Like the man himself, the original incarnation of this book was an elusive spectre. Frequently discussed but rarely seen; due to a low print run and high price tag it sold out in record time. With over 600 photographs hand-picked and narrated by Page himself, it’s a rare personal essay on his life from altar boy to silver fox – a truly exclusive peak into the life and career of one of rock’s most guarded personalities.
During his formative years at school, Page witnessed a lad by the name of Rod Wyatt singing a Lonnie Donegan hit. As fate would have it, the previous owner of the Page family’s Epsom house had left a guitar behind and with some guidance from the young Mr Wyatt, the path was set. The images of this time show the transformation from fresh-faced apprentice to studio-savvy professional. Also included is Page’s first passport, a necessity for studio work with Caterina Valente in Berlin. The grinning face in the 1964 photo is the embodiment of a young man living the dream.
As the narrative shifts to Page as a Yardbird, the numerous passport stamps show a more worldly and well-travelled man, comfortable in the role of rock star. Label promo contact sheets and product advertising shoots show his career’s upwards trajectory and also document the fall of the band, leaving Page with a new path and some new Yardbirds. We learn it was a palmist in Los Angeles that foretold the next stage in Page’s life. Enter Plant, Bonham and Jones and exit the last vestiges of Jimmy Yardbird, as out went the psychedelic Telecaster and cravats and in came the bruising Les Paul and leather.
Off stage the quartet is brooding and camera-shy, but on stage we see the energy and symbiotic lightning jumping between them as they fuse together to form Led Zeppelin. From Jimmy’s boathouse home in Pangbourne through to the recording of Houses Of The Holy at Stargroves using the Stones mobile studio, the candid shots of the band portray the self-enforced seclusion that they strived for.
The only real gap in the photo timeline is the period of recording that resulted in the creation of ‘that’ album with ‘that’ drum sound. Photos from Headley Grange and the recording of Led Zeppelin IV are notable by their absence; we can only assume they were too busy for snapshots…
From their meteoric rise to their tragic end, Zeppelin understandably take the lion’s share of the pages. But this is no Zeppelin shrine – the back third is a visual testament to Page’s work outside the great airship – Outrider, The Black Crowes, Coverdale, Deathwish and of course, the triumphant return to the O2. Some might say a full circle, but that would indicate a completion to his work and from what Page says in this month’s cover feature, his story seems far from over.