With all the attention Jimmy Page has been getting as a result of the court case regarding the origin of “Stairway to Heaven”, was it nicked from Spirit or not (it wasn’t), I thought I would post some history of Page’s life and career for your pleasure.
Jimmy Page is best known as the fire-slinging riffmaster who helped Led Zeppelin to hard-rock dominance in the 1970s. His work with Zeppelin made him one of rock’s most important and influential guitar players, writers, and producers; in 2003, Rolling Stone listed Page as number nine on its list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. Since Zep’s demise, Page has alternated between solo projects and collaborations with other superstars. Largely uninterested in new trends and technology, Page’s later work has been as bound to classic rock as his legendary band was.
A self-described “introspective loner” as a child, Page, who was born January 9, 1944, grew up the son of a corporate personnel officer in the town of Surrey, outside London. Page took up the guitar at age 13, learning to play mostly by teaching himself. As a young art student, Page, like nearly all of England, had become swept away with the rock and roll craze that reached Europe in the form of Elvis Presley in the 1950s. Deciding to take up guitar, Page started out in a band called Neil Christian and the Crusaders, where he learned to imitate such star guitarists of the day as Scotty Moore, James Burton, and Hank B. Marvin.
But due to physical problems involving a glandular disorder that induced travel sickness, Page was unable to perform live, so he began to make his mark in London as a guitarist in recording sessions, some that were credited to him and some that were not, for various groups. Much controversy has swirled around Page’s work during this period, such as the claim by some that Page contributed greatly to such hits by the Kinks as “You Really Got Me” and “All Day and All of the Night.” Nevertheless, it is certain that during this time Page performed on recordings by such a diverse array of artists as the Rolling Stones, the Who, Joe Cocker, Donovan, Petula Clark, and Tom Jones. But the session work began to drag on Page, particularly the work on easy-listening and Top 40 records that reined in his budding talent (though the control Page learned in these years would later add significantly to his trademark style). Jimmy Page’s affinity for both electric and acoustic guitars grew out of the early session work he was unhappy with. Swan Song Records executive Alan Callan said he went home and practiced on the acoustic nonstop for two months.
One of the path-burning groups in London in the mid-1960s was the Yardbirds, and when Eric Clapton, another up-and-coming guitarist with whom Page had played and recorded, left the group.
Jimmy Page didn’t always want to be a rock star. In fact, during an appearance on a 1957 episode of the U.K. children’s talent show ‘On Your Own,’ a 13-year-old Page said he wanted to grow up to work in “biological research” studying germs.
When the Yardbirds fell apart in the summer of 1968, Page was left with rights to the group’s name and a string of concert obligations. He enlisted John Paul Jones, who had done session work with the Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits, Lulu, Dusty Springfield, and Shirley Bassey. John Paul Jones had been known by the stage name of John Baldwin, until Andrew Loog Oldham — later manager of the Rolling Stones — suggested he take a new moniker from the title of a popular movie starring Robert Stack. He said he had no idea who John Paul Jones was; he just liked the sound of it.
Page and Jones had first met, jammed together, and discussed forming a group when both were hired to back Donovan on his Hurdy Gurdy Man LP. Page had hoped to complete the group with drummer B.J. Wilson of Procol Harum and singer Terry Reid. Steve Marriott of the Small Faces was also on Jimmy Page’s list for possible singers. But he was reportedly met with this response from Marriott camp: “How would you like to play guitar with broken fingers?”
Terry Reid recommended Robert Plant, who in turn suggested Bonham, drummer for his old Birmingham group, Band of Joy. Robert Plant is said to have pushed for John Bonham to join the fledgling group not because of his legendary prowess at the drums, but because he was also from the British Midlands — better known as the Black Country. Jimmy Page also asked Aynsley Dunbar, who later played in both Journey and Jefferson Starship, along with Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, about coming on board as Led Zeppelin’s first drummer. But Dunbar was more interested in launching his own band, the quickly forgotten Retaliation.
Robert Plant and Jimmy Page bonded over Joan Baez’s version of ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’ from her ‘In Concert’ album during their first meeting in 1968. They’d rework the song for Led Zeppelin’s debut.Page, Plant, Jones and Bonham first played together as the session group behind P.J. Proby on his Three Week Hero.
In October 1968 they embarked on a tour of Scandinavia under the name the New Yardbirds. Upon their return to England they recorded their debut album in 30 hours. Not long after Robert Plant was asked to join, he ran into Paul Rodgers — who was then fronting Free. He asked Rodgers for advice, saying he’d been offered “either 30 quid a week or a percentage” to join. It was Rodgers who told him to take the percentage. (Rodgers would later co-found the Firm with Jimmy Page.)
Adopting the name Led Zeppelin (allegedly coined by Keith Moon), they toured the U.S. in early 1969, opening for Vanilla Fudge. Their first album was released in February; within two months it had reached Billboard’s Top 10. He paid for the recording of the entire album as he wanted artistic control “in a vise grip.” Recording and mixing cost Page £1782 (or about $4300). The debut album ended up making over £3.5 million.
The second one took more than eight months, largely because of nonstop touring.
The piecemeal approach to recording ‘Led Zeppelin II’ between concert dates meant that John Bonham’s drum solo for ‘Moby Dick’ was spliced in from a different session than the rest of the song, as was the unaccompanied guitar solo in ‘Whole Lotta Love.”Led Zeppelin II reached Number One two months after its release. Since then every album of new material has gone platinum; five of the group’s LPs have reached Number One.
After touring almost incessantly during its first two years together, Zeppelin began limiting its appearances to alternating years. The band’s 1973 U.S. tour broke box-office records throughout the country (many of which had been set by the Beatles), and by 1975 its immense ticket and album sales had made Led Zeppelin the most popular rock & roll group in the world. In 1974 the quartet established its own label, Swan Song. The label’s first release was Physical Graffiti (Number One, 1975), the band’s first double-album set, which sold 4 million copies.
In 1971, Page bought the former Loch Ness, Scotland home of the British philosopher and occultist Aleister Crowley. Page claimed it was haunted, not necessarily because of Crowley, but because of its previous owners. “It was also a church that was burned to the ground with the congregation in it,” Page told Rolling Stone in 1975. “Strange things have happened in that house that had nothing to do with Crowley. The bad vibes were already there. A man was beheaded there, and sometimes you can hear his head rolling down.” The guitarist was a fan of Crowley’s, having Crowley’s “Do what thou wilt” inscribed in the run-off groove of the original Led Zeppelin III vinyl records. Page was believed by some to worship Satan because of these connections; Page never confirmed.
On August 4, 1975, Plant and his family were seriously injured in a car crash while vacationing on the Greek island of Rhodes. As a result, the group toured even less frequently. That and speculation among fans that supernatural forces may have come into play also heightened the Zeppelin mystique. Plant believed in psychic phenomena, and Page, whose interest in the occult was well known.
In 1976 Led Zeppelin released Presence, a four-million seller. Presence was recorded in 18 days in Munich, Germany. Plant had been in a car crash in Greece previously. Page explained to The Guardian, “Robert was really keen to do the recording, and we all were, because there wasn’t anything else that we could do.” Plant recalled a failed attempt to move on crutches at the studio where he took a fall. Page ran from the control room to pick him up. “He was like an Olympic athlete!,” Plant exclaimed. “ I’d never seen him move so fast in my life!”
The group had just embarked on its U.S. tour when Plant’s six-year-old son, Karac, died suddenly of a viral infection. The remainder of the tour was canceled, and the group took off the next year and a half.
In late 1978 Plant, Page, Jones, and Bonham began work on In Through the Out Door, their last group effort. They had completed a brief European tour and were beginning to rehearse for a U.S. tour when, on September 25, 1980, Bonham died at Page’s home of what was described as asphyxiation; he had inhaled his own vomit after having consumed alcohol and fallen asleep.
On December 4, 1980, Page, Plant, and Jones released a cryptic statement to the effect that they could no longer continue as they were. Soon thereafter it was rumored that Plant and Page were going to form a band called XYZ (ex-Yes and Zeppelin) with Alan White and Chris Squire of Yes; the group never materialized. In 1982 Zeppelin released Coda (Number Six, 1982), a collection of early recordings and outtakes.
After Zeppelin drummer John Bonham’s death, Page didn’t touch a guitar for nine months. His first collaborative project after that, with Squire and White, never made it out to the studio. His soundtrack for the film Death Wish II is a predominately instrumental album that, at times, finds him playing fitfully with synthesizers. A 1983-84 ARMS (Action for Research into Multiple Sclerosis) benefit tour brought Page to the concert stage for the first time since 1980. He also contributed to former band mate Robert Plant’s first solo album, Pictures at 11, in 1982.
Two years later Page, founded the Firm with former Free and Bad Company vocalist Paul Rodgers. Page once referred to the band as a vehicle to show people he wasn’t the drug user oft rumored. In the fall of 1984, however, he was arrested for possession of cocaine, his second offense, and his personal life continued to remain shrouded in mystery, colored by rumors of an interest in the occult and a period of heroin addiction.The Firm released two albums and toured once, to lukewarm critical and mixed fan response.
In hopes to “avoid routine,” Page released his first non-soundtrack studio album, Outrider (#26, 1988), which featured vocals by John Miles, Chris Farlowe, and Plant. Outrider earned Page a Grammy nomination for best rock instrumental and sent him on his first solo tour.
For his next album, Page paired up with former Deep Purple and Whitesnake vocalist David Coverdale, whose similarities to Rodgers and Plant have provoked the ex-Zep singer to call him “David Coverversion.” The Page-Coverdale collaboration is a solid if somewhat generic contribution to the hard rock Page pioneered (the album peaked at Number Five in 1993).
Page and Plant put their differences aside in 1994 when they reunited to record a new album, No Quarter, in Wales, Morocco, and London, where Unledded, the MTV Unplugged special, was taped. A mix of Led Zep and new songs, the album featured musicians from Marrakech, India, and Egypt. It reached Number Four on the U.S. album chart and went platinum. Page and Plant embarked on a 1995 tour to promote the album.
In 1998 Page and Plant released Walking Into Clarksdale, the first album of new material they had recorded together in two decades. “Most High,” a single, recalled Zep’s hypnotic “Kashmir,” but the album (its title an allusion to the cradle of the Delta blues) was more wistful than bombastic. It reached Number Eight on the U.S. charts and went gold. Page was also featured on Sean Combs’ “Come With Me,” a song from the movie Godzilla that set rap lyrics to the melody from “Kashmir.” In 1999, Page toured with the Black Crowes, performing a mix of Zep and Crowes material, as well as old blues covers. Live at the Greek, a tour document, came out in 2000.
In December, 2007, Led Zeppelin reunited for a one-off charity concert in London—with Jason Bonham filling in on drums for his departed dad, John—fueling speculation that the quartet might get together for a full tour and album. Instead, Page appeared in It Might Get Loud, a documentary about electric guitars that also featured Jack White and The Edge. In early 2010, Page announced that he would release a limited-edition autobiography.