Legendary Producer Addresses Jimmy Page’s ’Sloppy’ Playing, Names Jimi Hendrix’s Best Guitar Performance

Max Norman, who’s well-known for producing some of the most influential hard rock and heavy metal albums, reflected on Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and his supposedly “sloppy” guitar playing.

Now, over the years, Page has often been described as one of the guitar players who tends to be not-so-polished in his performances. The word “sloppy,” of course, may not be the best description most of the time. However, even if someone refers to Jimmy as actually being a sloppy guitar player, it’s most often not in any negative way.

And Norman explained it pretty well during his recent appearance on the Talk Louder Podcast. The topic came up during the chat when he was asked about albums he believes were produced really well and he mentioned Jimi Hendrix’s legendary 1967 album.

“‘Axis: Bold as Love’ is also probably a good record to look at for just sheer beautiful guitar parts and just really good playing,” Max said (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs). This album features what he believes is Hendrix’s finest performance. He continued:

“It’s probably the best Hendrix ever plays as far as playing normal kind of stuff, but he just plays it so beautifully. The way he plays ‘Little Wing’ — these people doing ‘Little Wing’, shut the f*** up and just listen to ‘Little Wing’, okay? Don’t play it, okay? [Laughs] I don’t need to hear Rob Zombie doing ‘Little Wing.'”

Discussing the matter further, Max also pointed out how, although amazing, Led Zeppelin records feel a little overplayed, to the point where it doesn’t really feel right to listen to them anymore. He explained:

“Some of the Led Zeppelin records have been so overplayed now that they’re almost unlistenable. It’s almost embarrassing to hear a Led Zeppelin record now because they’ve been played so much.”

And speaking of Led Zeppelin, Norman addressed Jimmy Page’s musicianship, particularly how some people feel that his guitar playing is a little sloppy.

Whole Lotta Love - Jimmy Page Solo

“But really, if you want to talk sloppy, you got Jimmy there,” the producer said. However, according to him, there’s a good explanation for why that’s the case. He continued:

“Jimmy doesn’t give a sh*t. Jimmy plays it twice, picks one of them, and walks out. He doesn’t care because he knows people are gonna like that.”

“People are going to hear that mistake three times, and they’re going to like it,” Max offered. So, if a particular mistake is something that people will enjoy listening to, is it really a mistake?

Speaking on the matter, Norman how he approaches this particular issue when he produces records. If there’s an error, he’ll “erase it immediately.” Why? Well, there’s this thing called “demoitis” that he’s not a fan of.

“If you’re in a studio, you’re doing an overdub, and they sing the wrong part — erase it immediately,” Max argues. “Don’t keep it, just get rid of it because if you hear it three times, you’re gonna like it, and now you got the wrong part.”

“Later on, you’re gonna go, ‘Oh, that’s the wrong part.’ You go, ‘I like it, though.’ Now you get ‘demoitis.’ You got to be really careful about that stuff!”

Jimmy Page solo live at MSG , 1973 HD

The term “demoitis” is slang for this habit of feeling like the best part of the song is the one you are used to. But, on the other hand, you may never know what people will actually end up liking. In the case of Jimmy Page, it seems to have worked.

And speaking of Page and his supposed “sloppiness,” plenty of famous guitar players have addressed it. For Kim Thayil of Soundgarden, for instance, there’s a special kind of feeling when he hears Jimmy’s “mistakes.”

“It sounds like the guitar is falling down the stairs… It’s brilliant,” Thayil said in an interview last year. “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!'”

Led Zeppelin - Dazed and Confused (Live at Madison Square Garden 1973)

Modern blues rock master Joe Bonamassa also spoke up on this issue last year, pointing out how, even though some people call Page “sloppy,” they wouldn’t be able to play most of the stuff that he did with Led Zeppelin.

“A lot of people like to call Page sloppy, and that’s fine,” Bonamassa explained. “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.”

“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.”

The Rain Song - Jimmy Page & Robert Plant

Photo: Andrew Smith (Jimmy Page – A.R.M.S. Concert, Oakland, Ca. 1983)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.