Greatest Guitarists Series: Jimmy Page
10 Things Every Led Zeppelin Fan Must Know!
That Jimmy Page has an interest in architecture should come as no great surprise to fans of Led Zeppelin. After all, Page is in many ways the architect of the grand musical vision that was Led Zeppelin. That Page is one of the greatest guitarists in rock history is pointless to argue against any more than one should argue against the notion that water is wet. But that he is also one of rock music’s greatest visionaries is perhaps an argument that needs a slightly more skillful advocate. Although, upon closer inspection, it should really be seen as a self-evident truth.
Led Zeppelin was, like The Beatles and The Jimi Hendrix Experience before it, the culmination of everything that had come before it in rock music, but also transcendence of this. Startlingly original while still deeply rooted in its layered, rich and complex history that intertwines the strands of blues, R&B, folk, and of course good old fashioned rock, Led Zeppelin was truly a metal balloon that flew. And boy did they reach some heights.
But this force to be reckoned with did not merely spring fully-formed ex nihilo as if it were Athena springing forth from the head of Zeus. It was built on a foundation of many years of Page bleeding and sweating music and guitar, through countless gigs as a studio session musician and his time as a guitar hero following in the footsteps of Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck in The Yardbirds. And when that storied act finally called it quits, Jimmy Page knew exactly where he wanted to take the music next. He had the tools. He had the vision. He just needed to find the personnel.
And find them he did.
Here are some things every Led Zeppelin and Jimmy Page fan needs to know about the earliest days of Led Zeppelin and the making of the album Led Zeppelin.
- After the breakup of The Yardbirds, Jimmy Page had a vision of what he wanted for his musical future. He saw himself playing in a new rock band that would combine the blues, hard rock, and acoustic music that he loved, anchored by powerful, memorable choruses.
- As if by a miracle, Jimmy Page found the perfect men to join him on his new musical adventure and to help him fulfill his creative vision. Page was approached by bassist John Paul Jones, a fellow session musician with a great deal of musical versatility, also able to play keyboards and arrange music, as well as technical ability. Recognizing this, Page enlisted Jones for the cause immediately. Page’s friend Terry Reid then recommended a vocalist to Page, a young man by the name of Robert Plant. Not only did he *sound* the part that Page was looking for, but he had the perfect rock star look. Through Plant, Page learned of the immense talent of John Bonham, who Page would enlist to anchor the dynamic, potent rhythm section. Thus, Led Zeppelin was born. Right from the very first rehearsal the band knew that they had something special.
- Jimmy Page took on the role of producer for Led Zeppelin’s first album. It took the band 30 hours and about £1,700 to produce Led Zeppelin.
- To achieve the guitar sound on “Dazed and Confused,” Jimmy Page used a Telecaster, a Vox amp, a Sola Sound Tone Bender that created distortion, a wah pedal, and infamously, a violin bow. The guitar part for the song was recorded mostly in one take.
- One crucial component of Jimmy Page’s production technique was the careful placement of microphones, especially to record the acoustic drums. By paying attention to microphone placement, Page was able to capture the natural reverberation of the sound without having to produce the reverb effects later on in production – rather, it was all captured live.
- Something that stood out to Jimmy Page about the recording of “Good Times Bad Times” was the fact impressive sound that Bonham was able to achieve while only using one kick drum, yet achieved the effect that most other musicians need a double kick drum to accomplish.
- The idea of playing guitar with a bow was suggested to Jimmy Page by a string musician who he worked with during some of his early session work. The string player suggested that Page try to play guitar with a bow, but Page didn’t think it would work because the bridge of the guitar lacks an arch, as opposed to the bridge of the bowed stringed instruments. Nevertheless, Page was convinced by the session string player to give the technique a try, and he was fascinated enough with the results to continue pursuing the phenomenon.
- With such a strong interest in hard rock, why did Led Zeppelin sprinkle in so much acoustic guitar? Part of the reason was to help create dynamics in the sound. The contrast between the hard and the softer sounding music enhanced the dramatic effect of both styles. If everything was loud hard, and electric, it wouldn’t have had as strong an impact overall.
- Around the time of Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page wasn’t just listening to rock and blues; he also had strong interests in folk, classical and indian music. But considering the staggering diversity of Led Zeppelin’s sounds over the years, this shouldn’t be too much of a shock.
- Most of Led Zeppelin was recorded with his custom-painted Telecaster. He did switch to a Les Paul for Led Zeppelin II, even though he still dug the Telecaster, because Joe Walsh introduced him to the Gibson and he fell in love with it immediately.
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