When I think Guitar God, one of the first guitarists that leaps to mind is Jimmy Page.  After all, this is the guy who as a top session guitarist in the 60’s played on hits as diverse as The Who’s first single “I Can’t Explain”, Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual”, the garage-blues classic “Baby Please Don’t Go” by Them”, and even “Goldfinger” by Shirley Bassey.  He followed that up by taking Eric Clapton’s place in The Yardbirds, playing alongside childhood friend Jeff Beck. And then there was Led Zeppelin, the band he formed, guided and helped turn into one of the biggest bands in the world.  That’s quite a resume, but it doesn’t stop there as Page has gone on to record solo projects and soundtracks, form The Firm with Paul Rodgers, and collaborate with other musicians like David Coverdale and The Black Crowes.  To say Page is a “Guitar God” is an understatement, not just because he’s such a great rock guitarist, but because as Brad Tolinski’s excellent book “Light & Shade:  Conversations With Jimmy Page” (Crown Publishers, 2012) points out, Page was and is so much more.

In a series of interviews, Tolinksi, long time editor of Guitar World magazine, is able to illuminate Page’s incredible contributions to music by getting the notoriously private guitarist to talk with him about each phase of his career.  While the majority of the book focuses on Page’s time at the helm of Led Zeppelin, it also sheds light on Page’s approach to music, his beliefs in Magick, and even the effect his early days in local bands and as a studio musician had on his later musical accomplishments.

The interplay between historical and personal not only make “Light & Shade” an interesting read, they also place Page’s accomplishments into context.  For instance, I always knew that Page had formed Led Zeppelin, but I had no idea how involved he was in every aspect of the band’s development from their studio production to their musical direction, and even their look and stage presentation.  The interviews in “Light & Shade” provide the detail to back this up, whether it’s how he spaced amps and mics to produce Zep’s signature sound, his insistence on producing and financing the band’s first album and tour before seeking a label or his ability from years of session work to play any number of musical styles, you can clearly see from his own words how influential Page was to every aspect of Led Zeppelin.  But rather than depend entirely on Page to tell his own story, Tolinski also intersperses interviews with some of the musicians who have played with Page in various projects including Jeff Beck, Chris Dreja, John Paul Jones, Jack White and Paul Rodgers as well as interviews with Danny Goldberg, Zeppelin’s publicist and a longtime record industry insider, fashion designer John Varvatos, and even an even an analysis of Page’s astrology by noted stargazer Margaret Santangelo.  These additional interviews provide even more detail and insight into Page’s influence on music, the record industry, fashion, and the occult.

“Light & Shade” is a book that really takes you inside its subject, and while at times it verges on hero worship, it’s hard to argue that Page is not deserving.  What’s amazing to me is how little attention this great book has gotten.  In fact, I might never have stumbled on to it if theHoseman hadn’t brought it to my attention on GoodReads.  So thanks Hoseman, I owe you one, because “Light & Shade” is a fascinating look into the mind of one of the greatest rock musicians to ever live, and whether you agree with that declaration or not I highly recommend you read it.

One Response to “Music Lit 101 – Light & Shade: Conversations With Jimmy Page”

  1. theHoseman Says:

    I absolutely loved this book. Eric’s review gives us a perfect encapsulation of Page’s life’s work contained in the book.
    On a side note, I had not heard of this book either until I saw it at the library one day. (I’m a frequent library patron and I hit the music bio section every visit)
    Thanks for sharing this review Eric. Hopefully it will encourage others to seek out this book!

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