Full name, Jimmy Page; born January 9, 1944, in Middlesex, England; son of a corporate personnel officer. Addresses: c/o Phil Carson, Atlantic Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019.
Though the argument over who is the greatest rock guitarist of all time will probably rage on forever, one name that seems to appear on everyone's list is that of Jimmy Page, the heavy-metal guitarist who most prominently wielded his chain-saw-like guitar for the legendary British rock group Led Zeppelin, a band that dominated the rock world with an imperial arrogance throughout the 1970s. Coming of age along with an impressive generation of British musicians, among them such other legendary guitarists as Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, Page was able to take advantage of both a recurrence of interest in traditional American blues and a period of quantum breakthroughs in music technology to forge a distinctive guitar style. The resulting sound blossomed to full flower in the Led Zeppelin years, when Page realized his dream of creating a music that held a balanced combination of bluesy emotional content and modern, earth-shattering rock and roll power. "The rock guitarists of his generation are probably the greatest in rock history," said Atlantic Records chairman Ahmet Ertegun in People. "But Jimmy Page is the least conventional, the most personal. He developed a magical, distinctive style."
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. 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). 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, his vacated position was offered to Page, who turned it down because of concerns over his illness and then because he was earning a good living in session work. The position was filled by Jeff Beck. But when Yardbirds' bassist Paul Samwell-Smith left the group a year later, Page again was offered a spot in the band and this time he accepted, starting out initially on bass and then moving to guitar to form a twin-lead. This Beck-Page guitar duo not only recharged the group at the time, but has piqued the imaginations of rock lovers since as a dream pairing.
The situation was short-lived, however. Beck left the group a short time later, leaving Page as the sole lead guitarist until the Yardbirds folded for good in 1968. Firmly established in the business as a solid name with a formidable reputation, Page then set about forming his own group, which he initially intended to call the New Yardbirds. Page knew bassist John Paul Jones from session work, and a friend recommended vocalist Robert Plant, who, in turn, recommended the drummer John Bonham. After a brief Scandinavian tour to fulfill previous Yardbirds obligations, and after deciding, with manager Peter Grant's help, to rename the group Led Zeppelin, the foursome went into the studio. The group grooved so instantly that, two weeks later, after just thirty hours of recording time, they had completed their first album, which featured such rock classics as "Dazed and Confused" and "Communication Breakdown." After negotiating a worldwide contract with Atlantic Records, Page and Grant, deciding that their "heavy-metal" sound would do best in America, took the group on its first tour of the U.S. in 1969.
Led Zeppelin soon took America by storm. By May of 1969, Led Zeppelin was a Top Ten album, and the group's intense, three-hour concerts were fast becoming the hottest talk on the music scene. In the next two years, the band recorded two more albums ( Led Zeppelin II and Led Zeppelin III ) and followed each with another American tour. By this time the group had become almost as famous for its road-life carousing as for their music. Everywhere they went, Led Zeppelin were besieged by throngs of girls that they were all too happy to oblige, and the bouts of drinking and violent hotel room smashing, particularly by Bonham, have become legend. Once Bonham was said to have taken exception to a pool table in his suite and smashed the entire thing to pieces.
But throughout the entire joyride Page and Plant were particularly prolific musically. The 1972 release Led Zeppelin IV contained such songs as "The Battle of Evermore," "Black Dog," "Misty Mountain Hop," and the band's trademark work "Stairway to Heaven," all of which became fixtures on FM album-rock stations for more than a decade. By the mid-1970s Led Zeppelin had become the largest-drawing touring band in the world, amassing huge gate draws at stadiums around the world. They had an enormous entourage and flew to each city in their own private jet. In 1975 they released their first LP on their own record label, Swan Song Records, and 1976 saw the release of their follow-up album soundtrack to their concert film The Song Remains the Same. By the late 1970s Led Zeppelin had become a bit outdated musically, and the symbolic end to the band came with the death of Bonham, who died drowning in his own vomit at Page's home outside London in 1980.
While Plant and Jones moved on to other projects, Page was so distraught over Bonham's death that he could not pick up his guitar for nearly a year. "I couldn't even look at it because it was part and parcel of the band," Page told People. "I had made such a major statement being in a group like Zeppelin. It's the best of my playing, and one could never eclipse that." Indeed, one could say that Led Zeppelin dominated the music of the 1970s the way the Beatles dominated the '60s, and entire books have been written about the group, most notably Stephen Davis's Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga, which traces the group's swift ascension to superstardom along with its notable Bacchanalian excesses.
But life had to go on for Page, and in the 1980s he slowly began putting his career back on the right track. Picking his spots carefully, Page in the 1980s appeared on a wide variety of projects, including two LPs by former Zeppelin mate Plant, a touring group he helped form called The Firm, the A.R.M.S. tour to fight multiple sclerosis, and Live Aid. "Page's future projects, given his consummate skills onstage and in the studio, might take him anywhere," writes Rich Kienzle in his book Great Guitarists. "So far, he has created some outstanding, much imitated music. He has managed to create guitar music of high artistic value that works on a commercial level as well--no small achievement. Jimmy Page's musical spark and durability will create much of interest, though he could easily rest on his Yardbirds/Zeppelin laurels forever. We have not heard the last from him."
by David Collins
Jimmy Page's Career
Rock guitarist, began playing in first band, Neil Christian and the Crusaders, early 1960s; unable to perform live due to illness, he began to work as a session musician for various groups recording in London; joined rock group The Yardbirds, 1966-68; formed own band The New Yardbirds (later to become Led Zeppelin), 1968; first tour of America with Led Zeppelin, 1969; started own recording label with Led Zeppelin, Swan Song Records, 1975; appeared in Led Zeppelin concert film The Song Remains the Same, 1976; Led Zeppelin breaks up, 1980, following death of drummer John Bonham; appears occasionally on solo records or collaborations with, most notably, Robert Plant and rock group the Firm; composer of soundtrack for film Deathwish II ; appeared at A.R.M.S. and Live Aid benefit concerts.
- With Led Zeppelin
- Led Zeppelin Atlantic, 1969.
- Led Zeppelin II Atlantic, 1969.
- Led Zeppelin III Atlantic, 1970.
- Led Zeppelin IV Atlantic 1972.
- Houses of the Holy Atlantic, 1973.
- Physical Graffiti Swan Song, 1975.
- Presence Swan Song, 1976.
- The Song Remains the Same Swan Song, 1976.
- In Through the Out Door Swan Song, 1979.
- Coda Swan Song, 1982.
- With Albert Lee and John Paul Jones
- No Introduction Necessary Thunderbolt, 1984.
- Solo LPs
- Don't Send Me No Flowers Marmalade, 1969.
- Sonny Boy Williamson Springboard, 1975.
- Jam Session Charly, 1975.
- Outrider Geffen, 1988.
December 14, 2005: Queen Elizabeth II awarded Page the Officer of the Order of the British Empire, citing his charitable work with Brazilian street children as the reason for the honor. Source: E! Online, www.eonline.com, December 14, 2005.
- Creem, October 1988.
- Newsweek, June 20, 1977.
- People, April 8, 1985.
- Rolling Stone, January 31, 1985; July 4, 1985; July 14, 1988; December 15, 1988.
- Stereo Review, July 1988.
- Kienzle, Rich, Great Guitarists: The Most Influential Players in Blues, Country Music, Jazz and Rock, Facts on File, 1985.