Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page Reveals His Greatest Musical Influence In Unearthed Interview

Words by Riley Fitzgerald
Graphic by Press

In 1977 Led Zeppelin‘s Jimmy Page gave one of the most extensive interviews of his career.

While guitarist was no friend to the music press, particularly publications like Rolling Stone which routinely criticized the band during their early career, the credentials of the New York’s Trouser Press, best known for its coverage of punk and new wave artists, must have appealed to Page.

Talking with reporter Dave Schulps, Jimmy Page spent more than a total of six hours discussing his early days as a guitarist and the Led Zeppelin discography so far.

I used to play in many groups,” Page begins, “anyone who could get a gig together, really.”

At age 15 Page cut chops as a guitarist for Neil Christian & The Crusaders in London.

We used to do Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley numbers,” Page recalls, “bluesy things, before the blues really broke.”

Despite later going on to found one of the biggest touring outfits of the 1970s, Page initially found life on the road unbearable.

Half the reason I stopped playing with Neil Christian,” he confides, “was because I used to get very ill on the road, glandular fever, from living in the back of a van. We were doing lots of traveling, the sort of thing I’m used to doing now. I was very undernourished then. It wasn’t working right either; people weren’t appreciating what we were doing.”

Before he quit Page would meet the Rolling Stones on a package tour and began exchanging rare blues records with members of the band.

Page though is quick to clarify that despite his love of the blues, he always had broader musical tastes.

I saw the guitar as a multifaceted instrument and this has stayed with me,” he notes. “When you listen to the various classical guitarists like Segovia and Julian Bream, brilliant classical players, and Manitas de Plata doing flamenco, it’s totally different approaches to acoustic. Then there’s Django Reinhardt and that’s another approach entirely. In those early days, I was very interested in Indian music, as were a lot of other people too.

His stint as one of London’s most in-demand sessions guitarists also helped.

Most of the ‘textbook’ of what I was forced to learn was while I was doing sessions,” he shares. “In Britain, you had to do everything. I had to do a hell of a lot of work in a short time. I still don’t really read music, to be honest with you. I read it like a six-year-old reads a book, which was adequate for sessions, and I can write it down, which is important.”

Jimmy also reveals his first session was for a country single called ‘Your Momma’s Out of Town,’ by Carter Lewis and the Southerners.

Page was no erudite.

His first musical passion was rock ‘n’ roll.

I’ve read about many records which are supposed to have turned me on to want to play,” he notes, “but it was ‘Baby, Let’s Play House’ by Elvis Presley. You’ve got to understand that in those days ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ was a dirty word… you were forced to be a record collector if you wanted to be a part of it. I heard that record and I wanted to be part of it; I knew something was going on. I heard the acoustic guitar, slap bass, and electric guitar – three instruments and a voice – they generated so much energy I had to be part of it. That’s when I started.”

Jimmy Page‘s interviewer later asks Page if it was stardom which informed his decision to quit session work and join pre-Led Zeppelin outfit The Yardbirds.

I never desired stardom,” Page shares, “I just wanted to be respected as a musician.”

Jimmy Page then sheds light on his sensitivity to bad record reviews: “You’ve got to understand that I lived every second of the albums.”

You can read the full Trouser Press interview here.

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