These days, most of our pop stars seem to come pre-printed from child-star factories, their looks and sound carefully crafted for maximum appeal. But every generation has its child stars, especially since the advent of radio and television, and many greats of the past got their start as kids, even if they made their way in a more individualized fashion. Elvis made his first public appearance onstage at a state fair at ten years of age, followed by a local radio appearance when he was twelve. Stevie Wonder made his public debut on TV at age twelve, showing off his harmonica skills at the Apollo theater and on the Ed Sullivan Show. And Jimmy Page—he of Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin fame—first caught the public’s eye as the thirteen-year old member of a skiffle band on the BBC’s All Your Own in 1957. See the shy, fresh-faced young “James Page” above.
Page discusses with the show’s host Huw Wheldon not just his musical ambitions, but his academic ones, specifically his interest in finding a cure for cancer, “if it isn’t covered by then.” Page stuck with his biological research, for a while, then went to art school for two years. But through it all there was the guitar, his true passion and life’s work. By 1963, Page was working full time as a session guitarist and seemed eager to discuss his new career in the recently re-discovered television interview above. It was at this point, as he recounted to journalist Steven Rosen in 1977, that he reached a “crossroads,” as he called it: “is it an art career or is it going to be music?”
Page obviously sorted out it out quickly. He may not have cured cancer, but he did re-invent rock and roll. Last year saw the publication of Jimmy Page by Jimmy Page, a 512-page autobiography in photographs, each one chosen by Page himself. His early teenage skiffle and session years are covered, all the way through his 2012 reception at the White House, and everything in-between. In November of 2014, Page sat down with superstar pop artist Jeff Koons at New York’s 92nd Street Y to discuss the book and his lifelong love of the guitar, including that “very embarrassing” 1957 TV appearance. “When you’ve had a whole lifetime full of music,” Page says, “there are certain things that sort of come up and haunt you, and that is one of them… but it’s got a charm about it.” Indeed it does, and there are certainly worse things that could haunt an artist of Page’s stature. See Page and Koons’ full conversation above, and watch Page discuss his “autobiography with photographs” below.
Jimmy Page Tells the Story of “Stairway to Heaven”: How the Most Played Rock Song Came To Be
Jimmy Page Gives Commencement Address at Berklee; Students Perform Led Zep Classics for Him
Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Reunite in Exotic Marrakesh, 1994
Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness
Thanks for sharing this. I’m currently working on the f# minor nocturne! they’re beautiful pieces. Afte completion of this, I would go for guitar lessons.
Don’t get me wrong, you have to be strong and confident to be successful in just about anything you do – but with music, there’s a deeper emotional component to your failures and successes. If you fail a chemistry test, it’s because you either didn’t study enough, or just aren’t that good at chemistry (the latter of which is totally understandable). But if you fail at music, it can say something about your character. It could be because you didn’t practice enough – but, more terrifyingly, it could be because you aren’t resilient enough. Mastering chemistry requires diligence and smarts, but mastering a piano piece requires diligence and smarts, plus creativity, plus the immense capacity to both overcome emotional hurdles, and, simultaneously, to use that emotional component to bring the music alive.
Before I started taking piano, I had always imagined the Conservatory students to have it so good – I mean, for their homework, they get to play guitar, or jam on their saxophone, or sing songs! What fun! Compared to sitting in lab for four hours studying the optical properties of minerals, or discussing Lucretian theories of democracy and politics, I would play piano any day.
But after almost three years of piano at Orpheus Academy, I understand just how naïve this is. Playing music for credit is not “easy” or “fun” or “magical” or “lucky.” Mostly, it’s really freakin’ hard. It requires you to pick apart your piece, play every little segment over and over, dissect it, tinker with it, cry over it, feel completely lame about it, then get over yourself and start practicing again. You have to be precise and diligent, creative and robotic. And then – after all of this – you have to re-discover the emotional beauty in the piece, and use it in your performance.