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.”

SIDE NOTES

  • Out now is the mass trade edition of Jimmy Page: The Anthology. The book documents Jimmy Page’s musical career through “selected material from his rich personal archives.”
  • Jimmy Page: The Anthology is narrated entirely in the Led Zeppelin founder’s own words, with rare and never before seen images and stories spanning six decades.
  • According to the press release: “Jimmy Page guides the reader through hundreds of rare items, many of which are previously unseen, and others of mythic status, such as the Gibson double neck guitar, his dragon-emblazoned suit, his white embroidered poppy suit, and the outfit worn in the concert film The Song Remains The Same. Also included are handwritten diaries, correspondence, rare vinyl pressings, previously unpublished photographs and much, much more.

CHECK IT OUT: The Who’s 1965 debut single “I Can’t Explain” featuring Jimmy Page on rhythm guitar: