Q&A: Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page on playing live and Los Angeles

Jimmy Page with an early band
Jimmy Page, left, with an early band.
(Jimmy Page Archive/Genesis Publications)

Our story on Jimmy Page’s recent swing through Los Angeles resonated with many readers, who wanted to hear more from the legendary guitarist and founder of Led Zeppelin.

Here’s more with Page on a few topics that did not make it into the original story.

How did you get started in music?

I wanted to emulate music from America – young punks playing rock ’n’ roll, is what it was. I read part of Keith Richards’ autobiography, and it was totally parallel with me, learning from American records. It was the same with Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck . . . we were weaned on rockabilly and moved to the blues, people like Big Boy Arthur Crudup and Sleepy John Estes.


You often overdubbed several guitars on each Led Zeppelin track, yet live you didn’t use a second guitarist. Do you ever regret that?

No. There’s the studio recordings and the live shows, and the live shows were so different. If a number was in the set, it was going to get beaten up, and made to mutate because we were working it over every night. We weren’t a band going on stage doing every song note-for-note perfect, that was far from it.

The nucleus of everything was always as a four-piece. If you go out with a second guitarist, people think that you are taking it easy. And I never took it easy. I never would, and I never will.

Do you wish there were more live recordings of Led Zeppelin?


In the day of having live recordings, you needed to have a big truck. But now even that wouldn’t be good enough. You would need the concert footage as well as the audio. We did document things along the way, but not the way you could do now.

Led Zeppelin spent a lot of time in Los Angeles. Was it a favorite city?

I would say New York, Chicago, Memphis and Los Angeles were my favorites. I first came here in 1965 when I was a studio musician. [Record producer] Bert Berns brought me out. He invited me to stay at his place. I met Jackie DeShannon, I saw the Byrds play at Ciro’s, which I think is now the Comedy Store. It was a magical time to be here. It was really happening.

We played “Stairway to Heaven” [with Led Zeppelin] at the Forum before it had been released. It got a standing ovation here, and I’ll always remember that, because it’s tricky to hear new material from bands. The Forum was always special.

After the Yardbirds broke up, you could have gone out as a solo artist, like Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. The musicians you chose for Led Zeppelin -- Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham -- were relatively unknown.

They were not relatively unknown – they were not known at all. No one knew who they were. When the Yardbirds folded, I heard the news here in L.A. I wanted to get a band together in which everyone was phenomenal. The first album was a guitar tour de force – that is what it was supposed to be – but I didn’t want to do that at the expense of the other musicians.

I wanted it to be a band. It was a band.

Twitter: @jtcorrigan