Page’s The Firm Gear: Zep II?

October 11, 2011 | By | 3 Replies More

At this point it seems like Jimmy Page is the keeper of the Led Zep flame – doesn’t it? Plant isn’t interested, JPJ is awesome but ain’t the point man, so we have Jimmy.

And how much of the Zep sound is Jimmy? He obviously wrote the riffs and a bunch of the tunes, but JPJ, Bonzo and that Plant guy weren’t slouches either. We obviously have a band in Zep that was legendary partly because each guy was incredible at his instrument, and the sum of the parts was massively greater than each individual…or something like that. You know what I mean.

So since each guy contributed to forging such a distinct sound, it’s no surprise that The Firm – to me, at least – sounds Zeppelin-ish.

I mean, you can’t replace the other three Zeppers, but Jimmy’s riffs are Jimmy-like…meaning Zep-like. The riffs he wrote for The Firm – which he said were derived from stuff intended for Zep – sound like Zeppelin, vs. the Paul Rodgers ballady, power-chord Firm stuff.

Plus, Page seems to have used largely the same gear for The Firm stuff. By the ’80s, he could’ve been slinging Charvels with Floyds and using enough chorus to kill a dairy farm’s worth of cows, but nope: guitar, maybe a couple of FX here or there, amps. Zep-like.

The big difference was him using a Tele with a B-Bender. As you all know, he used a Tele all over the Zep records, but that one was retired way before the Firm. Here’s what he says about both that Tele and the brown Firm one:

> “I still have it [the Dragon Tele used on Zep records], but it’s a tragic story. I went on tour with the ’59 Les Paul that I bought from Joe Walsh, and when I got back, a friend of mine had kindly painted over my paint job. He said, ‘I’ve got a present for you.’ He thought he had done me a real favor. As you can guess, I wasn’t real happy about that. His paint job totally screwed up the sound and the wiring, so only the neck pickup worked. I salvaged the neck and put it on my brown Tele string bender that I used in The Firm. As for the body…it will never be seen again!”

Jimmy, from this interview in the ’80s:

“The Telecaster has the string-bender mechanism that took me about two years to come to terms with [laughs]. No, not really, but I’d say it took a year, honestly. Considering it’s only moving [changing the pitch] two frets or whatever, you can see how slow it is for me to get things together [laughs]. To be truthful, it was difficult to work through it – up the neck, so to speak. But it came to the point that as it was such a good thing to cheat with…[laughter].

[Asked about the idea to try a String-Bender:] “I tried to play pedal steel guitar years back and that was a totally different situation…. I did like the idea of the pedal changing the intonation of the string. I heard Clarence White as a guitarist on the Untitled LP by The Byrds, and all the stuff he was doing I thought was quite amazing.

There were parts that I couldn’t physically do as far as trying to do it on the guitar. And I heard that there was this mechanism within the guitar which was the Gene Parsons/Clarence White String-Bender. I was lucky enough at one point in time to see The Byrds play [and] Gene Parsons made up one of these String-Benders for me.

> According to a 1986 Guitar Player interview, Jimmy used these strings on the B-Bender Tele: Ernie Ball Super Slinkys, .008, .011, .014, .022, .030, .038. Picks were Herco Flex 75s.


Jimmy with one of his other The Firm guitars, a Strat, note the Marshall in the background.

Jimmy apparently used a Vox AC30 back with The Firm, possibly in the studio, possibly live. Found one reference to Jimmy apparently loving the tone of the AC30 but being SOL using it with Zep because it couldn’t keep up with Bonham’s drum volume.

For sure he used the same two Zep Marshall Super Leads – serials A10053 and A10924 – that were modded in the ’70s with four KT88 tubes. That gave the heads more headroom and more volume, like 150+ watts worth (not 200!).

Jimmy is said to have run his Marshalls at 7 on the Volume, but according to this info it was 6. If you haven’t seen that prior post, it has his amp settings.

Any of Jimmy’s The Firm gear you’re SURE (not hearsay) I’m missing, please note it below….


Category: Ernie Ball/Music Man, Fender, Jimmy Page/Zep, Marshall, Strat, Telecaster, Vox

Comments (3)

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  1. j9fd3s says:

    good post! i can’t speak for the amps/effects in the firm, but the guitars are pretty clear.

    the brown tele, aka the brown bomber is from zep it later gets the neck from the “dragon” tele. it does sorta seem like page was using the tele more toward the end of zeppelin, and he just continued with it.

    the blue strat, is also from zeppelin. its possibly the main guitar for the presence album, although it doesn’t get used much live until the firm (it seems)

    not to take away from the firm though, they actually a lot of fun

  2. Ken A says:

    I’ve heard that Zep’s slinkier, note-ier riffs were actually JPJ’s. Black Dog and Heartbreaker, that kind of thing was his style. Not to downplay Pagey’s compositional powers, but it’d be a mistake to credit him alone for all the great Zeppelin riffs.

  3. Ian says:

    Never been a huge fan (nor really gotten “wood”) from Page’s tone. Kinda honky and lacking presence (no pun intended). Great player (when he wasn’t wasted onstage trying to play runs he never practiced enough) and a great composer, but he’s put pretty high on the pedestal, when there are dozens of more tonally rich and “woody” players out there.

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