Brian May on how Led Zeppelin inspired Queen: “I owe a lot to Jimmy Page”

Brian May and Jimmy Page
(Image credit: Peter Pakvis/Redferns / Paul Natkin/WireImage via Getty)

Brian May and Jimmy Page are some of England’s greatest guitar exports, and are part of an elite cohort of British six-string heroes who will go down in history as the country’s finest and most innovative musicians.

Now, May has come out to pay tribute to his guitar-playing peer, labeling the Les Paul-wielding Led Zeppelin warrior as “the master of the riff, and the master of getting lost deliberately in time signatures”.

Not only that, in a new interview with Total Guitar, the Red Special mastermind took the opportunity to highlight the wider impact the heavy metal icons had on Queen – both in a musical sense and from an industry perspective.

When asked about the loose sonic similarities between Queen’s Now I’m Here and Led Zep’s Black Dog, May reflected that the song – lifted from 1974’s Sheer Heart Attack – was directly inspired by the “spirit of Zeppelin”.

“I owe a lot to Jimmy Page, of course – the master of the riff, and the master of getting lost deliberately in time signatures,” May reflected. “I think that song was inspired, definitely, by the spirit of Zeppelin.” 

He continued, “All those wonderful things that are happening when Bonzo [Zeppelin drummer John Bonham] is throwing in things which sound like they’re in a different time signature – that stuff has always fascinated me.” 

Elsewhere in the interview, May said the band looked up to Led Zeppelin on matters outside of music, reflecting that they had conquered vision that Queen were also striving to capture at the time.

“Those guys were not far ahead of us in age,” May went on to say, “but the first time we heard Zeppelin, we thought, ‘Oh, my God, this is where we’re trying to get to, and they’re already there!’ 

“So in a sense, there were times when we felt like we’d missed the boat,” he continued. “Like we wouldn’t be able to get our stuff out there. But our vision was slightly different from Zeppelin, musically. 

“It’s more harmonic and melodic, I suppose. But I would never be ashamed to say that Zeppelin were a huge influence on us, not just musically, but also in the way they handled themselves in the business, without compromising. 

“The way they handled their image, the integrity, the way they built their stage show – so many things. I suppose between Zeppelin and The Beatles and The Who, you would see where we came from. That was the kind of platform that we bounced off.”

May’s sprawling interview with Total Guitar saw the six-string icon look back over his whole Queen career – and touched upon the one time May broke a golden guitar recording rule during the tracking of the band’s debut album.

Said rule involved mixing both electric guitar and acoustic guitar parts at once – a recording process that, according to May, was frowned upon years ago.

Visit Magazines Direct to pick up the latest issue of Total Guitar, which features the ultimate Brian May interview.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.

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