“Within the contents of this book, I wanted to include items from my personal archive that have played a part in my career over 60 years, to illustrate the detail behind the detail.” – Jimmy Page
To my great delight and joy, Santa Claus (Father Christmas to you in the UK) brought me the book Jimmy Page: The Anthology last year. All six pounds of it.
Yes, this thing is BIG. (9.84 x 1.57 x 12.2 inches.) And it’s heavy. (Actually 5.8 pounds, 2.63kg, but who’s counting?) It is more challenging to hold this fucking thing and read it than I imagine it would be to stand up and play a Les Paul for 6 hours. (Never owned one but I know they’re heavy. And by ‘heavy’ I of course mean physically heavy as opposed to ‘He’s My Brother He Ain’t Heavy’ heavy, although come to think of it, that too).
And as you can see by the picture, it’s also quite a beautiful book. In reference to the guitar on the cover, Page says, “This ZOSO guitar arrived at my house out of the blue. It was sent to me by Gibson, with whom I had been collaborating on various limited edition replicas, like the ‘Black Beauty’, the double-neck, and the Les Pauls ‘Number One’ and ‘Number Two.’
Gibson’s custom department had been working on it as a surprise gift to celebrate my Order of the British Empire. They’d even inscribed the date that I received the OBE on the headstock.” (June 11, 2005).
What comes across quite clearly through the presentation of the book itself, through the care in which the pictures were taken and Page’s description of his musical journey, is how much of an artist he really is. (Famously, like just about every British rocker of his generation, he went to art school which for some was really a way to express themselves and for others, seemed to be a way to slag off.)
Now if you’re looking for stories about being with underage girls on the road, fishing from hotel rooms, voodoo, Mr. Crowley, and other tales of debauchery, look elsewhere. Hammer of the Gods is a good start.
This is a book that details Page’s career from the time he got turned on to recorded sound (classical music on a friend’s stereo; Bluesville Chicago and Scotty Moore on his own) till today where he spends most of his time endlessly re-releasing remastered Zep albums. (Or seemingly, anyway).
Every page has great pictures, some with interesting anecdotes or Pagey’s explanation of how and why he used a particular piece of equipment. The pictures are fascinating and many of them I’d never seen before. Here’s a picture of a young (15 years old or so) Jimmy kicking up his cowboy boots which, for some odd reason, he then liked to wear.
Some things came as a complete surprise to me. For instance, the fact that he liked Indian music, had seen Ravi Shankar live in 1962 and owned a sitar and other Indian instruments well before George Harrison played a sitar on “Norwegian Wood.”
But in late 1965 when Rubber Soul was released, Jimmy was a well-established session player but the world didn’t really know his name. He hadn’t even yet joined the Yardbirds. (The song “Black Mountain Side” from the Led Zeppelin album had a tabla on it. But that was four years after the Beatles helped introduce Indian music to the world.)*
But where are the guitars, you say? Send in the guitars. (My homage to Stephen Sondheim).
In fact, the setup above is for a catchy little number the boys did called “Whole Lotta Love.” (Page is pretty fanatical at documenting things. Recall he produced all the albums.) For you guitar-a-holics, from left to right that’s a Danelctro 3021, 1963-5; Gibson Les Paul Standard ‘Number One’ sunburst, 1959 and Fender ‘Dragon’ Telecaster 1959. (The Dragon Tele, which Page hand-painted, was a gift to Page from Jeff Beck. Beck and Page have been friends since they were teenagers.)
What about the clothes, ME, what about the clothes? We know, you say righteously, that he wore some outrageous shit on stage in the Seventies. Only Page could have rocked something like this. I’d look as dopey in this as I’d sound if I tried to rap.
Anyway, you get the idea. There’s a lot of cool behind-the-scenes stuff too like notes from the BBC advising Page when to arrive for a performance or a massive customs list just to get all their equipment into Canada. When monster bands like Zep came into town back in the day we weren’t thinking too much about the logistics.
As to the music, well, while Page doesn’t spend all his time bragging, let us say he has never been humble about how great Zep was and the band’s impact on the musical world. However, I will say that there may be a bit of hyperbole involved when he says (twice) that ‘Good Times Bad Times’ from Zep 1 “changed music. Sorry, Jimmy, the Beatles did that while you were still doing session work.
So who is this book for? Well, clearly guitarists who love Zep (guilty), rabid Zep fans, and … I don’t know who. I am not the marketing department. But I will say that when I asked Santa for this book, I was expecting yet another coffee table book to thumb through casually. But like everything he does, Page treats the book with obvious care and love and it shows.
BTW, if you dig the pictures, Page is selling them for about $2000(£1600)/picture. I don’t know about you but if I had that kind of cash to blow, pictures of his guitars wouldn’t be my first (or even second) choice.
*The Kinks released a song called “See My Friends” in July of 1965, five months prior to the release of Rubber Soul. Per Wikipedia, the song incorporates a drone-effect played on guitar, evoking a sound reminiscent of the Indian tambura.”
Guitar army. Five double-neck (12-string and 6-string) guitars. He always needed one to play ‘Hairway to Steven.’