In the category of “how the hell did I miss this” is a semi-recent interview published on Gibson.com titled “Jimmy Page’s Recording Secrets.” Say what?
Didn’t want to get my hopes up about learning some cool tidbits from one of rock’s masters of recording and composing, but I guess I did because I clicked on it fast – and unfortunately found I got them up a little too far. Here are the highlights of the article, with commentary from me:
“[Live he used a] Gibson Les Paul Standard or EDS-1275 Double-Neck in front of a pair of roaring Marshall amp stacks. And live, this is indeed how a major part of the tone was generated. In the studio, however, there was often a whole lot more going on—or a whole lot less….”
Yes, yes, we know.
“Live performance photos and film footage often show him breaking out a Fender Telecaster or a Danelectro DC model, although they doesn’t reveal the whole story—that Page also used a Tele for many of the recorded tracks on the earlier Led Zeppelin albums, as well as for the famous solo in Stairway to Heaven.”
Holy crap, really? In Stairway? Did anyone else know this? Does this plus Joe Walsh mean I have to get a Tele now?
The next part of the piece talks about Jimmy’s mysterious “small” amp used in the studio.
“It’s fairly widely reported that Page used a small to medium-sized amp made by the Valco company of Chicago, possibly a combo sold under the Supro brand name. One tributary of this legend holds that it was a Supro Thunderbolt (and amp, it so happens, that’s also associated with Jimi Hendix’s recording career). This combo had a single 15-inch Jensen speaker and a pair of 6L6GC tubes in the output stage, but put out far less volume than higher-end amps using similar tubes, probably something more in the 25-watt range rather than the 45 or 50 watts that a similarly equipped Fender Super Reverb produced, for example.
“[But] a very different amp from the Thunderbolt was donated by Page to the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame & Museum in Cleveland, OH, a smaller Valco-made combo with rare and unusual 6973 output tubes [does anyone really think Jimi would donate one of his favorite amps?!]. These tubes, and the smaller speaker, make such amps sound quite different from each other, so did Page use the Thunderbolt, the 6973-equipped amp, or maybe both?”
I gotta know, so I’m kind of hepped up at this point, but here’s what the writer said…
“Jimmy Page himself hasn’t been willing to put the mystery to rest yet, and perhaps he isn’t even sure of the truth himself at this point.”
Crap! But as a ‘Sub-sti-tute’ (The Who), the writer adds that you can…
“…get your hands on any of these old [and rare and now super-expensive] Valco-made amps, crank them up—perhaps with a booster pedal in front—and it’s easy to convince yourself that they sound exactly like the soaring, toothsome lead tone on Communication Breakdown. Or plug into an old Fender Champ or Danelectro 1482, or a new Gibson GA-5 Les Paul Junior or Epiphone Valve Junior, close your eyes, and apply the appropriate Page-esque riffs, and you might easily believe any of those is channeling the quirky, toneful Valco mojo.”
Well, Gibson got me to read the article. But not a whole lot of secrets therein.