Jimmy Played Guitar, You Know

Am ill again, wasn’t at work today. Am so tired, despite falling asleep yesterday at 5pm as soon as getting home from work… and not waking until my dad woke me this morning to enquire about work. This means several things, not least the fact that I missed the end of Goldfinger again.

Wrote this at work on Thursday when I was feeling shite, so if it makes no sense, it’s only partly my fault.

Regular readers of this particular corner of the internet madness will probably be aware that in my opinion, Robert Plant is actually a golden god. Hell, if you’ve ever met me before, you probably know. In fact, there may be tribes of people as yet untouched by the insanity of western civilisation (or indeed, Ray Mears) in the thickest jungles of Papua New Guinea that know that Clare is a Percy fan.

But you know something- I got into Led Zeppelin because of the guitarmeister himself, James Patrick Page. I’ve always been drawn to guitarists and guitars. I’ve always been so, ever since I was a little girl- I didn’t take guitar lessons because someone else suggested it! Since then, a veritable parade of guitarists have come into my life: first there was Elvis of course, who always had a guitar in the early days. Then Buddy Holly and the rock and roll guys. I suspect even my long-ago love for Jason Donovan was predicated on his playing a guitar (at the time, I didn’t realise that he was playing an electric guitar on a mountainside with no clear means of amplification. Or even a cable trailing off into the distance). It’s not a coincidence that my favourite Beatle (not that I have a favourite of course) is the one who played lead guitar. As a child, my concept of a Rock Star was not a singer, but a guitarist.

It wasn’t until one day, when I sat down to write about it, that I realised I’m more about singers than guitarists, because I always thought I was a guitar person. This of course coincided roughly with my discovery of Page and Plant. At first, I was drawn quite irresistably toward Page. My first ‘OMG!’ moment with the Zep came late one night on Vh1 Classic when Travelling Riverside Blues was on. Now, the guitar parts on all Led Zeppelin’s tracks are amazing, but this was particularly fabulous because I’ve always been partial to a bit of slide guitar (three of my favourite guitarists, Harrison, Krieger and Page, all utilised slide a lot). I thought he looked like some dark angel sent from somewhere ‘a little left of heaven’ (Plant’s words, not mine, but the sentiment remains the same). He looked too beautiful to be demonic but too dark to be some little innocent angel. Even back in his Yardbird days he still looked a bit questionable. Maybe that was his way- the ability to look like a nice little boy with the darkest of glints in his eye.

Then of course, the human foghorn next to him diverted my attention. I’ll always be a Plant girl, but once upon a time, this wasn’t a done deal. Blondie had to win my affection away from his dark little pal, you know.

And let’s be honest, there’s a certain resemblance between the Jameses Page and Morrison which I recall noticing back then, which really makes the Plant triumph even greater when you think about it.

But Jimmy Page… dear, dark little Jimmy. With a reputation as black as his hair and the arts he was interested in, I sometimes think that perhaps Jimmy P was too dark. Too much of a madman for me. Then I think of Jimmy M and think that’s probably not why. Perhaps it’s the lack of humour he always seemed to display. Even at their most exuberant, extravagant and overblown, Bonzo and Percy always seemed to be having a laugh, even quiet JPJ did! Jimmy for me, is much too serious about it, even now. Jimmy Page is the sole bearer of the Zeppelin flame and he knows it. He probably doesn’t feel like he can afford to poke fun too much, doesn’t feel that he should. Percival, on the other hand, is more than happy to rip the p*ss, particularly out of himself. In Uncut he’s asked if he has anything to say about his 80s output and replies “Is ‘sorry’ good enough?” With Jimmy on the other hand, if he is self-deprecating, it doesn’t seem to show. Jimmy knows he’s a fucking genius and doesn’t seem to care if he looks like a smug bastard. I mean, he is Jimmy Page, so aside from Coverdale/Page, what does he have to apologise for? (Answer: Lending his talents to Puffy’s ridiculous ‘Come With Me’).

But that Jimmy, you know he really could play guitar. There was a question recently on the MOJO forums about whether Led Zep would’ve been Led Zep with the first choice singer, Terry Reid, instead of RP. Most people agreed that Reid!Zeppelin would’ve been a different animal, probably not as bombastic as Percy!Zep… but we all agreed that without Jimmy Page, there simply wouldn’t be a Led Zeppelin. Like Uncut pointed out this month, Jimmy Page was London’s best gun-for-hire before anyone had heard of Eric Clapton or Jeff Beck, who were the same age as him. This is a man who played on The Who’s ‘I Can’t Explain’ and a Val Doonican record.

And as Uncut and I also know, at the same time teenaged Robert was sneaking backstage at a Sonny Boy Williamson concert to steal a harmonica and pee on his shoes, Jimmy P was recording with Sonny Boy.

And suddenly, I realise why I care about Page and Plant in the ways I do.

I am absolutely Robert Plant. If I were taller, blonder and manlier, he’s who I’d be. That screaming, screeching, strutting peacock with big shoes and ridiculous clothes is absolutely me. And I am in desperate need of my own Jimmy Page. When he joined the New Yardbirds, Robert was inexperienced (but still more experienced than me), young (but younger than me) and cocky (probably as cocky as I am). He had little knowledge of studios or touring or any of that stuff, and he’d not really written his own songs. He was just a young blues wailer with nothing but arrogance and volume. Jimmy Page was an experienced and skilled studio producer, he’d toured with the Yardbirds in America and he knew everyone in London’s music scene worth knowing. He also knew he needed Robert and was willing to help the other guy, teach the other guy, for the benefit of the band.

I am Percy in search of a Page. And therein lies the reasoning. I wanted once to be Percy (I’d be happy to be meself now), but I need a Page beside me.

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2 Responses to Jimmy Played Guitar, You Know

  1. cadey says:

    Mmmmmm. Jimmy.

    But other than that, that is highly, highly insightful of you. I’d be in your exact same position if I sang/played/what have you. *cuddles* You’ll find your Jimmy. I know you will. And then we’re all going to be – “I knew her when…”

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