This is a short extract from an interview I did with Jimmy Page in 2014. I was so glad to get this interview, one that I’d been seeking for years and years. But it came just too late to include in Sunburst, which was a right pain. Oh well, something for the next edition. In the meantime, here’s a short extract from our chat, which took place at a secret location in west London.
TB: So, you take your Telecaster with you into Zeppelin, and that lasts certainly the first album period, before you get the Les Paul.
JP: Absolutely, the first album is done on the Telecaster, because it is a transition from the Yardbirds to Led Zeppelin, it’s exactly the same guitar. It’s not until 1969 that I get the Les Paul. I’ve already got the Custom. But Joe Walsh insists on sending me this guitar. And it actually looks as though it’s been refinished, looked like it. He bloody insisted, he said you’ve got to buy this guitar! I said I don’t necessarily need it. No, you’ve got to have it, just try it, you’ll want it … and all that. I said I’ve already got the Custom. No, no, you’ve got to try it!
TB: Did you know at the time there was a difference, the Custom and the sunburst?
JP: I knew it was a good guitar. I knew there wouldn’t be the feedback, the squealing you got from the Telecaster, which every night there was a whole episode of controlling that, you know what I mean? Everybody had that if they started turning up a Telecaster loud, you know? So he insisted that I bought it, and I did buy it, and I kicked off the second album with it.
TB: He came to a gig, did he?
JP: Yeah, it was at the Fillmore or Winterland, one or the other, in San Francisco.
TB: Can you remember: he turns up with this guitar …
JP: He turned up, because he used to turn up. I saw Joe Walsh in the days of the Yardbirds, he used to come to the Yardbirds gigs, and then there was the James Gang.
TB: He would have been in the James Gang at that time, I think.
JP: I don’t know … whether he was about to form the James Gang, you’ve got to go quite a way back.
TB: So he turns up with this guitar.
JP: You’ve got to buy this guitar! He kept insisting. I said ah, no, no, no, I can’t afford it. You know how it is. This wasn’t like dealing with Selmer’s here. He was really sporting, he’s still sporting about it now. Because everyone goes oh, you sold him a Les Paul for whatever it is, hundreds of dollars. Oh, it was a pro rata price, he wasn’t stealing me up and he wasn’t giving it to me as a present.
TB: You got a wonderful guitar, though, didn’t you?
JP: You see, it’s the intervention, again, of the guitar. So earlier on, one guitar is left behind at a house, the next guitar, even though I buy the Black Beauty … but then there’s a sort of energy-charged guitar in the Yardbirds that Jeff Beck had …
TB: Which was the one left at the house?
JP: The very first guitar that I had, the camp-fire guitar, was left behind by the people who moved out. You know what I’m talking about, the intervention of the guitar. Then there’s that one, then Joe Walsh insists that I buy this guitar. There’s no guarantee that I would have played the … I don’t know, it’s hypothetical, but I may not have come up with the riff of ‘Whole Lotta Love’ on the Telecaster. That fat sound you’re working with, you are, you are inspired, well I am, and I know other people are, by instruments, the sound of the instruments, and then they’re playing something they haven’t played before, and it’s really user-friendly, and suddenly they’ve got some sort of riff, which is peculiar to that moment. I’m not saying that’s the first thing I played on it, but it was to come.