From the creation of Led Zeppelin’s modern mythology to the true story of ‘Stairway To Heaven’, here, in his own words, is the undisputed lord of the riffs in a full interview on GQ
Few managed it, as Zeppelin’s high-concept, high-octane mix of light and shade, of push and pull and loud and quiet – all of it determined by the group’s leader, Jimmy Page – was nigh on impossible to top.
Of course, it couldn’t last. When punk rock consumed the music industry towards the end of the 1970s, Zeppelin were suddenly regarded as unnecessary behemoths, the veritable dinosaurs of rock. But in the last 30 years or so, there has been something of gradual volte-face, through which the band have been promoted back to the industry premiership, where they now reside as permanent fixtures – inviolate, immaculate and beyond reproach.
Led Zeppelin IV, from 1971, which contained “Stairway To Heaven” (unceasingly voted the greatest rock song ever recorded, for a while this became the most played track on US radio.
“My introduction to the world of recorded sound came when my family lived in Feltham, London,” he says. “There was a neighbour on our road who’d recently acquired a top-of-the-range stereo record player and he was inviting neighbours to come and listen to his prize possession. We went round to his house – I would have been around seven years old at the time. He played these audio file recordings for hi-fi enthusiasts, including a steam train, like a Flying Scotsman, zooming across from the right speaker to the left with all its undeniable drama. Curiously enough, that’s just the kind of thing I did later with tape recorder facilities when I was playing live with The Yardbirds.”
“He also played some stereo classical music on his system and it was a listening experience that really opened up my ears. At home, we had our little radio with a little speaker, but it couldn’t compete with the magnificence of a classical orchestra in our neighbour’s house.
My parents occasionally listened to BBC radio at home. However, through my neighbour’s hi-fi, I actually heard and felt a full orchestra in stereo for the very first time. It was probably something like Elgar or Wagner, a really passionate piece. The whole landscape of music, and the depth and texture of it, really affected me. I don’t think I’d ever listened in such detail before.”