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Music

The jam session that caused Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page to fall out

The ‘Swinging Sixties’ music scene in London was an exciting one. Many of the era’s biggest names ran around the city in cabs together, drinking and smoking the night away, watching some of the era’s most prominent names and rising stars playing the circuit’s best-loved venues.

An era characterised by constant shoulder-rubbing, the chances remained that if you were a musician who occupied this scene, then you would eventually make it big — just ask Eric Clapton or Jimmy Page. Clapton, who cut his teeth in the iconic rock troupe The Yardbirds, left in 1965 to join John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers. He didn’t stop there, either. In 1966, he formed the psychedelic power trio Cream alongside Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. 

On the other side of the major alternative music movement, Jimmy Page started life as one of London’s go-to session guitarists. He also joined the era’s famous guitarist magnet, The Yardbirds, in 1966, before forming The New Yardbirds, otherwise known as Led Zeppelin, just two years later. 

Alongside their Yardbirds friend Jeff Beck, both Page and Clapton were London’s best and most exciting guitarists. Understandably, given that they had both been in the same band – albeit at separate times – they knew each other well and were friends. Ironically, when Clapton left The Yardbirds, he recommended Jimmy Page to fill his place, who was making waves playing on the era’s biggest hits. However, at this point, Page saw no real reason to leave behind his lucrative career as a session guitarist and, in turn, recommended Jeff Beck instead.

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Showing just how tight-knit of a circle it was, that same year, Page found himself producing a recording session by none other than John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers. During that same period, Clapton stayed at Page’s house, and they would often jam together during downtime. Page would later describe his relationship with Clapton and Beck as “arch-buddies”. 

In fact, it is said that another reason for Page turning down The Yardbirds gig was out of respect for Clapton due to all the internal politics surrounding his departure. 

During Clapton’s stint in The Bluesbreakers, which might we add, featured John McVie, the future bassist of Fleetwood Mac, Clapton and Page would carry on their jam sessions on the side. They made recordings in which they utilised the newest distortion effects playing old blues standards. Page has discussed these recordings intermittently over the years, once claiming that he liked the tapes so much that he discussed them enthusiastically with Andrew Loog Oldham, The Rolling Stones’ manager. Oldham also happened to own Immediate Records, the label for whom Page had recorded The Bluesbreakers alongside. 

However, this did not have the effect he’d hoped for, and, in fact, it became the point of a rather contentious contractual problem. The flamboyant Oldham allegedly forced Page to hand the tapes over, citing both of their contracts with Immediate. In Jimmy Page: Magus, Musician, Man, Page said: “I argued they couldn’t put them out because they were just variations of blues structures”.

Oldham didn’t listen. Leading up to their now scheduled release, Oldham pushed Page to record overdubs which featured three Rolling Stones members, including Mick Jagger on harmonica. Swiftly after this, the tapes hit the shelves. Understandably, this ruffled Clapton‘s feathers. It caused “mistrust” of Page on Clapton’s part, according to biographer George Case, and the two fell out. Page has always maintained that he never made any money off the release and that he had his hands tied. 

Even though they have appeared together at various concerts over the years, including the 1983 Ronnie Lane benefit show, it has never definitively been revealed whether the pair made up or not, and the situation undoubtedly leaves a sour taste. 

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