James Patrick Page was born on 9 January 1944 to parents James and Patricia Page in the West London suburb of Heston, which today forms part of the London Borough of Hounslow. His father was an industrial personnel manager and his mother was a doctor's secretary. In 1952 they moved to Feltham, and later again to Miles Road, Epsom which is where Page came across his first guitar. "I don't know whether [the guitar] was left behind by the people [in the house] before [us], or whether it was a friend of the family's - nobody seemed to know why it was there." First playing the instrument at the age of thirteen years, he took a few lessons in nearby Kingston, but he was largely self-taught. Among his early influences were rockabilly guitarists Scotty Moore and James Burton, who both played on recordings made by Elvis Presley. Hearing the Elvis Presley song "Baby Let's Play House" is cited by Page as being his inspiration to take up playing the guitar. His first guitar was a second hand 1959 Futurama Grazioso, which was later replaced by a Telecaster.
Page's musical tastes included skiffle (a popular English music genre of the time) and acoustic folk playing, particularly that of Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, and the blues sounds of Elmore James, B.B. King, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Freddie King and Hubert Sumlin. "Basically, that was the start: a mixture between rock and blues." At the age of 13, Page appeared on Huw Wheldon's All Your Own talent quest programme in a skiffle quartet, one performance of which aired on BBC TV in 1957. The group played "Mama Don't Want To Skiffle Anymore" and another very American-flavored song, "In Them Ol' Cottonfields Back Home". Televised Contest. When asked by Wheldon what he wanted to do after schooling, Page said, "I want to do biological research" to find a cure for "cancer, if it isn't discovered by then".
In an interview with Guitar Player magazine, Page stated that "there was a lot of busking in the early days, but as they say, I had to come to grips with it, and it was a good schooling." Page would take a guitar to school each day and have it confiscated and handed back to him at 4:00 P.M. Although he had an interview for a job as a laboratory assistant, he ultimately chose to leave Danetree Secondary School, West Ewell, to pursue music instead.
Initially, Page had difficulty finding other musicians with whom he could play on a regular basis. "It wasn't as though there was an abundance. I used to play in many groups... anyone who could get a gig together, really." Following stints backing recitals by Beat poet Royston Ellis at the Mermaid Theatre between 1960-61, and singer Red E. Lewis, he was asked by singer Neil Christian to join his band, The Crusaders, after Christian had seen a fifteen-year-old Page playing in a local hall. Page toured with Christian for approximately two years and later played on several of his records, including the November 1962 single, "The Road to Love".
During his stint with Christian, Page fell seriously ill with glandular fever (infectious mononucleosis) and couldn't continue touring. While recovering, he decided to put his musical career on hold and concentrate on his other love, painting. He enrolled at Sutton Art College in Surrey. As he explained in 1975:
“ [I was] travelling around all the time in a bus. I did that for two years after I left school, to the point where I was starting to get really good bread. But I was getting ill. So I went back to art college. And that was a total change in direction. That's why I say it's possible to do. As dedicated as I was to playing the guitar, I knew doing it that way was doing me in forever. Every two months I had glandular fever. So for the next 18 months I was living on ten dollars a week and getting my strength up. But I was still playing."
While still a student, Page would often jam on stage at The Marquee with bands such as Cyril Davies' All Stars, Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated and with guitarists Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton. He was spotted one night by John Gibb of The Silhouettes, who asked him to help record a number of singles for EMI, including "The Worrying Kind". It wasn't until an offer from Mike Leander of Decca Records that Page was to receive regular studio work. His first session for the label was the recording "Diamonds" by Jet Harris and Tony Meehan, which went to Number 1 on the singles chart in early 1963.
After brief stints with Carter-Lewis and the Southerners, Mike Hurst and the Method, and Mickey Finn and the Blue Men, Page committed himself to full-time session work. As a session guitarist he was known as 'Little Jim' so there was no confusion with Big Jim Sullivan. Page was mainly called in to sessions as "insurance" in instances when a replacement or second guitarist was required by the recording artist. "It was usually myself and a drummer", he explained, "though they never mention the drummer these days, just me ... Anyone needing a guitarist either went to Big Jim [Sullivan] or myself"
Page was the favoured session guitarist of producer Shel Talmy, and therefore he ended up doing session work on songs for The Who and The Kinks as a direct result of the Talmy connection. Page's studio output in 1964 included Marianne Faithfull's "As Tears Go By", The Nashville Teens' "Tobacco Road", The Rolling Stones' "Heart of Stone" (released on Metamorphosis), Van Morrison & Them's "Baby Please Don't Go" and "Here Comes the Night", Dave Berry's "The Crying Game" and "My Baby Left Me", and Brenda Lee's "Is It True". Under the auspices of producer Talmy, Page contributed to The Kinks' 1964 debut album and he sat in on the sessions for The Who's first single "I Can't Explain" (although Pete Townshend was reluctant to allow Page's contribution on the final recording, Page did play on the B-side "Bald Headed Woman".)
In 1965 Page was hired by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham to act as house producer and A&R man for the newly-formed Immediate Records label, which also allowed him to play on and/or produce tracks by John Mayall, Nico, Chris Farlowe, Twice as Much and Eric Clapton. Page also formed a brief songwriting partnership with then romantic interest, Jackie DeShannon. He also composed and recorded songs for the John Williams album The Maureeny Wishful Album with Big Jim Sullivan. Page worked as session musician on the Al Stewart album Love Chronicles in 1969, and played guitar on five tracks of Joe Cocker's debut album, With a Little Help from My Friends.
When questioned about which songs he played on, especially ones where some controversy as to what his exact role was, Page often points out that it is hard to remember exactly what he did given the huge number of sessions he was playing at the time.
Although Page recorded with many notable musicians, many of these early tracks are only available through bootlegged copies, several of which were released by the Led Zeppelin fan club in the late 1970s. One of the rarest of these is the early jam session featuring Jimmy Page playing with Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, featuring a cover of "Little Queen of Spades" by Robert Johnson. Several songs which featured Page's involvement were compiled on the twin album release: James Patrick Page: Session Man Volume One and James Patrick Page: Session Man Volume Two.
Page decided to leave studio work when the increasing influence of Stax Records on popular music led to the greater incorporation of brass and orchestral arrangements into recordings at the expense of guitars.
However, he has stated that his time as a session player served as extremely good schooling for his development as a musician:
“ My session work was invaluable. At one point I was playing at least three sessions a day, six days a week! And I rarely ever knew in advance what I was going to be playing. But I learned things even on my worst sessions -- and believe me, I played on some horrendous things. I finally called it quits after I started getting calls to do Muzak. I decided I couldn't live that life anymore; it was getting too silly. I guess it was destiny that a week after I quit doing sessions Paul Samwell-Smith left The Yardbirds, and I was able to take his place. But being a session musician was good fun in the beginning -- the studio discipline was great. They'd just count the song off, and you couldn't make any mistakes."
In late 1964, Page was approached about the possibility of replacing Eric Clapton in The Yardbirds, but he declined the offer out of loyalty to his friend. In February 1965 Clapton quit the Yardbirds, and Page was formally offered Clapton's spot, but because he was unwilling to give up his lucrative career as a session musician, and because he was still worried about his health under touring conditions, he suggested his friend, Jeff Beck. On 16 May 1966, drummer Keith Moon, bass player John Paul Jones, keyboardist Nicky Hopkins, Jeff Beck and Page recorded "Beck's Bolero" in London's IBC Studios. The experience gave Page an idea to form a new supergroup featuring Beck, along with The Who's John Entwistle on bass and Keith Moon on drums. However, the lack of a quality vocalist and contractual problems prevented the project from getting off the ground. During this time, Entwistle suggested the name "Lead Zeppelin" for the first time, after Moon commented that the proceedings would take to the air like a lead balloon.
Within weeks, Page attended a Yardbirds concert at Oxford. After the show he went backstage where Paul Samwell-Smith announced that he was leaving the group. Page offered to replace Samwell-Smith and this was accepted by the group. He initially played electric bass with the Yardbirds before finally switching to twin lead guitar with Beck when Chris Dreja moved to bass. The musical potential of the line-up was scuttled, however, by interpersonal conflicts caused by constant touring and a lack of commercial success, although they released one single, "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago". (While Page and Jeff Beck played together in The Yardbirds, the trio of Page, Beck and Clapton never played in the original group at the same time. The three guitarists did appear on stage together at the ARMS charity concerts in 1983.)
After Beck's departure, the Yardbirds remained a quartet. They recorded one album with Page on lead guitar, Little Games. The album received indifferent reviews and was not a commercial success, peaking at only number 80 on the Billboard Music Charts. Though their studio sound was fairly commercial at the time, the band's live performances were just the opposite, becoming heavier and more experimental. These concerts featured musical aspects that Page would later perfect with Led Zeppelin, most notably performances of "Dazed and Confused".
After the departure of Keith Relf and Jim McCarty in 1968, Page reconfigured the group with a new line-up to fulfill unfinished tour dates in Scandinavia. As he said:
“ Once [the other Yardbirds] decided not to continue, then I was going to continue. And shift the whole thing up a notch ... The whole thing was putting a group together and actually being able to play together. There were a lot of virtuoso musicians around at the time who didn't gel as a band. That was the key: to find a band that was going to fire on all cylinders.”
To this end, Page recruited vocalist Robert Plant and drummer John Bonham, and he was also contacted by John Paul Jones who asked to join. During the Scandinavian tour the new group appeared as "The New Yardbirds", but soon recalled the old joke by Keith Moon and John Entwistle. Page stuck with that name to use for his new band. Peter Grant changed it to "Led Zeppelin", to avoid a mispronunciation of "Leed Zeppelin."
Page has explained that he had a very specific idea in mind as to what he wanted Led Zeppelin to be, from the very beginning:
“I had a lot of ideas from my days with The Yardbirds. The Yardbirds allowed me to improvise a lot in live performance and I started building a textbook of ideas that I eventually used in Zeppelin. In addition to those ideas, I wanted to add acoustic textures. Ultimately, I wanted Zeppelin to be a marriage of blues, hard rock and acoustic music topped with heavy choruses -- a combination that had never been done before. Lots of light and shade in the music.”
Page's past experiences both in the studio and with the Yardbirds were very influential in contributing to the success of Led Zeppelin in the 1970s. As a producer, composer, and guitarist he helped make Led Zeppelin a prototype for countless future rock bands, and was one of the major driving forces behind the rock sound of that era, influencing a host of other guitarists. Allmusic states that "just about every rock guitarist from the late '60s/early '70s to the present day has been influenced by Page's work with Led Zeppelin". For example, his sped up, downstroke guitar riff in "Communication Breakdown" is cited as being the inspiration for guitarist Johnny Ramone to develop his punk-defining, strictly downstroke guitar strumming, while Page's landmark guitar solo from the song "Heartbreaker" has been credited by Eddie Van Halen as being the inspiration for his two-hand tapping technique after he had seen Led Zeppelin perform in 1971. Page's solo in the famous epic "Stairway to Heaven" has been voted by readers of various guitar magazines, including Guitar World and Total Guitar, as the greatest guitar solo of all time, and he was named 'Guitarist of the Year' five years straight during the 1970s by Creem magazine. In 2001 he was voted London's greatest guitarist in Total Guitar magazine's poll of the greatest 12 British guitarists. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine named him number nine on their list of the "100 greatest guitarists of all time".
Page is credited for the innovations in sound recording he brought to the studio during the years he was a member of Led Zeppelin, many of which he had initially developed as a session musician. He developed a reputation for employing effects in new ways and trying out different methods of using microphones and amplification. During the late 1960s, most British music producers placed microphones directly in front of amplifiers and drums, resulting in the sometimes "tinny" sound of the recordings of the era. Page commented to Guitar World magazine that he felt the drum sounds of the day in particular "sounded like cardboard boxes." Instead, Page was a fan of 1950s recording techniques, Sun Studios being a particular favourite. In the same Guitar World interview, Page remarked, "Recording used to be a science", and "[engineers] used to have a maxim: distance equals depth." Taking this maxim to heart, Page developed the idea of placing an additional microphone some distance from the amplifier (as much as twenty feet) and then recording the balance between the two. By adopting this technique, Page became one of the first British producers to record a band's "ambient sound" - the distance of a note's time-lag from one end of the room to the other.
For the recording of several Led Zeppelin tracks, such as "Whole Lotta Love" and "You Shook Me", Page additionally utilised "reverse echo" - a technique which he claims to have invented himself while with The Yardbirds (he had originally developed the method when recording the 1967 single "Ten Little Indians"). This production technique involved hearing the echo before the main sound instead of after it, achieved by turning the tape over and employing the echo on a spare track, then turning the tape back over again to get the echo preceding the signal.
Page has stated that, as producer, he deliberately changed the audio engineers on Led Zeppelin albums, from Glyn Johns for the first album, to Eddie Kramer for Led Zeppelin II, to Andy Johns for Led Zeppelin III and later albums. He explained that "I consciously kept changing engineers because I didn't want people to think that they were responsible for our sound. I wanted people to know it was me."
John Paul Jones has acknowledged Page's production techniques as being a key component of the success of Led Zeppelin:
“The backwards echo stuff [and] a lot of the microphone techniques were just inspired. Using distance-miking… and small amplifiers. Everybody thinks we go in the studio with huge walls of amplifiers, but [Page] doesn’t. He uses a really small amplifier and he just mikes it up really well, so that it fits into a sonic picture.”
In interview Page himself gave to Guitar World magazine in 1993, he remarked on his work as a producer:
“Many people think of me as just a riff guitarist, but I think of myself in broader terms... As a producer I would like to be remembered as someone who was able to sustain a band of unquestionable individual talent, and push it to the forefront during its working career. I think I really captured the best of our output, growth, change and maturity on tape -- the multifaceted gem that is Led Zeppelin.”
Post Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin broke up in 1980 following the death of drummer John Bonham at Page's home, The Old Mill House at Clewer in Berkshire. For some time Page refused to touch a guitar out of sadness for the loss of his friend Bonham, but he eventually made a return to the stage at a Jeff Beck show in March 1981 at the Hammersmith Odeon. Also in 1981 Page joined with Yes bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White to form a supergroup called XYZ (for ex-Yes-Zeppelin). They rehearsed several times, but the project was shelved. However, demos of these sessions have turned up on bootleg and they reveal that some of the material showed up later on later projects, notably The Firm's "Fortune Hunter" and Yes songs "Mind Drive" and "Can You Imagine?". Page would later join Yes on stage in 1984 at Westfalenhalle in Dortmund, Germany, playing "I’m Down".
In 1982 Page collaborated with director Michael Winner to record the Death Wish II soundtrack. This, and several subsequent Page recordings including Death Wish III soundtrack (1985), were recorded and produced at his own recording studio, The Sol in Cookham, which he had purchased from Gus Dudgeon in the early 1980s.
In 1983 Page appeared with the A.R.M.S. (Action Research for Multiple Sclerosis) charity series of concerts which honoured Small Faces bass player Ronnie Lane, who suffered from the disease. For the first shows at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Page's set consisted of songs from the Death Wish II soundtrack (with Steve Winwood on vocals) and an instrumental version of "Stairway to Heaven". A four-city tour of the United States followed, with Paul Rodgers of Bad Company replacing Winwood as vocalist. During the US tour, Page and Rodgers also performed "Midnight Moonlight" which would later be recorded for The Firm's first album. All of the shows featured an on stage jam of "Layla" that reunited Page with Yardbirds guitarists Beck and Eric Clapton. According to the book Hammer of the Gods, it was reportedly around this time that Page told friends that he'd just given up heroin after seven years of use. On Dec 13th 1983, Page joined Robert Plant onstage for one encore at the Hammersmith Odean in London.
Page next linked up with Roy Harper for the 1984 album (Whatever Happened to Jugula?) and occasional concerts, performing a predominantly acoustic set at folk festivals under various guises such as the MacGregors, and Themselves. Also in 1984 Page recorded with former Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant as The Honeydrippers on the albumThe Honeydrippers: Volume 1, and with John Paul Jones on the film soundtrack Scream for Help.
Page subsequently collaborated with Paul Rodgers to record two albums under the name The Firm. The first album, released in 1985, was the self-titled The Firm. Popular songs included "Radioactive" and "Satisfaction Guaranteed". The album peaked at number 17 on the Billboard pop albums chart and went gold in the US. It was followed by Mean Business in 1986. The band toured in support of both albums but soon split up.
Various other projects followed, such as session work for Graham Nash, Stephen Stills and The Rolling Stones (on their 1986 single "One Hit (to the Body)"). In 1986, Page reunited temporarily with his ex-Yardbirds band members to play on several tracks of the Box of Frogs album Strange Land. Page released a solo album entitled Outrider in 1988 which featured contributions from Robert Plant, with Page contributing in turn to Plant's solo album Now and Zen, which was released the same year. Page also embarked on a collaboration with David Coverdale in 1993 entitled Coverdale - Page.
Throughout these years Page also reunited with the other surviving members of Led Zeppelin to perform live on a few occasions, most notably in 1985 for the Live Aid concert with both Phil Collins and Tony Thompson filling drum duties. However, the band members considered this performance here to be sub-standard, with Page having been let down by a poorly tuned Les Paul. Page, Plant and Jones, as well as John Bonham's son Jason, performed at the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary show on 14 May 1988, closing the 12-hour show. In 1990, a Knebworth concert to aid the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Centre and the British School for Performing Arts and Technology saw Plant unexpectedly joined by Page to perform "Misty Mountain Hop", "Wearing and Tearing" and "Rock and Roll". Page also performed with the band's surviving members at various private family functions.
In 1994, Page reunited with Plant for the penultimate performance in MTV's "Unplugged" series. The 90-minute special, dubbed Unledded, premiered to the highest ratings in MTV's history. In October of the same year, the session was released as the CD No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded, and in 2004 as the DVD No Quarter Unledded. Following a highly successful mid-90s tour to support No Quarter, Page and Plant recorded 1998's Walking into Clarksdale.
Since 1990, Page has been heavily involved in remastering the entire Led Zeppelin back catalogue and is currently participating in various charity concerts and charity work, particularly the Action for Brazil's Children Trust (ABC Trust), founded by his wife Jimena Gomez-Paratcha in 1998. In the same year, Page played guitar for rap singer/producer Puff Daddy's song "Come with Me", which heavily samples Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" and was included in the soundtrack of Godzilla. The two later performed the song on Saturday Night Live. A live album and tour with The Black Crowes follow in 1999. In 2001 he made an appearance on stage with Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst and Wes Scantlin of Puddle of Mudd at the MTV Europe Video Music Awards in Frankfurt, where they performed a version of Led Zeppelin's "Thank You".
In 2005, Page was awarded the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his Brazilian charity work for Task Brazil and Action For Brazil's Childrens Trust, made an honorary citizen of Rio de Janeiro later that year, and was awarded a Grammy award.
In November 2006, Led Zeppelin was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame. The television broadcasting of the event consisted of an introduction to the band by various famous admirers, a presentation of an award to Jimmy Page and then a short speech by the guitarist. After this, rock group Wolfmother played a tribute to Led Zeppelin, playing the song "Communication Breakdown".
In 2006, Page attended the induction of Led Zeppelin to the UK Music Hall of Fame. During an interview for the BBC for said event, he expressed plans to record new material in 2007, saying "It's an album that I really need to get out of my system... there's a good album in there and it's ready to come out" and "Also there will be some Zeppelin things on the horizon".
On 6 January 2007, Page was featured at #19 on Channel 4's The Ultimate Hellraiser, a countdown of music's top 25 who "lived the rock 'n' roll lifestyle". The show's reason for featuring Page was almost exclusively attributed to the groupies who toured with Led Zeppelin. In addition, many of John Bonham's shenanigans (for example driving a motorcycle down a hotel corridor) were falsely blamed on Page.
On 2 December 2007, Contacmusic.com confirmed that Page was "Too traumatised for Zeppelin reunion" until now. He states in the article, "After John Bonham's death I spent 15 years not even wanting to think about Led Zeppelin. But I also have difficulty thinking it's all over. Now at least one concert is planned and I'm incredibly happy about that."
On 10 December 2007, the surviving members of Led Zeppelin, as well as John Bonham's son, Jason Bonham played a charity concert at the O2 Arena London.
On 7 June 2008 Page and John Paul Jones played alongside the Foo Fighters at Wembley Stadium.
On 20 June 2008, Page was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Surrey, for his services to the music industry.
For the 2008 Olympics, Jimmy Page, David Beckham and Leona Lewis represented Britain during the closing ceremonies on 24 August 2008. Beckham rode a double-decker bus into the stadium, and Page and Lewis performed "Whole Lotta Love", representing the change in Olympic venue to London in 2012.
In 2008 Page co-produced a documentary film directed by Davis Guggenheim entitled It Might Get Loud. The film examines the history of the electric guitar, focusing on the careers and styles of Page, The Edge, and Jack White. The film premiered on 5 September 2008 at the Toronto Film Festival. Page also participated in the 3 part BBC documentary London Calling: The making of the Olympic handover ceremony on 4 March 2009. On 4 April 2009, Page inducted Jeff Beck into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Photo 1: Jimmy Page pictured in 1964.
Photo 2: Jimmy Page in 1967 when he was with The Yardbirds.
Photo 3: December 1968, London.
Photo 4: November 1969, at Winterland Backstage with Led Zeppelin.
Photo 5: candid pic from January 1970. Unknown photographer.
Photo 6: July 23rd Madison Square Garden, New York.
Photo 7: June 2nd 1973, Kezar Stadium, San Francisco.
Photo 8: Jimmy Page pictured in 1973 getting out of the Starship.
Photo 9: May 1975 Earl's Court, London.
Photo 10: December 1976.
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