Letter to Jimmy Page (On the Occasion of Your 65th Birthday)
January 9, 2009. Happy Birthday, Mr. Page. You have made it to the age of 65 in a career that does not spawn creative longevity or integritytwo traits you have mastered. Kudos to you on a lifetime of accomplishments. We all have benefited from your musicianship, and your album production which spawned a new way to look at how one records sound by capturing the true ambience and mystique of a room where artists hit the actual notes.
Lately, it appears that you have a bit of an artistic dilemma. Not only that, everyone and their sister’s business manager appears to have their own advice on what you should do. Far be it from me to add to the Led Zeppelin funeral pyre, but I think it is to your advantage to remember why you began playing music. You heard Scotty Moore’s guitar licks on Elvis Presley’s version of “Baby Let’s Play House,” and off you went. I’m not too sure that moment of epiphany included a singer. I say this because even your one true musical soul mate Robert Plant said that your initial post-Zeppelin project, the soundtrack to Michael Winner’s Death Wish II film, was the route that he found you should have taken, and appeared disappointed that you didn’t. The instrumental passages on that inspired work contain some rather scintillating soundscapes that only you could achieve. Your playing has always featured “tangents within a framework” and that “tight but loose” feel which you have defined in the studio and the stage. What has been missing in recent years is your courage to continue in that vein without jeopardizing your past work.
You have often said that an artist’s goal is to shock the audience, and I think that is a trait that you have ignored in the last decade while you consolidated the Led Zeppelin legacy. To shock is to surprise without warning, and what made your work so timeless in the past is that you found a way to blend disparate elements into one clear vision of perfection. Why not use a bit of that notion with Messrs. Jones, Bonham, and a few other musicians to see if you could continue to seek the edge in your music without a singer.
I realize that you miss playing. You miss playing with a group. You’re a guitarist who is used to being in a band with a bassist, drummer, and a singer. It has been nearly nine long years since you had to leave the Black Crowes tour to get back surgery, an incident that has sidelined you to this day with only the lone gig at O2 Arena on December 10, 2007 as a memory for modern audiences to cherish. However, each journey begins with one step, and my only humble advice is that you obviously still have the energy, desire, and will to forge a new artistic campaign. Why not just start with a few simple jams, instrumentals, and riffs recorded in a studio, and released on a limited edition LP? Perhaps you could then play a series of small dates with a group of musicians while downplaying the need for this to be one big circus and a dull echo of your legendary past.
Keep it focused. Deliver new music. Play live again. There is still time. Of all the 65-year old creative chaps still walking with their respective muses, you are one of a select few that can provide that artistic shock to an audience which is so important to your philosophical framework. In the meantime, rock on, happy birthday, and THANK YOU. May your music always sail across every ocean throughout all time.