Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page are two guitar-playing legends forever tied together through their stints in London psychedelic rock band The Yardbirds and, of course, because of their timeless 1966 instrumental ‘Beck’s Bolero’. However, before the pair etched their names into history, they had enjoyed had a long friendship that stretched back to the earliest days of the decade.
In a 2019 video released by the iconic guitar manufacturer Fender, Page recalled his first meeting with Beck and explained that as soon as the pair came into contact, they hit it off. He then went on to discuss his friendship with Beck, and how their friendship became incredibly fruitful, affecting both their lives for the better.
“I was part of a whole generation of people who were seduced by the sounds of rock ’n’ roll,” Page said. “There weren’t many guitarists in the area at that point. You’d hear of other guitarists, you’d meet other guitarists, but nobody was in really close proximity to me. There was an art college at Epsom; Jeff Beck’s sister was attending that art college.”
The former Led Zeppelin man then recalled that Beck first attempted to learn the guitar by playing along to his favourite records, but inferred that he was somewhat hampered by the homemade instrument he was using.
Then one day, someone told Beck’s sister that there was another local guitarist named Jimmy Page; and history was about to be made.
“Well, I think they cooked it up – ‘Maybe we should get these two together,’” Page remembered. “There was a knock on the door, and there was Jeff’s sister, and there was Jeff holding his homemade guitar. We just bonded immediately.”
Soon after the meeting, Page began his career as a session musician, and it would bring him into contact with the most prominent names in the British music industry, such as The Who and The Rolling Stones. It was here that he made his name as one of the finest guitarists in the country, rivalling his other good friend, old ‘Slowhand’ himself, Eric Clapton.
Before too long, The Yardbirds asked Page whether he’d like to join them, but due to his friendship with Clapton, he turned them down. However, he did put forward the name of Jeff Beck. His role in the band became highly significant, helping them to bring their sound forward and become one of the most important outfits of the era, and in turn, setting the stage for Page’s eventual arrival and the birth of Led Zeppelin.
When The Yardbirds signed a new record deal, Beck gave his thanks to Page for changing his life. “I’m still living with my parents at the time in Epsom and I hear this car roll up,” Page said. “I looked out the window and I saw a Corvette Stingray outside.”
Beck got out and presented Page with a Fender Telecaster and told him, “This is yours for getting me in the Yardbirds.” The instrument would go on to become a Page’s weapon of choice during this period, and famously, he even added mirrors and a dragon artwork to it, wanting to make it more psychedelic.
It featured “all the way through” Led Zeppelin’s 1969 debut album, and over the next couple of years, Page would assert himself as the world’s premier guitar player.