Jimmy Page – UK Session Man turned Superstar

This week’s playlist celebrates UK Session Man turned superstar, Jimmy Page.

Jimmy Page is the Glen Campbell of the UK. A virtuosic 1960s studio guitarist who rose to superstardom in the ’70s. We’ll get to Glen next week and today focus on Jimmy Page’s long legacy before, during and after Zeppelin.

November marks the 50th anniversary of Led Zeppelin IV so we felt it’s a good time to pay tribute to the architect. Led Zeppelin IV is the blueprint of rock music. It’s basically greatest hits album at this point. So let’s learn more about it’s maker.

Jimmy Page has always been ambitious, his first TV performance at the age of 12 as a young skiffle artist.

Soon Jimmy became a touring and then session musician where he sharpened his skills that would allow Led Zeppelin to rewrite the rock songbook.

Jimmy was always a player with a producer mindset and his years in the trenches perfectly prepared him for the force that would become Led Zeppelin.

The stories of Jimmy’s time with The Yardbirds or playing on Donovan songs is well documented but I’m amused to learn that Jimmy Page was also on tracks like “Downtown,” “Goldfinger” and “It’s Not Unusual”

Also during his session years Jimmy contributed to songs for The Who, The Rolling Stones and The Kinks.

Which brings up the question, why don’t you hear the ‘Beatles vs. Stones debate’ when it comes to Zeppelin vs. any other band from the British Invasion?

Is it because the answer is so obvious?

That Led Zeppelin is the pinnacle of rock music. The gold standard. The scale of how every other band is judged.

My world certainly changed when I first consciously heard Zeppelin as a preteen. (Obviously enough to still be idolizing them nearly 30 years later.)

So much of my infatuation with Zeppelin is because of Jimmy Page. The riffs, the swagger, the sounds.

In my mind it was clear that Led Zeppelin was Jimmy’s band. He was the conductor and the others followed his cues.

I also took Jimmy’s cues. The first songs I learned to play on guitar were Led Zeppelin. My first electric guitar was Les Paul (knockoff) to look and sound like Jimmy. It didn’t really work, but thankfully Zeppelin’s blues-based songs are the building blocks of guitar rock, so at least I got a solid foundation to work from.

Jimmy Page’s music with Led Zeppelin still has a magnetic power and a death-grip on me. But post-Zeppelin he’s made some questionable choices. Coverdale & Page never gelled, Plant & Page seemed sleepy and the collaboration with Puff Daddy for the Godzilla soundtrack is excruciating. (Un)fortunately, this isn’t available on Spotify…but we’re not gonna let you get away that easily.

Really makes you wonder if this was meant to be as funny as it seems now.

Certainly the closest Jimmy Page got to the classic Zeppelin sound was when he played with The Black Crowes…or should we say, when The Black Crowes played for Jimmy Page?

But for all his talent and contributions to the rock cannon, Jimmy Page was like most rockstars of that time and did a lot of icky things that have to be acknowledged. Particularly when it comes to underage girls and stealing others’ music. You can say it was another time, but that doesn’t make it excusable.

Hopefully “borrowing” others’ music will be rectified over time. Artist like Willie Dixon and Memphis Minnie received some credit and a few royalties, but most recently Spirit got the shaft.

Led Zeppelin was certainly under the influence of these artists as you can hear for yourself in this week’s bonus playlist. But honestly however they acquired the material, there’s no doubt that Led Zeppelin took the sounds to another stratosphere and brought these songs to a much larger audience.

Of course, we’re no better. We’re mainly recycling old stories and other people’s thoughts. So we definitely have to give credit to the Let It Roll podcast for a lot of the inspiration this and next week. We highly encourage you to learn more about Jimmy Page as a Session Man and Yardbird in Let It Roll podcast‘s dedicated episode. Let It Roll has also taught me that at times you have to separate the art from the artist. So while Jimmy Page, and many musicians, might be flawed, their contributions to art can still be appreciated.

What else would you add to this week’s playlist? Any rip-offs we missed in this week’s bonus playlist? How about the debate between who’s better Zeppelin or The Stones? Zeppelin or The Beatles? Zeppelin or The Who? There’s a whole lotta arguing that could be done, so hit us up and let us know what you think.

Now it’s time for us to Ramble On

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