BRING IT ON HOME – JIMMY PAGE WALKS INTO A NEW FUTURE WITH AN OLD FRIEND by H P NEWQUIST
It’s time to take a few steps back in time and pick up a little bit of rock and roll history about one of the guitar greats of our day. He was a member of The Yardbirds and the theremin playing guitarist of Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page.
H P NEWQUIST is a gifted writer and guitarist whose works have made there way across the planet more times than anyone can even begin to guess at. He has received numerous awards and citations for his works. A former Editor in Chief at Guitar Magazine, HP Newquist is the man responsible for The National GUITAR Museum and serves as the Executive Director. He has also written many guitar books including Legends of Rock Guitar which he co-wrote with author and guitarist Pete Prown as well as articles for Billboard, Guitar Shop, and Guitar Player Magazine. He has conducted interviews with many of the “greats” in the guitar world. He is also responsible for The Way They Play books, which teach “guitarists how to play and sound like their favorite artists“. His co-writer on the series is RichMaloof, author, guitarist, and editor. Jackaboutguitars is proud to be able to reprint another of HP Newquist’s fine works, an interview he did a while back with Jimmy Page. Newquist’s works are truly a pleasure to read! Many thanks HP for all of your contributions to this fine instrument which we all treasure. Enjoy. – Jack
JIMMY PAGE IS THE ONLY ROCK GUITAR ICON FROM THE BLUES-BASED BRITISH INVASION WHO STILL MATTERS. THINK ABOUT IT.
As the blues-rock of the late ’60s hurtled towards the hard rock of the ’70s, four men were pushing the limits: Jimi Hendrix, and the Yardbird triumvirate of Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and Page. Jimi Hendrix is gone. This apparently doesn’t affect his legacy, but it does affect his ability to create new music that still matters, regardless of how many “lost” recordings are posthumously released.
Jeff Beck, who continues to be an amazing and inventive guitarist–and has the edge over Hendrix in the still-alive-and-well department–tends to prefer spending time with cars instead of guitars. These days he appears on record and on stage with less frequency than Elvis.
Eric Clapton, meanwhile, has all but forsaken the driving blues-rock music that propelled him to early fame, opting instead for his current grandfatherly, white-bluesmaster persona. One needs look no further than what he did to “Layla” on his MTV Unplugged special to see that rock and roll is indeed a distant memory for Slowhand.
That, of course, leaves Mr. Page. The man who poured concrete into the throat of rock and roll has never stopped working his brand of musical genius on the form. With the release of Walking Into Clarksdale, Page and Robert Plant have revisited the styles that made Led Zeppelin the preeminent purveyors of innovative hard rock. Whether it was reinterpreting decades-old gritty blues numbers or fusing Middle Eastern drones with searing guitar riffs, Page and Zeppelin always had a tight grasp on, and full understanding of, their influences.
Walking Into Clarksdale is the latest example of Page extending the language of those influences. Indeed, the title of the new record takes its cue from a tiny town in the middle of Nowhere, U.S.A. called Clarksdale, Mississippi. It may seem like an obscure locale, but Clarksdale lies in the heart of the region that gave birth to the blues: the Mississippi Delta. For Page and Plant, walking into Clarksdale could just as easily be construed as “walking back.”
The record is vintage Page, easily recognizable but fresh enough in its construction to show how Page and Plant have managed to refresh and reinvent the music they make together. The blues roots are still here, but the cultural impact of other points on the globe have been even more deeply explored. For Page, it was simply a matter of stripping it all back to what he grew up with. Sitting in his hotel in Manhattan, seemingly a million miles from Clarksdale or Cairo, Page reflects on this latest addition to his repertoire.
“The most obvious thing for us to do,” he begins, “was to go back to the four-piece unit that we knew best and that has always worked best for us. A lot of people thought we were going to carry on with that big extravaganza from the last tour [behind 1995’s fully orchestrated No Quarter], but for us it was more important to come to terms with the songs.”
Page started by writing most of the songs on an old Harmony Sovereign guitar, one that he had used ever since the making of Led Zeppelin III. Then Page, Plant, bassist Charlie Jones and drummer Michael Lee headed to a most unlikely location to record: Abbey Road Studios in London. Gone was the farmhouse in Bron-yr-Aur or the privacy of his Sol Studios. “I sold Sol because it was 10 minutes down the road, and when I moved there was no point in keeping it,” says Page. “I’d recorded in Abbey Road in the 60’s and I’d worked with George Martin there as well. We all call it the Beatles’ studio, but it was really his studio, wasn’t it? Or EMI’s studio, anyway.”
Page laughs at the irony. “In fact, I remember doing sessions there in the daytime and you’d see all the Beatles’ equipment pushed up against the wall because they only went in there at night–and they spent all night. So the studio could safely put in afternoon sessions and know the Beatles wouldn’t be there. I’d never had the freedom to turn up an amp in there before. This time I had the freedom in their huge room, and I just took full advantage of it.” He laughs again.
“Poor Robert, he couldn’t sing in there with us because there was so much leakage. He had to stand in between the double doors and sing with his notebook and his mic stand. We had a great time there.”
The Clarksdale session lasted barely a month, which seems to be an abbreviated amount of time for a modern-day record. But Zeppelin often recorded quickly, sometimes even on the run. “We did Presence in three weeks and In Through The Out Door in three and a half. The main thing is that we can work fast, and we enjoy working fast. We’ve always been about spontaneity.”
The finished recording hints at the music Zeppelin was producing when it disbanded after the death of John Bonham. “When The World Was Young” has tones and melancholy riffs that easily could have been found on In Through The Out Door, as does “Upon A Golden Horse,” which recalls “Carouselambra” with its minor-chord drones into the verse. But there are sounds and passages that come from other ventures of Page’s.
“Please Read The Letter” shares the rolling riffs that were the foundation of Outrider, while “House of Love” resonates with the snarling