- Publish Date
- Saturday, 12 June 2021, 3:47PM
While Jimmy Page's Led Zeppelin guitar solos often come off as central themes to some of the band's most iconic works, soloing was often the last thing on his mind when he was producing Zep records.
In a new feature in Classic Rock magazine, Page recalled the solo for "Stairway to Heaven" being the final touch in sessions for what became Zep's biggest song.
"I would invariably do guitar solos at the end, once the finished vocals and any overdubs were already on," Page said. "Under the ['Stairway'] circumstances here, there's a bass, electric 12-strings, recorders, a whole manner of things. I always put the solo on at the end because you’re really living the track by then, and being the producer, you’ve already supervised all the overdubs that have already gone on."
For Page, after selecting his favorite Telecaster for its signature "bite," the most challenge part of the solo was the initial phrase. Once he worked that out, everything else fell into place around it.
"I just said, ‘Roll it,’ took a deep breath – that’s what I usually do – and then go," Page said. "I had a couple of cracks at it, because you didn’t have as many options as you would have now. I worked out how I was going to actually come into it, the first two or three notes, but after that I didn’t work it out, I just played it.”
In an archival interview, engineer Andy Johns (who died in 2013) recalled Page's first few tries a the "Stairway" solo being stilted, lacking the guitarist's typical fluidity. After addressing it, Page relaxed and found his groove.
"I remember sitting in the control room with Jimmy. … He’d done a few passes and it wasn’t going anywhere," Johns said. "I could see he was getting a bit paranoid, and so I was getting paranoid. I turned around and said, ‘You’re making me paranoid.’ And he said, ‘No, you’re making me paranoid!’ Then bang! On the next take he ripped it out. Of course, it’s a really wonderful solo. Pagey was just unbelievable.”
This November will mark 50 years since Led Zeppelin IV was released.