It wasn’t a coincidence that three of rock’s greatest guitarists all played in The Yardbirds, the pioneering London-based 1960s band. For starters, they all lived within a 12-mile radius of each other. Eric Clapton, who joined the group in ’63, made his first claim to fame while playing in the outfit.
When Clapton left in ’65, The Yardbirds tried to bring in Jimmy Page, another young gun on the London rock scene. But Page was busy with his full session schedule and declined. In his place, he suggested his friend Jeff Beck, and The Yardbirds happily ran with Beck.
After The Yardbirds, Clapton joined up with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers for short but sweet stint in mid-’65. During that time, Page had started producing sessions and even recorded his own solo single.
But while many of those sessions have been forgotten, Page’s production of the Bluesbreakers featuring Clapton have lived on in rock history. During those dates, Clapton created a sound that influenced guitarists for decades — and Page helped him get there in the studio.
Jimmy Page produced Eric Clapton at landmark Bluesbreakers sessions
In 1965, Mayall and his Bluesbreakers (now with Clapton aboard) signed with Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham to record on Oldham’s label (Immediate). Oldham had Page produce those sessions, and it turned out to be the exactly correct call.
As Page has told the story, Clapton had the idea of adding feedback wail on top of his guitar for while recording “I’m Your Witch Doctor.” Page, who like Beck and Clapton had been experimenting with different guitar sounds, found a way to make it work in the studio that day, despite protests from the engineer on duty.
“I got back into the control room and told the engineer to record the overdub,” Page said in a 2019 social media post. “About two thirds of the way through, he pulled the faders down and said, ‘This guitarist is impossible to record.’”
Since he was running the session, Page told him not to worry about the red-lining meters. “I told him … to put the faders back up, and I’d take full responsibility.” And he got Clapton’s innovative work (starting at 1:00) on tape that day.
Clapton crushed his ‘Telephone Booth’ solo in the ’65 sessions
Years later, Page still marveled at the sound Clapton got in those days using his Gibson guitar and Marshall amplifiers. “I thought he played brilliantly then, really brilliantly,” Page recalled. “That was very stirring stuff.”
After they had the setup down for “I’m Your Witch Doctor,” Clapton took it to another level on “Telephone Blues.” On his solo (starting at 1:10), Clapton drops a solo Page described as “superb.”
Page wasn’t the only one raving about Clapton’s work on the Bluesbreaker album, of course. After these tracks were released, you could find “Clapton is God” in graffiti on London streets.
According to Page biographer (and Guitar World editor-in-chief) Brad Tolinski, the Bluesbreaker sessions with Clapton “represented the birth of the modern guitar sound.” In the following decade, Page and Clapton did plenty to bring that sound to maturity.
Also see: When Jimmy Page Played on the No. 1 ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’ Cover
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