Jimmy Page Recalls Early Studio Session Backing The Who


Although by decade's end Jimmy Page was on top of the rock food chain leading Led Zeppelin — he still looks back fondly on his pre-fame days as an early-'60s session guitarist. Page, who contributed he distinctive solos on Donovan's classic singles "Sunshine Superman" and "Hurdy Gurdy Man," was also on board playing rhythm guitar behind Pete Townshend on the Who's 1965 debut single, "I Can't Explain."

During a chat with GQ, Page recalled, "Pete plays lead and, by God, does he play the lead on 'I Can’t Explain.' Again, this only took a couple of takes, but you can imagine what the energy was like in that room, being in an enclosed space playing along with the Who. I wasn’t really needed or necessary, but it’s okay to talk about those things now because Pete’s fine with it. And he knows he played absolutely magnificently."

Page went on to say that session players were paid well — and part of the gig was keeping your mouth shut about whose records you were on: "You didn’t go around talking about it. I would get the recording date, turn up and I literally wouldn’t know who was going to come in the door. Sometimes I would recognize the person, but more often than not I had no idea. It wasn’t your business. You were contracted to do what you did and that’s all."

Page said that the need to deliver on cue was constant: "If you were a young session musician and you mucked it up or made a mistake, so you’ve got to do another take. . . that means 15 minutes' overtime for everybody in the studio. You probably wouldn’t be asked back. But I didn’t think about the pressure at the time, I didn’t even consider it. I found it really exhilarating to do these sessions and bring something to the party. Some guys couldn’t hack it. Maybe their nerves got the better of them, but I always treated it as fun."

Jimmy Page told us that due to his offbeat musical interests, there was literally nothing he couldn't handle during his session-for-hire days: ["Because I had such eclectic tastes. As a teenager, I was listening to classical music, I was listening to Indian music — and Arabic music — as much as I was country blues, which is, like, the acoustic guitar, and city blues with electric guitar, and bottleneck, etc. — or slide, we'll call it slide, not bottleneck, or slide guitar. All of them styles I was taking on board. So. . .  But when I started doing studio dates, because I had quite extensive roots, it wasn't just in one area  — it was right across the board. It put me in good stead. I was seven years younger than anybody else who was playing there at that time that I went in there and was excepted in and welcomed in, really."] SOUNDCUE (:37 OC: . . . welcomed in really)

Jimmy Page On Eclectic Music Tastes Leading To Session Work :