Another phase of his professional career kicked off when he joined the Yardbirds in 1966. Though he had already turned down previous offers, it was after a particularly rowdy gig in Oxford, U.K., that he was inspired to join the British rockers on bass.
“I went to a Yardbirds concert in Oxford,” Page told Guitar Player in a 1977 interview, “and they were all walking around in their penguin suits. [Singer] Keith Relf got really drunk and was saying, ‘Fuck you’ right into the mic and falling into the drums. I thought it was a great anarchistic night.
“I went back into the dressing room and said, ‘What a brilliant show!’ There was this great argument going on; [bassist] Paul Samwell-Smith saying, ‘Well, I'm leaving the group, and if I was you, Keith, I'd do the very same thing.’
“So, he left the group, and Keith didn't. But they were stuck, you see, because they had commitments and dates, so I said, ‘I'll play the bass if you like.’”
Page’s stint as bassist in the Yardbirds was short-lived, however. Having swapped roles with the group’s co-founder and guitarist Chris Dreja to play alongside his pal Jeff Beck, the Yardbirds boasted one of the most formidable electric guitar duos in the history of rock.
“It worked out that we did the dual guitar thing as soon as Chris Dreja could get it together with the bass,” recalled Page.
Interestingly, Page later suggested Dreja take up the position of bassist in his new band, but having decided a career in photography was the way forward for him Dreja declined the offer.
In 1969, Dreja's photograph of Page’s ‘new band’ – originally billed as the New Yardbirds – famously appeared on the reverse of Led Zeppelin’s eponymous debut album cover.
In this historical clip of the Yardbirds filmed just weeks after Page joined the band in 1966 he is seen playing alongside a ‘Burst-toting Beck while Dreja plays a Gibson ES-335 semi-hollowbody electric.
Though Page must have been itching to grab a six-string and let rip, his performance as a bass player here is exemplary.
Browse Jimmy Page's eclectic catalog here.
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Rod Brakes is a music journalist with an expertise in guitars. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a writer covering artists, industry pros and gear includes contributions for leading publications and websites such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Guitar World, Guitar Player and MusicRadar in addition to specialist music books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.
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