Led Zeppelin were a band blessed with a serious cohort of musicians. Look across the musical landscape, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a quartet who were as robust and well-rounded in their musical expertise as Zeppelin. Whether it is Robert Plant’s era-defining vocals, John Bonham’s powerhouse precision on the drums, John Paul Jones’ unique ear for rhythm or, indeed, the band’s leading maestro, Jimmy Page — Led Zeppelin were a hell of a group.
The latter of the quartet, the band’s de facto leader and guitarist Jimmy Page has since been regarded as one of the very best ever to pick up a guitar. Not only well-versed in the spiralling, piercing and potent licks, riffs and solos that catapulted Zeppelin into superstar territory, Page also delivered a whole host of sessions for a ream of notable musicians in the 1960s. Simply put, what Jimmy Page doesn’t know about guitars probably isn’t worth knowing. So when he delivered the defining criteria to be recognised as a true “guitar hero”, we quickly grabbed our pen and paper to note down everything one might need.
Jimmy Page once famously said, “I believe every guitar player inherently has something unique about their playing.” However, it was the caveat to this notion that alludes to Page’s feelings on what makes a guitar hero; he continued, “They just have to identify what makes them different and develop it.” For Page, that means only a few artists can be truly considered as a ‘great’.
Over the years, Page has offered up several musicians as his favourite guitarists. “Out of all the guitarists to come out of the sixties, though, Beck, Clapton, Lee, Townshend and I are still having a go,” he told Rolling Stone in 1975. “That says something. Beck, Clapton and I were sort of the Richmond/Croydon type clan, and Alvin Lee, I don’t know where he came from, Leicester or something like that. So he was never in with it a lot. And Townshend, Townshend was from Middlesex, and he used to go down to the clubs and watch the other guitarists.”
Every single member of that group can be defined as a guitar hero by Page. When he was asked directly about the term, Page replied: “I can’t think of a greater guitar icon than someone who has the musical intellect to change what was there before and take music in another direction. That’s a guitar hero for me.”
With his unique tone and disco-adjacency, Jeff Beck is clearly an example of this, as is Eric Clapton, Alvin Lee and The Who’s Pete Townshend. But, there is one more obvious candidate who, using Page’s description, we can confirm as Jimmy Page’s guitar hero: “We’ve lost the best guitarist any of us ever had, and that was Hendrix.”
One of the most unique guitar players to have ever picked up the instrument, there is no easier badge to pin upon one’s lapel than that of ‘Guitar Hero’ on Jimi Hendrix. Judging by the above, chances are Jimmy Page would have volunteered to do it.