A Jimmy Page Page Turner: "Light & Shade"

It's too bad no one at The David Letterman Show read this book before Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page recently appeared on the show. Dave wasn't prepared, didn't know what to say or ask and so it was all inane small talk.

"Light and Shade" (Crown Publishers) incorporates transcripts of interviews with the musical innovator and guitarist conducted over a twenty plus year span by "Guitar World" editor in chief Brad Tolinksi.

Page apparently has a reputation as a "prickly" interviewee, but it turns out to be more that he doesn't easily suffer foolish questions. Apparently Tolinski didn't ask any, or many.

Covering Page's childhood, adolescence, teen years touring with a rock band, becoming disillusioned with the road and becoming a top session musician for everyone from Shirley Bassey to Tom Jones, to The Kinks to Burt Bacharach, to his joining and quitting The Yarbirds takes but 65 pages of a 296 page book!

Every Page fan will enjoy the read but so will even casual Zep fans and audio enthusiasts too. Tolinksi often takes the conversation into both the musical and technical weeds—places that seem to energize the guitar great.

At one point Tolinski asserts that recording quality took a "quantum leap" between 1966 and 1969 when Led Zepellin made its debut. The earlier records, he claimed "lacked the sonic depth of music recorded in the late sixties."

Okay, that raised a red flag with me and I knew Page would take issue with that assertion. I wasn't disappointed. "I don't know if I completely agree with that," he countered, citing Sun Records. The problem with early British rock records Page averred was not the equipment but rather the engineers, most of whom didn't like rock music. The quality improved he said when "...more sympathetic engineers like Glyn Johns and Eddie Kramer" got involved.

There's plenty of conversation about the studio stuff we love, presented by a guy who was both the musical and sonic force behind Led Zeppelin's records. His answer here was satisfying and it comes early in the book so you know Page shares your sonic sensibilities. Page explains how the first record possessed such depth and wide dynamics.

Also early on, he recounts producing Jeff Beck's landmark "Beck's Bolero" on the Truth album. Keith Moon played drums, JP Jones played bas and Nicky Hopkins piano. Page played 12 string rhythm guitar. Moon accidentally hits a then $250 microphone with his stick. Page says, and you can see him grinning saying it, "halfway through 'Bolero' you can hear him scream, then hit the mike, and from there all you hear are the cymbals. The song just continues. It was sort of funny."

Okay, I'll wait for you to go play the record and come back before continuing..... good timing! I'm starting again: there's a great story about Yardbirds guitarist Paul Samwell-Smith getting drunk with Graham Nash and breaking his hand karate chopping a serving tray..... but you should read it yourself.

Honestly, I haven't finished the book or gotten much past the halfway point but I will finish it. It's a great story and Page covers it from player to producer to sonic esthete.

Ask for it for Christmas and read it while playing that plum label UK Led Zeppelin II original pressing. Trust me, you'll have fun.

jstro's picture

Michael since you mentioned LZ II I am curious if you have ever published a review comparing different pressings of this masterpiece.  I love the RL but sadly only became aware of it about 5 years ago. Thanks 

Paul Boudreau's picture

"...I still have LZ 1 from 1969 that I bought as a teen..."

I remember buying it at E.J. Korvette's in Rockville, MD, and bringing it back at least twice because of warpage.

firedog55's picture

The anecdote certainly describes what we hear in the song, but even before the mike gets hit, you don't hear the drums very well anyway. Not the best sounding recording.

Glotz's picture

Man, your book reviews are pragmatic and very helpful.

I really dig your style in these reviews- very intentional from a rock fan perspective, and what criticism is there is intelligently wrought.

I think I'll check out both of the recent books here. 

Happy New Year, man.

jstro's picture

I believe that I have read every book about led zeppelin including magazines. This book is the best yet as jimmy reveals some many details about his life and music. If you are a fan which most of the AP base probably is you will enjoy this book. 

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