Jimmy Page’s 1st Session Guitar Gig Became a No. 1 Hit in the UK
There are some memorable moments in the documentary It Might Get Loud (2008). In one scene, viewers watch as Jimmy Page plays the “Whole Lotta Love” riff for Jack White and U2’s The Edge. (White truly relishes Page’s performance.)
In another interesting scene, The Edge inquires about Page’s days as a session guitar player. “There’s all these legends” about Page playing on ’60s records, The Edge notes. Page agrees, saying he sometimes feels like people believe he “had done everything.”
But when you dig into the list of sessions Page played on, you realize he played on a ton of famous records. If Page wasn’t backing The Who and The Kinks on rhythm guitar, he was doing lead work on early tracks by David Bowie and the Rolling Stones.
Page played on his share of smash-hit records by Donovan, Petula Clark (“Downtown”), and Joe Cocker as well. In fact, Page’s first session-guitar gig came on a track that went to No. 1 on the UK charts.
Jimmy Page broke in on the No. 1 hit ‘Diamonds’
Before The Beatles became the dominant force in British music, The Shadows were the band with the biggest following. In the early ’60s, Shadows bassist Jet Harris and drummer Tony Meehan left the group to try their hand at other projects.
In January ’63, Harris (on guitar) and Meehan released their first single, the instrumental “Diamonds,” with the help of the teenage Page on acoustic guitar. That record landed on the UK charts in the third week of the month. By February, it had taken the top spot on the singles chart.
“Diamonds” stayed at No. 1 for three weeks, making Page a player in the world of London sessions almost immediately. In Jimmy Page: The Definitive Biography, Chris Salewicz describes Page going from the occasional gig to 10 sessions a week.
Page hadn’t yet turned 20 and was still attending art school at the time. But in 1964 he had a great run as a session guitarist, playing on the Goldfinger and A Hard Day’s Night soundtracks in addition to tracks featuring Bowie and Van Morrison.
Page began seeing John Paul Jones while working sessions
While Page kept busy playing as many as three sessions per day, he began seeing a man his age named John Baldwin handling bass duties for producers. Soon enough, Baldwin would change his name, becoming John Paul Jones.
These two future Led Zeppelin bandmates had a very eventful session in 1966 when they headed to the studio with Jeff Beck and The Who’s Keith Moon. “Beck’s Bolero,” the product of those sessions, convinced everyone present they should consider forming a band. (Moon suggested the name “Lead Zeppelin.”)
It didn’t happen, of course. Moon went back to The Who; Beck went back to The Yardbirds; and Page and Jonesy went back to playing sessions. Two years later, Page would get his band with Jones on bass and keys. With Robert Plant and John Bonham aboard, they started getting the Led out.