds but earlier onjust some studio things, unreleased songs: Louie Louie and things like that; really good though, really great. Were you using any boosters with the Yardbirds to get all those sounds? JP: Fuzztone which Id virtually regurgitated from what I heard on 2000 Pound Bee by The Ventures. They had a Fuzztone. It was nothing like the one this guy, Roger Mayer, made for me; he worked for the Admiralty (British Navy) in the electronics division. He did all the fuzz pedals for Jimi Hendrix later; all those octave doublers and things like that. He made this one for me, but that was all during the studio period, you see. I think Jeff had quite a lot of the boost and that sort of sustain in the music. You were also doing all sorts of things with feedback? JP: You know, I Need You (Kinkdom) by the Kinks? I think I did that bit there in the beginning. I dont know who really did feedback first; it just sort of happened. I dont think anybody consciously nicked it from anybody else. It was just going on. But Pete Townshend (lead guitarist with the Who) obviously was the one, through the music of his group, who made the use of feedback more his style, and so its related to him. Whereas the other players like Jeff and myself were playing more single note things than chords. You used a Danelectro with the Yardbirds? Jimmy Page at New York's Nassau Coliseum in 1975. Photo by Richard E. Aaron/rockpix.com. JP: Yes, but not with Beck. I did use it in the latter days. I used it onstage for White Summer (Little Games). I used a special tuning for that; the low string down to B, then A, D, G, A and D. Its like a modal tuning, a sitar tuning, in fact. Was Black Mountain Side (done on Led Zeppelin) an extension of that? JP: I wasnt totally original on that. It had been done to death in the folk clubs a lot; Annie Briggs was the first one that I heard do that riff. I was playing it as well, and then there was (English guitarist) Bert Janschs version. Hes the one who crystallized all the acoustic playing as afar as Im concerned. Those first few albums of his were absolutely brilliant. And the tuning on Black Mountain Side is the same as White Summer. Its taken a bit of battering, the Danelectro guitar, Im afraid. You used a Vox 12-string with the Yardbirds, right? JP: Thats right. I cant remember the titles now; the Mickie Most things, some of the B-sides. I remember there was one with an electric 12-string guitar solo on the end of it, which was all right. I dont have copies of them now, and I dont know what theyre called. Ive got Little Games but thats about it.