Jimmy Page: no gadfly

In November 2017, the Oxford Union hosted one of their ‘Full Address and Q&A’ evenings, this one with Jimmy Page as the speaker.

For reasons that are not important here, I went almost overnight during the sixties from overwhelming passion for pop/rock music to losing all interest. I mention this because when I first came across this video my reaction was “who’s he?”, and now I realise that I must have missed this legend by a hair’s breadth. Apart from a little peripheral research my knowledge of him today comes down to what I learnt from this talk, which is good because I harboured no pre-conceptions.

Apart from a few minor nerve symptoms that almost no one would notice, he controls his Hump extremely well. This is impressive because though no stranger to audiences this is not his usual environment. Nerve control is notoriously unportable.

He’s shooting this from the hip, which is easy provided you have a clear structure supplying you with a route map. His clear structure is chronological – autobiographical.

I am almost instantly absorbed because I was learning to play the guitar at the same time as he was. When he talks of being inspired by Lonnie Donegan, I nod knowingly and stand by for another name that I know will come. I don’t have to wait long. Bert Weedon and his book, Play in a day, kicked-started more rock guitarists than you could count.

My absorption is strengthened by learning that he worked as a session musician before he found fame. I went into the theatre and production, and therefore know the huge respect in which session musicians are held. This was not some gadfly, parachuted in from nowhere, but one who learnt his craft in serious depth.

As you might imagine, I have now been playing a lot of his recordings. The boy can play! What have I missed for more than half a century?

The talk ends at 13:14; he then sits and takes questions. That is just as interesting!

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