Led Vault: Jimmy Page Talks First Three Led Zeppelin Albums, Gibson and Harmony Guitars and More

by Brad Tolinski
Posted Jun 11, 2014 at 12:38pm

This is an excerpt from the July 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the rest of this story, plus features on Ace Frehley, Albert Lee, "The Album that Changed My Life," the history of Taylor Guitars, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, columns, tabs and reviews of new gear from Fender, ESP/LTD, Vox, Boss, Sterling by Music Man and more, check out the June 2014 issue at the Guitar World Online Store.

GUITAR WORLD: The first three albums fuse elements of blues, progressive acoustic folk, hard rock and world music. What was the end game?

You have all these colors on your pallet and now you can blend them to introduce new colors and textures people have not heard before. For example, playing something like “Black Mountain Side” with a tabla drummer had never been done. “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” from the first album is another example. I had heard Joan Baez’s version, but if you compare ours to hers, most people would say, “How the hell did you come up with that?” They don’t really sound anything alike. The reason they are different is because we were able to fuse her acoustic approach with heavy guitars, which was something that hadn’t been done. Additionally, I was able to incorporate a flamenco-style guitar solo, as well.

On the photo shoot for this issue, you specifically brought two acoustic guitars with you. Could you explain the significance of each?

The Harmony guitar is quite special to me. It is what I used to write all the acoustic songs and many of the electric songs on the first three albums. I also used it to record all the acoustic tracks on the third album, and it’s the guitar I played on “Stairway to Heaven.” I pretty much used it until I started playing a Martin on Houses of the Holy.

The second guitar is a mid-Sixties Gibson J-200, similar to the one I used to record all the acoustic parts on the first album. The J-200 used on Led Zeppelin I belonged to Mickey Most, the producer of the Yardbirds, and it was an amazing-sounding instrument. He graciously let me use it for the first album but didn’t let me use it for the second album, because, I think, by then he knew he wasn’t going to be the producer. [laughs]

Mickey owned the acoustic and a great Fifties Strat with a maple neck, and he kept them in his studio. Unfortunately, many years later, someone stole them—they just took a walk. He told me, and I said, “Mickey, I’m so desperately sorry to hear that.” They were his instruments, man! That’s terrible.

So, anyway, I thought it was fair to bring the Harmony and a J-200 to the shoot. The Gibson is, of course, not the original—I wasn’t the one who stole it! But I was talking with guitar collector Perry Margouleff about Mickey’s guitar and we were able to determine the model, because the one I played had a Tune-o-matic bridge, and there weren’t many of those made. Now that I’ve said that, they’ll probably triple in price! Perry recently found one and gave it to me for my 70th birthday, and I really thank him for that.

The Harmony is a rather ordinary guitar. What did you like about it?

What did I like about it? It helped me come up with all these amazing songs! [laughs] It encouraged me. It didn’t fight back, and it didn’t go out of tune. It would say to me, “Go on, man, give me more! C’mon!”

The Paris show has some of the flashiest and fastest playing of your entire recorded career. But as your career went on, it seemed you became more concerned with note choice than raw speed. Was that conscious?

I think I just got better. My playing and writing grew in leaps and bounds around that period. If you compare the initial attempt at the solo in “Heartbreaker” on the companion disc to how I’m playing it on the live Paris show, you’ll see why I had to go back and re-record it.

I thought the bow solo on the live version of “Dazed” was beautiful—really quite different than the studio version.

I was all right. Every night, I was trying to seek out something I never did before. I’d find new things and discard others until I arrived at something like the bow solo you hear on the live version on Song Remains the Same, which really holds up.

Photo: Ross Halfin

This is an excerpt from the July 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the rest of this story, plus features on Ace Frehley, Albert Lee, "The Album that Changed My Life," the history of Taylor Guitars, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, columns, tabs and reviews of new gear from Fender, ESP/LTD, Vox, Boss, Sterling by Music Man and more, check out the June 2014 issue at the Guitar World Online Store.


Add a Comment
0 Comments

Similar Guitar News

For Sale: Nine Gibson Les Pauls Played by Warren Haynes at Final Allman Brothers Beacon Theatre Shows (10/20/2014)
Thanks to an arrangement between the Gibson Custom Shop, the Allman Brothers Band Museum at the Big House and Warren Haynes, a special selection of Gibson guitars is now available to the public. Each of the nine hand-selected Les Pauls will be ...
Led Zeppelin Premiere Alternate Mix of "Rock and Roll" — Listen (10/16/2014)
Later this month, Led Zeppelin will release deluxe, remastered editions of Led Zeppelin IV and Houses of the Holy. Each reissue will contain a second disc featuring previously unreleased alternate mixes, in-progress versions of songs and more. ...
Gibson announces Bill Kelliher Halcyon Les Paul and Lzzy Hale Explorer (10/15/2014)
Read more about Gibson announces Bill Kelliher Halcyon Les Paul and Lzzy Hale Explorer at MusicRadar.com Hot on the tail of the 2015 line-up, Gibson has announced two brand new signature models for Mastodon's Bill Kelliher and Halestorm's Lzzy H...
Gibson Introduces Seven-String Les Paul Classic Guitar (10/13/2014)
Gibson has introduced its new Les Paul Classic 7 String — the first ever seven-string Les Paul. From the company: For too long the luthiers at Gibson have reserved the seven-string guitars for other popular models like the Flying V and Explorer,...
Gibson Les Paul 7-string announced (10/13/2014)
Read more about Gibson Les Paul 7-string announced at MusicRadar.com Who says an old classic can't learn new tricks? In an unexpected move, quite
Genesis Publications Presents “An Evening with Jimmy Page in Conversation with Chris Cornell" (10/6/2014)
To celebrate the publication of Jimmy Page’s official photographic autobiography, Jimmy Page — the first book by a member of Led Zeppelin — Genesis Publications (with Guitar World and Guitar Aficionado) will present “An Evening with Jimmy Page i...
Led Zeppelin Premiere "The Rain Song" (Mix Minus Piano) from 'Houses of the Holy' Remaster — Listen (10/1/2014)
As we've been reporting, the latest wave of Led Zeppelin remasters will be released October 28. This time, Led Zep fans can prepare for new-and-improved versions of Led Zeppelin IV and Houses of the Holy. Speaking of which, it seems a previously...
Jimmy Page Plans on Starting New Band and Performing Material Spanning Entire Career (10/1/2014)
Yesterday (Tuesday, September 20), Jimmy Page got a wee bit bent out of shape at all the "Led Zeppelin reunion" questions being posed at London's Olympic Studios. Page, who was there to discuss and preview the upcoming remasters of Led Zeppelin ...
Guitarist Elliot Easton Discusses The Empty Hearts, The Cars and His Signature Gibson Tikibird (9/26/2014)
Even though the Empty Hearts feature members of Blondie, the Cars, the Chesterfield Kings and the Romantics — and even though their name was chosen from Little Steven Van Zandt's super-secret list of unused band names — this is no cynically cons...
Waddy Wachtel talks Gibson Collector's Choice #14 1960 Les Paul (9/22/2014)
Read more about Waddy Wachtel talks Gibson Collector's Choice #14 1960 Les Paul at MusicRadar.com To celebrate the release of the Gibson Collector's Choice #14 1960 Les Paul, session guitarist Waddy Wachtel – who plays guitar in the upcoming Jim...
‘World On Fire’: Slash Discusses New Solo Album, Gibson Les Pauls and Guns N’ Roses (9/2/2014)
Over the course of his illustrious career—one that includes time in Guns N’ Roses, Slash’s Snakepit and Velvet Revolver—Slash has amassed album sales of more than 100 million, garnered a Grammy (to go with his seven nominations) and was recently...
Led Zeppelin Preview "Black Dog (Basic Track with Guitar Overdubs)" — Listen (8/29/2014)
Below, you can stream slightly more than a minute's worth of "Black Dog (Basic Track with Guitar Overdubs)," one of the raw, previously unreleased recordings to be included in the upcoming remastered edition of Led Zeppelin's Led Zeppelin IV. Th...
Led Zeppelin top greatest guitar riff poll (8/26/2014)
Read more about Led Zeppelin top greatest guitar riff poll at MusicRadar.com Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love has been voted the greatest guitar riff of all time by BBC Radio 2 listeners.Jimmy Page's riff topped a list of 100 that was dominated b...
Buckcherry Guitarist Keith Nelson Talks New EP, 'F---,' and His Gibson Collector’s Choice Les Paul (8/12/2014)
Never a band to play by the rules, Buckcherry have made a career out of pushing the boundaries — and buttons — of conventional rock while doing things their own way. It’s a strategy that has paid off with successful studio albums and singles ove...
Win a Led Zeppelin Re-Issues Prize Pack! (8/4/2014)
Teaser Content: 
Led Zeppelin Announce 'Led Zeppelin IV' and 'Houses of the Holy' Reissue Details (7/29/2014)
Led Zeppelin have announced deluxe reissues of 1971's Led Zeppelin IV and 1973's Houses of the Holy. The two reissues are due for an October 28 release, and, like the reissues of the band's first three LP's, each album will include a remastered...