Jimmy Page Talks about his Whole Lotta Book
Truth be told, it will take a pretty strong fan of Jimmy Page and his erstwhile band Led Zeppelin to buy the celebrated rock guitarist’s new book. Weighing in at just shy of 3 kg (more than six and a half pounds) and containing some 650 photographs, “Jimmy Page” is appropriately heavy for the man who popularised the hard-rock guitar riff. It is also quite costly at a recommended 40 pounds in Britain and $60 in the United States.
But fans are fans and when a far-pricier limited-edition was published a few years ago, it sold out quickly.
It is clear, in an interview, that Page is proud of the new, updated book, which begins with a picture of him singing sweetly as a choirboy and ends with him greyed and beaming, clutching his favourite guitar. “It’s an awful term, but it’s a journey,” said Page, now 70. “You see the changes in fashion, you see the changes in guitars, you see the changes in attitude. You see this man growing and gaining years as he goes on this journey.”
The book is far from a typical autobiography. There are few words and those that are there are used primarily to link hundreds of pictures tracing Page’s life from skiffle-playing youngster through The Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin to his solo career, the performance on a London bus at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and his 2012 Kennedy Center culture award.
“It just goes to show a career in music,” he said. “When I see autobiographies or biographies of musicians I always look to see what photographs they have chosen.”
This does, perhaps unintentionally, allow the book to skim over some of the wilder sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll episodes in his history. But the pictures of frenzied stage performances interspersed with quite exhausting world travel do not suggest a bunch of choirboys on a church outing.
All the famous gigs are there such as Wembley in 1971, Knebworth in 1979 and the 2007 reunion, but there are many more obscure moments, such as meeting Andy Warhol, playing in a Danish club in 1968 as The New Yardbirds, and jamming with rapper Puff Daddy.
Belying the stereotype of a hard-living rock legend, Page is now a slim, healthy-looking non-drinker who calls a quiet Thames-side English village home. He says he gave up drinking because he did not want his young children to see him drunk, and then never have done.
Page is quite sentimental about some things. Pointing to the Gibson Les Paul Standard guitar he is holding in the book’s last picture, he says: “I got that guitar in 1969 and I played it all the way through. Most people, they substitute it with another one, but even at the O2 (reunion concert) I was playing that. If I was going out playing next year, I would be playing that guitar.”
Indeed, Page is at his most lively in the interview when the subject of a new band comes up. Led Zeppelin won’t reform, he says.
“Next year, I will be working with musicians,” he said, suggesting that some of his recent marketing work for the book and a remastering of some Zeppelin albums has taken him too far from his guitar. “I’ve got some (music) that’s currently being written, I’ve got new music which I have written over the last few years that I haven’t recorded,” he said.
Scope, then, for a few more photographs to make the next edition of “Jimmy Page” even heavier.
(This is an edited version of a story I wrote for my main employer, Reuters)