Thursday, December 4, 2008

Uncut magazine explores Jimmy Page's entire career

Writer David Cavanagh dropped by back in April to let me know about a major feature then being planned for Uncut magazine, centering on Jimmy Page's career from the early 1960s onward. It is now the cover story of the magazine's January 2009 Collector's Issue.

The piece culls together never-before-seen interview quotes about Page from fellow musicians and past collaborators such as Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, Paul Rodgers and Jeff Beck. In portions already posted online, Andrew Loog Oldham and Donovan reflect on their earliest encounters with Page in the 1960s and their impressions of him then and through the years.

Oldham, who was an early manager of the Rolling Stones, places the first time he was introduced to Page as around April or May 1964, which seems to be a year before he founded the Immediate Records label. Oldham recalls in an interview with Rob Hughes:
"The first time Jimmy Page came into my life I was already doing sessions with either Marianne Faithfull or Vashti Bunyan or The Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra. Charlie Katz was our musical fixer at Immediate, a lovely old Jewish gent, and our main guitarists at that time were Big Jim Sullivan, John McLaughlin and Joe Moretti. One day Charlie said to me, "You know, I've got this new young lad. I think you'll like him, Andrew.' And I think he may have said, 'He doesn't read [sheet music].'

"So there Jimmy was, in Pye Studios or Olympic or wherever ... we were, sitting next to Big Jim and the others. And that was the first time I saw him. I think he might have just left Carter-Lewis & The Southerners. So Jimmy's there on most of our sessions, basically from 'As Tears Go By' onwards. I'm not sure if he was on the Gene Pitney stuff, but we're talking April or May '64."
Page had the ability to communicate with other musicians easily while playing, Oldham recalls: "It was all in the nod, the look in the eye. And I saw that in Jimmy. It was apparent that he knew that too." He says the sly guitarist, who would have been turning 21 in January 1965, eased his way into the session world, doing so modestly, rather than taking it by storm.

Oldham also comments:
"Jimmy and I never really socialized. I ran into Jimmy about four years ago on the streets of Soho and that was the first time I’d seen him since back then. I never really saw him through the Led Zeppelin period. But Zeppelin changed so much about the record business. I mean, that was the first branding, wasn’t it?"
Page joined the Yardbirds full-time in June 1966 but continued doing session work whenever he could get around to it. Some of his sessions placed him with bassist John Paul Jones, who would later join him in Led Zeppelin. One of those Page-Jones sessions was in April 1968, recording "Hurdy Gurdy Man," which became a hit for Donovan. In an interview by Nick Hasted, the singer remembers what Page was like in those days:
"I didn't know him socially, because in those days sessions were three songs, three hours. He was long-legged, not-so-long-haired then, dark clothes, bohemian but quiet. Who would've thought this guy would become a giant - the great treasure of the Pagan Celtic Rock of Britain, Ireland, Scotland and Wales."
Donovan recalls how the musical director instructed Page at the session:
"John Cameron told him [Page], 'All you've got to do is listen to Donovan's guitar. Although it's acoustic, the way he's hitting it is the way the power-chords would go.' Rather than plug in, I was hitting driving chords on the acoustic in such a way that they buzz. So I guess Page listened. Jimmy added power and pagan rock. To this day, everyone wants that sound. And John Paul Jones arranged it, he gave the shapes to those sounds. And of course we really should have stopped the guitar solo, because I had another verse to sing that George Harrison had given me. But when we heard this thing that Page was doing coming out, we just said, 'Keep playing …' That might have been the first power-chord solo."
Uncut expects to post the rest of the feature about Page online too. Page is quoted in the magazine about himself, and also interviewed is Steve Albini, who produced Page and Plant's 1998 album Walking into Clarksdale. This issue of Uncut is on newsstands now.

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