Jimmy Page on His “Stairway” Solo: “There Are Others I Prefer”

(Image credit: Brian Rasic/Getty Images)

Jimmy Page’s “Stairway to Heaven” guitar solo has been named the greatest guitar solo of all time by Classic Rock. The honor comes courtesy of a panel of critics, bands and readers of the magazine.

But as far as the Led Zeppelin guitar legend is concerned, there are better bits to be found among the band’s catalog.

“Is ‘Stairway to Heaven’ my best Zeppelin guitar solo?” Page tells the magazine. “No, but it’s pretty damn good.

“The solo was done very quickly. In actual fact there were already layers underneath. The bottleneck you can hear was on before the solo.

“Anyway, I just said, ‘Roll it,’ took a deep breath—that’s what I usually do—and then go,” Page says, explaining how the solo was done. “I had a couple of cracks at it because you didn’t have as many options as you would have now. Back then you had 16 tracks and could only put guitar solos down where the vocal wasn’t. You’d save maybe three tracks to lay guitar solos into, which meant you could have two or three cracks at it and then choose the best.

“If everyone else says it’s my best solo then that’s great, that’s good, but there are others that I prefer.”

So what Led Zeppelin solo does he like better? Page isn’t saying, but he does offer that his monster solo in the Presence track “Achilles’ Last Stand” is among his most difficult to reproduce onstage.

“I don’t dread it, but the one that was testy, to say the least, to try and replicate, or at least to get a mean average of all the guitar parts on the record, was ‘Achilles’ Last Stand,’” he says. “I really set myself a challenge to try and do that onstage with one guitar.”

You can check out a great live version of his “Achilles’ Last Stand” solo below in Led Zeppelin’s 1979 performance at Knebworth.

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Christopher Scapelliti

Christopher Scapelliti is editor-in-chief of Guitar Player magazine, the world’s longest-running guitar magazine, founded in 1967. In his extensive career, he has authored in-depth interviews with such guitarists as Pete Townshend, Slash, Billy Corgan, Jack White, Elvis Costello and Todd Rundgren, and audio professionals including Beatles engineers Geoff Emerick and Ken Scott. He is the co-author of Guitar Aficionado: The Collections: The Most Famous, Rare, and Valuable Guitars in the World, a founding editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine, and a former editor with Guitar WorldGuitar for the Practicing Musician and Maximum Guitar. Apart from guitars, he maintains a collection of more than 30 vintage analog synthesizers.