Friday, May 15, 2009

Jimmy Page Gets the Led Out

Jimmy Page in 1977Image via Wikipedia

Jimmy Page Gets the Led Out by Guitar Mojo

The multi-talented Jimmy Page began to make a name for himself as a studio musician in London in the mid 1960's, playing on sessions with The Who ("I Can't Explain"), The Kinks (You Really Got Me"), Van Morrison ("Here Comes the Night"), and the Rolling Stones ("Heart of Stone"), among others.

Later he joined the Yardbirds, first on bass guitar, then as twin lead guitarist with Jeff Beck. Page and Beck recorded one single together with the Yardbirds, "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago". After Beck left the Yardbirds, Page recorded one album as lead guitarist, titled "Little Games".

In his next career move, Page combined the lessons he learned in his studio days, his experience as a live performer with the Yardbirds, and his emerging talents as a songwriter, to form the legendary Led Zeppelin; recruiting singer Robert Plant, drummer John Bonham, and bass and keyboard player John Paul Jones. As Zeppelin's producer, co-songwriter (with Plant), and lead guitarist, Page created a sound that would become a staple of classic rock radio.

On "Led Zeppelin I", and later on the solo in Zeppelin's signature tune "Stairway to Heaven", Page played a Fender Telecaster. From "Led Zeppelin II" onward, his main workhorses were a Gibson Les Paul and a Marshall amplifier. However in the studio he also employed Fender, Supro, Orange, and Vox AC30 amps.

Also proficient on acoustic guitar, he finger picked Ovations and Martins on songs like "Gallows Pole", and "Going to California". He added variety to his multi-tracked guitar parts by overdubbing a pedal steel on "Your Time is Gonna Come" and "That's the Way", and using a Danelectro 3021 for slide on songs such as "What is and What Should Never Be". Another weapon in his Zeppelin arsenal was the Gibson EDS-1275 double neck, which features a six-string and twelve-string neck, necessary for playing "Stairway to Heaven" live.

Page helped generate his unique tones using effects such as the Theremin, in the middle section of "Whole Lotta Love", and the Vox Wah Wah, which he pressed all the way to the treble position to produce a piercing lead sound, for the solo in "Communication Breakdown". Another trick was using a violin bow to pluck the strings during "Dazed and Confused". He added additional colors to his palette with alternate tunings, such as DADGAD, on "Kashmir".

One of the lessons Page learned from his studio work was that "distance makes depth". Instead of placing the microphone close to the guitar amplifier, he would position the mic at a distance, which would result in a deeper, fuller sound. He applied this distance miking technique to the drums in "When the Levee Breaks". Drummer John Bonham's kit was placed at one end of a hallway, with the microphone at the other end, creating a natural echo effect. Another example of his production skill was his invention of backwards echo, which is heard in the vocal track of "Whole Lotta Love".

Some multi-talented people are described as a "jack of all trades, master of none". Jimmy Page is a tradesman who mastered them all.

Led Zeppelin Discography:

Led Zeppelin (1969)
Led Zeppelin II (1969)
Led Zeppelin III (1970)
Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
Houses of the Holy (1973)
Physical Graffiti (1975)
Presence (1976)
The Song Remains the Same (1976)
In Through the Out Door (1979)
Coda (1982)

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