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.”
Great words! And what would Jeff say about Jimmy? I know there’s great mutual respect because I met Jeff.
I seen them both..many times..they are GREAT players/musicians !! different styles..but have the Blues as a common thread..After seeing Jimmy in 75 & 77. I bought my first guitar he was AMAZING !! then I heard ‘blow by blow’ and was blown away by it. That was my introduction to jazz/rock/fusion..AMAZING !! needless to say any band I was in over the years..we played Zep and Beck tunes..when I finally learned to play ’cause we’ve ended as lovers ‘ and the ‘rain song’ ..that made me feel like a true accomplished player..im not great ,,but can play..THANK YOU ..PAGE AND BECK FOR ALL THE GREAT MUSIC YOU HAVE MADE AND THE INSPIRATION TO BECOME A GUITAR PLAYER !! TO THIS DAY I LOVE THE INSTRUMENT !!!!
Dear Mr.page I was glad zepplin reunited in 2007 but I was very disappointed you didnt do a reunion show in the US after all when led zepplin first got together your own country men backed away from you but America embrassed you with open arms we could not get enough of you so I think it would be great if you would get together and do a reunion gig over here to thank the American people for their acceptance of your new group maybe you could do a benefit show to bring awareness to the number one.genetic disease in this country among new born babies children and young adults and that disease is cystic fibrosis it is a terrible disease and I should know I lost my beautiful daughter to that disease.she was only 21 yrs old and I miss her terrible. Mr page if you can’t do a benefit show with zepplin would u be willing to donate your time and come to America and do a commercial with me to try and bring this terrible disease into the public eye cause everybody I wrote to has not answered one of my e-mails sincerely yours Donald minder
The Zeppelin ‘reunion’ was a tribute and to pay respect to Ahmet Ertegun – the founder of Atlantic Records. It was a one off.
Hi Jimmy, I don’t think that you will remember me I did some work at your boathouse in Pangborne with your cousin Roger we wired some rooms for you. I remember you playing the guitar and the sitar. I was wondering how successful you have become I ended up in Cornwall living in a barn what happens to you. All the best Pete
I saw the firm in the early eighties may be you remember I was balcony fifth row near exit sign!
Hi Jimmy, I am the person who asked my friends to pass the Australian Stone plectrums to you on the 1996 Page & Plant “No Quarter” tour of Australia. Your music has always had an impact on me and I agree with all you say about Jeff Beck.It is refreshing to hear a person talk about an Artist they indeed know very well. Cheers!