In 1972, Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page came up with a master-plan but failed to execute it. “In those days, when you went to Australia, it wasn’t a direct flight. You’d be stopping off in all these cities on the way,” recalls the musician. “I saw a way that, maybe, we could go to Cairo with Led Zeppelin. We could record with an orchestra there. And we could then play the cricket ground in Bombay, and also record in India. And then continue on to Australia. It was a great idea. The only thing was there was no infrastructure to do this sort of thing,” muses Page, 71, who first travelled down under and then on to India in 1967 after joining The Yardbirds, the British beat group that also gave the world guitar heroes Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. “Out of all the popular groups that followed us, the first one to play in Egypt and India was The Police in 1980, years after that. But that was just an idea I had, you know, you try things out,” he says.
Harmonically, melodically and psychologically, the Middle East and South Asia regions held a special fascination for many musicians who first came to prominence in the Sixties. The Grateful Dead played three concerts near the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid in Giza, Egypt, in September 1978, while a decade earlier The Beatles and Donovan spent several weeks in Rishikesh, northern India, practising Transcendental Meditation at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
Indeed, George Harrison and Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones introduced the sitar and the tanpura to the pop canon in the mid-Sixties, but Page and his bandmate, the lead vocalist Robert Plant, might just have a bigger claim to fame as pioneers of what would eventually become known as world music. In October 1972, the pair stopped off in Bombay on the way back from Led Zeppelin’s second Japanese tour. One thing led to another and, before you knew it, they had left the Taj hotel and were jamming with a bunch of local musicians at a dingy bar, the Slip Disc. Sadly, no one recorded the impromptu hour-long session that followed or Page would have made sure he owned a copy and considered it for inclusion on one of the companion discs he’s been curating while bringing the mighty Led Zeppelin catalogue up to 21st-century standards.
However, the guitarist has done the next best thing and unearthed striking new studio versions of the Led Zeppelin classics “Friends” and “Four Sticks” that he and Plant recorded with the Bombay Orchestra in 1972. “They were the musicians who supplied Indian pop music, film music for Bollywood, the equivalent of what I used to be in the Sixties, when I was a session musician,” says the veteran whose guitar parts bolstered early hit singles by The Kinks, The Who and Lulu.
The addition of two companion discs has certainly transformed Coda from an afterthought to a pivotal part of the Led Zeppelin catalogue, even if some will cringe when hearing the simplistic, blues-rock wail of “Sugar Mama”, shelved at the time.
“I thought it would be a really fascinating project to go into a Bombay studio, not have a musical arranger, and request instruments such as the sarangi, the mridangam, the tabla drums and violins. I just knew that it would work and it did work. Robert and I just went over with the acoustic guitar and pulled it together over the course of an evening. Once “Friends” was done, I wasn’t going to leave it there,” he insists. “The whole thing was really happening. We also had a crack at the equivalent of “Four Sticks” because the percussion was just so thrilling. These were the two things that really came out of the recording that night.
“At the time, it wasn’t appropriate to put this into Led Zeppelin. It was 1972 and we were still into the fourth album. Houses of the Holy hadn’t come out at that point. Now is a great time to be able to present that stuff,” says Page about the brace of tracks that bolster Coda, the 1982 collection of out-takes now generously expanded with two companion discs, a surprising move considering what preceded.
Over the last year, with the appearance of each successive tranche of reissues, the guitarist has treated the media to specifically-curated playbacks held at Olympic Cinema, formerly the London recording studio where Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, The Who, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Queen made some of their classic albums. Each time, the black-clad guitarist kept his cards close to his chest. But unveiling the latest and last batch, including Presence from 1976 and In Through the Out Door, he seems relaxed.
“It’s jubilation. You have to understand, I have been working on this for a long time. To visualise a project like this, with all the substantial box-sets and companion discs, there were hundreds of hours of listening to set all this up, it wasn’t just another band putting out their material with a few bonus tracks. It was something that addressed all the formats of listening,” he explains. “I’m just really thrilled because for the people who like Led Zeppelin, there is now twice as much information as there was before and it’s really good quality. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve done my job here.”
Long-standing fans will be delighted to discover “Pod”, a reflective John Paul Jones instrumental piece, included on thePresence companion disc. “It’s chalk and cheese to anything else that’s going on. Presence had a real intensity and was shaping up as a guitar album with epic tracks like ‘Achilles Last Stand’. It’s dark,” reflects Page about Led Zeppelin’s last great gallop and the contrasting atmosphere “Pod” introduces into the narrative.
“John Paul Jones had got a Yamaha GX-1, the Dream Machine, as Stevie Wonder called it, a real state-of-the-art synthesiser keyboard. He was quite inspired by this instrument. “Pod” is really superb. I must say, when the tape turned up, it was such a surprise, [it was] one that the rest of the band didn’t really remember so much and it’s a real thrill that we can share it now. It’s cool. I like that, I like to present surprises.”
Similarly, an alternative version of “Bonzo’s Montreux”, recorded at Mountain Studios in Switzerland, and added to Coda, highlights the invaluable contribution the late drummer John Bonham made to Led Zeppelin’s all-conquering sound. “It was just myself and John, we’d spoken about doing something like this, a complete drum orchestra and of course he could do that. The important thing was to have the tunings of the drums so you could hear all the notes and it becomes a very musical piece. It was done on a 24-track. In 1982, I’d approached it in a very tentative way because it wasn’t that long after we’d lost John. It still felt like he was with us,” says the guitarist about his bandmate, who died in September 1980 after drinking more than a litre of vodka in 24 hours and choking on his own vomit.
The addition of two companion discs has certainly transformed Coda from an afterthought to a pivotal part of the Led Zeppelin catalogue, even if some will cringe when hearing the simplistic, blues-rock wail of “Sugar Mama”, shelved at the time. “We did it for the first album right here in this room all those years ago in 1968. We did return here many times of course. Coda is now a real celebration of everything, the group, everybody’s playing. On “St Tristan’s Sword”, we had fun in the studio. It’s just bass, drums and guitar. No overdubs. It’s just really good to hear how we lock in,” argues Page, whose inspired curatorship has introduced the band to new generations of listeners. “It’s been apparent for many years, before this, going back decades really, that young musicians come to Led Zeppelin because it’s such a rich textbook of music. I know what it means, that the baton is passed on.”
Read the complete article at http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/features/led-zeppelins-jimmy-page-on-how-bands-final-remastered-works-show-a-whole-lotta-love-for-bollywood-10347262.html
Most rock’n’roll fans would agree that there ain’t nothing like a good live show. We can sit and pontificate about the illuminating merits of classic records, but a properly exciting live performance trumps all else. However, as the wheels of time keep turning, an increasing number of killer bands will retire from the live arena. Led Zeppelin are one such example. While three of the band’s original members are still alive, they’ve adamantly refused to reform. Laudable as this is, it means generations of Zepophiles will never get to witness them at full strength.
This is something Sydney musician Joseph Calderazzo simply couldn’t tolerate, so back in 2003 he conceived the Whole Lotta Love concert. Over the past 12 years, Calderazzo has led an impressive ensemble of musicians in an annual night of Zeppelin celebration. Whole Lotta Love returns this September, with a lineup featuring vocalists Jeff Martin, Sarah McLeod, Dallas Frasca, Frank Lakoudis and Simon Meli of Sydney band The Widowbirds.
This is Meli’s sixth year taking part in the onstage Zeppelin worship, and he’s pretty chuffed to be involved. “It’s Led Zeppelin the loudest that you’ll ever hear it, with guys playing it with as much gusto and passion as you would expect from the real thing,” he says. “The State Theatre is no small little pub, so there’s volume, there’s ambience, there’s the architecture, there’s a big lineup of people and they’re all pouring out huge passion for the band. Joseph only gets people involved if they really love Led Zeppelin, otherwise it doesn’t translate. So you’ve got all those people combined walking out onstage year after year and every song is dynamite.”
It only takes a quick listen to The Widowbirds to recognise that Led Zeppelin have played a major role in Meli’s musical development. “Led Zeppelin did shape the way The Widowbirds sound,” he agrees. “It’s OK to say, ‘Yes, we did walk down that trial-and-error path of trying to sound like them,’ but I think we are sounding more like ourselves nowadays. But we do fly the flag for what they did represent.”
As well as making reference to the legendary British rockers when shaping the sound of The Widowbirds, Meli developed his singing personality with a little help from Zeppelin’s Robert Plant. “When we’re younger vocalists and we’re trying to find out what our strengths and weaknesses are, we do go through emulation of singers that we just fall in love with,” he says. “We want to recreate what magic we’re feeling from them, just through trial and error, working out what style works for you – and for me, it does lend itself exactly down the Robert Plant path.”
This puts Meli in the perfect position to relive a handful of Zeppelin originals at Whole Lotta Love. Over the past six years, he’s developed a method for respectfully interpreting Plant’s distinct style.
“Being a really massive fan of [Led Zeppelin], I want to give the audience what they reminisce or what they see in pictures and stuff online or in old clips. But I am not Robert Plant, so there will be definitely an element of me that will make it not Robert Plant. When I walk out there onstage, I do what comes natural, and some of it’s probably inherent from the things that I watched in their old clips onstage. But it’s not a deliberate thing where I’m putting on a wig and I’m wearing a denim cut-off vest and I’m packing a foiled cucumber in my pants. It is me giving them my best representation of someone who’s a fucking legend.”
Pay homage to Led Zeppelin at Whole Lotta Love taking place at the State Theatre on Saturday September 5, and Laycock Street Theatre, Gosford on Friday August 28 and Saturday August 29. – See more at: http://www.thebrag.com/music/whole-lotta-love-0#sthash.ZvbWpadc.dpuf
An Australian producer’s mash-up video has inspired Madonna to rock out to Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love.
Tom Compagnoni from NSW, whose online alias is WaxAudio, combined Madonna’s 1990 hit Justify My Love with Led Zeppelin’s 1973 track Whole Lotta Love for one incredibly cool video.
It’s so cool, in fact, it prompted Madonna to learn the riff to the Zeppelin track and post a video playing it on her Instagram page.
The musical chameleon looked every inch the rock goddess dressed in black trousers, buckled black boots and a zip-up top, with her hair in plaits, and topped off with some fingerless black gloves.
“Channelling Led Zeppelin. Whole Lotta Love. #rebelheart,” she posted alongside a video of her making a fine attempt at the infamous rock riff.
The video has gained a lot of interest from online news outlets around the world and Compagnoni has even been speaking with Madonna’s guitarist, Monte Pittman, directly about it.
“I noticed that Monte Pittman started following me on Twitter and I believe he retweeted the video,” Compagnoni told AAP.
Soon after, the NSW producer also noticed that Madge tweeted a video of her playing the riff to the rock song and he knew it couldn’t just be a coincidence. It didn’t take long for Compagnoni to get confirmation of his mash-up’s influence after he reached out on social media.
“I sent a message via Twitter to Monte Pittman and he was very friendly and cool, and we got chatting straight away and he said `Yeah, we both watched the mash-up and loved it, and I showed her (Madonna) the riff and she put it out’,” he said.
Compagnoni spends a lot of time on his mash-up videos for his WaxAudio Vimeo account. Several of them have gained global attention, including one quirky mix of the Ghostbusters theme tune with AC/DC’s Thunderstruck, called Thunder Busters.
He spent several weeks on the Justify A Whole Lotta Love mash-up to get the sound just right.
“I tinkered with it over a long period of time. I work mostly on the audio side and then I put the video together over a couple of days on the laptop,” he said.
It’s not often that songs in mash-ups have a thematic link but when it does, Compagnoni says it really enhances the end result.
“In this instance it’s two iconic songs about physical love,” he said.
“A Whole Lotta Love is that early `70s male perspective on love … then you’ve got the early `90s post-feminist Madonna version. They complement each other beautifully because you’ve got Robert Plant singing `I’m going to give you every inch of my love’ and then you’ve got, 20 years later, Madonna saying `Well no, you’ve got to justify my love’, and I think that just works.”
Madonna just announced she will be touring Australia early next year for the first time in 23 years.
The 56-year-old singer will play six arena shows in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane as part of her Rebel Heart world tour to promote her 13th studio album.
Perhaps this will inspire the singer to play the Zeppelin hit on stage.
By Danielle McGrane
To view Justify A Whole Lotta Love go to Wax Audio’s Vimeo Account: https://vimeo.com/129186668
No matter who you are or what your taste in music is, chances are you love at least one Led Zeppelin song, or you’ve got some sort of childhood memory attached to their bands. We had a chat to Amy Findlay, drummer for Stonefield, who’s set to perform in the Led Zeppelin celebration show: Whole Lotta Love.
So normally you’re playing drums and singing for Stonefield, how did you get on board for the Whole Lotta Love show?
A while ago I sang a couple of guest songs for Frank Zappa cover band Petulant Frenzy.One of the guys from that band is friends with the organiser of the Whole Lotta Love shows and put us in touch. It’s been a very different experience for me. I am so used to singing my own songs, so there is a lot of pressure when performing Led Zeppelin songs for hardcore fans! It’s also a lot of fun and an honour to sing some of my favourite songs.
And the rest of Stonefield weren’t interested in the part?
The way the show works is that they have a great band for the whole show and rotate guest vocalists. It makes for a really entertaining, exciting show. I guess being a vocalist opens me up for a lot more opportunities like this.
It must be pretty great knowing you’re a part of such a well-respecting and long-running national show?
For sure, I feel totally honoured to have been asked in the first place. The musicians I get to sing with are pretty phenomenal!
Growing up were you always a big fan of Led Zeppelin, what is it you love about the band?
Always! Zeppelin make up majority of the soundtrack to my childhood. They are brilliant songs, an incredible band – both individually and it’s magic with them all together!
Do you have a favourite Led Zeppelin album?
It’s hard to pick when there isn’t a single song I don’t like.. but I love II (1969).
Are you nervous at all to be paying homage to one of the most influential bands in the world?
Most definitely! It’s a huge deal for me. It is going to be a lot of fun though.
Do you know yet what songs you’ll be performing?
Yes, but I’m not sure that I should be giving that away.. I’ll give you one.. ‘In My Time Of Dying’. There’s another classic that I’m really excited to do as well!
Is it nice being able to do a show closer to home?
It is always a luxury…being able to go home to my own bed is quite nice. It also means it’s easier for friends and family to come along and enjoy the show.
The show does go for three hours, do you have a favourite part at all?
I really enjoy the whole show. I love watching the other singers from side of stage and being inspired by their performances. The encore is also so much fun, being able to have one last bang where we all come together.
Do you think you’ll be doing more shows like this in the future?
I’m not really sure. I am very focused on my own music and that is always the number one priority for me – if a great opportunity comes up and it doesn’t interfere with what Stonefield is doing, then sure.
And why should people come along and see the show?
Because it’s awesome, entertaining and great to hear all those songs live!
When&Where: GPAC – March 20 & The Palais, Melbourne – March 21. Tickets are available now fromwww.gpac.org.au.
Do you remember the first time you heard a recording by Led Zeppelin. If you are my vintage it would have been in the late 60’s, and it would have been either on radio (AM only – this was well before the advent of FM in Australia), or on vinyl LP (it was also way before cassette, CD, Mini-Disc etc.)
Earlier this year, under the watchful eye of Jimmy Page, the first three Zeppelin albums were remastered and re-released. However this time round the formats of choice are a little more varied, with a variety of packages available encompassing Vinyl (high quality 180gram pressing), CD and High-Definition download. This was the first release of the entire nine studio albums which will be re-released over time (the next two are due in October), and which also includes a considerable repertoire of previously unreleased material.
The fact that Vinyl features so heavily in this release is probably not surprising to many, the return of vinyl as a format has been well documented by the press in recent times. What is significant is that irrespective of how cherished the memories of your first introduction to Zeppelin is, you now have the opportunity to revisit their music at performance levels never available before. Before you correctly surmise that given the march of technology this should be expected you need to remember that ours is an industry that insists on striving for increased convenience at the expense of performance. The claims that CD was an inferior format to vinyl are justified. Cassette was a further step backwards, but nowhere near the giant leap backwards in performance with the ultra-popular MP3 formats championed by Apple etc. (We also managed to do the same for TV, blundering from Plasma to LCD to LED/LCD).
The resurgence of vinyl is as much about the backlash to the performance limitations of MP3 as it being ‘retro and cool’. There is an entire generation of people who are discovering what it is like to hear music that is well recorded and faithfully reproduced (a considerable proportion of people investing in new turntables were not even born when CD was released.) It was interesting to read that Jack Whites recent release Lazaretto was the biggest selling LP of the last 20 years, and that the LP accounted for an astounding 25% of the total sales of the album (the vinyl offering sold 40,000 copies in the first week!)
But it is the third format mentioned above that will have greatest impact in the future. The Digital Download option has little in common with more traditional MP3 ‘iTunes’ style offerings, other than the method of delivery. There are still some legal ‘copyright’ issues to get out of the way before High-Resolution downloads become commonplace in Australia (although many are finding ways to circumnavigate this annoyance), and the range is music is still somewhat limited. At the same time there is no doubt that this will become the music medium of the future. Hi-Res downloads offer resolutions in excess of CD, and rival the performance of Vinyl. The convenience of the delivery and storage format will ultimately make it a more appealing format than LP’s.
For the first time in a couple of decades there appears to be revival in ‘listening’. We have been spoiled in recent years with almost unlimited access to more music than we could even hope to consume. The downside has been that the performance offered limited any real emotional involvement, and in most cases this music simply became background noise. A growing number of people are once again ‘connecting’ with their music. They are actively listening, be it on Vinyl, CD or increasingly from Hi-Resolution downloads. There is a worldwide resurgence in ‘Hi-Fi’. No longer content with iPod based devices and Bluetooth speakers consumers are once again going out and purchasing good quality component systems. In other cases this may simply be a high performance pair of headphones, with a good quality Headphone Amplifier/DAC. Many are hearing, for the first time, to what the artist intended to be conveyed at the time the recording was made.
Obviously as a speciality retailer this is music to my ears (sorry!). However – and possibly more importantly – it takes me back to why I became involved in this industry in the first place – simply a love for music.
Australian Guitar’s Craig White goes behind the curtain for a unique look at the life and legacy of Led Zeppelin immortal guitar genius, Jimmy Page.
The story of Led Zeppelin and ace guitarist Jimmy Page has been recounted so often that we have to assume anyone reading a guitar magazine is familiar with at least the basic details. Formed in the wake of the Yardbirds, and for a short period billed as the New Yardbirds, the band would come to be called Led Zeppelin, which was a jokey name attributed to Keith Moon that compared their imagined reception to the fate of a lead balloon, though on a much grander scale. The spelling was altered at the suggestion of manager Peter Grant so that Americans would not pronounce it as if it rhymed with ‘feed’.
Page and bassist John Paul Jones were accomplished London session hands, while vocalist Robert Plant and stickman John Bonham were from the West Midlands and had played together previously. The chemistry was there from the first moment, and the band would go on to record six era-defining albums in as many years, each of which the All Music Guide rates as a five-star effort. The band is widely regarded as the prime progenitor of modern hard rock music and the myriad genres that have derived from it.
Page produced the recordings and devised recording techniques that lent Led Zeppelin albums a unique vibe that has rarely been emulated successfully. He insisted on regularly switching recording engineers so that it would be clear that Page alone was responsible for the signature sound.
His influence on subsequent generations of electric guitarists is without equal, as Led Zeppelin have resisted any attempts to assign them to the margins of history and each new generation of long-haired teenagers discovers the band for themselves. If there is still a generation gap (and I assume there is), it is not apparent whenever you see headbangers of different vintages discussing the relative merits of their favourite Led Zeppelin album.
We felt it was high time we took a fresh look at the man and his music, his instruments, not to mention his influence and influences. Plus, we remember Led Zeppelin’s only ever Australasian tour.
ON THE RECORD
There are a number of compilations that collect Page’s pre-Zeppelin work as a member of other groups and a session musician. While many have gone out-of-print, the two-disc Jimmy Page And His Heavy Friends: Hip Young Guitar Slinger was re-issued in 2007 and is a great selection. Of the out-of-print stuff, Session Man Vol. 1 and Session Man Vol. 2 are worth tracking down and, while there is some overlap with the previously mentioned compilation, contain a significant amount of unique material.
1967’s Little Games was recorded after Jeff Beck’s departure and is the only Yardbirds studio album that features Page. The short-lived dual guitar line-up with Page and Beck recorded very little. ‘Happenings Ten Years Time Ago’ was released as a single in October 1966 and featured both Page and Beck playing guitar, while the B-side ‘Psycho Daisies’- had Page on bass. In September 1971 Epic Records released Live Yardbirds: Featuring Jimmy Page, a recording of a March 1968 concert in New York that quickly went out of print. Against the band’s wishes the record company had overdubbed extra crowd noise onto the release, which may well be the source of Page’s antipathy towards the album, the CD release of which he has taken legal action to block on several occasions. Even so, CD versions of varying legality have been available at different times, and it seems to be currently available in Europe on the Lost Diamonds label. It is a great live document, so get it while you can!
The nine studio albums are essential listening for any rock guitarist, and if you are unfamiliar with any of them you should make haste and redress that unfortunate situation immediately. If the later albums (Presence, In Through The Out Door and the posthumous Coda) are not as consistently amazing as the first six, they still have considerably more to offer than the best albums of most bands. Once you have familiarised yourself with the studio-derived canon, one should probably first turn their attention to the sole live album officially released during their career, the soundtrack to the film The Song Remains The Same, if only to develop a context in which to consider further live recordings. If that one is a little underwhelming, 1997’s BBC Sessions and 2003’s How The West Was Won are much more successful in communicating the band’s live power. 2003 also saw the two-disc DVD release Led Zeppelin, which is an equally compelling compilation of live sound and images spanning their entire career.
If all that hasn’t sated your appetite for classic period material, you can take comfort in knowing that Led Zeppelin is possibly the most bootlegged band of all time and that there are no shortage of studio outtakes and landmark shows for you to discover. Of course, such releases are not sanctioned by the band, and as often as not will contain sub-standard sound, but once you have been bitten by the bug, what are you going to do?
Page’s first post-Zeppelin effort was the soundtrack for Death Wish II. The film starred Charles Bronson and was helmed by British director Michael Winner, who was Page’s neighbour at the time. 1984 was the year that Page and Plant first reunited, releasing The Honeydrippers: Volume One, an EP of oldies recorded with Jeff Beck and Nile Rodgers that produced the hit “Sea Of Love”.
1985 saw Page team up with Roy Harper for Whatever Happened To Jugula?, which although the pair had worked together before is the only album credited to them both. The Firm, Page’s short-lived project with Free and Bad Company vocalist Paul Rodgers, also released its eponymous debut album in 1985. The Firm did well, cracking the top twenty in both the US and Britain on the back of the single “Radioactive”, while the following year’s Mean Business met a slightly cooler reception and the band folded soon after.
Outrider was the long awaited solo album from Page, and it was released in 1988 to great excitement. It featured guest appearances by Plant and Bonham’s son Jason, however it was ultimately disappointing and remains his only true solo album. The decades since have seen him embrace his role as perhaps rock’s greatest sideman, starting with Coverdale And Page (1993), which teamed him with former Deep Purple vocalist David Coverdale. In 1994 he once again paired with Robert Plant for the live No Quarter, which they followed in 1998 with a studio album, Walking Into Clarksdale. Finally, in 2000 Page paired with the Black Crowes for Live At The Greek.
CANDY STORE ROCK
Page is reported to own over a thousand guitars, however there are a significant few that have shaped his sound. Early on, Page used a ’58 Telecaster extensively; it is his main guitar on Led Zeppelin I, he used it live in ’68 and ’69, and it was pulled out again for the solo on ‘Stairway To Heaven’. The Tele was given to Page by Jeff Beck and has been repainted several times by Page himself. Another Yardbirds-era instrument that would play a significant role during the Led Zeppelin years is the Danelectro 3021, which Page used live for songs such as ‘When The Levee Breaks’ and ‘In My Time Of Dying’.
Of course, Page is most readily associated with Gibson Les Pauls, particularly a pair of late-‘50s sunburst Standards, however his first Les Paul was a 1960 Custom Black Beauty that was his main instrument from 1963 until 1966. He took the Black Beauty out on tour in the early-’70s, and it was stolen in September 1971. It has never been recovered.
His Number 1 Les Paul Standard was purchased in 1969 from Joe Walsh. The neck had already been shaved, which was a not uncommon modification in those days, and Page obviously liked the enhanced profile, as he replicated it when he purchased Number 2 in 1973. The ‘80s saw Page modify both instruments further, with Number 1 receiving a push-pull pot to facilitate pickup phasing, while Number 2 got not only switching pots (for coil-splitting), but also a pair of buttons beneath the pickguard that allowed pickup phasing and switching between series and parallel modes of operation.
The other Gibson guitar with which Page is often indentified is the double neck SG EDS-1275. Page began to use the guitar live in 1971 for ‘Stairway To Heaven’, and has also used it for ‘The Song Remains The Same’, ‘The Rain Song’, ‘Tangerine’ and ‘Celebration Day’. Page has also used it occasionally in the studio, including sections of ‘Carouselambra’ from ‘In Through The Out Door’.
Page has used a number of amplifiers over the years, however his live rig has most often been based on a pair of Marshall SLP-1959 100W amps, which had been modded with different tubes for a higher output. In the studio the guitarist used a number of different amplifiers, including Vox, Fender and Orange models, and most famously, a low-powered Supro combo that he teamed with his ’58 Telecaster for Led Zeppelin I and the ‘Stairway To Heaven’ solo.
It is hard to describe Page’s sound, much less emulate it, as it changed significantly over the years and the guitarist was always notoriously cagey when questioned about it. Broadly speaking, in the early years he was more likely to use fuzz boxes to achieve a distorted sound live, while in later years he generally opted for amp overdrive, though this could still range from relatively clean to quite crunchy.
The influence of Page on modern rock guitar is so enormous as to almost suggest it all starts with him, though of course that is not the case and the young Page had his heroes like anybody else.
Willie Dixon wrote electric blues for any number of artists, including Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Bo Diddley, Buddy Guy and Otis Rush. So it is really no wonder that Led Zeppelin I features two of his tunes, and that another two co-writes were eventually credited to him for material derived from his original compositions.
Elmore James was the King Of The Slide Guitar and a massive influence on many sixties blues-rock guitarists. In 1965, Page and Eric Clapton recorded a track titled ‘Blues For Elmore’ that made the connection explicit. Page’s appearances with The Black Crowes have usually included James’ ‘Shake Your Money Maker’.
As a teenager in the ‘50s, Page was not surprisingly a fan of Elvis Presley. When he picked up the guitar at the age of 12, some of the first licks he taught himself were cribbed from Elvis records. Rockabilly pickers such as the incomparable Elvis sideman Scotty Moore mixed rock’n’roll, blues and country music in a way that would be very familiar to Led Zeppelin.
Bert Jansch was a leading British folkie, whose arrangement of the traditional ‘Blackwaterside’ would be taught to Page by Al Stewart during the sessions for his first album, on which the guitarist was playing. Page appropriated the accompaniment for the instrumental ‘Black Mountain Side’ on Led Zeppelin I.
Renbourn was another prominent British folkie. He recorded a 1966 album with Bert Jansch and the two would form the seminal folk-rock band Pentangle the following year. Along with bands such as Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, they created the climate for Led Zeppelin to incorporate British folk influence alongside American blues.
While there are obviously a number of Page imitators who approximate the authentic sound, the truth of the matter is that his influence extends much further than you might expect.
Queen was originally dismissed as Led Zeppelin wannabes, and on those first couple of albums) May’s debt to Page is far more apparent than it would be later, when his unique tone and technique had developed fully. May has said of Page that he is “one of the great brains of rock music”.
His look probably owes more to Page’s fellow Yardbird Jeff Beck, and Perry himself claims Beck as a major influence, however to my ear there is a little more Page in Perry’s performance. Either way, Aerosmith owes the Yardbirds a huge debt, which they acknowledge whenever they trot out ‘Train Kept A-Rollin’.
The stabbing rhythm guitar of ‘Communication Breakdown’, from Led Zeppelin II, would prove to be seminal for a generation of punks who thought they were reacting against dinosaur rockers like Led Zeppelin. In the early days, Johnny Ramone played the song repeatedly to improve his rhythm technique.
Eddie Van Halen
Eddie saw Led Zeppelin play in 1971, taking inspiration from Page’s ‘Heartbreaker’ solo to develop his own two-handed approach to tapping. What’s more, the members of Van Halen were huge fans of the Kinks, and while it is disputed as to just how much he played, Page played a number of Kinks sessions.
Steve Vai is another hugely inventive guitarist who has radically advanced the cause of the electric guitar under the influence of Page’s ‘Heartbreaker’ solo. He told Guitar World in 1988, ‘Heartbreaker’ had the biggest influence on me as a youth. It was defiant, bold and edgier than hell. It really is the definitive rock guitar solo”.
GOING DOWN UNDER LIKE A LEAD BALLOON
Starting in Perth, at Subiaco Oval, on the 16th February, and concluding at Brisbane’s Festival Hall, on the 29th of that month, Led Zeppelin’s only Australasian tour encompassed half-a-dozen dates, visiting all five mainland state capitals and including a mid-tour swing across the Tasman to play Auckland on the 24th.
The original itinerary had a Valentine’s Day show planned for Singapore, however it was cancelled when the band was refused entry due to local laws that forbade men wearing long hair. This may have been on Page’s mind when he decided to shave his beard mid-tour, adopting the clean-shaven look he would maintain for the rest of the band’s career.
2003’s Led Zeppelin DVD included a few choice nuggets from the Sydney show on the 27th February, including colour silent footage of the band doing ‘Immigrant Song’ (synced with audio from a 1972 Long Beach Arena performance) and black and white sound footage of ‘Rock And Roll’. Also included is a short interview of John Bonham by Germaine Greer.
Unfortunately, one of the highlights of the Sydney show was not included on the DVD, and has made bootlegs of that performance highly sought after for as long as they have circulated. During a medley structured around ‘Whole Lotta Love’, Page inserted a series of instrumental themes from a piece the band had been working on that would first be recorded during the Houses Of The Holy sessions, though it would not be finished and released for several years further, finally surfacing on as ‘The Rover’.