THE REAL JIMMY PAGE
In the January issue of UNCUT, we celebrated the career of rock's greatest and most mysterious guitar hero through the first hand accounts of the people who know him best.
Here at Uncut.co.uk, we'll be posting the full and unedited transcripts from those interviews, including words from Robert Plant, Jeff Beck, Donovan, Steve Albini and more.
Today… ANDREW LOOG OLDHAM
The Stones manager and legendary impresario founded Immediate Records in 1965 – promptly hiring Page as house producer and A&R man…
The first time Jimmy Page came into my life I was already doing sessions with either Marianne Faithfull or Vashti Bunyan or The Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra. Charlie Katz was our musical fixer at Immediate, a lovely old Jewish gent, and our main guitarists at that time were Big Jim Sullivan, John McLaughlin and Joe Moretti. One day Charlie said to me “You know, I’ve got this new young lad. I think you’ll like him, Andrew.” And I think he may have said “He doesn’t read.”
So there Jimmy was, in Pye Studios or Olympic or wherever the fuck we were, sitting next to Big Jim and the others. And that was the first time I saw him. I think he might have just left Carter-Lewis & The Southerners. So Jimmy’s there on most of our sessions, basically from "As Tears Go By" onwards. I'm not sure if he was on the Gene Pitney stuff, but we're talking April or May ’64.
Do I remember my first reaction to hearing him? Well, you have to remember that we were gatecrashing into a business that hoped we would soon go away. So my first impression of someone was always empathy, meeting guys your own age and wondering if they could work for you. But it was immediately apparent that Jimmy would. He also had to take a while to stretch, but the other session players took him under their wing. So he was on probation for a little while. He didn’t suddenly come in and say “Look, I’m fucking brilliant”. I more recall him working his way in slyly. We offered him the job as in-house producer based really on an affinity of purpose. We were so fed up with old farts that you would gravitate towards people your own age. It was all in the nod, the look in the eye. And I saw that in Jimmy. It was apparent that he knew that too.
I don’t think it was ever my agenda to discover what a great guitar player he was. I didn’t look at him that way. I used to do a lot of elaborate demos of Mick and Keith’s songs and I know Jimmy played on one of those, which I think ended up as the first “Heart Of Stone”. He wrote the b-side of Marianne’s “Come And Stay With Me”, with Jackie DeShannon [“What Have I Done Wrong”]. And I was in the studio when he was playing on [The Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra’s] 16 Hip Hits. We were all learning on the job, but it was two or three takes and that was it.
Jimmy was like a wisp. I don’t really know what kind of a person he was, because the great ones keep it hidden and metamorphose on us, so that the room works. But he auditioned people for me. John Paul Jones auditioned Nico, but Jimmy and I co-wrote the b-side to the single [“The Last Mile”]. It should have been the a-side, because that was fucking awful [“I’m Not Sayin’”]. It really was stiff as Britain. Then he went on the road with Marianne Faithfull. We were all impressed by this new wave of women who were coming in. They weren’t like these English tea cups. Here were these teutonic forces who were incredibly strong women. They had incredible beauty and allure. But it was all about the work.
Jimmy and I never really socialized. I ran into Jimmy about four years ago on the streets of Soho and that was the first time I’d seen him since back then. I never really saw him through the Led Zeppelin period. But Zeppelin changed so much about the record business. I mean, that was the first branding, wasn’t it? Without being disrespectful to the Stones, they were the ones who opened up the stadiums. And they had the first manager who was real violence as opposed to the Mickey Mouse stuff that had been practised in England before. With the branding of Led Zeppelin, especially on American radio, there you suddenly saw all of them, and Jimmy in particular, coming into their full force of direction with a manager who was less a svengali and more of a bean-counter and leg-breaker. It changed everything. When you can be your own Diagliev, that’s pretty fucking amazing. But then look at the mess they left behind them, musically. We had to listen to a million wankers who all thought they could sound as good.