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James Patrick Page OBE (born 9 January 1944) is an English guitarist, composer and record producer. He began his career as a studio session guitarist in London and was subsequently a member of The Yardbirds from 1966 to 1968, after which he co-founded the English rock band Led Zeppelin.
Jimmy Page has been described as "unquestionably one of the all-time most influential, important, and versatile guitarists and songwriters in rock history". In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Page #9 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, once as a member of The Yardbirds (1992) and once as a member of Led Zeppelin (1995).
Page's musical tastes included skiffle 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 14, Page appeared on Huw Wheldon's All Your Own talent quest program in a skiffle quartet, a popular English music genre of the time. One performance 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". Page was very enthusiastic about the idea of becoming a career researcher studying germs, while expressing reservations that "I haven't got enough brains" to become a doctor.
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 an interview 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.[ ”
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 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. The records released by the fan club include many otherwise unreleased live Led Zeppelin recordings. 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.”
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 Eric 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".
Despite the departure of Keith Relf and Jim McCarty in 1968, Page wished to reconfigure 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
“ 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. ”
Clive Winston, a character in the PlayStation 2 and Xbox 360 video
game Guitar Hero II, wears clothes resembling Page's "Dragon Suit" used
in Led Zeppelin's late 75 into 77 concerts as well as playing guitar
solos with a violin bow when Star Power is activated and also has
dragons as the design on his guitar neck, in a tribute to Page. In
Guitar Hero II, an achievement in the Xbox 360 version of the game is
titled the "Page and Plant Award", given to two players who can hit 100%
of the notes in cooperative mode. Page is also mentioned in the
Everclear song "A.M. Radio" with the line: "I remember 1977 / I started
going to concerts and I saw the Led Zeppelin / I gotta guitar Christmas
Day / I prayed that Jimmy Page would come to Santa Monica and teach me
to play" and by surname in the Neil Young song "Downtown" from his album
Mirror Ball: "...Led Zeppelin on stage / there's a mirrorball twirlin' /
and a note from Page..."