For many people, the conversation begins and ends with Jimmy Page when discussing ‘the greatest guitarist of all time’. However, the Led Zepellin axeman isn’t arrogant enough to name himself when part of the conversation, and it’s hard to disagree with who he holds in the highest regard.
What Led Zeppelin created during their reign of terror may never be replicated again. Jimmy Page’s initial star-power played a monumental part in their early success, as he built upon the wild reputation he had already established thanks to his extraordinary work in The Yardbirds. Zeppelin provided the perfect vehicle for him to create the type of magic he’d always dreamed of making, with Robert Plant, John Bonham, and John Paul Jones proving to be the perfect foil for his wizardry.
Zeppelin quickly found themselves part of the growing roster of rock acts on Atlantic Records. The band toured relentlessly and refined the idea of a live rock concert like no other band had done before them. With their touring schedule, the group showcased a future vision and laid the blueprints for most modern rock shows as we know them today.
If you are ever in need of an opinion on iconic guitarists, Page is the man you go looking for in search of a definitive answer on the subject. “We’ve lost the best guitarist any of us ever had, and that was Hendrix,” Page told Rolling Stone’s Cameron Crowe.
Page remarkably never saw Hendrix perform live or had the chance to exchange licks with the man himself. “It wasn’t a lack of will,” the Led Zepellin guitarist told Rolling Stone in 2012. “I wanted to see him. But I was doing studio dates and touring with the Yardbirds. Jeff came ’round and was telling me about how this guy got up at London Polytechnic, jammed and taken them all by surprise. I remember I was back in London after a Zeppelin tour, and Hendrix was playing the next night at the Royal Albert Hall.”
Adding: “I was pretty shot and thought, ‘I’d really like to see him.’ But I’d heard all these wonderful stories of him playing in clubs: ‘I’ll wait and see him next time’ round.’ For me, there wasn’t going to be a next time.
“The only time I actually saw him was at a club called Salvation in New York. He was across the room from where I was sitting with some friends. I was going to go over and say, ‘I’m sorry I missed the London concert’. Then he was leaving with the people who were with him. And he looked a little worse for wear. I thought, ‘There will be a more favourable time.’ In the end, there wasn’t.”
If anybody doesn’t have Jimi Hendrix at least in their top three guitarists of all time, then it’s hard not to question the validity of the choices. What he did in such a small career has left a beautiful mark on music, one that will stand the test of time. Hendrix set a stupendously high benchmark for guitarists to aim towards, and whether anyone will ever eclipse his achievements is a question that looks increasingly definitive upon each passing year.