Jimmy Page was interviewed for a new documentary, “Still On The Run: The Jeff Beck Story.” In the documentary, Page discussed his early friendship with Beck, their 2009 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame performance, and why he’s a fan of Beck’s guitar technique.
The documentary is currently available to watch on BBC iPlayer and will go on sale on May 18. Find out more about it here.
Page and Beck ‘clicked immediately’
“Well, he came round to my house,” Page said of the first time that he met Beck. “I was living at home, of course, with my parents. And Jeff came in and he had a homemade guitar. I also had a homemade guitar there as well and we just sort of clicked immediately.”
“He’d come round and we’d sort of hang out and I’d play records to him. I had such an eclectic mix of records, even as a teenager. It was a great adventure finding other people who might know a different chord to you. Or finding a record shop where they were importing, say, VeeJay records, as opposed to … this is the Chicago movement from the fifties. The blues movement. As opposed to all the Chess catalogue. There was lots of pilgrimages involved and all of those guitarists from that point, we all learnt from records.”
“You wanted to see if you could play what was on it. It was quite an accomplishment to hear something that was really, really amazing to you and really moved you. Then really actually work towards being able to play it.”
“We were really, really keen on exactly the same things with the Gene Vincent records and Ricky Nelson records. There were all these fine guitar solos by James Burton and one of the things that we would ask of each other was ‘What’s your version of My Babe?’ ‘OK, what’s your version?’ That sort of seemed to be a common ground between most guitarists around that time, to see how well other guys could cut this solo.”
Beck is an ‘extraordinary musician’
“Everybody respects Jeff,” Page said. “He’s an extraordinary musician and he’s developed a technique which is so complex, it’s just a beauty to behold and hear and to feel his playing. He’s having a conversation with you when he’s playing. It’s just he’s not singing.
“The good thing about guitarists is everyone’s got their own character playing, you know, that’s something which we all do understand. But we could all go, we could be talking for hours and hours and years and years, decades and decades, but the most important thing, the thing that you can’t, you can’t actually put into words, is what you actually hear in that music. And that is the key to all of this, of Jeff’s playing and why Jeff is so brilliant because it’s what he manages to convey with his guitar, so, no, that has to be heard to be believed.”
“The early days in The Yardbirds he was playing with a pick but then he developed playing without a pick. And then he concentrated more on the Stratocaster. And he had the guitar so fine-tuned to every nuance and the tonality of it, the tension of it, that he developed a style that was totally unique and that’s pretty magical.”
Page talked about Beck’s 1975 album Blow By Blow. “Jeff and I met up and he invited me to the studio,” Page said, “and he was telling me how George was really just letting him play and stretch and he was recording all the things and then making a finished version, you know. He was somebody who would really understand the precision of Jeff’s playing and just how different and how separate it was from anybody else’s. George Martin really understood that Jeff was a serious musician.”
Beck’s work in The Yardbirds was ‘of paramount importance’
“Jeff would come round and he’d play me the sort of first cuts of the records and I remember him playing ‘Shapes Of Things’ and when it came to the solo I thought ‘This is a most extraordinary solo.’”
“The work that Jeff did in The Yardbirds was of paramount importance to guitar-based groups because he had an incredible ear and he set an amazing standard and also that his technique was extraordinary as well and I must say when I heard that I really understood what Jeff was really capable of.”
Page also talked about The Yardbirds’ tour of America in 1966. “I never played in America before,” Page said. “It was a shock, it was really surreal from everything that I thought it was going to be. That was very, very odd because it was a collection of teeny-bop stars. Teeny-boppers. And for a very young audience.”
“There was like a toilet that got busted and it didn’t work and people had to sleep in the luggage racks. But Jeff missed all that because he left pretty early after just a few dates.”
The 2009 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame performance was ‘absolutely amazing’
“And I thought yeah ok, I’ll bring over the original guitar that I played it on,” Page said, “like a Fender 12-string, electric 12-string. And so I took it over there, we had a rehearsal. And I got a phone call just before we were due to go. And he said ‘I’ve been having a chat with the band and they thought it might be a good idea if we, instead of just doing ‘Bolero,’ if we did ‘Immigrant Song’ and I said ‘Oh yeah? Well this is really going to be interesting’ because we hadn’t had a rehearsal.”
“I mean, he was just soloing over it and he’d throw the vocal lead in just to show, you know, just to show everybody how on top of it he was.”
“The band are having great fun doing this riff and then we segue through into doing ‘Bolero’ and it’s absolutely amazing.”