JIMMY PAGE - Real Guitar Heroes - Guide to The World's Best Guitarists
Stairway To Heaven
As you read this article, countless aspiring guitarists all over the world are struggling through the opening notes to "Stairway to Heaven," hoping to become the next Jimmy Page. Thousands (if not millions) more are trying to do the same on Guitar Hero. Real guitar player or real guitar hero, Stairway has mesmerised the guitar player or would-be from day one.
Of course, being able to crank out the A minor arpeggios doesn't qualify you to record with Robert Plant, but hey, everybody's gotta start somewhere, right?
Humble Beginnings…Sort Of
Early on, Jimmy Page was an excellent musician, earning his living as a session musician with such big shots as Van Morrison, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and The Kinks. Growing up in England alongside such stellar guitarists as Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix certainly didn't hurt either. When he joined the Yardbirds in 1966, Page played bass guitar at first, only switching to dual lead guitar opposite Beck after band member Chris Dreja moved to bass. And then, in 1968, he recruited Robert Plant and John Bonham along with John Paul Jones to form the group now known as Led Zeppelin.
From the start, Zep would break new ground as a rock group, incorporating elements of funk, blues, classical, and everything in between. Although many of their albums were commercial successes, none was nearly so successful as Led Zeppelin IV, the album with "Stairway" on it. Still one of the best-selling albums of all time, it has sold nearly 37 million copies worldwide and 23 million in the U.S. alone.
The Battle of Evermore
Zoso a.k.a. Led Zeppelin IV
So what exactly did Jimmy play for this album? And how can you sound just like him? For much of the 1970s Jimmy used mainly a couple of guitars for recording: a 1958 Gibson Les Paul, and a 1959 Les Paul. However, he would also use a 1958 Fender Telecaster for the epic solo in "Stairway," and would become famous for his use of a '71 EDS-1275 Gibson Double Neck during live performances of the same song. The 12-string top neck and 6-string bottom would allow him to switch from heavy rhythm parts to screaming lead guitar parts in the blink of an eye—and it looked really groovy, too.
The acoustic guitar parts in "The Battle of Evermore" were recorded using either a Gibson J200 or a 1971 Martin D-28. At times Jimmy would also use a 1960 Danelectro 3021 for slide guitar parts, such as in "What Is and What Should Never Be" on Led Zeppelin II.
Whole Lotta Love
Jimmy also modified his equipment pretty heavily. Depending on who you talk to, he added a couple of switches to one or both of his Gibsons, a switch for in/out phase control, and a switch to put the pickups in series or parallel. The 1959 Les Paul had a rounded bridge and shaved neck so that Page could play it with his unique violin-bow style (without that, he would only be able to play the two outside E strings with a violin bow). Even his amplifier onstage was modified, a Marshall SLP-1959 which had the tubes changed out to KT-88 tubes, increasing the output from 100 to 200 watts.
Techniques And Effects
In the studio, Page was an even greater experimentalist, employing new techniques such as "reverse echo," in which the sound is mixed so that the listener hears the echo before the main sound instead of after.
Amplifiers used for recording included a 12" Supro combo amp, a Vox AC-30 with 2 12" Celestron speakers, and an Orange MatAmps which he would often use with the theremin. The theremin was a musical device invented in the 1930s, a black box that made a high-pitched noise the closer you moved to it. Jimmy used it for effect in several Zep songs, such as "Whole Lotta Love," also from Led Zeppelin II.
Where He Is Now
Like any self-respecting guitarist from the 60's and 70's, Jimmy Page emerged from the era with a hefty drug habit and an impressive collection of albums. After kicking the habit in the 80's, Page returned to record several albums with former bandmate Robert Plant in the 90's.
He has also turned out to have an excellent business sense, as Gibson has teamed up with him to issue several custom shop guitars with his name on them. Around 2000 Jimmy Page Signature Les Paul guitars based on the 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard he played were manufactured from 1995-1998. Another Jimmy Page model, the Jimmy Page Custom Authentic Les Paul based on the 1958 Gibson Les Paul Standard he played, was manufactured from 2004-2007.
And who could forget the iconic image of Jimmy Page playing his Gibson Doubleneck EDS-1275? A limited run edition of 250 Doublenecks with Custom Authentic treatment and overseen by Jimmy himself are also available on the market now.
In fact, songs on IV were sometimes a creation of the studio. The solo in "Black Dog" was actually constructed out of four different overdubbed solos featuring Page's Les Paul, according to Dave Lewis' 1994 The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin.
Other favorite effects of Jimmy's included a Gibson overdrive pedal customized by Roger Mayer (also known as a fuzzbox), a Sola Sound Tonebender, and every guitarists' standby, a Dunlop Crybaby Wah. However, in contrast to Jimi Hendrix's use of the Wah pedal, Page would sometimes just leave the thing tilted forward all the way to bring out the treble he wanted.
Is he or isn't he? A real guitar hero or was it just Stairway To Heaven that was so iconic he has been riding on it's back ever since? Come on, he's one of the best guitarists of all time... isn't he? Or maybe you prefer one of the others...
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