Jimmy Page is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to music. The Led Zeppelin founder, who has spoken profusely about the type of sounds that get his pulse racing, has never been shy to praise those who had a lasting impact on his own style. While there have been countless inspirations for Page over the years, there remains one songwriter whose work he said consistently “brings tears to my eyes”.
This particular singer-songwriter arrived in Page’s life at a critical moment. Before the formation of Led Zeppelin, Page made his name on the session circuit in London, lending his hand to work by the likes of The Who, Donovan, Joe Cocker, The Kinks and countless others. However, it wasn’t until he formed Zeppelin that Page had to finally deal with the trials and tribulations of fame as he escaped from the shadows – and the adjustment was difficult for him to make.
For Page, no other artist has dealt with this challenging and nuanced topic as eloquently as Joni Mitchell. During an interview with Rolling Stone in 1975, the Canadian songwriter popped up in conversation when the guitarist said she was one of the few artists who could write a song as ethereal as ‘Stairway To Heaven’.
“I don’t think there are too many people who are capable of it,” Page explained. “Maybe one. Joni Mitchell. That’s the music that I play at home all the time, Joni Mitchell. Court and Spark I love because I’d always hoped that she’d work with a band. But the main thing with Joni is that she’s able to look at something that’s happened to her, draw back and crystallise the whole situation, then write about it. She brings tears to my eyes, what more can I say? It’s bloody eerie.
“I can relate so much to what she says,” Page added. He then referenced Mitchell’s song ‘Both Sides Now’, and specifically the lyrics, “Now old friends are acting strange, They shake their heads, They say I’ve changed,'” which he found particularly relevant to his own experience of celebrity.
Understandably, the astronomical success of Led Zeppelin had an impact on Page, making up somewhat unable to relate to those that he grew up alongside. He elaborated, “I’d like to know how many of her original friends she’s got. I’d like to know how many of the original friends any well-known musician has got. You’d be surprised. They think — particularly that thing of change — they all assume that you’ve changed. For the worse.”
The preconceptions of fame paint a glamourous picture; however, not every consequence of success was positive. The lyrics in ‘Both Sides Now’ spoke to Page profoundly, unlocking feelings that existed subconsciously at the back of his mind.