Aha! Now we know why no one has developed a cancer cure! It’s because young James Page took that skiffle thing a little too seriously.
Yep — it’s Jimmy Page at 13 in 1957. (He turned 70 this week.) Imagine how different the world would be had he followed his stated goal of becoming a cancer researcher. We’d probably have eliminated cancer 30 years ago, but our music would be a lot crappier.
As much as I love Pagey’s playing, I’ve long felt his greatest influence was as a producer. He defined what rock sounds like, largely via his unprecedented innovations in exploiting and manipulating reverberant spaces. Zep sounds like modern rock. Nothing before does.
Many years ago I was kicking that notion around with my friend Andrew Goodwin, the brilliant British media studies scholar. He expanded our ramblings into a journal paper, and gave me an entirely undeserved co-author credit. To this day, it’s my only academic publication. Andrew went on to create a Led Zeppelin course at the University of San Francisco. He was working on a Zep book when he died in a freak apartment fire a few month ago. I assume he was aware of this clip, though I’m not certain. He definitely would have loved it! I miss him.
What’s your favorite Pagey moment? I think mine is from one of those leaked studio outtakes, an excerpt from “Heartbreaker.” You hear the amp close-miked and claustrophobic-sounding. Then you hear it miked from a distance, spooky and reverberant. Then you hear both sounds together. Voilà — modern rock guitar.
My fave Pagey solo is — hehe — “Sympathy for the Devil.” Yeah — I still think he played that one.
Earlier this year I got to do a couple of shows with Marianne Faithfull, who prompted the song in the first place when she gave Mick a copy of Bulgalkov’s brilliant novel The Master and Margarita. We were talking about the song, so I figured it was my moment to finally solve the mystery.
“So who played the solo?” I asked.
She rolled her eyes and sighed. “I just knew you were going to ask me something idiotic like that.”