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jimmy speaks! june '69....

howdy badgies,

guitar player, june 1969
     from the time jimmy page launched led
zeppelin, it did what most groups dream of doing:
it floated right to the top, first in england and
now in the u.s. we caught jimmy page at the high
temple of rock, the fillmore in san francisco,
where he was making one of his first u.s.
appearances. although the led zeppelin had only
been together two months, they were jamming as if
they had been doing it for years.
     jimmy, who plays lead guitar for led
zeppelin, worked two years with the much lauded
yardbirds. at that time he became good friends
with another yardbirds veteran, eric clapton.
"eric and i did a lot of stuff at my house." he
recalls. "we used to just get the tape recorder
working and start playing. a lot of the tapes we
did together came out in the media. however, at
the time i was recording with eric, he was under
contract and so his company took possession of
the recordings. it's interesting to see the
progress eric has made since then."
     jimmy started on the guitar about eight
years ago:"i have always wanted to be an electric
guitarist. i even started a paper route to get my
first instrument because i didn't have any money.
well, i got one, and then i just started
exchanging and getting better ones. i think the
second one i had was a fender stratocaster, and
that was the first good guitar i ever had. then i
got a gretsch, and then a les paul with three
pickups. the reason i don't use the les paul now
is because i didn't feel that particular model
was good for blues. it's called the 'fretless
wonder' and the frets are filed real fine, but it
just doesn't happen for the blues."
     jimmy says the best match he's found has
been a gibson guitar through a marshall amp:"you
get a marshall with a gibson and it's fantastic,
a perfect match. i'm using ernie ball super
slinky strings, although i usually sort of swap
around gauges. you know, they have these
custom-gauge things, and i usually have it a bit
heavier around the third and sometimes a bit
lighter. it depends on what sort of mood i'm in."
     once in a while when jamming, jimmy will sit
down behind a steel guitar."we wanted to use a
steel guitar in led zeppelin," he explains. "i
have used one for about a month. it's frustrating
to play it though. you hear those country guys,
and they can play it so damn well. it's such a
complicated instrument for someone who doesn't
have that sort of line to begin with, and it's a
struggle for me to play. we used it on our album
a couple of times, but nothing really
complicated. when i play, i try to do a bit of
everything. i don't know if that's good. i guess
it can be annoying."one of jimmy's most dynamic
sounds occurs when he draws a violin bow across
the strings.
     "led zeppelin's music never duplicates
itself," he insists. "we might use the same
pattern, but it's always changing. by now a tune
may be entirely different from when we first
started. the only thing which will remain the
same is the first couple of verses. although
we've got cues when we cut in, the idea is to get
as much spontaneity as possible. but to get
yourself out of trouble, you've got certain keys
you can use to come in. otherwise it can be
chaotic. usually we just start the song off and
then go in different tangents, change it four or
five times, and then come back to the original
     jimmy wouldn't call what they do during
rehearsal a practice. "we jam," he says. "once
we've got a number, everything is happy, but
getting there is another thing. that is why it is
so easy using an old blues number. you know it,
and then you go on from there. i think most
groups must have the same trouble.
     "how original our work is depends upon how
you want to classify it. you might say it's 80%
original if you want to exclude the words. in
fact, it would be 90% original, because our
numbers would be ten or fifteen minutes whereas
the original number would only be three minutes
so basically we are making it up all the time."
     jimmy is establishing himself as one of the
top rock guitarists. how high he goes is only
limited by his creativity and ability to expand
his technique.
          -bob kennedy-