Jimmy Page Discusses Led Zeppelin III

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Originally published in Guitar World, November 2010

On the 40th anniversary of its release, guitarist Jimmy Page discusses the importance of Led Zeppelin III, the band’s multidimensional explosion of electric and acoustic music.

I walk into the industrial-sized space where preparations are being made for Guitar World’s photo shoot with guitarist Jimmy Page. As I scan the large room, I notice an acoustic guitar sitting on a stand several yards away. But it’s not just any acoustic guitar—it’s the Harmony Sovereign H-1260 acoustic guitar that Page used on classic Led Zeppelin songs like “Friends,” “Ramble On” and the immortal “Stairway to Heaven.”

Talk about temptation. I resist an almost overpowering urge to grab the instrument and play the famous—and much abused—intro to “Stairway.” But that just wouldn’t be right, I think to myself. Awesome, yes, but not pro. As I explained to a friend, it would be like interviewing Brad Pitt and, having noticed Angelina Jolie walk into the room, saying to him, “You know, I’ve always admired your relationship with your wife. Mind if I give her a whirl?”

But I can’t allow myself to get too gloomy, as today’s mission is pretty damn interesting. Guitar World is in London, England, to chat with the infamous Mr. Page about two landmark works. One is Jimmy’s new, limited-edition 500-page, career-spanning pictorial autobiography, Jimmy Page, a tome that the guitarist rightfully calls “epic." The other is Led Zeppelin III, the highly underrated album released 40 years ago on October 5, 1970.

While Led Zeppelin IV, Physical Graffiti or even Led Zeppelin II get the lion’s share of attention, one could argue that Zeppelin’s third release is equally important. Often marginalized as “the acoustic album,” Led Zeppelin III was much more. It represented a sophisticated leap in synthesizing the folk, blues and rock elements found on the group’s first two albums into what one thinks of as the Led Zeppelin style. Otherworldly songs like “Friends,” “Immigrant Song” and “Celebration Day” were such a departure that it took the critics and the public another album—Led Zeppelin IV—before they could completely comprehend the band’s daring new synthesis.

“Led Zeppelin was definitely growing, there’s no doubt about that,” Page says. “Where many of our contemporaries were narrowing their perspective, we were really being expansive. I was maturing as a composer and player, and there were many kinds of music that I found stimulating, and with this wonderful group I had the chance to be really adventurous. It was the same for everybody in the band. Because with the high level of musicianship and creativity of the four members, we were really able to approach anything—attack anything.”

Appropriately, the story of Led Zeppelin III starts at the dawn of 1970, an exciting new decade during which the group would dominate the musical culture. Prior to making the album, Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist John Paul Jones and drummer break after completing their fifth tour of America. In a scant year and a half, Led Zeppelin had played almost 200 shows, recorded two best-selling albums and seen their concert performance fees climb from $1,500 to an astronomical $100,000 a show. Their hard work and discipline had paid off, but it was time to rest and recharge their creative batteries.

It was Plant’s idea that he and Page might benefit from a vacation. Plant recalled a cottage in Wales that he had visited as a child with his family. Named Bron-Yr-Aur, the 18th century dwelling was situated in the Cambrian Mountains. Plant decided a return visit was in order. He invited Page to join him there in the spring of 1970, and the two men and their families packed up guitars and supplies and headed off for Bron-Yr-Aur. The absence of electricity in the cottage guaranteed that any music created on their trip would be acoustic in nature. It was just as well—the quiet came as a welcome relief for the musicians who had just spent months playing music at top volumes.

“I’ll tell you something: when Robert and I went to Bron-Yr-Aur, it wasn’t like, ‘Let’s go down to Wales and write,’ ” Page says. “The original plan was to just go there, hang out and really appreciate the countryside. The only song we really finished up there was ‘That’s the Way,’ but being in the country set a tone, and it established a standard of traveling for inspiration.”

Page had always intended Zeppelin “to be a marriage of blues, hard rock and acoustic music, topped with heavy choruses.” But while Led Zeppelin II was primarily a snapshot of a touring band caught in the heat of battle—ferocious and filled with testosterone—III would introduce a new sensitivity to their overall sound. Compositions like the delicate “That’s the Way,” the East Indian–influenced “Friends” and the jaunty country hoedown “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” added considerable new depth to the Zeppelin oeuvre and opened new avenues for future albums.

Led Zeppelin III will be forever known as Zeppelin’s acoustic album, but that is something of a misnomer. For every gentle yin on the album, there is plenty of ballsy kerrang! The relentless attack of “Immigrant Song,” the pummeling thunder of “Out on the Tiles” and the hypnotic, backward-sounding groove of “Celebration Day” proved that Page still knew how to deliver rock’s most imaginative and aggressive riffs.

During today's photo shoot, the silver-haired Page decides to change guitars. Per our request, he’s been posing with the Harmony acoustic, which he used on the third album, but he decides it would be good to have a few photos done with his equally famous Number One sunburst Les Paul. Casually he turns to me and says, “Would you mind holding on to this for bit while I get my other guitar?”

I accept the guitar eagerly, and at first I’m a little shocked by how light it is, even for an acoustic instrument. Automatically, I start strumming a few open chords, and I’m immediately struck by the sound. It’s not overly resonant, but it has a sharp attack and plenty of clarity. It’s a guitar that tells you a lot in just a few seconds. For a moment I debate whether I should rattle off a quick A minor chord à la “Stairway to Heaven” but think better of it. Wrong album, I say to myself. Some other time.

GUITAR WORLD Where did Led Zeppelin III begin?

JIMMY PAGE The first two things I had for the third album were “Immigrant Song” and “Friends,” which wasn’t a bad place to start. “Immigrant Song” had a great driving riff, which spoke for itself. “Friends” on the other hand was more exotic—it had a North African or Indian flavor. I remember I was playing around with this open C tuning [low to high, C A C G C E], but before I had written anything, I had a massive argument with my ex-wife. I went out on a balcony in my house, and suddenly the whole song spilled out, just like that. Considering the song’s origins, it’s ironic that it ended up being called “Friends.” [laughs]

In many ways, those songs were two sides of the coin for the third album: the electric and the acoustic. “Since I’ve Been Loving You” was also around, but it was a work in progress. We’d been playing it live but hadn’t been able to capture it in the studio.

GW While “Immigrant Song” is built around a very straightforward, pile-driving riff, it’s the subtle variations in it that make it more than just another hard rock song. For example, toward the very end of the song, instead of playing a straight G minor for the accents, you play this very astringent inversion of that chord that really adds some bite. Where did that come from?

PAGE It’s a block chord that people never get right. It pulls the whole tension of the piece into another area or another dimension just for that moment. And a bit of backward echo makes it a bit more complete. It’s putting all these elements together that makes the music have depth.

I have to say that Robert’s input on that song was also absolutely magnificent. His sort of “Bali Ha’i” [a song from the classic Broadway musical South Pacific] melody line was really inspired and completely spontaneous. I can remember working on “Immigrant Song” and all the pieces coming together: John Bonham and I playing the riff, putting in the E to A [Link Wray] “Rumble” chords, and Robert singing his wonderful melodies.

So to answer your question, where did that unusual G chord come from? I didn’t have that chord when I started writing “Immigrant Song,” but it suddenly appeared while we were working together, putting a massive brake on this machine. That’s how I see the function of that chord.

GW I don’t think many typical rock players would come up with that.

PAGE No.

GW They wouldn’t really have that vocabulary…

PAGE …or perhaps the cheek or audacity of inserting that chord. It’s like, “Oh really? And what is that?” [laughs] Not only was it audacious, but it’s a chord that nobody could work out, which is even better.

GW A secret chord!

PAGE Well, yeah. See if they can spot that!

GW You mentioned Link Wray’s “Rumble” within the context of “Immigrant Song.” I never would have put that together.

PAGE It’s not, literally. I just think of those slashing E and A chords after the F# octave riff as having the feel and sound of the way Link plays the chords in “Rumble.” It’s something of that attitude.

GW So you had “Friends,” “Immigrant Song” and “Since I’ve Been Loving You“ written. Where does your sojourn to Bron-Yr-Aur come into the picture?

PAGE Well, for the first two years of Led Zeppelin, we were solid at it, and before that I was on the road with the Yardbirds. The pace I was moving at was really phenomenal. When I look back at what we actually did in 1969 alone, it’s absolutely mind-boggling.

In early 1970, after our fifth U.S. tour we took a break. I wouldn’t even call it a break—it was just a few days off. It felt like a really substantial break, but if you really look at it, it was just a couple of weeks, hardly any time at all. But Robert and I managed to go to Bron-Yr-Aur in Wales to get a big injection of the countryside. We needed to get away because we had been living a real gritty urban existence.

GW Did other folk-rock bands that were recording at the time, like the Band or Fairport Convention, influence the acoustic elements of III?

PAGE We liked those bands, but we didn’t pay that much attention to what other people were doing or how we fitted in. It was just, “Go up and rock it!” and that’s what it was.

I remember an absurd press comment comparing us to Crosby, Stills & Nash because of the acoustic elements on the third album. I thought that’s absolutely pathetic, because acoustic guitars were all over the first two albums. It was always there—it was right at the core of everything; it was always meant to be there. The third album was just another evolution. It was different from the second album, as the second album was different from the first.

GW As you said earlier, you were really tearing it up in the Sixties. Did the mellower sounds on the third album represent taking a breather from the craziness of the decade?

PAGE Well, I didn’t really think that. I was into the Seventies. Our attitude was, “Fuck the Sixties! We’re going to chart the new decade!” We were on a mission.

GW Do you think some of the initial negative reaction to Zeppelin was because the critics looked at the band through a Sixties aesthetic, and you had already moved on to something that was distinctly the Seventies?

PAGE Yeah, we were so far ahead that it was very difficult for reviewers to know what the hell we were doing. They couldn’t relate to it. Very rarely could they get the plot of what was going on.

GW In retrospect, your agenda was clear: Led Zeppelin were taking the exciting ideas found in traditional blues, folk and rock and moving them into the future. Led Zeppelin III was a substantial leap in that direction.

PAGE Okay, well there it is then. There was a lot of blues on the first album, but we would have never ventured to play something as unusual or sophisticated as “Since I’ve Been Loving You.” It’s another example of our collective energy sparking each other to new heights.

GW “Since I’ve Been Loving You” starts as a standard minor blues and slowly unfolds until it touches on just about every chord in the key of C minor in a very natural, but dramatic way.

PAGE Yeah, and right near the end you’ll notice it goes to a C7 at one point as opposed to Cmin7.

GW Can you explain how the song evolved? It actually made an appearance at the band’s Albert Hall show in early 1970, so you were working on it before you recorded III.

PAGE Yes, we played it as part of the Albert Hall set you hear on the Led Zeppelin DVD. The problem with it was that the keyboard didn’t get recorded, so there’s only the guitar, the drums and the voice, which is really unfortunate, otherwise we’d had a good version. That’s way before we started putting the third album together.

It was a tricky number to record. It was hard to capture the exact dynamics and the overall tension of it, and it was crucial to get the rise and fall of it. We had attempted to record it before and it didn’t come off, so we recorded something else instead. There’s no point in laboring over a song like that, let me tell you. It’s either going to happen or it’s not. Later we took another crack at it, and that worked.

GW It starts out so skeletal. The chords are only suggested. Then it unfurls into these great crescendos.

PAGE To play a blues in C minor is not necessarily that difficult a thing, but our approach was pretty unique. John Paul Jones was definitely integral to creating some of the chordal movement. The people reviewing the album when it first came out literally didn’t understand what they were hearing. We all do now, but at the time it was just too much for them to be able to work out the significance.

GW There are musicians and critics who judge folk and blues music strictly on how authentically the player can reproduce an earlier era. But there’s a certain futility to that pursuit. You’re never going to completely replicate the music of Muddy Waters or Buddy Guy, so you might as well go someplace else.

PAGE That’s right. The original Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green, for example, performed the music of people like Elmore James really well. They were right on it. And Peter had such a beautiful touch on things like “Stop Messing Around”—it’s just fabulous, in the vein of B.B. King.

But with “Since I’ve Been Loving You” we were setting the scene of something that was yet to come. It was meant to push the envelope. We were playing in the spirit of blues but trying to take it into new dimensions dictated by the mass consciousness of the four players involved.

The same thing goes for the folk stuff, as well. It’s sort of, “Well, this is how it was done in the past, but it now has to move.” It’s got to keep moving, moving. There’s no point to keep looking back; you’ve got to keep moving onward. Another factor was that my playing was also improving, and it was developing around the band. I didn’t play any of this stuff when I was doing studio work or even in the Yardbirds. I was just inspired with this energy that we had collectively. I don’t think there was anyway to look backward.

GW You had recorded two albums and toured for a solid year and a half with Led Zeppelin. Was the growth due to the fact that you were coming to grips with what each person could do?

PAGE No, it was more about understanding the collective and just how far you could push it.

GW In some ways Zeppelin does reminds me of how Muddy Waters and his electric band evolved…

PAGE I hope so…[laughs]

GW Muddy was originally an acoustic country blues player. But when he left Mississippi for Chicago, he understood his traditional approach to blues wasn’t going to work in an urban setting. So he found other musicians with real character, they began amplifying their instruments and took the blues somewhere else. Muddy found a sympathetic unit, and together they pushed the blues into the future.

PAGE When Muddy went electric and started creating things like “Standing Around Crying,” he really shifted the world. He moved it. That’s exactly what we were after. I’m talking about that sort of tension, that thing, that atmosphere you could cut with a knife. Muddy shakes me up and makes my hair stand on end when I really listen to his stuff. The thing about him is he had all these guys in his band with a lot of character, and he let them shine. Little Walter’s harmonica playing on those Chess records is something you almost need to witness to believe.

GW What do you remember about the actual sessions that resulted in the epic performance of “Since I’ve Been Loving You”? It features one of your very best solos.

PAGE We had maybe two attempts at recording it at two different locations. The intro changed subtly every time we’d play it—certainly from one studio to another—but it had that characteristic first opening. That’s quite a traditional way to open up a blues, on those first few notes, isn’t it? But beyond that, it was more of a vehicle to push the envelope. We weren’t playing to please the blues purists. I wasn’t interested in performing a note-for-note rendition to prove to everyone I could play in a certain style. I was exploring a different avenue. I wanted to lock into the overall ambience and atmosphere of the song and what it was conveying. Because after hearing this wonderful construction where everyone is playing so beautifully together and making their own statements—big statements, massive statements, accents and phrases, locking into it and swooning—I had to deliver a solo that would live up to this incredible build up. It was like getting ready for a 100-yard dash or something—just vibing up for it, psyching myself up and coming up with some idea of how to get the solo off, and then…go!

It’s exactly how I felt before I played my third pass at the “Stairway to Heaven” solo. I approached it in exactly the same way. A solo is like a meditation on the song. You find a piece of filigree and then try to play something in total empathy with everything else that’s going on. You can get quite spiritual about soloing. It’s almost like channeling. One minute it wasn’t there and the next minute it is. I’m sure anyone who is creative has that moment, that point where it just sparks.

GW That’s what all musicians look for—that moment. Led Zeppelin III is a futuristic folk album in more ways than one. The acoustic songs like “Gallows Pole” are one aspect, but even the heavier electric songs have folk elements. “Immigrant Song” is like an ancient ode, “Celebration Day” is like a bottleneck blues gone berserk, and from what I understand, “Out on the Tiles” started out as a drinking song, which is as folky as it gets.

PAGE Yes, John Bonham had quite a bit to do with “Out on the Tiles.” I wrote the opening descending riff, but the guitar part behind the vocal was based on a song he used to sing that went something like: “Out on the tiles, I’ve had a pint of bitter, and I’m feeling better ’cause I’m out on the tiles.” You know what “out on the tiles” means? It’s slang for hitting the bars, and a bitter is a sort of dark pale ale. Robert’s lyrics took it in a little different direction, but the vibe is still there.

GW If you think about it, the guitar riff is almost like a fiddle part played three octaves down. It has that 16th-note bounce.

PAGE Well that’s interesting. Yeah, I never thought of it like that, but I suppose it is like a fiddle song.

GW What did you think about Fairport Convention, the Byrds and other bands that were modernizing folk and blues at the time? Did you feel any sort of kindred spirit?

PAGE I liked all of those people that you’ve mentioned. But I don’t think you’d ever confuse Led Zeppelin with Fairport Convention or the Incredible String Band [a psychedelic folk band of the era]. I think they were coming from a much more traditional place, and I was coming from so many different areas. But maybe, really, I was just coming with a rock and roll head! [laughs]

Wherever I was coming from, it had lots of dimensions to it. But something like “Friends” really isn’t traditional music, though I really liked that we could go in that direction and put our own spin on it. At the same time, I don’t ever think we lost site of the fact that we were a rock band.

GW Well, to that point, “Friends” is an acoustic song, but it is performed with definite rock aggression. That open low C note really rings in the beginning.

PAGE Yeah, there’s a bit of drama to it. Like I said, I wrote it after an argument and it never lost that urgency.

GW Was the impact of going to Wales exaggerated, or was that really an important moment for you?

PAGE Robert and I were the only band members that went out to Wales, but I think it was important insomuch that it functioned as a creative spark. It also sort of set the stage for our later work at Headley Grange [the former poorhouse built in 1795, where Led Zeppelin wrote and recorded much of their fourth album, Houses of the Holy, and its follow-up, Physical Graffiti]. It gave me the idea that we could go somewhere and create a real workshop situation where we could live it day and night.

GW Travel has always inspired you.

PAGE It’s all about the expedition. It’s a theme with me that goes back as far as the Yardbirds. When I toured Australia with the Yardbirds, there was two ways to return to the U.K. I suggested that we go through India on the way back, but the others opted to go through San Francisco. I thought, I’ve been to San Francisco, but I may never get another chance to go to India, so I went there on my own, and it was really important. There’s something amazing about being the only person getting off a plane at three in the morning in a completely foreign land.

In between the first and second leg of Zeppelin’s 1977 tour, I decided to go to Cairo because I really wanted to hear the music down there. There’s a great picture of me in the new book by the Sphinx. It’s all part of my musical history.

GW In 1972 you took a rather important sojourn back to India with Robert Plant.

PAGE Robert and I were just really keen to see what it would be like to go into a studio with some musicians from Bombay and see what we would come up with. We tried recording versions of “Friends” and “Four Sticks” with some percussionists, a half-dozen string players and a thing called a Japan banjo, and boy, was that tricky! They were great musicians, but they were used to counting and feeling rhythms in a different way. Moving them from one time signature and retaining the feel that we had in mind was difficult, but it was exciting and a learning experience. We tried “Friends” and “Four Sticks” because I thought it was safer to do something that Robert and I knew. It was easier to keep the thing rooted.

GW Rhythmic nuances between cultures are the hardest thing to teach.

PAGE But that’s exactly what makes it interesting—it’s the fusion. Remember what you were saying about the aggressive nature of the beginning of “Friends”? I had to get it right, dead on the beat, and they were doubling up and going all over the place. I’m thinking, Oh, my God! Still, it was really cool stuff.

GW Not everything’s going to work. In order to create, you have to be able to fail sometimes.

PAGE Yes, but then you have to go away. You have to digest all the elements, and think about how it could work in a particular song or a different set of circumstances. We were seriously considering playing and recording in Cairo and India after those sessions. Peter Grant was definitely looking into it. We were investigating moving all our equipment via the Indian Air Force, but we were a little ahead of our time.

When I did the Page/Plant project and traveled to Morocco with Robert to work with the local Gnawa trance musicians in 1994, it was just as stimulating as working with the Bombay musicians in 1972. The Gnawa musicians play at celebrations and weddings, and then they’ll go in a house and exorcise it of demons. The play a very spiritual role and function in a very different cultural environment. They didn’t really know our music at all and, hence, didn’t really care about it. But our desire was to make a connection so that everyone goes away from it and says, “Yeah, it was cool. I remember playing with those guys from England and that was really interesting.”

GW As you mentioned earlier, one of the songs you did work on out in Bron-Y-Aur was “That’s the Way” which is in a G tuning.

PAGE There’s a number of tunings on the third album, but I was experimenting with altered tunings going back to the first album. The C tuning on “Friends” was something new, but the open G tuning [low to high, D G D G B D] on “That’s the Way” was pretty conventional. Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson and many others have used it.

“That’s the Way,” however, was very exciting to record because it gave us a chance to work with some new acoustic textures. John Paul Jones plays the mandolin on it, and the main breaks on it are taken up with the pedal steel. I couldn’t really play a pedal steel like a pedal steel player, but I could play it like me. [laughs] And right at the end, where everything opens up, I played a dulcimer.

GW I never noticed the dulcimer on that. It blends so well with the guitar parts.

PAGE I was doing a bunch of overdubs and got excited. John Paul Jones went home, so I put the bass part on it as well! That didn’t happen often, believe me! The open tuning gave the track a lot of space, so we had a great time filling it up. And Robert’s lyrics were superb.

GW Where did you record the album?

PAGE It was recorded in England. We primarily moved around between Island and Olympic [studios], and the mastering was done at Ardent studios in Memphis with Terry Manning.

GW After the third album you began using a mobile unit so you could record at locations in the countryside, like Headley Grange and Stargroves [the Rolling Stones’ recording venue]. Did you start feeling that going into a traditional studio was killing the vibe?

PAGE I came to that conclusion, yeah. I didn’t know exactly how the Band recorded their Music from the Big Pink album or The Basement Tapes, but the rumor was they were done in a house they had rented. [Big Pink was actually recorded in a traditional studio environment, but The Basement Tapes was recorded on a two-track machine at a farm Bob Dylan and the Band inhabited in upstate New York.] I didn’t know for sure if they had, but I liked the idea. I thought it was definitely worth a shot to actually go someplace and really live it, rather than visiting a studio and going home. I wanted to see what would happen if all we did was have this one thing in sight—making the music and just really living the experience of it. I felt it would be important, and the hunch was right. The work ethic was pretty addictive. We knew what we were doing was right and that it was actually breaking new ground. We were cutting with a machete knife through the jungle and discovered a temple of the ages.

GW Speaking of a “temple of the ages,” around that time you bought a house in Scotland once owned by ceremonial magician Aleister Crowley. Additionally, the first pressings of the third album included the core tenet of Crowley’s philosophy, “Do what thou wilt” and “So mote it be,” inscribed on the lacquer during the final mastering process. Were your occult studies contributing to the vibe of your musical vision?

PAGE The inscription was a little milestone on the way, you could say—a point of reference. I sort of wondered how long it was going to take before anybody noticed. It took a long while. [laughs] No wonder they started playing our records backward after that!

GW It’s interesting that you’ve created all this classic work using a relatively modest Harmony Sovereign acoustic guitar. It’s not some extraordinarily rare thing like people would imagine, but a modest working tool.

PAGE Well, that’s the guitar that I had. Martins weren’t readily available in England back then. Gibson acoustics were starting to appear, but they were quite a lot of money, and I was quite happy playing my Harmony. “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You,” “Ramble On,” “Friends” and even “Stairway to Heaven” were arranged on that guitar. I didn’t get my Martin until after the fourth album was released. I used the Harmony all the way through, really.

GW Where did you get it?

PAGE I don’t remember now, but if I had to hazard a guess I’d say I probably bought it at one of the local music shops, like Selmer’s, around the time of the Yardbirds, but I might have bought it a bit before then. Did I do a session on it? I don’t know. The majority of my acoustic work in the studio was done on my ’37 Cromwell f-hole guitar. [Producer] Mickey Most had kindly lent me his Gibson J-200 for the first [Led Zeppelin] album. That was a magnificent-sounding guitar, absolutely incredible.

GW It’s funny—you still use the Danelectro that you’ve had since you were a session musician in the mid Sixties, and you’ve had your “Number One” Les Paul since 1969. You’re extremely loyal to your guitars.

PAGE Yeah, that’s quite right. If I were going out on tour tomorrow, I’d be using the Les Paul I bought from Joe Walsh in 1969. I probably would still use the double-neck that I bought while in Zeppelin to play “Stairway to Heaven,” as well. There’s some sort of allegiance to those guitars. They’re old friends.

GW I think that’s great.

PAGE Well, traveling with them is not such a good idea, though. I was really attached to my black Les Paul Custom, and I took it on the road with me in 1970 and it was stolen. I was using my Joe Walsh guitar, but I sort of plucked up the courage to take the Custom guitar on tour with us, because when we did the Royal Albert Hall show, I’d used it to do those Eddie Cochran numbers and it was a real good backup guitar to have. It really sounded terrific. It was a leap of faith to take the guitar on the road, and look what happened. In spite of that, I’ve toured with the Joe Walsh guitar ever since, so maybe that’s something a bit peculiar in my makeup.

GW I think that people who are too fickle about their instruments are missing out. It takes time to understand what an instrument can do. I think there’s something profound about exploring the capability of an amp or guitar and really understanding it, so that you can do what you want with it.

PAGE It’s true. If I have a new amp or whatever to try out, you can imagine what guitar comes straight out—it’s that “Number One” Les Paul, because I just know that guitar, and it really knows me as well. It’s fine. It works.

GW I wanted to ask you about one mystery regarding an amp you used in live performance around the time of the third album. Most people assume that you always played a Marshall live, but for a crucial time—at the Albert Hall gig and at the Los Angeles Forum show in 1970 [captured on the Blueberry Hill bootleg]—you used a Hiwatt amp.

PAGE It was a transitional amplifier. I’m really reluctant to say what I used before the Hiwatt, because once I do, they’ll get bought up and I’ll never get my hands on one again! Oh, what the hell…I’ve got a couple of them: my main amp in the early days was a Vox Super Beetle, which was superb.

So after the Vox, I looked around and everyone was using Marshall amps, and, of course, I wanted to do something different, so I got the Hiwatt, which had a footswitch overdrive. Eventually, I did go on to the Marshalls.

Interestingly, a little while ago, before the Led Zeppelin reunion show, I set up all my amplifiers to see what was and wasn’t working, and that Hiwatt kicked ass, man! It kicked ass.