John Lennon, on occasion, was guilty of having an aura of hostility to him. More often than not, when he spoke about other artists or even his own work, it was disparaging. However, there was one guitarist he had nothing but glowing words to say about.
The musical landscape of which The Beatles arrived into when they first started to make waves was an abrupt contrast with the state they left it in towards the end of their tenure. Seemingly, Lennon was a fan of the new crop coming through with one name especially capturing his attention.
The Beatles had stopped touring in 1966, which allowed for a new wave of groups to become the new talk of the town. With big shoes to fill in the absence of ‘The Fab Four’, many bands attempted to dethrone the Liverpudlians. Surprisingly, Led Zeppelin stood out the most to Lennon, who he gave his seal of approval to during an interview with Hit Parader.
“I think in any of those terms. You know, I just think it’s either something I like or don’t like or it’s heavy or it’s light,” Lennon commented about the state of the scene. He added, “I like heavy music, I call it rock. I like Zeppelin, I’ve only heard a couple you know, they’re okay. I don’t really know much of what they’re about. But one thing’s for sure, Jimmy Page is a bloody good guitarist”.
Page himself was thankful for the way that The Beatles opened the pathway for his generation of musicians, which allowed for rock music to not only break through but take over. “Certainly, at the time, you know, the social question poised by The Beatles, with the long hair and the sandals – it was cool the long hair then – it had a lot of impact,” he said in 1976.
He continued, “A lot of change went down a lot of social barriers. We broke down the class barriers even though it may have been resented afterwards, but nevertheless, they (The Beatles) helped to do that. And over the years that they were very musically prominent and productive, I think there is a classic example of a group who shows so much development and maturity within their music, within the years that they were together.”
The guitarist concluded, “I mean, let’s face it, the early records aren’t really anything to write home about. But by the time they’re at Magical Mystery Tour, I mean it was really going somewhere.”
Despite only hearing a couple of tracks by Led Zeppelin, Lennon had heard enough to give them his blessing, and this likely had a lot to do with the respect he held for Page from his days as a session musician.
Although the two didn’t work together, everybody was in awe of his stellar skillset, which made him the most in-demand session guitarist in London before Zeppelin’s birth. Praise doesn’t get much higher from the stern-faced Lennon than him admitting you’re a “bloody good guitarist”, and few will disagree with his assessment.