by Brad Tolinski
Originally published as "Page Turner" in Guitar Aficionado, Fall 2010 Issue – Buy Issue
Led Zeppelin's guitar maestro unveils Jimmy Page, his unique limited-edition retrospective "photographic autobiography."
The figurative painter Francis Bacon once remarked, “The job of the artist is to always deepen the mystery.” Nobody in the music world has understood this maxim better than Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, the paradigm for rock god inscrutability. So it came as a bit of a shock when Genesis Publications, one of the world’s leading art house publishers, announced it was collaborating with the usually tight-lipped guitarist on a monumental autobiography.
Jimmy Page by Jimmy Page is that rare event that lives up to the hype. The massive 500-page leather-bound tome, featuring more than 650 carefully annotated images—some from the guitarist’s personal collection—accompanied by Page’s pithy commentary, is the most complete portrait of the legendary rocker to date.
“The book tells the story of my life as a musician,” Page says, as we sit outside near the King’s Road, enjoying a sunny London day. “It’s designed to show where my passion for music started and how it evolved. But at the same time, I wanted it to be evocative. I looked for pictures that had subtle connections and little points of reference that you won’t notice straight away but will pick up on after repeated viewings. Truth is, nobody else could have made this book.”
Publisher and designer Catherine Roylance agrees, praising the guitarist’s clear vision and unflagging dedication to the project. Together, they spent months poring over thousands of photos and verifying dates and timelines. But she’s quick to point out that it was Jimmy who chose each final image and put the selections in sequential order.
“He was involved in every detail and was really passionate about the content, the binding, and all the materials,” Roylance says. “He has a great eye and could see the play of images together and the pace of the book from one page to the next. I don’t think this sort of ‘photographic autobiography’ has ever been attempted before, which makes this a landmark publication.”
The book unfolds in strict chronological order, beginning with an astonishing series of shots from the late Fifties that capture a young Page rocking out with his early guitars (a Hofner President and a Grazioso Futurama) and his early bands (Red E. Lewis and the Red Caps and Neil Christian & the Crusaders). Rare glimpses of his life as a studio musician in the mid Sixties explode into a number of extraordinary images of Page with the Yardbirds, including a fabulously intimate picture of him with Jeff Beck tuning up before a modest gig at Staples High School Auditorium, in Westport, Connecticut.
Of course, the Led Zeppelin years are amply represented, featuring never-before-seen shots of the band in each stage of its storied career. The book also makes fascinating stops at locations like Bron-Yr-Aur in Wales, where Page and singer Robert Plant composed songs for the band’s third album. Another 1971 photo shows Page in front of his rarely seen Boleskine House in Loch Ness, once owned by occultist Aleister Crowley.
But the book’s greatest revelation is in showing how rich and textured Page’s post-Zeppelin years have been. It does so with photos of the guitarist performing in an all-star concert tour with Eric Clapton and Beck, playing the Cambridge Folk Festival with Roy Harper, jamming in Marrakech with indigenous Moroccan musicians, and closing out the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing with a roaring version of “Whole Lotta Love,” a performance viewed by an estimated 250 million people worldwide. It all adds up to an intriguing and illuminating look at the career of rock’s most enigmatic guitarist.
“This project was several years in the making,” Page notes. “Hopefully, people will have a good time viewing it.”
If you would like to own one of these meticulously handcrafted and personally signed collector’s items, we recommend that you move quickly. With a limited print run of 2,500 worldwide, they’re guaranteed to sell out faster than you can say “Kashmir.” To order, visit genesis-publications.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.