As Kim Thayil of Soundgarden explained, there’s one important aspect of Jimmy Page’s and Jimi Hendrix’s playing that some guitar lovers may overlook. Reflecting on the guitar players that impacted him the most, Thayil told Guitar World that the Led Zeppelin legend was a crucial influence but that there are still some issues that people may not fully get about him.
“I’d like to remind all the perfectionist guitar nerds reading this to listen to Jimmy Page’s solo on ‘In the Evening,'” Kim pointed out. The song in question comes from Led Zeppelin’s final album, 1979’s “In Through the Out Door,” and it’s the record’s opener.
To explain things further, Thayil gave a somewhat weird explanation that this makes perfect sense:
“It sounds like the guitar is falling down the stairs… It’s brilliant. I remember people writing about it in the late ’70s asking, ‘Did he mean to f*** up there?’ And I’d be thinking, ‘It’s just cool!'”
Saying that it’s “like the guitar falling down the stairs” wasn’t in any way a jab at Page but rather an explanation of his brilliance. Sure, for the so-called “perfectionists,” this may sound like something’s off. But it just comes down to the unique approach to songwriting.
Another guitar player who still feels misunderstood, even though he was incredibly influential, is Jimi Hendrix. Once in a while, you’d hear out-of-the-ordinary comments about Hendrix, like virtuoso Marty Friedman saying he’d “rather chew glass than listen to Hendrix.”
Continuing the conversation, Thayil reflected on some of the negative feedback that Hendrix has gotten over the years, offering:
“The same goes for Jimi Hendrix with all that feedback. He was always pushing himself and making people ask, ‘Why did he choose to go there?!'”
However, according to the Soundgarden axeman, this was not a sign of a lack of skill but rather a very specific approach to creating new music. After all, Hendrix really was ahead of his time and simply played what he felt. Kim added:
“He wouldn’t play things the same way every time because it came from his heart, not the chart or some textbook. He was living it, thinking it, and feeling it. Feedback was all over the place. It was part of the passion and intensity… And a lot of that fed into what I was trying to do!”
Going back to Jimmy Page, the Led Zeppelin guitarist getting some flak for his style of playing is far from an uncommon occurrence. A lot of listeners and fans, even those who praise Page and Zeppelin for defining the genre, might say that his playing was “sloppy.” But if you ask a modern blues legend, Joe Bonamassa, one should be careful when choosing these words to describe Page’s work:
“A lot of people like to call Page sloppy, and that’s fine,” said Bonamassa in an interview from earlier this year. “You can call him sloppy all day long, but can you play it? Try to play ‘The Rain Song’ as well as he played it. You won’t be able to. Not a chance.”
Reflecting more on Jimmy’s work, Joe said:
“The thing about Jimmy Page that most people don’t realize is he was a very in-demand session guy before the Yardbirds and Zeppelin. He did boatloads of amazing things before he even was in those bands… Call him sloppy, but he was a once-in-a-generation talent.”
Another one to praise Jimmy Page for his unique approach to guitar playing and writing was Alter Bridge frontman Myles Kennedy.
“As a composer, guitar player and producer, Jimmy Page is very unique,” Myles offered in this year’s interview, adding that “he has a truly special approach. He also explained a “crazy” aspect of Page, saying that “we saw that right out of the gate, but he managed to keep it up throughout his career.”
“But I think what I loved about Jimmy and still love about him is that he has this reckless abandon. He’s an incredible composer and arranger, and he’s great in the studio, but when he executes his leads, I don’t know… there’s something very dangerous about the way he plays.”
Twisted Sister’s Jay Jay French, on the other hand, has a slightly different stance on the matter. Although he admits that Jimmy Page was a major influence, along with Eric Clapton, who he mentioned in the same interview, he’s simply not super-impressed by their playing skills.
“Eric didn’t change much, Eric stayed the same,” said French. “Jimmy Page got worse as time went on, sloppier, eventually straightened himself out and I guess he’s okay today.”
“And by the way, I’m not knocking these people. These were my heroes. You think of the greatest guitar players, though, the ones who, when you hear them, you know who they are.”