Top 10 Pre-Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page Songs
Before Jimmy Page (born Jan. 9, 1944) formed Led Zeppelin from the ashes of the Yardbirds, he was an in-demand session guitarist who played on songs by some of England’s biggest stars, including Petula Clark, Marianne Faithfull, the Kinks, the Rolling Stones and the Who. At times, his distinct style is barely discernible; at other times, it blasts through with speaker-rattling singularity. Tracks like ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and ‘Heartbreaker’ made him a guitar hero, but the cuts on our list of the Top 10 Pre-Zeppelin Jimmy Page Songs prepped him for greatness.
Rumors have persisted for years that Page played the searing guitar solo on the Kinks’ breakthrough hit. But several people, including Page, have denied his involvement. But Page did play an acoustic 12-string guitar alongside the Kinks’ Dave Davies on two songs from the band’s self-titled debut album: ‘I’ve Been Driving on Bald Mountain’ and the rave-up ‘I’m a Lover Not a Fighter.’
‘Baby, Please Don’t Go’
One of Page’s first sessions from his first year in the business (see No. 10 on our list of the Top 10 Pre-Zeppelin Jimmy Page Songs) was the A-side of a single that was immediately overshadowed by the song on the flip. ‘Baby, Please Don’t Go’ was an old R&B cut by Big Joe Williams that dates back to 1935, but the B-side, featuring Them frontman Van Morrison‘s original song ‘Gloria,’ became the classic. Page didn’t play the lead guitar on ‘Baby, Please Don’t Go,’ but it got him started.
‘Stroll On’ is basically a rewired version of ‘Train Kept A-Rollin’,’ the ’50s R&B number the Yardbirds turned into a fuzz-rock cover favorite with their 1965 take found on the ‘Having a Rave Up’ album. ‘Stroll On’ was included in the 1966 arthouse film ‘Blow-Up,’ and the Yardbirds (featuring Page and Jeff Beck) appear in a scene performing the song. Side note: ‘Train’ would be the first song zeppelin played together.
Cocker reworked the Beatles‘ ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ classic as the showpiece of his debut album, which he named after the song. His simmering five-minute version of ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’ slows down the pace to a bluesy R&B crawl, which is punctuated by Page’s stabbing guitar lines.
‘Happenings Ten Years Time Ago’
Page’s first appearance with the Yardbirds includes some ferocious guitar sparring with Beck, who left the band shortly after Page joined. Page was supposed to be the group’s new bassist, but he soon stepped into the lead guitarist role alongside his old school pal. Bonus points for Zeppelin fans: John Paul Jones plays bass on the song.
Page played on several songs from Donovan’s third album, including the No. 1 title hit. But it’s his scorching guitar work on ‘Season of the Witch’ that cuts through the Scottish singer-songwriter’s occasional hippie drippiness. And like on the Yardbirds’ ‘Happenings Ten Years Time Ago’ (see No. 6 on our list of Top 10 Pre-Zeppelin Jimmy Page Songs), ‘Season of the Witch’ pairs Page with his future Zeppelin bandmate John Paul Jones, who plays bass.
Page wrote the acoustic instrumental ‘White Summer’ for the Yardbirds’ last album and often performed the song solo as a showcase at the band’s concerts. The classically inspired piece — which includes minimal backing — recalls the pastoral themes of Led Zeppelin’s third LP. ‘White Summer’ itself showed up on Zeppelin’s 1990 box set as an outtake from their first album.
‘Beck’s Bolero’ has a tricky history: The instrumental (based on Ravel’s famous classical piece) was recorded in 1966 while Beck was still a member of the Yardbirds. It was released as the B-side of a single a year later, after Beck had left the band. It finally ended up on his debut solo album, ‘Truth,’ in 1968. The influential guitar number includes Keith Moon on drums, John Paul Jones on bass and Page on 12-string guitar. A monumental track.
‘I Can’t Explain’
Like with ‘You Really Got Me’ (see No. 10 on our list of Top 10 Pre-Zeppelin Jimmy Page Songs), for years it was believed that Page played some of the guitar parts on the Who’s breakthrough single. But unlike with the Kinks song, this turned out to be true. Who guitarist Pete Townshend has disputed Page’s overall contribution to ‘I Can’t Explain,’ but there’s little doubt that the hit gave the future Zeppelin pilot his first rock-star moment.
‘Think About It’
Just listen to the guitar solo that erupts at the two-minute mark on the B-side of the Yardbirds’ final single and one of the last songs they ever recorded. Sound familiar? It should, because Page nicked its basic lick a year later for ‘Led Zeppelin”s ‘Dazed and Confused.’ Before he changed their name, Zeppelin were known as the New Yardbirds. ‘Think About It’ signals where they were headed and plants the seeds for one of the planet’s biggest and best bands.