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Guitar Player, June 1969

By Bob Kennedy

From the time Jimmy Page launched Led Zeppelin, it did what most groups dream of doing: it floated right to the top, first in England and now in the U.S. We caught Jimmy Page at the high temple of rock, the Fillmore in San Francisco, where he was making one of his first U.S. appearances. Although the Led Zeppelin had only been together two months, they were jamming as if they had been doing it for years.

Jimmy, who plays lead guitar for Led Zeppelin, worked two years with the much-lauded Yardbirds. At that time he became good friends with another Yardbirds veteran, Eric Clapton. "Eric and I did a lot of stuff at my house," he recalls. "We used to just get the tape recorder working and start playing. A lot of the tapes we did together came out in the media. However, at the time I was recording with Eric, he was under contract and so his company took possession of the recordings. It's interesting to see the progress Eric has made since then."

Jimmy started on the guitar about eight years ago: "I have always wanted to be an electric guitarist. I even started a paper route to get my first instrument because I didn't have any money. Well, I got one, and then I just started exchanging and getting better ones. I think the second one I had was a Fender Stratocaster, and that was the first good guitar I ever had. Then I got a Gretsch, and then a Les Paul with three pickups. The reason I don't use the Les Paul now is because I didn't feel that particular model was good for blues. It's called the 'Fretless Wonder' and the frets are filed real fine, but it just doesn't happen for the blues."

Jimmy says the best match he's found has been a Gibson guitar through a Marshall amp: "You get a Marshall with a Gibson and it's fantastic, a perfect match. I'm using Ernie Ball super slinky strings, although I usually sort of swap around gauges. You know, they have these custom-gauge things, and I usually have it a bit heavier around the third and sometimes a bit lighter. It depends on what sort of mood I'm in."

Once in a while when jamming, Jimmy will sit down behind a steel guitar. "We wanted to use a steel guitar in Led Zeppelin," he explains. "I have used one for about a month. It's frustrating to play it though. You hear those country guys, and they can play it so damn well. It's such a complicated instrument for someone who doesn't have that sort of line to begin with, and it's a struggle for me to play. We used it on our album a couple of times, but nothing really complicated. When I play, I try to do a bit of everything. I don't know if that's good. I guess it can be annoying." One of Jimmy's most dynamic sounds occurs when he draws a violin bow across the strings.

"Led Zeppelin's music never duplicates itself," he insists. "We might use the same pattern, but it's always changing. By now a tune may be entirely different from when we first started. The only thing which will remain the same is the first couple of verses. Although we've got cues when we cut in, the idea is to get as much spontaneity as possible. But to get yourself out of trouble, you've got certain keys you can use to come in. Otherwise it can be chaotic. Usually we just start the song off and then go in different tangents, change it four or five times, and then come back to the original song."

Jimmy wouldn't call what they do during rehearsal a practice. "We jam," he says. "Once we've got a number, everything is happy, but getting there is another thing. That is why it is so easy using an old blues number. You know it, and then you go on from there. I think most groups must have the same trouble.

"How original our work is depends upon how you want to classify it. You might say it's 80% original if you want to exclude the words. In fact, it would be 90% original, because our numbers would be ten or fifteen minutes whereas the original number would only be three minutes long. So basically we are making it up all the time."

Jimmy is establishing himself as one of the top rock guitarists. How high he goes is only limited by his creativity and ability to expand his technique.
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This Month in
Led Zeppelin History

March 17, 1969 - A four-song performance is filmed for TV Byen in Denmark (aired on May 19, 1969)
March 21, 1969 - Zeppelin’s debut TV appearance on "How It Is"
March 25, 1969 - Filming session for the Supershow
March xx, 1970 - The band turns down many TV offers worth large sums
March 05, 1971 - Led Zeppelin started a 12-date "Thank You" tour for British fans, appearing at the clubs from their early days and charging the same admission prices as in 1968. The first show was at Ulster Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland where they played songs from their upcoming fourth album, including the first public performances of Black Dog, Stairway To Heaven, Going To California and Rock And Roll.
March 12, 1972 - Page and Plant rehearse some songs with the Bombay Orchestra
March 25, 1973 - Led Zeppelin finally release Houses of the Holy after production issues with the album cover
March 28, 1973 - Led Zeppelin released Houses Of The Holy in the UK. The album title was a dedication by the band to their fans who appeared at venues they dubbed "houses of the holy". Houses Of The Holy has now been certified 11 times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for US sales in excess of 11 million copies.
March xx, 1974 - The band decide to release a double album due to the amount of left over studio material
March 29, 1975 - Led Zeppelin saw all six of their albums in the US Top 100 chart in the same week, alongside their latest album Physical Graffiti at No.1. Physical Graffiti has now been certified 16 times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for US sales in excess of 16 million copies.
March 15, 1975 - Tickets for the Earls Court shows sellout within four hours
March xx, 1976 - Jimmy speaks with reporters mentioning the new album due out called Presence
March 31, 1976 - Presence is released
March 28, 1977 - Zeppelin arrive in Dallas, Texas to rehearse before opening the eleventh tour of the US
March xx, 1978 - Robert and John spend some time hanging around the Midlands
March 26, 1979 - Robert takes lead vocal at a Bad Company gig in Birmingham
March 04, 1980 - John Bonham makes a TV appearance on "Alright Now" with Bill Connolly
March 26, 2006 - Readers of Total Guitar magazine voted the guitar solo by Jimmy Page in Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven as the greatest guitar solo of all time. The 1971 track was voted ahead of tracks by Van Halen, Queen, Jimi Hendrix and The Eagles. On the 20th anniversary of the original release of the song, it was announced via US radio sources that the song had logged up an estimated 2,874,000 radio plays - back to back, that would run for 44 years solid.
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