Page began his career as a studio session musician in London and, by the mid-1960s, had become the most sought-after session guitarist in England. He was a member of the Yardbirds from 1966 to 1968. In late 1968, he founded Led Zeppelin.
Page is widely considered to be one of the greatest and most influential guitarists of all time. Rolling Stone magazine has described Page as “the pontiff of power riffing” and ranked him number 3 in their list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”. In 2010, he was ranked number two in Gibson‘s list of “Top 50 Guitarists of All Time” and, in 2007, number four on Classic Rock‘s “100 Wildest Guitar Heroes”. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice; once as a member of the Yardbirds (1992) and once as a member of Led Zeppelin (1995). Page has been described by Uncut as “rock’s greatest and most mysterious guitar hero.”Los Angeles Times magazine voted Jimmy Page the 2nd Greatest Guitarist of all time.
Jimmy Page was born to James Patrick Page and Patricia Elizabeth Page (née Gaffikin) in the West London suburb of Heston, which today forms part of the London Borough of Hounslow. His father was an industrial personnel manager and his mother, who was of Irish descent, was a doctor’s secretary. In 1952, they moved to Feltham and then to Miles Road, Epsom in Surrey, which is where Page came across his first guitar. “I don’t know whether [the guitar] was left behind by the people [in the house] before [us], or whether it was a friend of the family’s—nobody seemed to know why it was there.” First playing the instrument at age twelve, he took a few lessons in nearby Kingston, but was largely self-taught:
When I grew up there weren’t many other guitarists … There was one other guitarist in my school who actually showed me the first chords that I learned and I went on from there. I was bored so I taught myself the guitar from listening to records. So obviously it was a very personal thing.
Among Page’s early influences were rockabilly guitarists Scotty Moore and James Burton, who both played on recordings made byElvis Presley. His song “Baby Let’s Play House” is cited by Page as being his inspiration to take up the guitar. Although he appeared on BBC1 in 1957 with a Hofner President, Page states that his first guitar was a second-hand 1959 Futurama Grazioso, later replaced by a Fender Telecaster.
Page’s musical tastes included skiffle (a popular English music genre of the time) and acoustic folk playing, and the blues sounds ofElmore James, B.B. King, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Freddie King and Hubert Sumlin. ”Basically, that was the start: a mixture between rock and blues.”
At 13, Page appeared on Huw Wheldon‘s All Your Own talent quest programme in a skiffle quartet, one performance of which aired on BBC1 in 1957. The group played “Mama Don’t Want to Skiffle Anymore” and another American-flavoured song, “In Them Ol’ Cottonfields Back Home.” When asked by Wheldon what he wanted to do after schooling, Page said, “I want to do biological research” to find a cure for “cancer, if it isn’t discovered by then.”
In an interview with Guitar Player magazine, Page stated that “there was a lot of busking in the early days, but as they say, I had to come to grips with it and it was a good schooling.” Page took a guitar to school each day only to have it confiscated and returned to him after class. Although interviewed for a job as a laboratory assistant, he ultimately chose to leave Danetree Secondary School, West Ewell, to pursue music.
Initially, Page had difficulty finding other musicians with whom he could play on a regular basis. “It wasn’t as though there was an abundance. I used to play in many groups … anyone who could get a gig together, really.” Following stints backing recitals by Beat poet Royston Ellis at the Mermaid Theatre between 1960–61, and singer Red E. Lewis, he was asked by singer Neil Christian to join his band, The Crusaders, after Christian had seen a fifteen-year-old Page playing in a local hall. Page toured with Christian for approximately two years and later played on several of his records, including the 1962 single, “The Road to Love.”
During his stint with Christian, Page fell seriously ill with glandular fever (infectious mononucleosis) and could not continue touring. While recovering, he decided to put his musical career on hold and concentrate on his other love, painting, and enrolled at Sutton Art College in Surrey. As he explained in 1975:
[I was] travelling around all the time in a bus. I did that for two years after I left school, to the point where I was starting to get really good bread. But I was getting ill. So I went back to art college. And that was a total change in direction. That’s why I say it’s possible to do. As dedicated as I was to playing the guitar, I knew doing it that way was doing me in forever. Every two months I had glandular fever. So for the next 18 months I was living on ten dollars a week and getting my strength up. But I was still playing.
Early 1960s: session musician
While still a student, Page often performed on stage at The Marquee with bands such as Cyril Davies‘ All Stars, Alexis Korner‘s Blues Incorporated and fellow guitarists Jeff Beckand Eric Clapton. He was spotted one night by John Gibb of Brian Howard & the Silhouettes, who asked him to help record some singles for Columbia Graphophone Company, including “The Worrying Kind”. Mike Leander of Decca Records first offered Page regular studio work. His first session for the label was the recording “Diamonds” by Jet Harris andTony Meehan, which went to Number 1 on the singles chart in early 1963.
After brief stints with Carter-Lewis and the Southerners, Mike Hurst and the Method and Mickey Finn and the Blue Men, Page committed himself to full-time session work. As a session guitarist he was known as ‘Lil’ Jim Pea’ to prevent confusion with the other noted English session guitarist Big Jim Sullivan. Page was mainly called into sessions as “insurance” in instances when a replacement or second guitarist was required by the recording artist. “It was usually myself and a drummer”, he explained, “though they never mention the drummer these days, just me … Anyone needing a guitarist either went to Big Jim [Sullivan] or myself.” He stated that “In the initial stages they just said, play what you want, cos at that time I couldn’t read music or anything.”
Page was the favoured session guitarist of record producer Shel Talmy. As a result, he secured session work on songs for the Who and the Kinks. Page is credited with playing acoustic twelve string guitar on two tracks on the Kinks’ debut album ”I’m a Lover Not a Fighter” and “I’ve Been Driving On Bald Mountain” and possibly on the b-side “I Gotta Move”. He played rhythm guitar on the sessions for the Who’s first single “I Can’t Explain“ (although Pete Townshend was reluctant to allow Page’s contribution on the final recording, Page also played lead guitar on the B-side “Bald Headed Woman“). Page’s studio gigs in 1964 included Marianne Faithfull‘s “As Tears Go By“, The Nashville Teens‘ “Tobacco Road“, The Rolling Stones‘ “Heart of Stone” (released on Metamorphosis), Van Morrison & Them‘s “Baby Please Don’t Go” and “Here Comes the Night“, Dave Berry’s“The Crying Game” and “My Baby Left Me”, Brenda Lee‘s “Is It True,” and Petula Clark‘s “Downtown“.
In 1965 Page was hired by Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham to act as house producer and A&R man for the newly formed Immediate Records label, which allowed him to play on and/or produce tracks by John Mayall, Nico, Chris Farlowe, Twice as Much and Clapton. Page also formed a brief songwriting partnership with then romantic interest, Jackie DeShannon. He composed and recorded songs for the John Williams (not the classical guitarist John Williams) album The Maureeny Wishful Album with Big Jim Sullivan. Page worked as session musician on Donovan Leitch’s Sunshine Superman (1966) and the Johnny Hallyday albums Jeune Homme (1968) and Je Suis Né Dans La Rue (1969), the Al Stewart album Love Chronicles (1969) and played guitar on five tracks of Joe Cocker‘s debut album, With a Little Help from My Friends. Over the years since 1970 Page played lead guitar on 10 Roy Harper tracks, comprising 81 minutes of music.
When questioned about which songs he played on, especially ones where there exists some controversy as to what his exact role was, Page often points out that it is hard to remember exactly what he did given the enormous number of sessions he was playing at the time In a radio interview he explained that “I was doing three sessions a day, fifteen sessions a week. Sometimes I would be playing with a group, sometimes I could be doing film music, it could be a folk session … I was able to fit all these different roles.”
Although Page recorded with many notable musicians, a lot of these early tracks are only available as bootleg recordings, several of which were released by the Led Zeppelin fan club in the late 1970s. One of the rarest of these is the early jam session featuring Jimmy Page and Stones guitarist Keith Richards covering Robert Johnson‘s “Little Queen of Spades”. Several early tracks with Page were compiled on the twin album release, Jimmy Page: Session Man. Page also recorded with Richards on guitar and vocals in Olympic Sound Studios on 15 October 1974. Along with Ric Grech on bass and Bruce Rowland on drums, a track called “Scarlet” was cut. Page reflected later in an interview with Rolling Stone’s Cameron Crowe: “I did what could possibly be the next Stones B side. It was Ric Grech, Keith and me doing a number called “Scarlet.” I can’t remember the drummer. It sounded very similar in style and mood to those Blonde on Blonde tracks. It was great, really good. We stayed up all night and went down to Island Studios where Keith put some reggae guitars over one section. I just put some solos on it, but it was eight in the morning of the next day before I did that. He took the tapes to Switzerland and someone found out about them. Keith told people that it was a track from my album”
Page left leave studio work when the increasing influence of Stax Records on popular music led to the greater incorporation of brass and orchestral arrangements into recordings at the expense of guitars. He stated that his time as a session player served as extremely good schooling:
My session work was invaluable. At one point I was playing at least three sessions a day, six days a week! And I rarely ever knew in advance what I was going to be playing. But I learned things even on my worst sessions – and believe me, I played on some horrendous things. I finally called it quits after I started getting calls to do Muzak. I decided I couldn’t live that life any more; it was getting too silly. I guess it was destiny that a week after I quit doing sessions Paul Samwell-Smith left the Yardbirds and I was able to take his place. But being a session musician was good fun in the beginning – the studio discipline was great. They’d just count the song off and you couldn’t make any mistakes.
Late 1960s: The Yardbirds
In late 1964, Page was approached about the possibility of replacing Eric Clapton in the Yardbirds, but he declined out of loyalty to his friend. In February 1965 Clapton quit the Yardbirds and Page was formally offered his spot, but because he was unwilling to give up his lucrative career as a session musician and because he was still worried about his health under touring conditions, he suggested his friend, Jeff Beck. On 16 May 1966, drummer Keith Moon, bass player John Paul Jones, keyboardist Nicky Hopkins, Jeff Beck and Page recorded “Beck’s Bolero” in London’s IBC Studios. The experience gave Page an idea to form a new supergroup featuring Beck, along with The Who‘s John Entwistle on bass and Keith Moon on drums. However, the lack of a quality vocalist and contractual problems prevented the project from getting off the ground. During this time, Moon suggested the name “Led Zeppelin” for the first time, after Entwistle commented that the proceedings would take to the air like a lead balloon.
Within weeks, Page attended a Yardbirds concert at Oxford. After the show he went backstage where Paul Samwell-Smith announced that he was leaving the group. Page offered to replace Samwell-Smith, and this was accepted by the group. He initially played electric bass with the Yardbirds before finally switching to twin lead guitar with Beck when Chris Dreja moved to bass. The musical potential of the line-up was scuttled, however, by interpersonal conflicts caused by constant touring and a lack of commercial success, although they released one single, “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago“. (While Page and Jeff Beck played together in the Yardbirds, the trio of Page, Beck and Clapton never played in the original group at the same time. The three guitarists did appear on stage together at the ARMS charity concerts in 1983.)
After Beck’s departure, the Yardbirds remained a quartet. They recorded one album with Page on lead guitar, Little Games. The album received indifferent reviews and was not a commercial success, peaking at only number 80 on the Billboard 200. Though their studio sound was fairly commercial at the time, the band’s live performances were just the opposite, becoming heavier and more experimental. These concerts featured musical aspects that Page would later perfect with Led Zeppelin, most notably performances of “Dazed and Confused“.
Once [the other Yardbirds] decided not to continue, then I was going to continue. And shift the whole thing up a notch … The whole thing was putting a group together and actually being able to play together. There were a lot of virtuoso musicians around at the time who didn’t gel as a band. That was the key: to find a band that was going to fire on all cylinders.
To this end, Page recruited vocalist Robert Plant and drummer John Bonham, and he was also contacted by John Paul Jones, who asked to join.] During the Scandinavian tourthe new group appeared as the New Yardbirds, but soon recalled the old joke by Keith Moon and John Entwistle. Page stuck with that name to use for his new band. Peter Grant changed it to “Led Zeppelin”, to avoid a mispronunciation of “Lead Zeppelin.”
1968–80: Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin are one of the best-selling music artists in the history of audio recording—various sources estimate the group’s sales at more than 200 or even 300 million albums worldwide. With 111.5 million RIAA-certified units they are the second-best-selling band in the United States. Each of their nine studio albums reached the top 10 of the US Billboard album chart, and six reached the number-one spot.
Led Zeppelin were the progenitors of heavy metal and hard rock, and their sound was largely the product of Page’s input as a producer and musician. The band’s individualistic style drew from a wide variety of influences, including folk music. They performed on multiple record-breaking concert tours, which also earned them a reputation for excess. Although they remained commercially and critically successful, in the later 1970s, the band’s output and touring schedule were limited by the personal difficulties of the members.
Page explained that he had a very specific idea in mind as to what he wanted Led Zeppelin to be, from the very beginning:
I had a lot of ideas from my days with the Yardbirds. The Yardbirds allowed me to improvise a lot in live performance and I started building a textbook of ideas that I eventually used in Zeppelin. In addition to those ideas, I wanted to add acoustic textures. Ultimately, I wanted Zeppelin to be a marriage of blues, hard rock and acoustic music topped with heavy choruses – a combination that had never been done before. Lots of light and shade in the music.
Post-Led Zeppelin career
Led Zeppelin broke up in 1980 following the death of drummer John Bonham at Page’s home, The Old Mill House at Clewer in Berkshire. Page initially refused to touch a guitar, grieving for his friend. Thereafter, his work consisted of a series of short-term collaborations in the bands the Firm, the Honeydrippers, reunions and individual work, including film soundtracks. He also became active in philanthropic work.
Page made a return to the stage at a Jeff Beck show in March 1981 at the Hammersmith Odeon. Also in 1981, Page joined with Yes bassistChris Squire and drummer Alan White to form a supergroup called XYZ (for ex-Yes-Zeppelin). They rehearsed several times, but the project was shelved. Bootlegs of these sessions revealed that some of the material emerged on later projects, notably The Firm’s “Fortune Hunter” and Yes songs “Mind Drive” and “Can You Imagine?”. Page joined Yes on stage in 1984 at Westfalenhalle in Dortmund, Germany, playing “I’m Down“.
In 1982 Page collaborated with director Michael Winner to record the Death Wish II soundtrack. This and several subsequent Page recordings, including the Death Wish III soundtrack (1985), were recorded and produced at his recording studio, The Sol in Cookham, which he had purchased from Gus Dudgeon in the early 1980s.
In 1983 Page appeared with the A.R.M.S. (Action Research for Multiple sclerosis) charity series of concerts which honoured Small Faces bassist Ronnie Lane, who suffered from the disease. For the first shows at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Page’s set consisted of songs from the Death Wish IIsoundtrack (with Steve Winwood on vocals) and an instrumental version of “Stairway to Heaven”. A four-city tour of the United States followed, with Paul Rodgers of Bad Company replacing Winwood. During the tour, Page and Rodgers performed “Midnight Moonlight” which would later appear on The Firm’s first album. All of the shows featured an on stage jam of “Layla” that reunited Page with Yardbirds guitarists Beck and Clapton. According to the book Hammer of the Gods, it was reportedly around this time that Page told friends that he had just ended seven years of heroin use. On 13 December 1983, Page joined Plant on stage for one encore at the Hammersmith Odeon in London.
Page next linked up with Roy Harper for the 1984 album (Whatever Happened to Jugula?) and occasional concerts, performing a predominantly acoustic set at folk festivals under various guises such as the MacGregors and Themselves. Also in 1984 Page recorded with Plant as the Honeydrippers the album The Honeydrippers: Volume 1 and with John Paul Jones on the film soundtrack Scream for Help.
Page subsequently collaborated with Rodgers on two albums under the name The Firm. The first album, released in 1985, was the self-titled The Firm. Popular songs included “Radioactive” and “Satisfaction Guaranteed”. The album peaked at number 17 on the Billboard pop albums chart and went gold in the US. It was followed by Mean Business in 1986. The band toured in support of both albums, but soon split up.
Various other projects followed, such as session work for Graham Nash, Stephen Stills and the Rolling Stones (on their 1986 single “One Hit (to the Body)“). In 1986, Page reunited temporarily with his ex-Yardbirds bandmates to play on several tracks of the Box of Frogs album Strange Land. Page released a solo album entitled Outrider in 1988 which featured contributions from Plant, with Page contributing in turn to Plant’s solo album Now and Zen, which was released the same year.
Throughout these years Page also reunited with the other former bandmates of Led Zeppelin to perform live on a few occasions, most notably in 1985 for the Live Aid concert with both Phil Collins and Tony Thompson filling drum duties. However, the band members considered this performance to be sub-standard, with Page having been let down by a poorly tuned Les Paul. Page, Plant and Jones, as well as John Bonham‘s son Jason, performed at the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary show on 14 May 1988, closing the 12-hour show.
In 1990, a Knebworth concert to aid the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Centre and the British School for Performing Arts and Technology saw Plant unexpectedly joined by Page to perform “Misty Mountain Hop“, “Wearing and Tearing” and “Rock and Roll“. Page also performed with the band’s former members at various private family functions.
In 1994, Page reunited with Plant for the penultimate performance in MTV’s “Unplugged” series. The 90-minute special, dubbed Unledded, premiered to the highest ratings in MTV’s history. In October of the same year, the session was released as the CD No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded and in 2004 as the DVD No Quarter Unledded. Following a highly successful mid-’90s tour to support No Quarter, Page and Plant recorded 1998′s Walking into Clarksdale.
Page was heavily involved in remastering the Led Zeppelin catalogue. He participated in various charity concerts and charity work, particularly the Action for Brazil’s Children Trust(ABC Trust), founded by his wife Jimena Gomez-Paratcha in 1998. In the same year, Page played guitar for rap singer/producer Puff Daddy‘s song “Come with Me“, which heavily samples Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” and was included in the soundtrack of Godzilla. The two later performed the song on Saturday Night Live.
In October 1999, Page teamed up with The Black Crowes for a two-night performance of material from the Led Zeppelin catalogue and old blues and rock standards. The concert was recorded and released as a double live album, Live at the Greek in 2000. In 2001 he made an appearance on stage with Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst and Wes Scantlin ofPuddle of Mudd at the MTV Europe Video Music Awards in Frankfurt, where they performed a version of Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You“
n 2005, Page was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in recognition of his Brazilian charity work for Task Brazil and Action For Brazil’s Children’s Trust, made an honorary citizen of Rio de Janeiro later that year and was awarded a Grammy award.
In November 2006, Led Zeppelin was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame. The television broadcasting of the event consisted of an introduction to the band by various famous admirers (including Roger Taylor, Slash, Joe Perry, Steven Tyler, Jack White and Tony Iommi), a presentation of an award to Jimmy Page and then a short speech by the guitarist. After this, rock group Wolfmother played a tribute to Led Zeppelin, playing the song “Communication Breakdown“.
In 2006, Page attended the induction of Led Zeppelin to the UK Music Hall of Fame. During an interview for the BBC for said event, he expressed plans to record new material in 2007, saying: “It’s an album that I really need to get out of my system …there’s a good album in there and it’s ready to come out” and “Also there will be some Zeppelin things on the horizon.”
For the 2008 Olympics, Jimmy Page, David Beckham and Leona Lewis represented Britain during the closing ceremonies on 24 August 2008. Beckham rode a double-decker bus into the stadium and Page and Lewis performed “Whole Lotta Love“.
In 2008 Page co-produced a documentary film directed by Davis Guggenheim entitled It Might Get Loud. The film examines the history of the electric guitar, focusing on the careers and styles of Page, the Edge and Jack White. The film premiered on 5 September 2008 at the Toronto Film Festival. Page also participated in the three-part BBC documentary London Calling: The making of the Olympic handover ceremony on 4 March 2009. On 4 April 2009, Page inducted Jeff Beck into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Page has announced his 2010 solo tour while talking to the Sky News on 16 December 2009.
In January 2010, Jimmy Page announced an autobiography published by Genesis Publications, in a hand-crafted, limited edition of 2,150 copies. Page was honoured with a first-ever Global Peace Award by the United Nations’ Pathways to Peace organisation after confirming reports that he would be among the headliners at a planned Show of Peace Concert in Beijing, China, on 10 October 2010.
On 3 June 2011, Jimmy Page played with Donovan at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The concert was filmed. Page made an unannounced appearance with The Black Crowes at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London on 13 July 2011. He also played alongside Roy Harper at Harper’s 70th-birthday celebratory concert, in London’s Royal Festival Hall on 13 July 2011.
In November 2011, Conservative MP Louise Mensch launched a campaign to have Page knighted for his contributions to the music industry.
In December 2012, Page, along with Plant and Jones, received the annual Kennedy Center Honors from President Barack Obama in a White House ceremony. The honour is the US’s highest award for those who have influenced American culture through the arts.
Legacy and influence
Page’s experiences both in the studio and with the Yardbirds were very influential in contributing to the success of Led Zeppelin in the 1970s. As a record producer, songwriter, and guitarist he helped make Led Zeppelin a prototype for countless future rock bands and was one of the major driving forces behind the rock sound of that era, influencing a host of other guitarists. Allmusic states that “just about every rock guitarist from the late ’60s/early ’70s to the present day has been influenced by Page’s work with Led Zeppelin”. For example, Dictators bassist Andy Shernoff states that Jimmy Page’s sped up, downstroke guitar riff in “Communication Breakdown“, an influential song that contained elements of protopunk,was an inspiration for Ramones guitarist Johnny Ramone‘s downstroke guitar style. Ramone, who has described Page as “probably the greatest guitarist who ever lived”, stated in the documentary “Ramones: The True Story” that he improved at his down-stroke picking style by playing the song over and over again for the bulk of his early career. Brian May of Queen, who was also influenced by Page, has said: “I don’t think anyone has epitomised riff writing better than Jimmy Page – he’s one of the great brains of rock music.” Tom Scholz of Boston was heavily influenced by Jimmy Page and credits the dual guitar harmonies in Led Zeppelin’s “How Many More Times” as the inspiration for Boston’s distinctive sound. Page’s guitar solo from the song “Heartbreaker” has been credited by Eddie Van Halen as being the inspiration for his two-hand tapping technique after he had seen Led Zeppelin perform in 1971.Similarly, Steve Vai has also commented about the song in a September 1998 Guitar World interview: “This one [Heartbreaker] had the biggest impact on me as a youth. It was defiant, bold and edgier than hell. It really is the definitive rock guitar solo.”
Many other rock guitarists were also influenced by Jimmy Page, including Ace Frehley, Joe Satriani, John Frusciante, James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Zakk Wylde, Yngwie Malmsteen, Ritchie Blackmore, Joe Perry, Richie Sambora, Angus Young,Slash, Dave Mustaine, Mike McCready, Jerry Cantrell, Stone Gossard, Mick Mars, Paul Stanley, Alex Lifeson, and Dan Hawkins, have all expressed his influence on their playing.
Page has been described by Uncut as “rock’s greatest and most mysterious guitar hero”. According to NBCNews.com, Jimmy Page “played some of the most fundamental and memorable guitar in rock history—from the heaviest crunch to the most delicate acoustic finger picking.”Page’s solo in the famous epic “Stairway to Heaven” has been voted by readers of Guitar World and Total Guitar as the greatest guitar solo of all time and he was named ‘Guitarist of the Year’ five times during the 1970s in Creem magazine’s annual reader poll. Guitar World wrote: “Truly a guitar god, Jimmy Page is one of the most captivating soloists the rock world has ever known.” In 1996, Mojo Magazine ranked him number 7 on their list of “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”. In 2002 he was voted the second greatest guitarist of all time in a Total Guitar magazine reader poll. In 2007, Classic Rock Magazine ranked him number four on their list of the “100 Wildest Guitar Heroes”. Gigwise.com, an online music magazine, ranked Page number two on their list of the “50 greatest guitarists ever” in 2008. In August 2009, Time magazine ranked him the 6th greatest electric-guitar player of all time. In 2010, Jimmy Page was ranked number two on Gibson‘s “Top 50 Guitarists of All Time”. In 2004, David Fricke, senior editor at Rolling Stone magazine, ranked him the 9th-greatest guitarist of all time and described him as “the pontiff of power riffing”. In 2011, Page ranked number 3 in an updated version of the same list.
Fricke also described Jimmy Page in 1988 as “probably the most digitally sampled artist in pop today after James Brown.” Roger Daltrey of the Who has been a longtime fan of Page and expressed his desire to form a supergroup with Page in 2010 saying: “I’d love to do something, I’d love to do an album with Jimmy Page.” Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones has described Jimmy Page as “one of the best guitar players I’ve ever known.” Jimmy Page was the first inductee onto the British Walk of Fame in August 2004.] Page was awarded “Living Legend Award” at Classic Rock Magazine Roll of Honour 2007. In June 2008, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Surrey for his services to the music industry. Page was inducted into Mojo Hall of Fame at the magazine’s award ceremony on 11 June 2010.
Equipment and recording techniques
For the recording of most of Led Zeppelin material from Led Zeppelin’s second album onwards, Page used a Gibson Les Paul guitar (sold to him by Joe Walsh) with Marshall amplification. A Harmony Sovereign H-1260 was used in-studio on Led Zeppelin III and Led Zeppelin IV and on-stage from 5 March 1971 to 28 June 1972. During the studio sessions for Led Zeppelin and later for recording the guitar solo in “Stairway to Heaven”, he used a Fender Telecaster (a gift from Jeff Beck). He also used a Danelectro 3021, tuned to DADGAD, most notably on live performances of “Kashmir“.
Page also plays his guitar with a cello bow, as on the live versions of the songs “Dazed and Confused” and “How Many More Times“. This was a technique he developed during his session days. On MTV’s Led Zeppelin Rockumentary, Page said that he obtained the idea of playing the guitar with a bow from David McCallum, Sr. who was also a session musician. Page used his Fender Telecaster and later his Gibson Les Paul for his bow solos.
In August 2010, Auburn University graduate student Justin Havird named a new species of fish “Lepidocephalichthys zeppelini” after Led Zeppelin, because the fish’s pectoral fin reminded him of the double-neck guitar used by Jimmy Page.
- 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard (No. 1). Sold to Page by Joe Walsh for $1200. This guitar was also used by Gibson as the model for the company’s second run of Page signature models in 2004. Produced by Gibson and aged by luthier Tom Murphy, this second generation of Page tribute models was limited to 25 guitars signed by Page himself; and only 150 guitars in total for the aged model issue.
- 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard (No. 2) with a shaved-down neck to match the profile on his No. 1. He added four push/pull pots to coil split the humbuckers as well as phase and series switches which were added under the pick guard after the break-up of Led Zeppelin.
- 1971 Gibson EDS-1275. Used for playing “Stairway to Heaven”, “The Song Remains the Same“, “The Rain Song“, “Celebration Day” during live concerts, “Tangerine” (1975 Earls Court shows) and “Sick Again” (1977 North American tour)
- 1959 Fender Telecaster. Given to Page by Jeff Beck and repainted with a psychedelic dragon design by Page. Played with the Yardbirds. Used to record the first Led Zeppelin album and used on the early tours during 1968–69. In 1971, it was used for recording the “Stairway to Heaven” solo.
- 1991 Gibson Les Paul Custom Shop. English luthier Roger Giffin built a guitar for Page based loosely on Page’s #2. Giffin’s work was later copied for Gibson’s original run of Jimmy Page Signature model Les Pauls in the mid-1990s.
- 1961 Danelectro 3021. Tuned to DADGAD and used live for “White Summer”, “Black Mountain Side”, “Kashmir” and “Midnight Moonlight” with The Firm. Also tuned to open G live for “In My Time of Dying”.
- 1958 Danelectro 3021. Tuned to open G and used on the Outrider tour. This one has a smaller pickguard, as opposed to the large “seal” pickguard on his 1961 Danelectro.
- 1967 Vox 12-string used during the recording for the Yardbirds album Little Games and for onstage appearances.
- 1960 Black Gibson Les Paul Custom (with Bigsby Tremolo) – stolen in 1970. Page ran an ad requesting the return of this highly modified instrument but the guitar was never recovered. In 2008 the Gibson Custom Shop produced a limited run of 25 re-creations of the guitar, each with a Bigsby Tremolo and a new custom 6-way toggle switch.
- 1953 Botswana Brown Fender Telecaster featuring a Parsons and White B-string bender, with a maple neck and then salvaged the rosewood neck from the “Dragon Telecaster”. Seen primarily during the 1980s since it was one of his main guitars on stage during The Firm and Outrider era. Also used on the Led Zeppelin’s 1977 concert tour of the United States and at Knebworth in 1979, notably on “Ten Years Gone” and “Hot Dog”.
- 1969 Gibson Les Paul DeLuxe (No. 3). Seen in The Song Remains the Same during the theremin/solo section of “Whole Lotta Love” and for “Kashmir” at the O2 reunion concert. In 1985, the guitar was fitted with a Parsons-White B-string bender and used extensively by Page from the mid-to-late 1980s onward, including the Outrider tour and the Page/Plant “Unledded” special on MTV.
- 1964 Lake Placid Blue Fender Stratocaster. Used during recording sessions for In Through the Out Door at Earls Court 1975 and in 1979 at Knebworth for In the Evening.
- 1966 Cream Fender Telecaster (used on Physical Graffiti and on “All My Love” during the Tour Over Europe 1980).
- 1965 Fender Electric XII (12-String) used to record “Thank You” and “Stairway to Heaven”.
- 1972 Martin D28 used to record acoustic songs after Led Zeppelin IV, used live at Earls Court 1975
- In 1994 Andy Manson was commissioned to make another triple neck guitar for Page. It was used during the “Unledded” performances.
Ernie Ball Super Slinky electric guitar strings .009s-.042s
Gibson released Jimmy Page Signature Les Paul, discontinued in 1999, then released another version in 2004, which was also discontinued. The 2004 version included 25 guitars signed by Page, 150 aged by Tom Murphy (an acknowledged ageing “master”) and 840 “unlimited” production guitars. The Jimmy Page Signature EDS-1275 has been produced by Gibson. Recently, Gibson reproduced Page’s 1960 Les Paul Black Beauty, the one stolen from him in 1970, with modern modifications. This guitar was sold in 2008 with a run of 25, again signed by Page, plus an additional 500 unsigned guitars.
In December 2009, Gibson released the ‘Jimmy Page “Number Two” Les Paul’.This is a re-creation of Page’s famous number 2 Les Paul used by him since about 1974. The model includes the same pick-up switching setup as devised by Page, shaved-down neck profile, Burstbucker pick-up at neck and “Pagebucker” at the bridge. A total of 325 were made in three finishes: 25 Aged by Gibson’s Tom Murphy, signed and played by Page ($26,000), 100 aged ($16,000) and 200 with VOS finish ($12,000).
Amplifiers and effects
He usually recorded in studio with a Vox AC30, Fender and Orange amplification. The first Led Zeppelin album and the solo on “Stairway to Heaven” were played on a Fender Telecaster through a Supro amplifier.
Page used a limited number of effects, including a Maestro Echoplex,a Dunlop Cry Baby, an MXR Phase 90, a Vox Cry Baby Wah, a Boss CE-2 Chorus, a Yamaha CH-10Mk II Chorus, a Sola Sound Tone Bender Professional Mk II, an MXR Blue Box (distortion/octaver) and a DigiTech Whammy. Page also played a theremin.
Music production techniques
Jimmy Page is credited for the innovations in sound recording he brought to the studio during the years he was a member of Led Zeppelin, many of which he had initially developed as a session musician:
This apprenticeship … became a part of [learning] how things were recorded. I started to learn microphone placements and things like that, what did and what didn’t work. I certainly knew what did and didn’t work with drummers because they put drummers in these little sound booths that had no sound deflection at all and the drums would just sound awful. The reality of it is the drum is a musical instrument, it relies on having a bright room and a live room … And so bit by bit I was learning really how not to record.
He developed a reputation for employing effects in new ways and trying out different methods of using microphones and amplification. During the late 1960s, most British music producers placed microphones directly in front of amplifiers and drums, resulting in the sometimes “tinny” sound of the recordings of the era. Page commented to Guitar Worldmagazine that he felt the drum sounds of the day in particular “sounded like cardboard boxes.” Instead, Page was a fan of 1950s recording techniques, Sun Studios being a particular favourite. In the same Guitar World interview, Page remarked: “Recording used to be a science” and “[engineers] used to have a maxim: distance equals depth.” Taking this maxim to heart, Page developed the idea of placing an additional microphone some distance from the amplifier (as much as twenty feet) and then recording the balance between the two. By adopting this technique, Page became one of the first British producers to record a band’s “ambient sound” – the distance of a note’s time-lag from one end of the room to the other.
For the recording of several Led Zeppelin tracks, such as “Whole Lotta Love” and “You Shook Me“, Page additionally utilised “reverse echo” – a technique which he claims to have invented himself while with the Yardbirds (he had originally developed the method when recording the 1967 single “Ten Little Indians“). This production technique involved hearing the echo before the main sound instead of after it, achieved by turning the tape over and employing the echo on a spare track, then turning the tape back over again to get the echo preceding the signal.
Page has stated that, as producer, he deliberately changed the audio engineers on Led Zeppelin albums, from Glyn Johns for the first album, to Eddie Kramer for Led Zeppelin II, toAndy Johns for Led Zeppelin III and later albums. He explained: “I consciously kept changing engineers because I didn’t want people to think that they were responsible for our sound. I wanted people to know it was me.”
John Paul Jones acknowledged that Page’s production techniques were a key component of the success of Led Zeppelin:
The backwards echo stuff [and] a lot of the microphone techniques were just inspired. Using distance-miking … and small amplifiers. Everybody thinks we go in the studio with huge walls of amplifiers, but Page doesn’t. He uses a really small amplifier and he just mikes it up really well, so that it fits into a sonic picture.
In an interview that Page himself gave to Guitar World magazine in 1993, he remarked on his work as a producer:
Many people think of me as just a riff guitarist, but I think of myself in broader terms … As a record producer I would like to be remembered as someone who was able to sustain a band of unquestionable individual talent and push it to the forefront during its working career. I think I really captured the best of our output, growth, change and maturity on tape – the multifaceted gem that is Led
French model Charlotte Martin was Page’s partner from 1970 to about 1982 or 1983. Page called her “My Lady”. Together they have a daughter, Scarlet Page (born in 1971), who is a photographer.
From 1986 to 1995 Page was married to Patricia Ecker, a model and waitress. They have a son, James Patrick Page III (born April 1988). Page later married Jimena Gómez-Paratcha, whom he met in Brazil on the No Quarter tour. He adopted her oldest daughter Jana (born 1994) and they have two children together: Zofia Jade (born 1997) and Ashen Josan (born 1999). Page and Paratcha divorced in 2008.
In 1972 Page bought, from Richard Harris, the home that William Burges (1827–1881) designed for himself in London, The Tower House. “I had an interest going back to my teens in the pre-Raphaelite movement and the architecture of Burges,” he said. “What a wonderful world to discover.” The reputation of Burges rests on his extravagant designs and his contribution to the Gothic revival in architecture in the nineteenth century.
From the early 1970s to the early 1990s, Page owned the Boleskine House, the former residence of occultist Aleister Crowley. Sections of Page’s fantasy sequence in the film The Song Remains the Same were filmed at night on the mountain side directly behind Boleskine House.
According to Sunday Times Rich List, Page’s assets are worth £75 million as of 2012. He resides in Sonning, Berkshire in Deanery Garden, a house designed by Edwin Lutyens for the owner of Country Life magazine, Edward Hudson. Page also previously owned Plumpton Place in Sussex, also formerly owned by Edward Hudson and with certain parts of the house also designed by Edwin Lutyens. This house features in the Zeppelin film The Song Remains The Same where Jimmy is seen sitting on the lawn playing a hurdy gurdy.
Recreational drug use
Page has acknowledged heavy recreational drug use throughout the 1970s. In an interview with Guitar World magazine in 2003, he stated: “I can’t speak for the [other members of the band], but for me drugs were an integral part of the whole thing, right from the beginning, right to the end.” After the band’s 1973 concert tour of the United States, Page toldNick Kent: “Oh, everyone went over the top a few times. I know I did and, to be honest with you, I don’t really remember much of what happened.”
In 1975, Page began to use heroin, a claim attributed to Richard Cole, who stated that Page (in addition to himself) was taking the drug during the recording sessions of the albumPresence in that year and that Page admitted to him shortly afterwards that he was addicted to the drug.
By Led Zeppelin’s 1977 tour of the United States, Page’s heroin addiction was beginning to hamper his guitar playing performances. By this time the guitarist had lost a noticeable amount of weight. His onstage appearance was not the only obvious change; his addiction caused Page to become so inward and isolated it altered the dynamics between him and Plant considerably. During the recording sessions for In Through the Out Door in 1978, Page’s diminished influence on the album (relative to bassist John Paul Jones) is partly attributed to his heroin addiction, which resulted in his absence from the studio for long periods of time.
Page reportedly kicked his heroin habit in the early 1980s. In a 1988 interview with Musician magazine, Page took offence when the interviewer noted that heroin had been associated with his name and insisted: “Do I look as if I’m a smack addict? Well, I’m not. Thank you very much.”
I don’t regret it at all because when I needed to be really focused, I was really focused. That’s it. Both Presence and In Through the Out Door were only recorded in three weeks: that’s really going some. You’ve got to be on top of it.
Interest in the occult
The appearance of four symbols on the jacket of Led Zeppelin’s fourth album has been linked to Page’s interest in the occult. The four symbols represented each member of the band. Page’s own so-called “Zoso” symbol originated in Ars Magica Arteficii (1557) byGerolamo Cardano, an old alchemical grimoire, where it has been identified as a sigil consisting of zodiac signs. The sigil is reproduced in Dictionary of Occult, Hermetic and Alchemical Sigils by Fred Gettings.
During tours and performances after the release of the fourth album, Page often had the “Zoso” symbol embroidered on his clothes, along with zodiac symbols. These were visible most notably on his “Dragon Suit”, which included the signs for Capricorn, Scorpio and Cancer which are Page’s Sun, Ascendant and Moon signs, respectively.
The artwork inside the album cover of Led Zeppelin IV is from a painting attributed to the artist Barrington Colby MOM, influenced by the traditional Rider/Waite Tarot card design for the card called “The Hermit”. Very little is known about Colby and rumours have persisted down the years that Page himself is responsible for the painting. Page transforms into this character during his fantasy sequence in Led Zeppelin’s concert film The Song Remains the Same.
In the early 1970s Page owned an occult bookshop and publishing house, The Equinox Booksellers and Publishers, in Kensington High Street, London, eventually closing it as the increasing success of Led Zeppelin occupied his time. The company published a facsimile of English occultist’s Aleister Crowley‘s 1904 edition of The Goetia. Page has maintained a strong interest in Crowley for many years. In 1978, he explained:
I feel Aleister Crowley is a misunderstood genius of the 20th century. It is because his whole thing was liberation of the person, of the entity and that restrictions would foul you up, lead to frustration which leads to violence, crime, mental breakdown, depending on what sort of makeup you have underneath. The further this age we’re in now gets into technology and alienation, a lot of the points he’s made seem to manifest themselves all down the line. …I’m not saying it’s a system for anybody to follow. I don’t agree with everything but I find a lot of it relevant and it’s those things that people attacked him on, so he was misunderstood….I’m not trying to interest anyone in Aleister Crowley any more than I am in Charles Dickens. All it was, was that at a particular time he was expounding a theory of self-liberation, which is something which is so important. He was like an eye to the world, into the forthcoming situation. My studies have been quite intensive, but I don’t particularly want to go into it because it’s a personal thing and isn’t in relation to anything apart from the fact that I’ve employed his system in my own day to day life….The thing is to come to terms with one’s free will, discover one’s place and what one is, and from that you can go ahead and do it and not spend your whole life suppressed and frustrated. It’s very basically coming to terms with yourself.
Page was commissioned to write the soundtrack music for the film Lucifer Rising by Crowley admirer and underground movie director Kenneth Anger. Page ultimately produced 23 minutes of music, which Anger felt was insufficient because the film ran for 28 minutes and Anger wanted the film to have a full soundtrack. Anger claimed Page took three years to deliver the music and the final product was only 23 minutes of “droning”. The director also slammed the guitarist in the press by calling him a “dabbler” in the occult and an addict and being too strung out on drugs to complete the project. Page countered that he had fulfilled all his obligations, even going so far as to lend Anger his own film editing equipment to help him finish the project. Page released the Lucifer Rising music on vinyl in 2012 via his website on “Lucifer Rising and other sound tracks”. Side one contained “Lucifer Rising – Main Track”, whilst side two contained the tracks “Incubus”, “Damask”, “Unharmonics”, “Damask – Ambient”, and “Lucifer Rising – Percussive Return”. In the December 2012 Rolling Stone cover story “Jimmy Page Looks Back”, Page said: “…there was a request, suggesting that Lucifer Rising should come out again with my music on. I ignored it.”
Although Page collected works by Crowley, he has never described himself as a Thelemite nor was he ever initiated into the O.T.O. The Equinox Bookstore and Boleskine House were both sold off during the 1980s, as Page settled into family life and participated in charity work.
Discography (Studio albums)
- Whatever Happened to Jugula? (1985) (with Roy Harper)
- The Firm (1985) (with The Firm)
- Mean Business (1986) (with The Firm)
- Outrider (1988)
- Coverdale and Page (1993) (with David Coverdale)
- Walking into Clarksdale (1998) (with Robert Plant)
Mark Freuder Knopfler, born 12 August 1949, is a British musician, vocalist, songwriter, record producer and film score composer. He is best known as the lead guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter for the British rock band Dire Straits, which he co-founded with his brother, David Knopfler in 1977. After Dire Straits disbanded in 1995, Knopfler went on to record and produce seven solo albums, and, as during his previous tenure, produced many hit songs. He has composed and produced film scores for eight films, including Local Hero (1983), Cal (1984), The Princess Bride (1987), and Wag the Dog (1997).In addition to his work with Dire Straits and as a solo artist and composer, Knopfler has recorded and performed with many prominent musicians, including Chet Atkins, The Chieftains, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Bryan Ferry, Emmylou Harris, Jools Holland, Sonny Landreth, Van Morrison, Steely Dan, and Sting, sometimes working as a session musician. He has produced albums for Tina Turner, Bob Dylan, and Randy Newman.
Knopfler is a fingerstyle guitarist and was ranked 27th on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.Knopfler and Dire Straits have sold in excess of 120 million albums to date. A four-time Grammy Award winner, Knopfler is the recipient of the Edison Award and the Steiger Award, and holds three honorary doctorate degrees in music from universities in the United Kingdom.
Early life (1949–1976)
Mark Freuder Knopfler was born on 12 August 1949 in Glasgow, Scotland, to an English mother and Hungarian father. His father was an architect and a chess player, whose anti-fascist sympathies and Jewish parentage forced him to flee from his native Hungary in 1939 even though Knopfler later described his father as a Marxist Agnostic.The Knopflers originally lived in the Glasgow area and Mark Knopfler’s younger brother David was also born there, on 27 December 1952. The family re-settled in Knopfler’s mother’s home town of Blyth, Northumberland, in North East England when he was 7 years old. Mark Knopfler had attended Bearsden Primary school in Scotland for two years, but both brothers attended Gosforth Grammar School. Inspired by his uncle Kingsley’s harmonica and boogie-woogie piano playing, Mark wanted to buy an expensive Fiesta Red Fender Stratocaster just like Hank Marvin‘s, but had to settle for a £50 twin-pick-up Höfner Super Solid. During the 1960s, he formed and joined schoolboy bands and listened to singers like Elvis Presley and guitarists Chet Atkins, Scotty Moore, B.B King, Django Reinhardt, Hank Marvin, and James Burton. At 16 he made a local TV appearance as part of a harmony duo, with his classmate Sue Hercombe.
In 1968, after studying journalism for a year at Harlow College, Knopfler was hired as a junior reporter in Leeds for the Yorkshire Evening Post. Two years later, he decided to further his studies, and went on to graduate with a degree in English at the University of Leeds.In April 1970, while living in Leeds, Knopfler recorded a demo disk of an original song he’d written, “Summer’s Coming My Way”. The recording included Knopfler (guitar and vocals), Steve Phillips (second guitar), Dave Johnson (bass), and Paul Granger (percussion). Johnson, Granger, and vocalist Mick Dewhirst played with Knopfler in a band called Silverheels.
Upon graduation in 1973, Knopfler moved to London and joined a High Wycombe-based band called Brewers Droop, appearing on the album The Booze Brothers. One night while spending some time with friends, the only guitar available was an old acoustic with a badly warped neck that had been strung with extra-light strings to make it playable. Even so, he found it impossible to play unless he finger-picked it. He said in a later interview, “That was where I found my ‘voice’ on guitar.” After a brief stint with Brewers Droop, Knopfler took a job as a lecturer at Loughton College in Essex—a position he held for three years. Throughout this time, he continued performing with local pub bands, including the Café Racers.He also formed a duo with long-time associate bluesman Steve Phillips called The Duolian String Pickers.
By the mid-1970s, Knopfler devoted much of his musical energies to his group, the Café Racers. His brother David moved to London, where he shared a flat with John Illsley; a guitarist who changed over to playing bass guitar. In April 1977, Mark gave up his flat in Buckhurst Hill and moved in with David and John. The three began playing music together, and soon Mark invited John to join the Café Racers.
Dire Straits (1977–1995)
Dire Straits’ first demos were done in three sessions during 1977, with Pick Withers as drummer, David Knopfler as rhythm guitarist and John Illsley on bass guitar. On 27 July 1977 they recorded the now famous demo tapes of five songs: “Wild West End“, “Sultans of Swing“, “Down to the Waterline”, “Sacred Loving” (a David Knopfler song) and “Water of Love”. In what was probablyOctober they recorded “Southbound Again”, “In The Gallery” and “Six Blade Knife” for BBC Radio London and, finally, on 9 November demo tapes were made of “Setting Me Up“, “Eastbound Train” and “Real Girl”. Many of these songs reflected Mark’s experiences in Newcastle, Leeds and London, and were to be featured on their first album, the self-titled Dire Straits which was released in the following year: “Down To The Waterline” recalled images of life in Newcastle; “In The Gallery” is a tribute to a Leeds sculptor/artist named Harry Phillips, (father of Steve Phillips); and “Lions”, “Wild West End” and “Eastbound Train” were all drawn from Mark’s early days in the capital.
Initially on its release, Dire Straits received little fanfare in the UK, but when “Sultans of Swing” was released as a single it became a chart hit in The Netherlands and album sales took off, first across Europe and then in the United States and Canada, and finally the UK. The group’s second album, Communiqué, produced by Jerry Wexler and Barry Beckett, followed in 1979, reaching number one in France while the first album was still at number three.
There were frequent personnel changes within Dire Straits after the release of their third album Making Movies, with Mark Knopfler remaining a constant member. Released in 1980, Making Movies marked a move towards more complex arrangements and production which continued for the remainder of the group’s career. The album included many of Mark Knopfler’s most personal compositions, most notably “Romeo and Juliet” and “Tunnel of Love“. Love over Gold followed in 1982 and included the UK No. 2 hit “Private Investigations“, “Telegraph Road“, “Industrial Disease” and “It Never Rains” as well as the title track to that album.
With Love Over Gold still in the albums charts, the band released a four-song EP titled ExtendedancEPlay in early 1983. Featuring the hit single “Twisting By the Pool”, this was the first output by the band that featured new drummer Terry Williams, (formerly of Rockpile), who had replaced Pick Withers in November 1982. A world tour followed later in 1983, and in March 1984 the double album Alchemy Live was released. Alchemy Live documented the recordings of two live shows in Hammersmith Odeon in London in July 1983, and reached number three in the UK Albums Chart.
During 1983 and 1984 Knopfler was involved with other projects as well, including writing and producing the music score to the film Local Hero which was a large success,and it was followed in 1984 by his scores for the films Cal and Comfort and Joy. Also during this time Knopfler produced Bob Dylan‘s Infidels album, as well as Knife by Aztec Camera. He also wrote the song “Private Dancer” for Tina Turner‘s comeback album of the same name.
Dire Straits’ biggest studio album by far was their fifth, Brothers in Arms, recorded at Air Studios Montserrat and released in May 1985. It became an international blockbuster which has now sold more than 30 million copies worldwide, and is the fourth best selling album in UK chart history.Brothers in Arms spawned several chart singles including the US # 1 hit “Money for Nothing“, which was the first video ever to be played on MTV in Britain. It was also the first compact disc to sell a million copies and is largely credited for launching the CD format as it was also one of the first DDD CDs ever released. Other successful singles were “So Far Away“, “Walk of Life“, and the album’s title track. The band’s 1985–86 world tour of over 230 shows was immensely successful.
After the Brothers in Arms tour Dire Straits ceased to work together for some time, Knopfler concentrating mainly on film soundtracks. Knopfler joined the charity ensemble Ferry Aid on “Let It Be” in the wake of the Zeebrugge ferry disaster. The song reached No. 1 on the UK singles chart in March 1987. Knopfler wrote the music score for the film The Princess Bride which was released at the end of 1987.
Mark Knopfler also took part in a comedy skit (featured on the French and Saunders Show) titled “The Easy Guitar Book Sketch” with comedian Rowland Rivron and fellow British musicians David Gilmour, Lemmy from Motorhead, Mark King from Level 42, and Gary Moore. Phil Taylor explained in an interview that Knopfler used Gilmour’s guitar rig and managed to sound like himself when performing in the skit.
Dire Straits regrouped for the 11 June 1988 Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert at Wembley Stadium, in which they were the headline act, and were accompanied by Elton John and Eric Clapton,who by this time had developed a strong friendship with Knopfler. Shortly after this, drummer Terry Williams left the band. In September 1988 Mark Knopfler announced the official dissolution of Dire Straits, saying that he “needed a rest”,and in October 1988, a “best of” album, Money for Nothing, was released and reached number one in the United Kingdom.
In 1989 Knopfler formed The Notting Hillbillies, a band at the other end of the commercial spectrum. It leaned heavily towards American roots music – folk, blues and country music. The band members included keyboardist Guy Fletcher, with Brendan Croker and Steve Phillips. For both the album and the tour Paul Franklin was added to the line-up on pedal steel. The Notting Hillbillies sole studio album, Missing…Presumed Having a Good Time was released in 1990, and Knopfler then toured with the Notting Hillbillies for the remainder of that year. He further emphasised his country music influences with his 1990s collaboration with Chet Atkins, Neck and Neck, which resulted in three Grammy awards. The Hillbillies toured the UK in early 1990 with a limited number of shows. In this low-key tour the band packed out smaller venues such as Newcastle University.
In 1990 Knopfler, John Illsley, and Alan Clark performed as Dire Straits at Knebworth, joined by Eric Clapton, Ray Cooper, and guitarist Phil Palmer (who was at that time part of Eric Clapton’s touring band), and in January the following year, Knopfler, John Illsley and manager Ed Bicknell decided to reform Dire Straits. Knopfler, Illsley, Alan Clark, and Guy Fletcher set about recording what turned out to be their final studio album accompanied by several part-time sidemen, including Phil Palmer, pedal steel guitarist Paul Franklin, percussionist Danny Cummings and Toto drummer Jeff Porcaro.
The follow-up to Brothers in Arms was finally released in September 1991. On Every Street was nowhere near as popular as its predecessor, and met with a mixed critical reaction, with some reviewers regarding the album as an underwhelming comeback after a six-year break. Nonetheless, the album sold well and reached No. 1 in the UK. A gruelling world tour to accompany the album followed, which lasted until the end of 1992. This was to be Dire Straits’ final world tour; it was not as well received as the previous Brothers in Arms tour, and by this time Mark Knopfler had had enough of such huge operations. This drove the band into the ground, and ultimately led to the group’s final dissolution in 1995.
Following the tour, Knopfler took some time off from the music business. In 1993, he received an honorary music doctorate from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.Two more Dire Straits albums were released, both live albums. On the Night, released in May 1993, documented Dire Straits’ final world tour. In 1995, following the release of Live at the BBC (a contractual release to Vertigo Records), Mark Knopfler quietly dissolved Dire Straits and launched his career as a solo artist.
Since the break-up of Dire Straits, Knopfler has shown no interest in reforming the group. However, keyboardist Guy Fletcher has been associated with almost every piece of Knopfler’s solo material to date, while Danny Cummings has also contributed frequently, playing on three of Knopfler’s most recent solo album releases All the Roadrunning (with Emmylou Harris), Kill to Get Crimson and Get Lucky. In October 2008 Knopfler declined a suggestion by John Illsley that the band should reform. Illsley said that a reunion would be “entirely up to Mark”; however, he also suggested that Knopfler was enjoying his continued success as a solo artist, saying that “He’s doing incredibly well as a solo artist, so hats off to him. He’s having a perfectly good time doing what he’s doing”. Knopfler meanwhile is quoted as saying “Oh, I don’t know whether to start getting all that stuff back together again”, and that the global fame that came his way in the 1980s “just got too big”.[
Solo career (1996–present)
Mark Knopfler's first solo album, Golden Heart, featuring the UK single "Darling Pretty", was released in March 1996. During the recording sessions for the album the main line-up of Knopfler's backing band, also known as "The 96ers," was formed, featuring Knopfler's old bandmate Guy Fletcher on keyboards, and has lasted much longer than any Dire Straits line-up. Also in 1996, Mark Knopfler recorded guitar for Ted Christopher's Dunblane massacre tribute cover of "Knocking on Heaven's Door".
In 1997 Knopfler recorded the soundtrack for the movie Wag the Dog. During that same year Rolling Stone magazine listed "Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll", which included "Sultans of Swing", Dire Straits' first hit. 2000 saw the release of Knopfler's next solo album, Sailing to Philadelphia. This has been his most successful to date, possibly helped by the number of collaborators to the album like Van Morrison. On 15 September 1997, Knopfler appeared at the Music for Montserrat concert at the Royal Albert Hall, London, performing alongside artists such as Sting, Phil Collins, Elton John, Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney.
In 2002 Mark Knopfler gave four charity concerts with former Dire Straits members John Illsley, Chris White, Danny Cummings and Guy Fletcher, playing old material from the Dire Straits years. The concerts also featured The Notting Hillbillies with Brendan Croker and Steve Phillips. At these four concerts (three of the four were at the Shepherd's Bush, the fourth at Beaulieu on the south coast) they were joined by Jimmy Nail, who provided backing vocals for Knopfler's 2002 composition "Why Aye Man".
Also in 2002 Knopfler released his third solo album, The Ragpicker's Dream. However, in March 2003 he was involved in a motorbike crash in Grosvenor Road, Belgravia and suffered a broken collarbone, broken shoulder blade and seven broken ribs.The planned Ragpicker's Dream tour was subsequently cancelled, but Knopfler recovered and was able to return to the stage in 2004 for his fourth album, Shangri-La.
Shangri-La was recorded at the Shangri-La Studio in Malibu, California in 2004, where The Band made recordings years before for their documentary/movie, The Last Waltz. In the promo for "Shangri-La" on his official website he said that his current line-up of Glenn Worf (bass), Guy Fletcher (keyboards), Chad Cromwell (drums), Richard Bennett (guitar) and Matt Rollings (piano) "play Dire Straits songs better than Dire Straits did." The "Shangri-La" tour took Knopfler to countries such as India and the United Arab Emirates for the first time. In India, his concerts at Mumbai and Bangalore were very well received, with over 20,000 fans gathering at each concert to listen to a legend many thoughtwould never visit their country.
In November 2005 a compilation, Private Investigations: The Best of Dire Straits & Mark Knopfler was released, consisting of material from most of Dire Straits' studio albums and Knopfler's solo and soundtrack material. The album was made available in two editions, as a single CD (with a grey cover) and as a double CD (with the cover in blue), and was well received. The only previously unreleased track on the album is "All the Roadrunning", a duet with country music singer Emmylou Harris, which was followed in 2006 by an album of duets of the same name.
Released in April 2006, All the Roadrunning reached No. 1 in Denmark and Switzerland, No. 2 in Norway and Sweden, No. 3 in Germany, Holland and Italy, No. 8 in Austria and UK, No. 9 in Spain, No. 17 in the United States (Billboard Top 200 Chart), No. 25 in Ireland and No. 41 in Australia. All the Roadrunning was nominated for "Best Folk Rock/Americana Album" at the 49th Grammy Awards (11 February 2007) but lost out to Bob Dylan's nomination for Modern Times.
Joined by Emmylou Harris, Knopfler supported All the Roadrunning with a limited—15 concerts in Europe, 1 in Canada, and 8 in the United States—but highly successful tour of Europe and North America. Selections from the duo's 28 June performance at the Gibson Amphitheatre, Universal City, California, were released as a DVD entitled Real Live Roadrunning on 14 November 2006. In addition to several of the compositions that Harris and Knopfler recorded together in the studio, Real Live Roadrunning features solo hits from both members of the duo, as well as three tracks from Knopfler's days with Dire Straits.
A charity event in 2007 went wrong; a Fender Stratocaster guitar signed by Knopfler, Clapton, Brian May, and Jimmy Page, which was to be auctioned for £20,000 to raise the money for a children's hospice, was lost when being shipped. It "vanished after being posted from London to Leicestershire, England". Parcelforce, the company responsible, agreed to pay US$30,000 for its loss.
Knopfler released his fifth solo studio-album Kill to Get Crimson on 14 September 2007 in Germany, 17 September in the UK and 18 September in the United States. During the autumn of 2007 he played a series of intimate 'showcases' in various European cities to promote the album. A tour of Europe and North America followed in 2008. Many older songs from the early solo days, such as Cannibals (from Golden Heart), were brought back to life. Cannibals opened up shows throughout Europe. Cannibals was received extremely well particularly in Ireland as it was released by an Irish Country Artist David Maguire in 2007. The new version of Cannibals that David Maguire and his Band released was the 7th most requested song on Irish radio that year.
Continuing a pattern of high productivity through his solo career, Knopfler began work on his next studio album, entitled Get Lucky, in September 2008 with long-time band mate Guy Fletcher, who again compiled a pictorial diary of the making of the album on his website.The album was released on 14 September the following year and Knopfler subsequently undertook an extensive tour across Europe and America. The album met with moderate success on the charts (much of it in Europe) reaching No. 1 only in Norway but peaking in the Top 5 in most major European countries (Germany, Italy, Holland). The album peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard European Album chart and at No. 5 on the Billboard Rock Album chart.
Knopfler's solo live performances can be characterised as relaxed—almost workmanlike. He uses very little stage production, other than some lighting effects to enhance the music's dynamics. He has been known to sip tea on stage during live performances. Richard Bennett, who has been playing with him on tour since 1996, has also joined in drinking tea with him on stage. On 31 July 2005, at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver, BC, the tea was replaced with whisky as a "last show of tour" sort of joke.
In 2010, Knopfler appeared on the newest Thomas Dolby release, the EP Amerikana. Knopfler performed on the track "17 Hills".
In February 2011, Knopfler began work on his next solo album, Privateering, once again working with Guy Fletcher.
In July 2011, it was announced that Knopfler would take time out from recording his new album in order to take part in a European tour with Bob Dylan during October and November.The next year Knopfler covered a Bob Dylan song, "Restless Farewell", for an Amnesty International 50th Anniversary celebration record.
On 3 September 2012 Mark Knopfler's seventh solo album, Privateering, was released. This is Knopfler's first double album solo release and contains 20 new songs.
In addition to his work in Dire Straits and solo, Mark Knopfler has made several contributions to country music. In 1988 he formed country-focused band The Notting Hillbillies, with Guy Fletcher, Brendan Croker and Steve Phillips. The Notting Hillbillies sole studio album, Missing...Presumed Having a Good Time was released in 1990 and featured the minor hit single "Your Own Sweet Way". Knopfler further emphasised his country music influences with his collaboration with Chet Atkins, Neck and Neck, which was also released in 1990. "Poor Boy Blues", taken from that collaboration, peaked at No. 92.
Knopfler's other contributions include writing and playing guitar on John Anderson's 1992 single "When It Comes to You" (from his album Seminole Wind). In 1993 Mary Chapin Carpenter also released a cover of the Dire Straits song "The Bug". Randy Travis released another of Knopfler's songs, "Are We in Trouble Now", in 1996. In that same year, Knopfler's solo single "Darling Pretty" reached a peak of No. 87.
Knopfler is featured on Kris Kristofferson's album "The Austin Sessions", (on the track "Please Don't Tell Me How The Story Ends") released in 1999 by Atlantic Records.
In 2006 Knopfler and Emmylou Harris made a country album together titled All the Roadrunning, followed by a live CD-DVD titled Real Live Roadrunning. Knopfler also charted two singles on the Canadian country music singles chart.
Again in 2006, Knopfler contributed the song "Whoop De Doo" to Jimmy Buffett's "Gulf and Western" style album "Take the Weather with You": in 2013, he wrote and played guitar on the song "Oldest Surfer on the Beach" to Buffett's album "Songs From St. Somewhere".
Mark Knopfler has been married three times. His first marriage was to Kathy White, his long-time girlfriend from school days. They separated before Knopfler moved to London to join Brewers Droop in 1973. In November 1983, Knopfler married his second wife, Lourdes Salomone. Their marriage produced twin sons, Benji and Joseph (born 1987), both of whom are musically talented and aspiring musicians, according to Knopfler.His marriage to Salomone ended in 1993.On Valentine's Day 1997, Knopfler married his third and current wife, British actress and writer Kitty Aldridge, on the Caribbean island of Barbados. They had been dating for three years.Their marriage has produced two daughters.
Musical style and equipment
Mark Knopfler is left-handed, but plays right-handed, and is recognised as a fingerstyle guitarist, using a personal variant of the clawhammer style. Fingerpicking is usually associated with the Steel-string acoustic guitar, but Knopfler often (though not always) plays an electric guitar. He revealed during a French interview that he uses a pick for his rhythm guitar work during recording sessions, surprising him by pulling a pick out of his pocket and saying that he usually carries one. He has long favoured Fender Telecaster and Stratocaster style guitars. Fender carries a Mark Knopfler Artist Series Stratocaster. During the 1980s he came to appreciate the tone of the Gibson Les Paul and his original 1958 has been used regularly in the studio and on stage.
The following is a list of guitars that Knopfler has used on recordings and on tour.
- Beltona Electro Resonator 1995
- Burns Baldwin 12-string c. 1965–70 ("Angel of Mercy")
- Danelectro 59 DC Standard c. 1998–2001, lima black
- Danelectro Silvertone 1452 1968, red sunburst
- Don Grosh Electrajet 2008, Olympic white
- Eko 700 1960, black ("Song for Sonny Liston")
- Erlewine Automatic, red c. 1980s ("Industrial Disease")
- Fender Duo Sonic 11 (Kill to Get Crimson album)
- Fender Stratocaster 1954, sunburst, hard tail (serial number 059, "Jurassic Strat") ("You Don't Know You're Born", "Everybody Pays", "Summer of Love", "Shangri-La", "The Car Was the One", "Remembrance Day")
- Fender Stratocaster 1961, fiesta red, rosewood neck, hard tail (serial number 68354) (used from 1977–80, "What It Is")
- Fender Stratocaster 1962, red, Schecter neck (serial number 80470) (main guitar, 1977–79)
- Fender Stratocaster 1965, Olympic white (2000–02, "Sailing to Philadelphia")
- Fender Stratocaster 2003, Mark Knopfler model, hot rod red (serial numbers SE00000 and SE00001) ("We Can Get Wild", "Punish the Monkey", "Let it All Go", "The Fish and the Bird")
- Fender Telecaster 1954, butterscotch blond (serial number 4545) (Missing... album, "A Night in Summer Long Ago", "Boom Like That", "Border Reiver", "So Far from the Clyde")
- Fender Telecaster 1966, sunburst, Schecter bridge (serial number 178112) (Missing... album)
- Fender Telecaster Thinline 1969, black (serial number 226254) ("Water of Love")
- Fernandes Stratocaster, blue (Love Over Gold album)
- Gibson Advanced Jumbo 1938, sunburst (Chet Atkins Musician Days, "Before Gas & TV", "Remembrance Day")
- Gibson Southerner Jumbo 1953, sunburst ("All That Matters", "Back to Tupelo", "Sucker Row")
- Gibson J-45 c. 1950s, vintage sunburst (Missing... album, "Iron Hand")
- Gibson ES-5 Archtop 1951, natural (Brother in Arms album, The Notting Hillbillies tour)
- Gibson Super 400 CES 1953, natural, 'Alnico' magnet pick-ups (serial number 15808) ("Your Latest Trick" (live), "Fade to Black", "Run Me Down" (live))
- Gibson L-5 1960, sunburst (Missing... album)
- Gibson ES-175D 1960, sunburst (serial number 510514) (Love Over Gold album, Brothers in Arms album)
- Gibson Chet Atkins Classic Electric 1982, antique natural (Love Over Gold Tour, Brothers in Arms Tour)
- Gibson ES-335 1958, natural (Wag the Dog album, Sailing to Philadelphia Tour)
- Gibson ES-335 1959, natural ("Baloney Again")
- Gibson ES-330 1960, natural ("Behind with the Rent", "Madame Geneva's")
- Gibson ES-335 1960, natural (Get Lucky album)
- Gibson Les Paul 1958, sunburst, humbucker pick-up model (Golden Heart Tour, "Baloney Again", "Last Laugh", "Speedway at Nazareth", "Junkie Doll", "Long Highway", "5:15 am", "Back to Tupelo", "Boom Like That", "Whoop Dee Doo", "The Trawlerman's Song", "The Scaffolder's Wife", "Before Gas & TV", "Cleaning My Gun", "Remembrance Day")
- Gibson Les Paul Standard 1959, sunburst
- Gibson Les Paul Special 1959, cherry (Cafe Races shows, Dire Straits album)
- Gibson Les Paul Reissue 1983, sunburst ("Brothers in Arms", "Money for Nothing", "You and Your Friend")
- Gibson Les Paul Reissue 1985, sunburst (serial number 12849) (Live Aid)
- Gibson Custom Les Paul 1959 Reissue 2005, blue (Get Lucky Tour)
- Gibson SG Standard c. 1960s, white ("Two Young Lovers" on the Love Over Gold Tour)
- Godin Acousticaster, black (On Every Street Tour)
- Gretsch Chet Atkins Hollowbody 6120 1957, red ("5:15 am", "Back to Tupelo", "Summer of Love", "The Fizzy and the Still", "Punish the Monkey", "In the Sky", "Hard Shoulder", All the Roadrunning Tour, Kill to Get Crimson Tour)
- Gretsch Super Chet 7690, autumn red (serial number 84055) (a gift from Chet Atkins)
- Höfner Super Solid V2 1964, red (Knopfler's first guitar, purchased for £50 in 1964)
- Martin acoustic HD-40MK
- Martin acoustic 000-40S
- Martin acoustic 00028 ("Brothers in Arms")
- Melancon Pro Artist, Stratocaster style, red
- Monteleone Isabella (Get Lucky album)
- N.S. Phillips Nobby 12
- N.S. Phillips Nobby 14 ("Get Lucky")
- National Style O-14 Fret 1938 (serial number B1844) ("Water of Love", "Portobello Belle", "Romeo and Juliet", "Telegraph Road", "The Man's Too Strong", "When It Comes to You", "No Can Do", "Done With Bonaparte")
- National Style O-14 Fret 2006
- National Tricone 1928 (Duolian String Pickers shows)
- Ovation Adamas, black ("The Man's Too Strong" on the Brother in Arms Tour)
- Ovation Adamas, blue burst (2) (Love Over Gold album)
- Ovation Classic, sunburst ("Private Investigations" video)
- Ovation Custom Legend, natural (Making Movies rehearsals)
- Pensa-Suhr Custom 1984, purple (John Suhr's first guitar built for Knopfler, used on "So Far Away", "Ride Across the River"" on the Brothers in Arms Tour)
- Pensa-Suhr Stratocaster 1985, white (Brothers in Arms Tour)
- Pensa-Suhr Stratocaster c 1980s, red ("Two Young Lovers" on the 'On Every Street Tour', in open G tuning)
- Pensa-Suhr Stratocaster 1986, black (serial number 014) (Golden Heart Tour, Eric Clapton Tour 1987–89)
- Pensa-Suhr Stratocaster 1988, flamed maple (MK1 serial number 001, the basis for Pensa-Suhr MK and Pensa MK1 models)(Mandela Concert, "Feel Like Going Home", "Calling Elvis", "Heavy Fuel", "Planet of New Orleans", The Notting Hillbillies Tour, Knewborth Concert, On Every Street Tour, Prince's Trust, Golden Heart Tour)
- Pensa-Suhr 1988, koa (Land of Dreams album, Saturday Night Live, 1988)
- Pensa-Suhr 1989, trans red, Pau Ferro neck (Neck and Neck album)
- Pensa 1993, flamed koa, Lindy Fralin '54 designed pick-ups ("Father and Son", "Golden Heart", and "Last Exit to Brooklyn" on the Golden Heart Tour)
- Pensa MK2 1996, amber (Chet Atkins Musician Days, Sailing to Philadelphia Tour, Mark Knopfler & Friends, All Roadrunning Tour, Kill to Get Crimson Tour)
- Pensa MK80 2004, Daphne blue (order number was 0188, numbered 0001, the only MK80 with a triple zero serial number) ("Whoop De Doo")
- Pensa MK2 Plus 2005, amber burst (Shangri-La Tour)
- Ramírez 4CWE Classical ("Private Investigations" on the on Every Street Tour, "Postcards from Paraguay" for the Shangri-La Tour)
- Rickenbacker 425 ("Portobello Belle" on the on Location Tour)
- Schecter Dream Machine, candy apple red (serial number S8218) (1980–92 tours)
- Schecter Dream Machine, candy apple red (Love Over Gold album)
- Schecter Dream Machine, Daphne blue (Love Over Gold album)
- Schecter Dream Machine, sunburst ("Tunnel of Love" on the Making Movies album, stolen in 1980)
- Schecter Dream Machine, sunburst (serial number S8001) (1980–86 tours, donated to Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Auction and sold for over $50,000 USD)
- Steinberger GL2 Standard, black ("Money for Nothing" on the Brothers in Arms Tour)
- Teisco Spectrum 5 1966, sunburst ("Postcards from Paraguay")
- Teisco Spectrum 5 1966, blond ("True Love Will Never Fade")
The following is a list of effect pedals that Knopfler has used in the studio and in live performances.
|Honours and awards
Dire Straits albums
Main article: Mark Knopfler discography
The following additional albums contain guitar performances or guest appearances by Mark Knopfler.
David Jon Gilmour, CBE (born 6 March 1946) is an English musician and multi-instrumentalist, who is best known as the guitarist, and one of the lead singers and main songwriters of the progressive rock band Pink Floyd. It is estimated that as of 2010, the group have sold over 250 million records worldwide, including 74.5 million units sold in the United States.
In addition to his work with Pink Floyd, Gilmour has worked as a producer for a variety of artists, and has enjoyed a successful career as a solo artist. Gilmour has been actively involved with many charities over the course of his career.
In 2003, he was appointed CBE for his charity work and was awarded with the Outstanding Contribution title at the 2008 Q Awards. In 2011, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him number 14 in their list of the greatest guitarists of all time.
Gilmour was born in Cambridge, England. His father, Douglas Gilmour, was a senior lecturer in zoology at the University of Cambridge and his mother, Sylvia (née Wilson), was a teacher and film editor who raised her family at Grantchester Meadows, later immortalised by a Roger Waters song on Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma. He has a younger brother who is also a musician.
Gilmour attended The Perse School on Hills Road, Cambridge, and met future Pink Floyd guitarist and vocalist Syd Barrett, along with bassist and vocalist Roger Waters who attended Cambridgeshire High School for Boys, also situated on Hills Road. He studied modern languages to A-Level and, along with Barrett, went to Cambridge Technical College, the two spent their lunchtime practicing guitar.[ Barrett would often refer to Gilmour as "Fred". They were not yet bandmates, however, and Gilmour started playing in the band Jokers Wild in 1962, which Gilmour left in 1966. Gilmour busked around Spain and St. Tropez in France with some friends, one of them being Barrett. However, they were not very successful, living virtually a hand-to-mouth existence. In July 1992, Gilmour stated in an interview with Nicky Horne on BBC radio that he ended up being treated for malnutrition in a hospital. The pair were arrested for busking Beatles songs, later the two trekked to Paris, camping outside the city for the course of a week and visiting one of the landmarks, the Louvre. In 1967, they returned to England.
Gilmour was approached in late December 1967 by drummer Nick Mason, who asked if he would be interested in joining Pink Floyd, which he did in January 1968, making Pink Floyd briefly a five-piece band. He filled in for Syd Barrett's guitar parts when the frontman was unable to take a consistent part in Floyd's live performances. Syd Barrett "left" the group due to his erratic behaviour—commonly believed to have been caused by excessive use of LSD—when the band chose not to pick Barrett up one night for a gig; and Gilmour by default assumed the role of the band's lead guitarist. He took over most of the band's lead vocal duties with bassist Roger Waters and keyboard player Richard Wright also occasionally singing in Barrett's stead. However, after the back-to-back successes of The Dark Side of the Moon and then Wish You Were Here, Waters took more control over the band, writing much of Animals and The Wall by himself. Wright was fired during The Wall sessions and the relationship between Gilmour and Waters would further deteriorate during the making of The Wall film and the 1983 Pink Floyd album The Final Cut.
After recording Animals, Gilmour thought that his musical talents were being underused, and channelled his ideas into his self-titled first solo album (1978), which showcases his signature guitar style, as well as underscoring his songwriting skills. A song written during the finishing stages of this album, but too late to be used, was incorporated into another song by Roger Waters, which became "Comfortably Numb" on The Wall.
The negative atmosphere surrounding the creation of The Wall album and subsequent film, compounded by The Final Cut's virtually being a Roger Waters solo album, led Gilmour to produce his second solo album About Face in 1984. He used it to express his feelings about a range of topics, from the murder of John Lennon, to his relationship with Waters. He has since admitted that he also used the album to distance himself from Pink Floyd. He toured Europe and the US along with support act The Television Personalities, who were promptly dropped from the line-up after revealing Syd Barrett's address on stage. Mason also made a guest appearance on the UK leg of the tour, which despite some cancellations eventually turned a profit. When he returned from touring, Gilmour played guitar with a range of artists, and also produced The Dream Academy, who had a top ten hit with "Life in a Northern Town".
In 1985, Waters declared that Pink Floyd were "a spent force creatively". In 1986, Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason issued a press release stating that Waters had quit the band and they intended to continue without him. Gilmour assumed full control of the group and produced A Momentary Lapse of Reason in 1987 with some contributions from Mason and Richard Wright. Wright officially rejoined the band after the release of the album for a lengthy world tour and helped create 1994's The Division Bell. Gilmour explained:
I had a number of problems with the direction of the band in our recent past, before Roger left. I thought the songs were very wordy and that, because the specific meanings of those words were so important, the music became a mere vehicle for lyrics, and not a very inspiring one. Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here were so successful not just because of Roger's contributions, but also because there was a better balance between the music and the lyrics than there has been in more recent albums. That's what I'm trying to do with A Momentary Lapse of Reason; more focus on the music, restore the balance.
In 1986, Gilmour purchased the houseboat Astoria which is moored on the River Thames near Hampton Court, and transformed it into a recording studio. The majority of the two most recent Pink Floyd albums, as well as Gilmour's 2006 solo release On an Island, were recorded there.
On 2 July 2005, Gilmour played with Pink Floyd—including Roger Waters—at Live 8. The performance caused a temporary 1343% sales increase of Pink Floyd's album Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd. Gilmour donated all of his resulting profits to charities that reflect the goals of Live 8 saying:
Though the main objective has been to raise consciousness and put pressure on the G8 leaders, I will not profit from the concert. This is money that should be used to save lives.
Shortly after, he called upon all artists experiencing a surge in sales from Live 8 performances to donate the extra revenue to Live 8 fund-raising. After the Live 8 concert, Pink Floyd were offered £150 million to tour the United States, but the band turned down the offer.
On 3 February 2006, he announced in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica that Pink Floyd would most likely never tour or write material together again. He said:
I think enough is enough. I am 60 years old. I don't have the will to work as much any more. Pink Floyd was an important part in my life, I have had a wonderful time, but it's over. For me it's much less complicated to work alone.
Regarding agreeing to play at Live 8, he said:
There was more than one reason, firstly to support the cause. The second one is the energy consuming an uncomfortable relationship between Roger and me that I was carrying along in my heart. That is why we wanted to perform and to leave the trash behind. Thirdly, I might have regretted it if I declined.
On 20 February 2006, Gilmour commented again on Pink Floyd's future when he was interviewed by Billboard.com, stating, "Who knows? I have no plans at all to do that. My plans are to do my concerts and put my solo record out."
In December 2006, Gilmour released a tribute to Syd Barrett, who had died on 7 July of that year, in the form of his own version of Pink Floyd's first single "Arnold Layne". Recorded live at London's Royal Albert Hall, the CD single featured versions of the song performed by Pink Floyd's keyboard player (and Gilmour's band member) Richard Wright and special guest artist David Bowie. The single entered the UK Top 75 charts at number nineteen and remained steady for three weeks.
Since their Live 8 appearance in 2005, Gilmour has repeatedly said that there will be no Pink Floyd reunion. With the death of Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright in September 2008, another reunion of the core group members became impossible. Gilmour said of Wright
In the welter of arguments about who or what was Pink Floyd, Rick's enormous input was frequently forgotten. He was gentle, unassuming and private but his soulful voice and playing were vital, magical components of our most recognised Pink Floyd sound. Like Rick, I don't find it easy to express my feelings in words, but I loved him and will miss him enormously. I have never played with anyone quite like him.
In May 2010 Roger Waters told the Associated Press that Gilmour "is completely disinterested in anything like [another reunion]. After Live 8, I could have probably gone for doing some more stuff, but he’s not interested, so it is what it is.”
Gilmour has recorded four solo albums, all four of which charted in the US Top 40 (2006′s On an Island peaked at No. 6 in 2006, 2008′s Live in Gdansk peaked at No. 26, his 1978 self-titled solo debut peaked at No. 29 in 1978 and 1984′s About Face peaked at No. 32 in 1984).
The 1970s & 1980s
Taking time off from Pink Floyd’s schedule, Gilmour also took up various roles as a producer, sideman and even concert sound engineer[ for a wide variety of acts which included former bandmate Syd Barrett, Paul McCartney, Kate Bush, Berlin, Grace Jones, Tom Jones, Elton John, Eric Clapton, B. B. King, Seal, Sam Brown, Jools Holland, Bob Dylan, Pete Townshend, The Who, Supertramp, Levon Helm, Robbie Robertson, Alan Parsons, and various charity groups among others.
In 1985, Gilmour was a member of Bryan Ferry‘s band. He played on Ferry’s album Boys and Girls, as well as the song “Is Your Love Strong Enough” for the US release of the Ridley Scott-Tom Cruise film Legend. A music video for the latter was created, incorporating Ferry and Gilmour into footage from the film (released as a bonus on the 2002 “Ultimate Edition” DVD release). Later that year, Gilmour played with Ferry at the London Live Aid concert; his first meeting with Ferry’s keyboard player Jon Carin, later to tour with Pink Floyd.
David Gilmour also took part in a comedy skit titled “The Easy Guitar Book Sketch” with comedian Rowland Rivron and fellow British musicians Mark Knopfler, Lemmy from Motorhead, Mark King from Level 42, and Gary Moore. Guitar tech Phil Taylor explained in an interview that Knopfler used Gilmour’s guitar rig and managed to sound like himself when performing in the skit.
On 14 December 1999, Gilmour played a show at the Cavern Club in Liverpool with Paul McCartney, Mick Green, Ian Paice & Pete Wingfield.
In 2001 and 2002, he performed a small number of acoustic solo concerts in London and Paris, along with a small band and choir, which was documented on the In Concert release. In 2003, Rolling Stone placed Gilmour at number 82 in a list of the hundred greatest guitarists of all time.
On 6 March 2006, his 60th birthday, he released his third solo album, On an Island, and a day later it was released in the US; it debuted at No. 1 in the UK charts. The album reached the top five in Germany and Sweden, and the top six in Billboard 200. Produced by Gilmour along with Phil Manzanera and Chris Thomas, the album features orchestrations by renowned Polish composer Zbigniew Preisner. The album features David Crosby and Graham Nash performing background vocals on the title track, Robert Wyatt on cornet and percussion, and Richard Wright on Hammond organ and vocals. Other contributors include Jools Holland, Phil Manzanera, Georgie Fame, Andy Newmark, B. J. Cole, Chris Stainton, Willie Wilson, Rado ‘Bob’ Klose on guitar and Leszek Możdżer on piano. The album also features Gilmour’s debut with the saxophone.
Gilmour toured Europe, US and Canada from 10 March to 31 May 2006 to promote On an Island. There were 10 shows in the US and Canadian leg of the tour. Pink Floyd alumnus Richard Wright, and frequent Floyd collaborators Dick Parry, Guy Pratt and Jon Carin, also accompanied him on the tour. More shows took place in Europe from July to August in 2006.
In a press release to promote the tour, David Gilmour stated:
I’m rather hoping that with this tour announcement, people will believe me when I say, honestly, this is the only band I plan to tour with!
On an Island reached number one on the UK charts. On 10 April 2006, the album was certified platinum in Canada, with sales of over 100,000 copies. The album also gave Gilmour his first US Top 10 album as a solo artist.
A video recording of a show from Gilmour’s solo tour, titled Remember That Night – Live At The Royal Albert Hallwas released on 17 September 2007. The double DVD, directed by David Mallet, contains over five hours of footage, including an on-the-road documentary and guest appearances by David Bowie and Robert Wyatt. The two and a half hour concert features band members Richard Wright of Pink Floyd, Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music, Steve DiStanislao on drums, and various Pink Floyd regulars such as Dick Parry, Guy Pratt and Jon Carin. The 20-page booklet accompanying the DVD, features over 80 photos selected from studio recording and touring.
The final show of David Gilmour’s On an Island tour took place at the Gdańsk Shipyard on 26 August 2006. The concert was held before a crowd of 50,000, and marked the twenty-sixth anniversary of the founding of the Solidarity trade union. The concert was notable for the inclusion of “A Great Day For Freedom” as part of the encore.
The show was recorded, resulting in a live album and DVD release: Live in Gdańsk. The concert was the only occasion on which Gilmour performed the tour material with an orchestra, using the 40-strong string section of the Polish Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Zbigniew Preisner, who was responsible for On An Island’s orchestral arrangements.
On 25 May 2009, he participated in a concert at the Union Chapel in Islington, London. The concert was part of the ‘Hidden Gigs’ campaign against hidden homelessness, which is organised by Crisis, a UK-based national charity campaigning against homelessness. In the concert he collaborated with the Malian musicians Amadou and Mariam.
On 4 July 2009, he joined his friend Jeff Beck onstage at the Royal Albert Hall. David and Jeff traded solos on Jerusalem and closed the show with Hi Ho Silver Lining.
On 11 July 2010, Gilmour gave a performance for the charity Hoping Foundation with Roger Waters in Oxfordshire, England. Also performing were Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Nick Cage and Tom Jones. The performance was presented by Jemima Khan and Nigella Lawson. According to onlookers, it seemed clear that Gilmour and Waters had ended their long-running feud and seemed to be the best of friends, laughing and joking together along with their respective partners. Waters subsequently confirmed via his Facebook page that Gilmour would play “Comfortably Numb” with him during one of his shows on his upcoming The Wall Live tour – Gilmour performed the guitar solo on 12 May 2011 at the O2 Arena, London and, with Nick Mason, played with the rest of the band playing “Outside the Wall” at the conclusion of the show.
Gilmour’s first marriage was to American-born model and artist Virginia “Ginger” Hasenbein, on 7 July 1975. He had four children from this union, Alice (born 1976), Clare (born 1979), Sara (born 1983, a fashion model), and Matthew (born 1986). The children originally attended a Waldorf School, but Gilmour called their education there “horrific”. In 1994, he married journalist Polly Samson, and the couple have four children, Charlie (Samson’s son with Heathcote Williams whom Gilmour adopted), Joe, Gabriel and Romany. Charlie’s voice can be heard on the telephone to Steve O’Rourke, at the end of “High Hopes” (The Division Bell).
Gilmour has been associated with various charity organisations. In May 2003, Gilmour sold his house in Little Venice to the ninth Earl Spencer and donated the proceeds worth £3.6 million to Crisis to help fund a housing project for the homeless. He has been named a vice president of the organization. Other charities to which Gilmour has lent support include Oxfam, the European Union Mental Health and Illness Association, Greenpeace, Amnesty International, The Lung Foundation, Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy, Teenage Cancer Trust, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). He also donated £25,000 to the Save the Rhino foundation in exchange for Douglas Adams‘s name suggestion for the album that became The Division Bell.
Gilmour is also an experienced pilot and aviation enthusiast. Under the aegis of his company, Intrepid Aviation, he had amassed a collection of historical aircraft. He later decided to sell the company, which he had started as a hobby, feeling that it was becoming too commercial for him to handle. In a BBC interview, he stated:
Intrepid Aviation was a way for me to make my hobby pay for itself a little bit, but gradually over a few years Intrepid Aviation became a business because you have to be businesslike about it. Suddenly I found instead of it being a hobby and me enjoying myself, it was a business and so I sold it. I don’t have Intrepid Aviation any more. I just have a nice old biplane that I pop up, wander around the skies in sometimes…
On 22 May 2008, Gilmour won the 2008 Ivor Novello Lifetime Contribution Award.
On 11 November 2009, Gilmour received an honorary doctorate from the Anglia Ruskin University.
Gilmour is best known for his lead guitar work. Gilmour’s solo style is often characterised by blues-influenced phrasing, expressive note bends and sustain. In 2011, Gilmour was rated the 14th greatest guitarist by Rolling Stone. In January 2007, Guitar World readers voted Gilmour’s solos, “Comfortably Numb“, “Time” and “Money” into the top 100 Greatest Guitar Solos (“Comfortably Numb” was voted the 4th, “Time” was voted the 21st and “Money” was voted the 62nd greatest solo of all time).
In his early career with Pink Floyd, Gilmour played a multitude of Fender Stratocasters. One of his popular guitar solos (“Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2“) was played on a 1955 Gibson Les Paul Gold Top guitar equipped with P-90 pick-ups. In 1996, Gilmour was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Pink Floyd. Gilmour’s solo on “Comfortably Numb” was voted as one of the greatest guitar solos of all time in several polls by listeners and critics.
Although mainly known for his guitar work, Gilmour is also a proficient multi-instrumentalist. He also plays bass guitar (which he did on many Pink Floyd tracks), keyboards, synthesiser, banjo, mandolin, harmonica, drums (as heard on the Syd Barrett solo track “Dominoes”, and other songs where he opted to play all the instruments) and lately, the saxophone.
Some of the equipment Gilmour has used either on his solo or Pink Floyd records and tours.
Main electric guitars
- Gilmour’s main stage and studio guitar is a 1969 Fender Stratocaster. Black with a black pickguard, it has white pick-up covers and knobs. It does not have the original neck. The guitar has an added switch that combines the neck and bridge pick-ups. It has a Seymour Duncan SSL-1C (SSL-5 Prototype) bridge pick-up. The guitar strap that Gilmour pairs with this instrument once belonged to Jimi Hendrix.
- His main guitar for the post-Roger Waters era Pink Floyd tours was a Candy Apple Red 1984 ’57 Stratocaster reissue. It had a set of EMG SA active pick-ups. This guitar still continues to be used for specific songs during Gilmour’s live performances.
- David Gilmour owns Stratocaster # 0001. This is not the first model made.
- Cream coloured ’57 reissue Stratocaster. This guitar was used on Gilmour’s 1984 solo tour and also during the early part of the 1987–1990 Pink Floyd tour. During the 1994 Pink Floyd tour it was used as a spare guitar. During Pink Floyd’s Live 8 set sidesman Tim Renwick was seen playing it. It has the same EMG setup as his red ’57 Reissue model. After it was used for Live 8 the neck from the cream Stratocaster was transferred to Gilmour’s main black Stratocaster.
- ’57 Lake Placid Blue. (Serial number #0040). This guitar was used during The Wall recording sessions.
- Sonic Blue “Eric Clapton” signature Stratocaster with Fender Lace Sensor pickups given to Gilmour by Fender Music Industries Corp. used most prominently on an episode of French and Saunders. Incidentally Mark Knopfler used Gilmour’s EMG red Strat in the same sketch.
- Double-neck Stratocaster. Custom made body by guitar builder Dick Knight and using standard Fender necks. It was used in the early 1970s.
- 1959 sunburst Stratocaster body with a 1963 neck with a rosewood fingerboard. This guitar was given to Gilmour by Steve Marriott. David didn’t like the guitar enough to use it for very long but did like the neck better than the original one on his black Stratocaster and the two were switched. The sunburst model was used as A spare and for slide guitar in subsequent years.
- White with white pickguard. Used in the late 1960s. Received as a gift from the rest of the band.It was stolen in 1970.
- Gilmour used a Stratocaster equipped with the Doug Wilkes ‘Answer’ sliding pick-up system on the ‘Momentary Lapse of Reason’ recording.
- TelecasterEsquire ’55 Sunburst body a.k.a. “The workmate Tele”. Neck pick-up added. Used at the recording sessions for his first solo album and seen on the back cover of his second solo album, and used in The Wall recording sessions and subsequent tour. Also seen when Gilmour performed with Paul McCartney in the late 1990s, at the Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller tribute concert and at the AOL Elvis Tribute on the song Don’t both in 2001
- Blonde body with white pickguard. Used on the On an Island tour.
- ’52 Butterscotch Reissues with black pickguard. Used between 1987 and 1995. The first guitar was tuned in Dropped D rather than a standard tuning and was used for “Run Like Hell“. The second served as a backup instrument and had a regular guitar tuning. Gilmour used this guitar for Astronomy Domine.
- ’59 Custom Telecaster with sunburst ash body, white binding on the body, rosewood fingerboard, and a white pickguard. A Gibson Humbucker was briefly placed in the neck position but this was removed before it was used on the Animals’ recording sessions. Last seen at rehearsals during the On an Island tour.
- ’61 Telecaster used during The Wall recording sessions. Also used live in the post-Waters era for “Run Like Hell”. Last seen on the Syd Barrett memory concert in 2007.
- 1960s brown-faded body. Used in the late 1960s.
- 1960s blonde ash body with white pickguard. This was Gilmour’s main guitar during his first year with Pink Floyd, but it was lost by an airline company in 1968, prompting Gilmour to buy the brown-faded Telecaster.
Along with the Fender models (his primary choice for electrics), Gilmour has also used: a Gibson Les Paul goldtop model with P-90 pick-ups and a Bigsby vibrato bridge. It was used for the guitar solo on ‘Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2′. Gilmour also plays a Gretsch Duo-Jet and a Gretsch White Falcon (as well as a ‘White Penguin’), a Bill Lewis 24-fret Guitar (used during Meddle and Dark Side of the Moon recording sessions) and a Steinberger GL model which was his main guitar during A Momentary Lapse of Reason recording sessions.
Gilmour has used many different acoustic guitars throughout his career including a Gibson “Chet Atkins” classical model, a Gibson J-200 Celebrity acoustic guitar. Gilmour’s list of Ovation models including a Legend 1619-4, a Legend 1613-4 nylon string guitar, both used during The Wall recording sessions. Martin models used include: a D-35. a D12-28 12-string. and a D-18. Gilmour’s large acoustic collection also includes many models from Taylor, Takamine and Guild.
Throughout his recording career David Gilmour has added a different element to his guitar style with his use of steel guitars. A 1950s Fender 1000 twin neck pedal steel guitar was used frequently in the early 1970s. Originally purchased from a pawn shop while Gilmour was in Seattle in 1970, it was used during recording of “One of These Days” from “Meddle” and “Breathe” and “Great Gig in the Sky” from The Dark Side of the Moon. Other Fenders owned by Gilmour include a Deluxe lap steel (seen during The Division Bell tour in 1994. ) and also a Champ lap steel model. Along with the Fender steel models Gilmour has also used: a Gibson EH150, and two Jedson models: one red (1977-tuned D-G-D-G-B-E for Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Parts 6–9, 1987–2006: Tuned E-B-E-G-B-E for High Hopes) and one blonde. He also uses a ZB steel model.
Gilmour has played bass both in the studio and onstage at different times and has played many different bass models including: an Ovation Magnum, a Fender Bass VI, Fender Precision and Jazz bass models and a Charvel fretless.(all used during The Wall recording sessions. ). He also has a Doug Wilkes built Precision-style single pick-up bass which was used on the ‘Momentary Lapse of Reason’ sessions. During the 1991 Amnesty International concert Gilmour used a Music Man Fretless Stingray bass while conducting the house band and again during Spinal Tap‘s performance of “Big Bottom”. (All guitarists played bass on this song, and Gilmour played the solo)
Fender Signature Stratocaster
- A Saucerful of Secrets (1968)
- More (1969)
- Ummagumma (1969)
- Atom Heart Mother (1970)
- Meddle (1971)
- Obscured by Clouds (1972)
- The Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
- Wish You Were Here (1975)
- Animals (1977)
- The Wall (1979)
- The Final Cut (1983)
- A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987)
- The Division Bell (1994)
- For the full discography, see Pink Floyd discography.
1978 David Gilmour
1984 About Face
2006 On an Island
2008 Live in Gdańsk
- Fractals: The Colours of Infinity, Documentary (1994)
- “There’s No Way Out of Here” (1978)
- “Blue Light” (March 1984)
- “Love on the Air” (May 1984)
- “On an Island” (6 March 2006)
- “Smile” (13 June 2006)
- “Arnold Layne” (Live) (26 December 2006)
- David Gilmour Live 1984 (VHS) – September 1984
- David Gilmour in Concert (DVD) – October 2002
- Remember That Night (DVD/BD) – September 2007
- Live in Gdańsk (DVD) – September 2008
Collaborations and work for other artists
Unicorn – Blue Pine Trees (producer)
Unicorn – Too Many Crooks (US title Unicorn 2, features the song “There’s No Way Out of Here”) (producer)
The Triumph of Love soundtrack – Plays guitar over several chamber orchestra pieces
Various artists – “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t've)“
The Orb – Metallic Spheres, contributes guitars and vocals to the album, as well as co-writing every track. The album is released as “The Orb featuring David Gilmour”
Brian Harold May, CBE (born 19 July 1947) is an English musician and astrophysicist most widely known as the guitarist, songwriter and occasional singer of the rock band Queen. As a guitarist he uses his home-built guitar, “Red Special“, and has composed hits such as “Tie Your Mother Down“, “I Want It All“, “We Will Rock You“, “Fat Bottomed Girls” and “Who Wants to Live Forever“.
He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2005 for “services to the music industry and for his charity work”. May earned a PhD in astrophysics from Imperial College in 2007 and is the current Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University. He resides in Surrey.
In 2005, a Planet Rock poll saw May voted the 7th greatest guitarist of all time. He was ranked at No. 26 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time“. In 2012, May was ranked the 2nd greatest guitarist of all time by a Guitar World magazine readers poll.
Brian May, the only child of Harold and Ruth May, was born in Hampton, London and attended Hampton Grammar School (now Hampton School). During this time he formed his first band with vocalist and bassist Tim Staffell, named 1984 after George Orwell‘s novel of the same name. He left Hampton Grammar School with ten GCE Ordinary Levels and three A-Levels in Physics, Mathematics and Applied Mathematics. He studied Mathematics and Physics at Imperial College London, graduating with B.Sc. degree with honours.
Brian May formed the band Smile in 1968. The group included Tim Staffell as singer and bassist, and later, drummer Roger Taylor, who also went on to play for Queen. The band lasted for only two years from 1968 to 1970, as Staffell left in 1970, leaving the band with a catalogue of only nine songs. Smile would reunite for several songs on 22 December 1992. Taylor’s band The Cross were headliners and he brought May and Staffell on to play “Earth” and “If I Were a Carpenter”. May also performed several other songs that night.
In Queen’s three-part vocal harmonies, May’s was generally the lower-range backing vocal. On some of his songs he sings the lead vocal, most notably the first verse of “Who Wants to Live Forever“, the bridge on “I Want It All” and “Flash’s Theme”, and full lead vocals on “Some Day One Day“, “She Makes Me (Stormtrooper in Stilettoes)“, “’39“, “Good Company“, “Long Away“, “All Dead, All Dead“, “Sleeping on the Sidewalk“, “Leaving Home Ain’t Easy” and “Sail Away Sweet Sister”.
Throughout Queen’s career May frequently wrote songs for the band and has composed many significant songs such as the worldwide hit “We Will Rock You“, as well as “Tie Your Mother Down“, “Who Wants to Live Forever”, “Hammer to Fall“, “Save Me“, “Fat Bottomed Girls” and “I Want It All”. Typically, either Freddie Mercury or May wrote the most songs on every Queen album.
After the famous Live Aid concert in summer 1985, Mercury rang his bandmates and proposed writing a song together. The result was “One Vision“, which was basically May on music (the Magic Years documentary shows how he came up with the opening section and the basic guitar riff) and Roger Taylor on lyrics, with Freddie Mercury being more a producer and arranger than a proper co-writer, and John Deacon mostly absent.
For their 1989 release album, The Miracle, the band had decided that all of the tracks would be credited to the entire band, no matter who had been the main writer. Still, interviews and musical analyses tend to help identify the input of each member on each track. May composed “I Want It All” for that album, as well as “Scandal” (based on his personal problems with the British press). For the rest of the album he did not contribute so much creatively, although he helped in building the basis of “Party” and “Was It All Worth It” (both being predominantly Mercury’s pieces) and created the guitar riff of “Chinese Torture”.
Queen’s subsequent album was Innuendo, on which May’s contributions increased, although more in arrangements than actual writing in most cases; for the title track he did some of the arrangement for the heavy solo, then he added vocal harmonies to “I’m Going Slightly Mad” and composed the solo of “These Are the Days of Our Lives“, a song for which the four of them decided the keyboard parts together. He changed the tempo and key of Mercury’s song “The Hitman” and took it under his wing, even singing guide vocal in the demo. May also co-wrote some of the guitar lines in “Bijou“.
Two songs that May had composed for his first solo album, “Headlong” and “I Can’t Live With You”, eventually ended up in the Queen project. His other composition was “The Show Must Go On“, a group effort in which he was the coordinator and primary composer, but in which they all had input, Deacon and Taylor with the famous chord sequence. In recent years, he has overseen the remastering of Queen albums and various DVD and greatest hits releases. In 2004, he announced that he and drummer Roger Taylor were going on tour for the first time in 18 years as “Queen”, along with Free/Bad Company vocalist Paul Rodgers. Billed as “Queen + Paul Rodgers“, the band has played throughout 2005 and 2006 in South Africa, Europe, Aruba, Japan, and North America and released a new album with Paul Rodgers in 2008, entitled The Cosmos Rocks. This album was supported by a major tour.
Solo work and The Brian May Band
During 1983, several members of Queen explored side projects. On 21 and 22 April in Los Angeles, May recorded his first solo work, a mini-album entitled Star Fleet Project, on which he collaborated with Eddie Van Halen. May contributed to former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett‘s album Feedback 86, playing guitar on the track “Cassandra” and providing guitar and vocals for “Slot Machine”. “Slot Machine” was also co-written by May.
May worked with his second wife Anita Dobson on her first album, in which she sang vocals to the EastEnders theme tune. In this form the tune became the song “Anyone Can Fall in Love“. May himself produced the song, which reached No. 4 in the UK Singles Chart in August 1986. In 1989, May contributed guitar solos to the song “When Death Calls” on Black Sabbath 14th album Headless Cross, and the Living In A Box track “Blow The House Down” from the album Gatecrashing.
Following the death of Freddie Mercury in November 1991, May chose to deal with his grief by committing himself as fully as possible to work, first by finishing his solo album, Back to the Light, and then touring worldwide to promote it. He frequently remarked in press interviews that this was the only form of self-prescribed therapy he could think of. According to Def Leppard vocalist Joe Elliot, “It was undoubtedly an enormous and terrible blow to lose someone he was so close to. Personally, I know it ripped the heart out of Brian, but having said that, he was in great spirits after the album was finished.”
In late 1992, The Brian May Band was officially formed. An early version of the band was loosely formed for 19 October 1991, when May took part in the Guitar Legends guitar festival in Seville, Spain. The line-up for his performance was May (Lead Vocals & Lead Guitar), Cozy Powell (Drums & Percussion), Mike Moran (Keyboards), Rick Wakeman (Keyboards), Maggie Ryder (Backing vocals), Miriam Stockley (Backing vocals) and Chris Thompson (Backing vocals). The original line-up was May (Lead Vocals and Lead Guitar), Powell (Drums and Percussion), Michael Casswell (Guitar), Neil Murray (Bass), Ryder (Backing vocals), Stockley (Backing vocals) and Thompson (Backing vocals). This version of the band lasted only during the South American support tour (supporting The B-52′s and Joe Cocker) on only five dates.
Afterwards, May made significant changes, feeling the group never quite gelled. May brought guitarist Jamie Moses on board to replace Mike Caswell. The other change made was in the backing vocal department, with Ryder, Stockley and Thompson were replaced with Catherine Porter and Shelley Preston. On 23 February 1993, this new line-up of The Brian May Band began its world tour in the US, both supporting Guns N’ Roses and headlining a few dates. The tour would take them through North America, Europe (support act: Valentine) and Japan. After the tour ended on 18 December 1993, May returned to the studio with fellow surviving Queen band members Roger Taylor and John Deacon to work on tracks that became Made in Heaven, the final Queen studio album. The band took Mercury’s solo album demos and last recordings, which he managed to perform in the studio after the album Innuendo was finished, and completed them with their additions both musically and vocally. Work on the album after Mercury’s death originally began in 1992 by Deacon and May, but was left until a later date due to other commitments.
In 1995, May began working towards a new solo album of covers tentatively named Heroes, in addition to working on various film and television projects and other collaborations. May subsequently changed the approach from covers to focus on those collaborations and on new material. The songs included Another World, and featured mainly Spike Edney, Cozy Powell, Neil Murray and Jamie Moses. On 5 April 1998, Cozy Powell was killed in a car accident on the M4 motorway near Bristol, England. This caused a huge, unexpected disruption to the upcoming tour for The Brian May Band, with a new drummer being needed at short notice. Steve Ferrone was brought on to help May finish recording drums and to join the band for the early stage promotional tour of five dates in Europe before the world tour. Following the early promotional tour, Eric Singer replaced Steve Ferrone for the full 1998 world tour.
Later solo work
From his last solo release in 1998 May has been performing as a solo artist, as part of an ensemble, and infrequently as Queen with Roger Taylor. On 22 October 2000, Brian May made a guest appearance at the Motörhead 25th Anniversary show at Brixton Academy along with Eddie Clarke (former Motörhead guitarist) for the encore song “Overkill“. In the Queen’s birthday honours list of 2005, he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire “for services to the music industry”. May is a friend of singer and musician Phil Collins and was a special guest at the Genesis reunion concert at Twickenham Stadium in 2007. On 17 November 2007, Brian May was appointed Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University, taking over from Cherie Blair, and installed in 2008. May worked extensively with stage actress and singer Kerry Ellis after he cast her in the musical We Will Rock You. He produced and arranged her debut studio album Anthems (2010), a follow-up to her extended play Wicked in Rock (2008), as well as appeared with Ellis at many public performances – playing guitar alongside her. He also contributed a guitar solo to Meat Loaf‘s Hang Cool, Teddy Bear album in exchange for the use of drummer John Miceli. Along with Elena Vidal, Brian May released a historical book in 2009 entitled A Village Lost and Found: Scenes in Our Village. The book is an annotated collection of stereoscopic photographs taken by the Victorian era photographer T. R. Williams and it is sold with a focussing stereoscope. May became an enthusiast of stereoscope photographs as a child, and first encountered the work of Williams during the late 1960s. In 2003 May announced a search in order to identify the actual location of the Scenes in Our Village images. In 2004 May reported that he had identified the location as the village of Hinton Waldrist in Oxfordshire.
On 20 May 2009, May and Queen band mate Roger Taylor performed “We Are the Champions” live on the season finale of American Idol with winner Kris Allen and runner-up Adam Lambert providing a vocal duet. In November 2009, May appeared with Taylor on the UK series of The X Factor, with Queen mentoring the contestants, then later performing “Bohemian Rhapsody”. In April 2010, May founded the “Save Me” 2010 project to work against any proposed repeal of the British fox-hunting ban, and also to promote animal rights in Britain. In February 2011 it was announced that May would tour with Kerry Ellis, playing 12 dates across the UK in May 2011.
On 18 April 2011 Lady Gaga confirmed that May would play guitar on her track “You and I” from her latest album Born This Way, released on 23 May 2011. On 26 August, May performed “We Will Rock You” and “Welcome To The Black Parade” with American rock band My Chemical Romance at the Reading Festival. On 28 August, May performed “You and I” live with Lady Gaga at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards at the Nokia Theatre, Los Angeles. On 16 September 2012, May appeared at the Sunflower Jam charity concert at the Royal Albert Hall, performing alongside bassist John Paul Jones (of Led Zeppelin), drummer Ian Paice (of Deep Purple), and vocalists Bruce Dickinson (of Iron Maiden) and Alice Cooper.
Queen + Paul Rodgers and Queen + Adam Lambert
At the end of 2004, May and Taylor announced that they would reunite and return to touring in 2005, with Paul Rodgers (founder and former lead singer of Free and Bad Company). Brian May’s website also stated that Rodgers would be “featured with” Queen as Queen + Paul Rodgers, not replacing the late Freddie Mercury. The retired John Deacon would not be participating.
Between 2005 and 2006 Queen and Paul Rodgers embarked on a world tour, the first leg being Europe and the second, Japan and the US in 2006. On 25 May 2006, Queen received the inaugural VH1 Rock Honors at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, and May and Taylor were joined on stage with the Foo Fighters to perform a selection of Queen songs. On 15 August 2006, May confirmed through his website and fan club that Queen + Paul Rodgers would begin producing their first studio album beginning in October, to be recorded at a “secret location”. The album, titled The Cosmos Rocks, was released in Europe on 12 September 2008 and in the United States on 28 October 2008. Following the album the band again embarked on a tour through Europe and parts of the US, opening on Kharkov’s freedom square in front of 350,000 Ukrainian fans. The show in Ukraine was later released on DVD. Queen and Paul Rodgers officially split up on 12 May 2009. Rodgers does not rule out the possibility of working together again.
At the 2011 MTV Europe Music Awards on 6 November, Queen received the Global Icon Award, which Katy Perry presented to Brian May. Queen closed the awards ceremony, with Adam Lambert on vocals, performing “The Show Must Go On”, “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions”. The collaboration garnered a positive response from both fans and critics, resulting in speculation about future projects together. Queen + Adam Lambert played two shows at the Hammersmith Apollo, London on 11 and 12 July 2012. Both shows sold out within 24 hours of tickets going on open sale. A third London date was added for 14 July. On 30 June, Queen + Lambert performed in Kiev, Ukraine at a joint concert with Elton John for the Elena Pinchuk ANTIAIDS Foundation. Queen also performed with Lambert on 3 July 2012 at Moscow’s Olympic Stadium, and on 7 July 2012 at the Municipal Stadium in Wroclaw, Poland.
On 12 August 2012, Queen performed at the closing ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. May performed part of the “Brighton Rock” solo before being joined by Taylor and solo artist Jessie J for a performance of “We Will Rock You”.
Brian May began composing in 1968/1969, and through the years he has collaborated with other songwriters, including Frank Musker, with whom he wrote “Too Much Love Will Kill You“, and with Elizabeth Lamers, whose music won the Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically & Lyrically in 1996. A meticulous arranger, he focuses on multi-part harmonies, often more contrapuntal than parallel – a relative rarity for rock guitar. Examples are found in Queen’s albums A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races, where he arranged a jazz band for guitar mini-orchestra (“Good Company”), a vocal canon (“The Prophet’s Song”) and guitar and vocal counterpoints (“Teo Torriatte“).
May explored a wide variety of styles in guitar, including sweep picking (“Was It All Worth It“, “Chinese Torture”), tremolo (“Brighton Rock“, “Stone Cold Crazy“, “Death on Two Legs“, “Sweet Lady“, “Bohemian Rhapsody“, “Get Down Make Love“, “Dragon Attack“), tapping (“Bijou“, “It’s Late“, “Resurrection“, “Cyborg”, “Rain Must Fall”, “Business”, “China Belle”, “I Was Born To Love You”), slide guitar (“Drowse”, “Tie Your Mother Down”), Hendrix sounding licks (“Liar“, “Brighton Rock”), tape-delay (“Brighton Rock”, “White Man”) and melodic sequences (“Bohemian Rhapsody“, “Killer Queen“, “These Are the Days of Our Lives“). Some of his solos and orchestral parts were composed by Freddie Mercury, who then asked May to bring them to life (“Bicycle Race”, “Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon“, “Killer Queen”, “Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy“). May also performed notable acoustic works, including the acoustic guitar live version of “Love of My Life” from 1975′s A Night at the Opera, the finger-picked solo of “White Queen” and the skiffle-influenced “’39″.
In January 2007, the readers of Guitar World voted May’s guitar solos “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Brighton Rock” into the “top 50 Greatest Guitar Solos of all time” (“Bohemian Rhapsody” was voted No. 20 and “Brighton Rock” was voted #41).
Aided by the uniqueness of his guitar – the Red Special – May was often able to create strange and unusual sound effects. For example, he was able to imitate an orchestra in the song “Procession“; in “Get Down, Make Love” he was able to create various sound effects with his guitar; in “Good Company” he used his guitar to mimic a trombone, a piccolo and several other instruments for the song’s Dixieland jazz band feel. Queen used a “No synthesizers were used on this album” sleeve note on their early albums to make this clear to the listeners.
The first instrument Brian May learned to play was the banjolele, which he then played on Queen’s song “Bring Back That Leroy Brown” (live and in the studio). For “Good Company”, he used a regular baritone ukelele which he had bought in Hawaii on a holiday. Occasionally, May would also record on other string instruments such as harp (one chord per take, then copied and pasted by the engineer to make it sound like a continuous performance) and bass (on some demos and many songs in his solo career, and the Queen + Paul Rodgers album).
As a child, he was also trained on classical piano. Although Freddie Mercury was the band’s main pianist, Brian would occasionally step in (such as on “Save Me“). From 1979 onwards, he also played synthesisers, organ (“Wedding March”) and programmed drum-machines for both Queen and outside projects (such as producing other artists and his own solo records).
May is also an accomplished singer. From Queen’s Queen II to The Game, May contributed lead vocals to at least one song per album. May co-composed a mini-opera with Lee Holdridge, Il Colosso, for Steve Barron‘s 1996 film, The Adventures of Pinocchio. May performed the opera with Jerry Hadley, Sissel Kyrkjebo, and Just William. On-screen, it was performed entirely by puppets.
Brian May has been referred to as a virtuoso guitarist by many publications and musicians. He has featured in various music polls of great rock guitarists, and in 2011 was ranked number 26 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time“. Former Van Halen vocalist Sammy Hagar stated, “I thought Queen were really innovative and made some great sounding records.. I like the rockin’ stuff. I think Brian May has one of the great guitar tones on the planet, and I really, really love his guitar work.”[ May has used a range of guitars, most often the “Red Special“, which he designed when he was only 16 years old. It was built with wood from an 18th century fireplace. His comments on the guitar:
“I like a big neck – thick, flat and wide. I lacquered the fingerboard with Rustin’s Plastic Coating. The tremolo is interesting in that the arm’s made from an old bicycle saddle bag carrier, the knob at the end’s off a knitting needle and the springs are valve springs from an old motorbike.”—Brian May
In addition to using his home-made guitar he prefers to use coins (especially a sixpence from the farewell proof set of 1970), instead of a more traditional plastic plectrum, on the basis that their rigidity gives him more control in playing. He is known to carry coins in his pockets specifically for this purpose.
May’s early heroes were Cliff Richard and The Shadows, who he says were “the most metallic thing(s) out at the time.” Many years later he gained his opportunity to play on separate occasions with both Cliff Richard and Shadows lead guitarist Hank Marvin. He has collaborated with Cliff Richard on a re-recording of the Cliff Richard and The Shadows (then known as The Drifters) 1958 hit “Move It” on the Cliff Richard duets album Two’s Company which was released on 6 November 2006. On Queen For An Hour 1989 Interview on BBC Radio 1, May listed Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton as his guitar heroes. In a 1991 interview for Guitar World magazine, May referred to The Who as “my inspiration”, and on seeing Led Zeppelin stated, “We used to look at those guys and think, “That’s the way it should be done.” Influenced by Jimmy Page, May states; “I don’t think anyone has epitomised riff writing better than Jimmy Page – he’s one of the great brains of rock music”.
During the time in which Brian May and his father were building the Red Special, May also produced plans to build a second guitar. However, so successful was the Red Special, that May simply had no need to build another guitar. These plans were eventually given to guitar luthier Andrew Guyton in around 2004/05, some slight modifications were made and the guitar was built. It was named “The Spade”, as the shape of the body resembled the form shown on playing cards. However the guitar also came to be known as “The Guitar That Time Forgot”.
Most of May’s electric guitar work live and in the studio was done on the Red Special, which he built with his father during his teenage years. From 1975 onwards, he has also had some replicas made, some of which were also used for live and recording purposes, others were mainly spares. The most famous replicas were made by John Birch (in 1975—May actually smashed it during a concert in the States in 1982), Greco BM90 (featured in the promo video of “Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy” in 1977), Guild (back-up from 1984 to 1993) and Fryers (1997–1998, used both live and in the studio). On stage, May used to carry at least one back-up guitar (in case he broke a string) and occasionally would use others for certain songs or parts. Currently, May has his own company which makes guitars whose design is modelled after the original Red Special guitar.
- July 1973 – May 1974: Fender Stratocaster Pre-CBS
- October 1974 – May 1975: Gibson Les Paul Deluxe, and the Stratocaster from the previous tour.
- November 1975 – May 1976: Same two guitars as before, plus a natural finish John Birch replica of the Red Special.
- September 1976: Same three as before, plus a Martin D-18 acoustic for “’39″.
- January 1977 – August 1979: Just the Birch replica plus an Ovation Pacemaker 12-string acoustic on some numbers (“’39″, “Love of My Life”, “Dreamer’s Ball”).
- November 1979 – June 1982: Birch replica (back-up), Fender Telecaster (“Crazy Little Thing Called Love” 2nd verse, middle-eight and solo), Ovation (acoustic numbers).
- July – November 1982: Added a Gibson Flying V as second back-up. On 9 August 1982 Brian smashed the Birch guitar, so the Flying V became the only spare.
- August to October 1984: The Flying V became a second back-up again as his main spare was the Guild replica. He also used Roger Taylor’s Gibson Chet-Atkins Classical Electric.
- July 1985 – August 1986: Gibson Flying V no longer used. The rest remained the same.
Some of the non-RS electric guitars he used in the studio included:
- Burns Double Six on “Long Away” (1976) and “Under Pressure” (1981).
- Fender Telecaster on “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” (1979). It was used for the video (but not the recordings) of “Back Chat” (1982).
- Gibson Firebird on “Hammer to Fall” and “Tear It Up” (album versions only, not on stage).
- Ibanez JS on “Nothing But Blue” (1991).
- Parker Fly on “Mother Love” (1993–1995).
For acoustic, he favoured Ovation, Martin, Tōkai Hummingbird, Godin and Guild. On a couple of videos he also used some different electric guitars: a Stratocaster copy on “Play the Game” (1980) and a Washburn RR2V on “Princes of the Universe” (1986).
In 1984 Guild released the first official Red Special replica for mass production, and made some prototypes specifically for May. However the solid body construction (the original RS has hollow cavities in the body) and the pick-ups (DiMarzio) that were not an exact replica of the Burns TriSonic did not make May happy, so the production stopped after just 300 guitars. In 1993 Guild made a second replica of the RS, made in just 1000 copies, of which May has some and used as a backup. At the moment, he uses the two guitars made by Greg Fryer—the luthier who restored the Old Lady in 1998—as backup. They are almost identical to the original, except for the Fryer logo on the headstock (May’s original one has a sixpence).
In the studio, May used Yamaha DX7 synths for the opening sequence of “One Vision” and the backgrounds of “Who Wants to Live Forever” (also on stage), “Scandal” and “The Show Must Go On”. He mostly used Freddie Mercury’s 1972 Steinway piano and reportedly now owns the instrument in question. May was keen on using some toys as instruments as well. He used a Yamaha plastic piano in “Teo Torriatte“, a “genuine George Formby Ukulele-Banjo” in “Bring Back That Leroy Brown” and in “Good Company”, and a toy mini koto in “The Prophet’s Song”.
May has used Vox AC30 amplifiers almost exclusively since a meeting with his long-time hero Rory Gallagher at a gig in London during the late ’60s/early ’70s. His choice is the model AC30TBX, the top-boost version with Blue Alnico speakers, and he runs the amp at full volume on the Normal channel. He also customises his amps by removing the circuitry for the Brilliant and Vib-trem channels (leaving only the circuitry for the Normal), and this alters the tone slightly, with a gain addition of 6–7 dB. He always used a treble booster which, along with the AC30 and his custom ‘Deacy Amp‘ transistor amp, as built by Queen bass player John Deacon, went a long way in helping to create many of his signature guitar tones. He used the Dallas Rangemaster for the first Queen albums, up to A Day at the Races. Effects guru Pete Cornish built for him the TB-83 (32 dB of gain) that was used for all the remaining Queen albums. He switched in 2000 to the Fryer’s booster, which actually gives less boost than the TB-83.
Live, he uses banks of Vox AC30 amplifiers keeping some amps with only guitar and others with all effects such as delay, flanger and chorus. He has a rack of 14 AC30s, which are grouped as Normal, Chorus, Delay 1, Delay 2. On his pedal board, May has a custom switch unit made by Cornish and subsequently modified by Fryer that allows him to choose which amps are active. He uses a BOSS pedal from the ’70s, the Chorus Ensemble CE-1, which can be heard in “In The Lap of The Gods” (Live at Wembley ’86) or “Hammer to Fall” (slow version played live with P. Rodgers). Next in the chain, he uses a Foxx Foot Phaser (“We Will Rock You”, “We Are the Champions”, “Keep Yourself Alive”, etc.), and two delay machines to play his trademark solo in “Brighton Rock”.
Guitar Rig & Signal Flow
A detailed gear diagram of Brian May’s 1999 guitar rig is well-documented.
May’s lead vocals in Queen
- “Keep Yourself Alive” – Vocal bridge with Taylor, rest sung by Mercury (1973)
- “Some Day, One Day” (1974)
- “She Makes Me (Stormtrooper in Stilettoes)” (1974)
- “’39” (1975)
- “Good Company” (1975)
- “Long Away” (1976)
- “All Dead, All Dead” (1977)
- “Sleeping on the Sidewalk” (1977)
- “Fat Bottomed Girls” – Chorus lead vocals (1978)
- “Leaving Home Ain’t Easy” (1978)
- “Sail Away Sweet Sister” – Mercury sings the bridge (1980)
- “Flash” – with Freddie Mercury (1980)
- “Put Out the Fire” – lead on falsetto lines.
- “Las Palabras de Amor” – Lead harmony vocals on chorus (1982)
- “I Go Crazy” – Lead Bridge Vocals (1984)
- “Who Wants to Live Forever” – First verse, harmony and other lines throughout (1986)
- “I Want It All” – with Mercury (1989)
- “Lost Opportunity” (1991)
- “Mother Love” – Lead vocals on final verse (1995)
- “Let Me Live” – Lead vocals on third verse (1995)
- “No-One but You (Only the Good Die Young)” – with Taylor (1997)
From 1974 to 1988, May was married to Chrissie Mullen, who is the mother of his three children: Jimmy, who was born on 15 June 1978; Louisa, who was born on 22 May 1981 and Emily Ruth, who was born on 17 February 1987. Chrissie and Brian separated in 1988. Their separation and eventual divorce was highly publicised by British tabloid newspapers following reports that he had an affair with EastEnders actress Anita Dobson, whom he met in 1986, and who gained fame in the 1980s as Angie Watts. After many years together they married on 18 November 2000.
He has stated in interviews that he suffered from severe depression in the late 1980s and early 1990s, even to the point of contemplating suicide, for reasons having to do with his troubled first marriage, his perceived failure as a husband and a father, his father Harold’s death, and Freddie Mercury’s illness and eventual death.
May’s father Harold worked as a draughtsman at the Ministry of Aviation and had been a long-time cigarette-smoker. As a result, May dislikes smoking, even to the point where he has prohibited smoking indoors at his more recent concerts. His father was disappointed that he abandoned his scientific education to become a rock musician, but after he flew both his parents out to New York to attend Queen’s first concert in Madison Square Garden, his father said that he “got it”. According to The Sunday Times Rich List he is worth £85 million or around $135 million as of 2011.
May studied physics and mathematics at Imperial College London, graduating with a BSc (Hons) degree and ARCS in physics with Upper Second-Class Honours. He then proceeded to study for a PhD degree, also at the Imperial College departments of Physics and Mathematics, and was part way through this PhD programme, studying reflected light from interplanetary dust and the velocity of dust in the plane of the Solar System. When Queen became successful he abandoned his physics doctorate but co-wrote two scientific research papers: MgI Emission in the Night-Sky Spectrum (1972) and An Investigation of the Motion of Zodiacal Dust Particles (Part I) (1973), which were based on his observations at the Teide Observatory in Tenerife. He is the co-author of Bang! – The Complete History of the Universe with Sir Patrick Moore and Chris Lintott, which was published in October 2006. In October 2007, more than 30 years after he started his research, he completed his PhD thesis in astrophysics, entitled A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud, passed his viva voce, and performed the required corrections. He officially graduated at the postgraduate awards ceremony held in the Royal Albert Hall, on the afternoon of Wednesday 14 May 2008. On 17 November 2007, May was appointed Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University, taking over from Cherie Blair, and installed in 2008.
Asteroid 52665 Brianmay was named in his honour on 18 June 2008 on the suggestion of Sir Patrick Moore (probably influenced by the asteroid’s provisional designation of 1998 BM30). May appeared on the 700th episode of The Sky at Night hosted by Sir Patrick Moore, along with Dr. Chris Lintott, Jon Culshaw, Prof. Brian Cox, and the Astronomer Royal Martin Rees who on leaving the panel told Brian May, who was joining it, “I don’t know any scientist who looks as much like Isaac Newton as you do”.
Brian May has formed a group to promote animal welfare. Though a Conservative Party voter most of his life, he has stated that their policies on fox hunting and the culling of badgers meant he did not vote for them at the 2010 General Election. His group, Save Me (named after the May-written Queen song), campaigns for the protection of all animals against unnecessary, cruel and degrading treatment; with a particular emphasis on preventing hunting of foxes and the culling of badgers. The group’s primary concern is to ensure that the Hunting Act 2004 and other laws protecting animals are kept in place. In a September 2010 interview with Stephen Sackur for the BBC’s HARDtalk program, May said that he would rather be remembered for his animal rights work than for his music or science.
In March 2012, Brian May contributed the foreword to a target paper published by the think tank the Bow Group, urging the Government to reconsider its plans to cull thousands of badgers to control Bovine TB, stating that the findings of Labour’s major badger culling trials, several years earlier, show that culling does not work. The paper was authored by Graham Godwin-Pearson with contributions by leading tuberculosis scientists, including Lord Krebs.
May has had a lifelong interest in collecting Victorian stereophotography. In 2009, with co-author Elena Vidal, he published his second book, A Village Lost and Found, on the work of English stereophotography innovator T. R. Williams. He was awarded The Royal Photographic Society‘s Saxby Medal in 2012 for achievement in the field of three-dimensional imaging.
1983 Star Fleet Project
1992 Back to the Light
1998 Another World
2000 Furia (Original Soundtrack)
Richard Hugh “Ritchie” Blackmore (born 14 April 1945) is a British guitarist and songwriter, known as one of the first guitarists to fuse classical music elements with blues rock. He began his professional career as a studio session musician and was subsequently a member of Deep Purple, after which Blackmore established a successful career fronting his own band Rainbow, and later progressed to the traditional folk rock project Blackmore’s Night with his wife.
Blackmore was born at Allandale Nursing Home, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, South West England, but moved to Heston, Middlesex (now Greater London) at the age of two. Although the surname Blackmore is thought to be of English origin, his father was of Welsh ancestry and his mother of English. He was 11 when his father bought his first guitar for him on certain conditions, including learning how to play properly, so he took classical guitar lessons for one year.
While at school he participated in sports including the javelin. Blackmore left school at age 15 and started work as an apprentice radio mechanic at nearby Heathrow Airport. He was given guitar lessons by Big Jim Sullivan.
In 1960 and 1961 he played with minor local bands, including the Jaywalkers. In 1963 he began to work as a session player for Joe Meek‘s music productions and performed in several bands. He was a member of the instrumental combo The Outlaws, and backed Heinz (playing on his top ten hit “Just Like Eddie“), and Glenda Collins, among others.
Blackmore joined the rock group Deep Purple in 1968 after receiving an invitation from organist Jon Lord. Purple’s early sound leaned on psychedelia and progressive rock. This “Mark One” line-up featuring singer Rod Evans lasted until mid-1969 and produced three studio albums.
The second line-up’s first studio album, in Rock (1970), signaled a transition in the band’s sound from progressive rock to hard rock. This “Mark Two” line-up featuring singer Ian Gillan lasted until mid-1973, producing four studio albums, and one live album.
The third line-up’s new album was entitled Burn (1974), which featured blues singer, David Coverdale. This “Mark Three” line-up lasted until mid-1975 and produced two studio albums. Blackmore publicly expressed dislike for the funk and soul influences that Coverdale and bassist/vocalist Glenn Hughes injected into the band. Following its conclusion, he abandoned the band to front a new group, Rainbow. By this time, Blackmore already began to have lost interest in playing the guitar, so he took cello lessons from Hugh McDowell of (ELO). Blackmore later explained that when playing different musical instrument such as a cello, he found it refreshing because there’s a sense of adventure not knowing exactly what chord he’s playing or what key he’s in.
Blackmore originally planned to make a solo album, but instead in 1975 formed his own band, Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, later shortened to Rainbow. Featuring opera-trained vocalist Ronnie James Dio and his blues rock band Elf as studio session musicians, this first line-up never performed live. The band’s debut album, Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, was released in 1975. Rainbow was originally thought to be a one-off collaboration, but endured as an ongoing band project with a series of album releases and tours. Blackmore was impressed by Dio’s relatively flexible style as a vocalist. Shortly after the first album was recorded, Blackmore recruited new backing musicians to record the second album Rising (1976), and the following live album, On Stage (1977). Rising was originally billed as “Blackmore’s Rainbow” in the US. Rainbow’s music was partly inspired by Baroque music since Blackmore started playing cello for musical composition. After the next studio album’s release and supporting tour in 1978, Dio left Rainbow due to “creative differences” with Blackmore, who disliked Dio’s signature ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ lyric style.
Blackmore continued with Rainbow, and in 1979 the band released a new album entitled Down To Earth, which featured R&B singer Graham Bonnet. The album marked the commercialization of the band’s sound, and contained Rainbow’s first chart successes, as the single “Since You Been Gone” (a cover of the Russ Ballard penned tune) became a smash hit. Bonnet left the band after this support tour in 1980.
The next Rainbow album, Difficult to Cure (1981), introduced melodic vocalist Joe Lynn Turner. The instrumental title track from this album was an arrangement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with additional music. The album marked the further commercialization of the band’s sound with Blackmore once describing at the time liking for the pop rock band, Foreigner. The music was consciously radio-targeted, in a more AOR style, resulting in some degree of alienation with many of their earlier fans. Rainbow’s next studio album was Straight Between the Eyes (1982) and included the hit single “Stone Cold.” It would be followed by the album Bent Out of Shape (1983), which featured the single “Street Of Dreams“. In 1983 Blackmore was also nominated for a Grammy Award for his work on an instrumental ballad track, “Anybody There”. Rainbow disbanded in 1984. A then-final Rainbow album, Finyl Vinyl, was patched together from live tracks and the B-sides of various singles.
In 1984, Blackmore joined a reunion of the former Deep Purple “Mark Two” line-up and recorded new material. This reunion line-up lasted until 1989 and produced the two studio albums, and the following live album.
The next line-up recorded one album entitled Slaves & Masters (1990), which featured former Rainbow vocalist Joe Lynn Turner. The album’s style differed from the traditional Purple sound. Subsequently the “Mark Two” line-up reunited for a second time in late 1992 and produced one studio album. During its follow-up promotional tour, Blackmore again quit the band in November 1993.
Blackmore reformed Rainbow with new members in 1994. This Rainbow line-up, featuring Scottish singer Doogie White, lasted until 1997 and produced one album entitled Stranger in Us All in 1995. It was originally intended to be a solo album but due to the record company pressures the record was billed as Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. Though White was not as distinctive as its previous singers, it had a sound dissimilar to any Rainbow of old. This is regarded as Blackmore’s last hard rock album. A world tour including South America followed. Rainbow was disbanded once again after playing its final concert in 1997.
Over the years Rainbow went through many personnel changes with no two studio albums featuring the same line-up: Blackmore was the sole constant band member.
In 1997 Blackmore, with his girlfriend Candice Night as vocalist, formed the traditional folk rock duo Blackmore’s Night. In 1995, they were already working on their debut album Shadow of the Moon (1997). Blackmore once described at the time their artistic characteristics as “Mike Oldfield plus Enya“. Blackmore mostly utilized acoustic guitar, to back Night’s delicate vocals. During song composition, Blackmore directly writes her vocal melodies. Night said, “When he sings, he sings only for me, in private”. As a result, his musical approach shifted to vocalist-centered sounds. They recorded a mixture of original and cover materials. The band’s musical style is inspired by Renaissance music and blends with Night’s lyrics about medieval themes and fantasy. The second release, entitled Under a Violet Moon (1999) continued in the same folk-rock style, with Night’s vocals remaining a prominent feature of the band’s style.
In subsequent albums, particularly Fires at Midnight (2001), which featured the Bob Dylan cover “The Times They Are a Changin’“. There was occasionally an increased incorporation of rock guitar into the music, whilst maintaining a folk rock direction. A live album, Past Times with Good Company was released in 2002. After the next studio album’s release, an official compilation album Beyond the Sunset: The Romantic Collection was released in 2004, featuring music from the four studio albums. A Christmas-themed holiday album, Winter Carols was released in 2006. Through numerous personnel changes, the backing musicians have totaled about 25 persons. Blackmore sometimes played drums in recording studio. Possibly to concentrate on album production, they chose to avoid typically rock concert tour to perform, instead limiting their appearances to small theaters or medieval castles.Their music is generally categorized as belonging to New age music.
Equipment and musical style
During the 1960s, Blackmore played a Gibson ES-335 but switched to a Fender Stratocaster in 1970. Since then, until he formed Blackmore’s Night in 1997, he used Stratocasters almost exclusively. The middle pickup is screwed down and not used. Blackmore has also occasionally used a Fender Telecaster Thinline during recording sessions. He is also one of the first rock guitarists to have used a “scalloped” fretboard where the wood is filed and carved out into a shallow “U” shape between the frets.
In his soloing, Blackmore combines blues scales and phrasing with dominant minor scales and ideas from European classical music. While playing he would often put the pick in his mouth, playing with his fingers. He occasionally uses the diatonic scale, with rapidly changing tonality.
In the 1970s, Blackmore used a number of different Stratocasters; one of his main guitars was an Olympic white 1974 model with a rosewood fingerboard that was scalloped. Blackmore added a strap lock to the headstock of this guitar as a conversation piece to annoy and confuse people.
His amplifiers were originally 200-Watt Marshall Major stacks which were modified by Marshall with an additional output stage (generated approximately 278W) to make them sound more like Blackmore’s favourite Vox AC-30 amp cranked to full volume. Since 1994, he has used Engl valve amps.
Effects he used from 1970 to 1997, besides his usual tape echo, included a Hornby Skewes Treble Booster in the early days. Around late-1973, he experimented with an EMS Synthi Hi Fli guitar synthesizer. He sometimes used a wah-wah pedal and a variable control treble-booster for sustain, and Moog Taurus bass pedals were used in solo parts during concerts. He also had a modified Aiwa TP-1011 tape machine built to supply echo and delay effects; the tape deck was also used as a pre-amp. Other effects that Blackmore used were a Unicord Univibe, a Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face and an Octave Divider.
Blackmore has experimented with many different pickups in his Strats. In the early Rainbow era, they were still stock Fenders, later Dawk installed over wound, dipped, Fender pickups. He has also used Schecter F-500-Ts, Velvet Hammer “Red Rhodes”, DiMarzio “HS-2″, OBL “Black Label”, Bill Lawrence L-450, XL-250 (bridge), L-250 (neck). He used Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound Flat SSL-4 for several years and since the late 80s he has used Lace Sensor (Gold) “noiseless” pickups.
On 18 May 1964, Blackmore married Margit Volkmar (b. 3 January 1945) from Germany. They lived in Hamburg during the late 1960s,.Their son, Jürgen (b. 1964), played guitar in touring tribute band Over the Rainbow. Following their divorce, Blackmore married Bärbel, a German former dancer, in September 1969 until their divorce in early 1970s. As a result, he is a fluent speaker of German.
For tax reasons, he moved to the U.S.A. in 1974. Initially he lived in Oxnard, California with American opera singer Shoshana for one year, so she provided backing vocals on Rainbow’s first album. Shortly after Blackmore met Amy Rothman in 1978, he moved to Connecticut. He married Rothman on 16 May 1981, but they divorced in 1983. Soon after, he began a relationship with Tammi Williams . In early 1984 Blackmore met Williams in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where she was working as a hotel employee. In the same year, he purchased his first car because he had finally learned to drive a car at 39 years old.
Blackmore and then-fashion model Candice Night began living together in 1991. He moved on her native Long Island in 1993. After being engaged for nearly fifteen years, the couple married in October 2008. Their daughter, Autumn was born in 2010. Their second child, Rory was born in 2012. He plays football once a week, and always watches German language television on the satellite dish when he stays at his home. Blackmore has a collection of approximately 2,000 CDs of Renaissance music.
In popular culture
Blackmore was ranked number 16 on Guitar World‘s “100 Greatest Metal Guitarists of All Time” in 2004, and number 55 in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” in 2012.
Session recordings (1963–1968)
- 1963 The Outlaws – “The Return Of The Outlaws” b/w “Texan Spiritual” (Single)
- 1963 The Outlaws – “That Set The Wild West Free” (Single)
- 1963 The Outlaws – “Law And Order” b/w “Doo Dah Day” (Single)
- 1963 Michael Cox – “Don’t You Break My Heart” b/w “Hark Is That A Cannon I Hear” (Single)
- 1963 Michael Cox – “Gee What A Party” b/w “Say That Again” (Single)
- 1963 Glenda Collins – “I Feel So Good” (the B-side of single)
- 1963 Glenda Collins – “If You Gotta Pick A Baby” b/w “In The First Place” (Single)
- 1963 Heinz – “Dreams Do Come True” b/w “Been Invited To A Party” (Single)
- 1963 Heinz – “Just Like Eddie” b/w “Don’t You Knock At My Door” (Single)
- 1963 Heinz – Tribute To Eddie (“Tribute To Eddie”; “Hush – A- Bye – Baby”; “Summertime Blues”; “Come On And Dance”; “20 Flight Rock”; “I Remember”)
- 1963 Heinz – Heinz (EP: “I Get Up In The Morning”; “Talkin’ Like A Man”; “That Lucky Old Sun”; “Lonely River”)
- 1963 Heinz – “Country Boy” b/w “Long Tall Jack” (Single)
- 1963 Heinz – Live It Up (EP: “Live It Up”; “Don’t You Understand”; “When Your Loving Goes Wrong”)
- 1963 Houston Wells – “Only The Heartaches” (Single)
- 1963 Dave Adams – “Like A Bird Without Feathers” (the B-side of single)
- 1963 Dave Adams – “You Made Me Cry” (the B-side of single)
- 1963 Jenny Moss – “Hobbies” b/w “Big Boy” (Single)
- 1963 Geoff Goddard – “Sky Men” b/w “Walk With Me My Angel” (Single)
- 1963 Pamela Blue – “My Friend Bobby” b/w “Hey There Stranger” (Single)
- 1963 Gunilla Thorne – “Go On Then” (the B-side of single)
- 1963 Joe Meek Orchestra – “The Kennedy March” (Single)
- 1964 The Outlaws – “Keep A Knockin’” b/w “Shake With Me” (Single)
- 1964 The Outlaws – “The Bike Beat Part 1″ b/w “The Bike Beat Part 2″ (Single)
- 1964 Glenda Collins – “Baby It Hurts” b/w “Nice Wasn’t It” (Single)
- 1964 Glenda Collins – “Lollipop” b/w “Evrybody’s Got To Fall In Love” (Single)
- 1964 The Sharades – “Boy Trouble” (the B-side of single)
- 1964 Andy Cavell – “Tell The Truth” (Single)
- 1964 Davy Kaye – “A Fool Such As I” (Single)
- 1964 Houston Wells – “Galway Bay” b/w “Living Alone” (Single)
- 1964 Houston Wells & The Marksmen – Ramona (EP: “Ramona”; “Girl Down The Street”; “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now”; “Nobody’s Child”)
- 1964 Heinz – “You Were There” b/w “No Matter What They Say” (Single)
- 1964 Heinz – “Please Little Girl” b/w “For Lovin’ Me This Way” (Single)
- 1964 Heinz – “Questions I Can’t Answer” b/w “The Beating Of My Heart” (Single)
- 1964 Valerie Masters – “Christmas Calling” b/w “He Didn’t Fool Me” (Single)
- 1965 The Outlaws – “Only For You” (the B-side of single)
- 1965 Michael Cox – Michael Cox in Sweden (EP: “I’ve Been Thinking”; “Is This Lonesome Old House”)
- 1965 Glenda Collins – “Johnny Loves Me” b/w “Paradise For Two” (Single)
- 1965 Glenda Collins – “Thou Shalt Not Steal” b/w “Been Invited To A Party” (Single)
- 1965 Heinz – “Digging My Potatoes” b/w “She Ain’t Coming Back” (Single)
- 1965 Heinz – “Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right” b/w “Big Fat Spider” (Single)
- 1965 Heinz – “End Of The World” b/w “You Make Me Feel So Good” (Single)
- 1965 Heinz – “Heart Full Of Sorrow” b/w “Don’t Worry Baby” (Single)
- 1965 Screaming Lord Sutch – “The Train Kept A Rollin’” b/w “Honey Hush” (Single)
- 1965 Richie Blackmore Orchestra – “Getaway” b/w “Little Brown Jag” (Single)
- 1965 The Tornados – “Early Bird” b/w “Stomping Through The Rye” (Single)
- 1965 Jess Conrad – “It Can Happen To You” (the B-side of single)
- 1965 The Lancasters – “Satan’s Holiday” b/w “Earthshaker” (Single)
- 1965 The Sessions – “Let Me In” b/w “Bouncing Bass” (Single)
- 1966 Heinz – “Movin’ In” b/w “I’m Not A Bad Guy” (Single)
- 1966 Ronnie Jones – “My Only Souvenir” b/w “Satisfy My Soul” (Single)
- 1966 Soul Brothers – “Goodbye Babe, Goodbye” (Single)
- 1968 Neil Christian & The Crusaders – “My Baby Left Me” b/w “Yakkety Yak” (Single)
- 1968 Boz – “I Shall Be Released” b/w “Down In The Flood” (Single)
- 1968 Sundragon – “Five White Horses” (Single)
- 1968 Sundragon – Green Tambourine (“I Want To Be A Rock’n’roll Star”, “Peacock Dress”, “Love Minus Zero”)
- 1968 Anan – “Medina” b/w “Standing Still” (Single)
Previously unreleased outtakes
- 1963 Chad Carson – “A Fool In Love”; “Jesse James”
- 1963 Dave Adams – “It Feels Funny, It Feels Good”; “You Just Can’t Do It On Your Own”; “Clean, Clean, Clean”; “The Birds And The Bees”; “Don’t Put All Your Eggs In One Basket”; “Oh What A Party”; “Let Me In”; “They’re All Up To It”; “Signs And Posters”; “Out Behind The Barn”; “There’s Something At The Bottom Of The Garden”; “The Bathroom”
- 1963 Gene Vincent & The Outlaws – “Dance To The Bop”; “High Blood Pressure”; “Baby Blue”, “Blue Jean Bop”; “Lotta Lovin’”; “Crazy Beat”; “Rip It Up”; “Frankie & Johnny”; “Another Saturday Night”; “I’m Gonna Catch Me A Rat”; “Long Tall Sally” (Those songs were recorded live)
- 1963 Jenny Moss – “Please Let It Happen To Me”; “My Boy Comes Marching Home”
- 1964 Kim Roberts – “Love Can’t Wait”; “Mr. Right”
- 1964 Houston Wells – “We’ll Remember You”
- 1965 The Outlaws – “As Long As I Live” (recorded live)
- 1965 Glenda Collins – “Sing C` Est La Vie”; “Run To Me”; “Self Portrait”
- 1989 Ritchie Blackmore – Rock Profile
- 1991 Ritchie Blackmore – Rock Profile Vol. 2
- 1991 The Derek Lawrence Sessions Take 1
- 1992 The Derek Lawrence Sessions Take 3
- 1994 Heinz – Dreams Do Come True – The 45′s Collection
- 1994 Ritchie Blackmore – Take It! Sessions 63/68
- 1995 It’s Hard To Believe It: The Amazing World Of Joe Meek
- 2002 Joe Meek – The Alchemist of Pop: Home Made Hits and Rarities 1959-66
- 2002 Pre Purple People (VA)
- 2005 Ritchie Blackmore – Getaway – Groups & Sessions
- 2008 Houston Wells – Then & Now: From Joe Meek To New Zealand
- 1971 Green Bullfrog – Green Bullfrog aka Natural Magic
- 1972 Screaming Lord Sutch & Heavy Friends – Hands Off Jack The Ripper (recorded live ’70)
- 1973 Randy, Pie & Family – Hurry To The City/Looking with Eyes of Love (SP, “Hurry To The City”)
- 1974 Adam Faith – I Survive (“I Survive”) Intro only
- 1980 Jack Green – Humanesque (“I Call, No Answer”)
- 1990 Rock Aid Armenia – The Earthquake Album (“Smoke On The Water ’90″) with various guitarists
- 1992 Laurent Voulzy – Caché Derrière (“Guitare héraut”) Guitar solo only
- 1996 Twang! A Tribute To Hank Marvin & The Shadows (“Apache”)
- 1996 Sweet – All Right Now (“All Right Now By Now”, recorded live ’76)
- 1997 Pat Boone – In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy (“Smoke On The Water”) with Dweezil Zappa
- 1999 Geyers Schwarzer Haufen – Live ’99 (“Göttliche Devise”) Bonus truck
- 2004 Geyers Schwarzer Haufen – Historock Lästerzungen (“God’s Gospel”)
- 2011 William Shatner – Seeking Major Tom (“Space Oddity“)
Peter Dennis Blandford “Pete” Townshend (born 19 May 1945) is an English rock guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and author, known principally as the guitarist and songwriter for the rock group The Who, as well as for his own solo career. His career with The Who spans more than 40 years, during which time the band grew to be considered one of the most influential bands of the 1960s and 1970s, and, according to Eddie Vedder, “possibly the greatest live band ever.”
Townshend is the primary songwriter for The Who, having written well over 100 songs for the band’s 11 studio albums, including concept albums and the rock operas Tommy and Quadrophenia, plus popular rock and roll radio staples like Who’s Next, and dozens more that appeared as non-album singles, bonus tracks on reissues, and tracks on rarities compilations like Odds & Sods. He has also written over 100 songs that have appeared on his solo albums, as well as radio jingles and television theme songs. Although known primarily as a guitarist, he also plays other instruments such as keyboards, banjo, accordion, synthesiser, bass guitar and drums, on his own solo albums, several Who albums, and as a guest contributor to a wide array of other artists’ recordings. Townshend has never had formal lessons in any of the instruments he plays.
Townshend has also been a contributor and author of newspaper and magazine articles, book reviews, essays, books, and scripts, as well as collaborating as a lyricist (and composer) for many other musical acts. Townshend was ranked No. 3 in Dave Marsh‘s list of Best Guitarists in The New Book of Rock Lists, No. 10 in Gibson.com’s list of the top 50 guitarists, and No. 10 again in Rolling Stone magazine’s updated 2011 list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. Townshend was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Who in 1990.
Born in Chiswick, London into a musical family (his father Cliff Townshend was a professional saxophonist in The Squadronaires and his mother Betty (née Dennis) was a singer), Townshend exhibited a fascination with music at an early age. In the mid-1950s he was drawn to American rock and roll; his mother recounts that he repeatedly saw the 1956 film Rock Around the Clock. When he was 12, his grandmother gave him his first guitar, which he has described as a “cheap Spanish thing”. Townshend’s biggest guitar influences include Link Wray, John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley and Hank Marvin of The Shadows.
|“||“Then I heard rhythm & blues and it was all over. The first record I remember was ‘Green Onions‘ by Booker T. I never listened that much to Muddy Waters or people like that. It was Steve Cropper who really turned me on to aggressive guitar playing.”||”|
Townshend’s brother Simon (who also became a musician) was born in 1960. In 1961, Townshend enrolled at Ealing Art College, with the intention to become a graphic artist and a year later, he and his school friend from Acton County Grammar School John Entwistle founded their first band, The Confederates, a Dixieland duet featuring Townshend on banjo and Entwistle on horns. From this beginning they moved on to The Detours, a skiffle/rock and roll band fronted by Roger Daltrey, another former schoolmate. With the encouragement and assistance of his old classmate Entwistle, Daltrey invited Townshend to join as well. In early 1964, because another band had the same name, The Detours renamed themselves The Who. Drummer Doug Sandom was replaced by Keith Moon not long afterwards. The band (now comprising Daltrey on lead vocals and harmonica, Townshend on guitar, Entwistle on bass guitar and french horn, and Moon on drums) were soon taken on by a mod publicist named Peter Meaden who convinced them to change their name to The High Numbers to give the band more of a mod feel. After bringing out one failed single (“I’m the Face/Zoot Suit”), they dropped Meaden and were signed on by two new managers, Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert, who had paired up with the intention of finding new talent and creating a documentary about them. The band anguished over a name that all felt represented the band best, and dropped The High Numbers name, reverting to The Who.
After The High Numbers once again became The Who, Townshend wrote several successful singles for the band, including “I Can’t Explain“, “Pictures of Lily“, “Substitute“, and “My Generation“. Townshend became known for his eccentric stage style during the band’s early days, often interrupting concerts with lengthy introductions of songs. He developed a signature move in which he would swing his right arm against the guitar strings in a style reminiscent of the vanes of a windmill. He became one of the first musicians known for smashing guitars on stage and would repeatedly throw them into his amplifiers and speaker cabinets. The first incident of guitar-smashing happened when Townshend accidentally broke the neck of his guitar on the low ceiling of an early concert venue at the Railway Tavern in Harrow. The stage, only about a foot high, nevertheless brought the ceiling to within 7 feet. After smashing the instrument to pieces, he carried on by grabbing another guitar and acting as if the broken guitar had been part of the act. Drummer Keith Moon was delighted; he loved attention and destruction on any level, and smashed his drum kit as well. The press sensationalised the incidents. The on-stage destruction of instruments soon became a regular part of The Who’s performances. This was further dramatised with pyrotechnics, an idea which came from Moon, who incorporated it in his exploding drum kits. At a concert in Germany, a police officer walked up to Townshend, pointed his gun at him, and ordered him to stop smashing the guitar. Townshend, always a voluble interview subject, would later relate these antics to German/British artist Gustav Metzger‘s theories on auto-destructive art, to which he had been exposed at art school. However, on several occasions, he admitted that the destruction was a gimmick that set the band out apart from the others and gave them the publicity edge that they needed to be noticed.
The Who thrived, and continue to thrive, despite the deaths of two of the original members. They are regarded by many rock critics as one of the best live bands from a period of time that stretched from the mid-1960s to the 2000s, the result of a unique combination of high volume, showmanship, a wide variety of rock beats, and a high-energy sound that alternated between tight and free-form. The Who continue to perform critically acclaimed sets in the 21st century, including highly regarded performances at The Concert For New York City in 2001, the 2004 Isle of Wight Festival, Live 8 in 2005 and the 2007 Glastonbury Festival.
Townshend remained the primary songwriter and leader of the group, writing over one hundred songs which appeared on the band’s eleven studio albums. Among his most well-known accomplishments are the creation of Tommy, for which the term “rock opera” was coined, and a second pioneering rock opera, Quadrophenia; his dramatic stage persona; his use of guitar feedback as sonic technique; and the introduction of the synthesiser as a rock instrument. Townshend revisited album-length storytelling throughout his career and remains the musician most associated with the rock opera form. Many studio recordings also feature Townshend on piano or keyboards, though keyboard-heavy tracks increasingly featured guest artists in the studio, such as Nicky Hopkins, John Bundrick or Chris Stainton.
Townshend is one of the key figures in the development of feedback in rock guitar. When asked who first used feedback, Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore said, “Pete Townshend was definitely the first. But not being that good a guitarist, he used to just sort of crash chords and let the guitar feedback. He didn’t get into twiddling with the dials on the amplifier until much later. He’s overrated in England, but at the same time you find a lot of people like Jeff Beck and Hendrix getting credit for things he started. Townshend was the first to break his guitar, and he was the first to do a lot of things. He’s very good at his chord scene, too.” Similarly, when Jimmy Page was asked about the development of guitar feedback, he said, “I don’t know who really did feedback first; it just sort of happened. I don’t think anybody consciously nicked it from anybody else. It was just going on. But Pete Townshend obviously was the one, through the music of his group, who made the use of feedback more his style, and so it’s related to him. Whereas the other players like Jeff Beck and myself were playing more single note things than chords.”
In addition to his work with The Who, Townshend has been sporadically active as a solo recording artist. Between 1969 and 1971 Townshend, along with other devotees to Meher Baba, recorded a trio of albums devoted to his teachings: Happy Birthday, I Am, and With Love. In response to bootlegging of these, he compiled his personal highlights (and “Evolution”, a collaboration with Ronnie Lane), and released his first major-label solo title, 1972′s Who Came First. It was a moderate success and featured demos of Who songs as well as a showcase of his acoustic guitar talents. He collaborated with The Faces‘ bassist and fellow Meher Baba devotee Ronnie Lane on a duet album (1977′s Rough Mix). Townshend’s solo breakthrough, following the death of Who drummer Keith Moon, was the 1980 release Empty Glass, which included a top-10 single, “Let My Love Open the Door“. This release was followed in 1982 by All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes, which included the popular radio track “Slit Skirts”. While not a huge commercial success, noted music critic Timothy Duggan listed it as “Townshend’s most honest and introspective work since Quadrophenia.” Through the rest of the 1980s and early 1990s Townshend would again experiment with the rock opera and related formats, releasing several story-based albums including White City: A Novel (1985), The Iron Man: A Musical (1989), and Psychoderelict (1993). Townshend also got the chance to play with his hero Hank Marvin for Paul McCartney‘s “Rockestra” sessions, along with other respected rock musicians such as David Gilmour, John Bonham and Ronnie Lane.
Townshend has also recorded several concert albums, including one featuring a supergroup he assembled called Deep End, who performed just three concerts and a television show session for The Tube, to raise money for a charity supporting drug addicts. In 1993 he and Des McAnuff wrote and directed the Broadway adaptation of the Who album Tommy, as well as a less successful stage musical based on his solo album The Iron Man, based upon the book by Ted Hughes. McAnuff and Townshend later co-produced the animated film The Iron Giant, also based on the Hughes story.
Recent Who work
From the mid-1990s through the present, Townshend has participated in a series of tours with the surviving members of The Who, including a 2002 tour that continued despite Entwistle’s death.
In February 2006, a major world tour by The Who was announced to promote their first new album since 1982. Townshend published a semi-autobiographical story The Boy Who Heard Music as a serial on a blog beginning in September 2005. The blog closed in October 2006, as noted on Townshend’s website. It is now owned by a different user and does not relate to Townshend’s work in any way. On 25 February 2006, he announced the issue of a mini-opera inspired by the novella for June 2006. In October 2006 The Who released their first album in 26 years, Endless Wire.
The Who performed at the Super Bowl XLIV half-time show on 7 February 2010, playing a medley of songs that included “Pinball Wizard”, “Who Are You”, “Baba O’Riley”, “See Me Feel Me” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. They also performed as headliners at the 2012 London Olympic Closing Ceremony, playing special arrangements of “Baba O’Riley”, “See Me Feel Me” and “My Generation.” In 2012, The Who announced they would tour the rock opera Quadrophenia.
Townshend suffers from partial deafness and tinnitus believed to be the result of noise-induced hearing loss from his extensive exposure to loud music. Some such incidents include a Who concert at the Charlton Athletic Football Club, London, on 31 May 1976 that was listed as the “Loudest Concert Ever” by the Guinness Book of Records, where the volume level was measured at 126 decibels 32 metres from the stage. Townshend has also attributed the start of his hearing loss to Keith Moon’s famous exploding drum set during The Who’s 1967 appearance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.
In 1989, Townshend gave the initial funding to allow the formation of the non-profit hearing advocacy group H.E.A.R. (Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers). After the Who performed at half-time at the Super Bowl XLIV, Townshend stated that he is concerned that his tinnitus has grown to such a point that he might be forced to discontinue performing with the band altogether. He told Rolling Stone, “If my hearing is going to be a problem, we’re not delaying shows. We’re finished. I can’t really see any way around the issue.” Neil Young introduced him to an audiologist who suggested he use an In-ear monitor, and although they cancelled their spring 2010 touring schedule, Townshend used the device at their one remaining London concert on 30 March 2010, to ascertain the feasibility of Townshend continuing to perform with The Who.
In March 2011, Roger Daltrey said in an interview with the BBC that Townshend had recently experienced gradual but severe hearing loss and was now trying to save what remained of his hearing.
“Pete’s having terrible trouble with his hearing. He’s got really, really bad problems with it…not tinnitus, it’s deterioration and he’s seriously now worried about actually losing his hearing.”
Referring to that, in July 2011, Townshend wrote at his blog: “My hearing is actually better than ever because after a feedback scare at the O2 Indigo in December 2008 I am taking good care of it. I have computer systems in my studio that have helped me do my engineering work on the forthcoming Quadrophenia release. I have had assistance from younger forensic engineers and mastering engineers to help me clean up the high frequencies that are out of my range. The same computer systems work wonderfully well on stage, proving to be perfect for me when The Who performed at the Super Bowl and doing Quadrophenia for TCT at the Royal Albert Hall in 2010. I’m 66, I don’t have perfect hearing, and if I listen to loud music or go to gigs I do tend to get tinnitus.”
From The Who’s emergence on the British musical landscape, Pete Townshend could always be counted upon for a good interview. By early 1966 he had become the band’s spokesman, interviewed separately from the band for the BBC television series A Whole Scene Going admitting that the band used drugs and that he considered The Beatles‘ backing tracks “flippin’ lousy”. In a 1967 interview, however, Townshend complimented one of The Beatles’ songs: “I think “Eleanor Rigby” was a very important musical move forward. It certainly inspired me to write and listen to things in that vein.” Throughout the 1960s Townshend made regular appearances in the pages of British music magazines, but it was a very long interview he gave to Rolling Stone in 1968 that sealed his reputation as one of rock’s leading intellectuals and theorists.
Townshend gave increasing interviews to the newly risen underground press, firmly establishing his reputation as a commentator on the rock and roll scene. In addition, he wrote his own articles, starting a regular monthly column in Melody Maker, and contributing to Rolling Stone with an article on his guru Meher Baba and a review of The Who’s album Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy.
Townshend has withdrawn from the press on occasion. On his 30th birthday, Townshend discussed his feelings that The Who were failing to journalist Roy Carr, making unflattering comments on fellow Who member Roger Daltrey and other leading members of the British rock community. Carr printed his remarks in the NME causing strong friction within The Who and embarrassing Townshend. Feeling betrayed, he stopped interviews with the press for over two years.
Nevertheless, Townshend has maintained close relationships with many journalists, and sought them out in 1982 to describe his two-year battle with cocaine and heroin. Some of those press members turned on him in the 1980s as the punk rock revolution led to widespread dismissal of the old guard of rock, Townshend attacked two of them, Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons, in the song “Jools And Jim” on his album Empty Glass after they made some derogatory remarks about Who drummer Keith Moon. Meanwhile several journalists denounced Townshend for what they saw as a betrayal of the idealism about rock music he had espoused in his earlier interviews when The Who participated in a tour sponsored by Schlitz in 1982 and by Miller Brewing in 1989. Townshend’s 1993 concept album Psychoderelict offers a scathing commentary on journalists in the character of Ruth Streeting, who attempts to scandalise the main character, Ray High.
On 25 October 2006, Townshend declined at the last minute to do a scheduled interview with Sirius Satellite Radio host Howard Stern after Stern’s co-anchor Robin Quivers and sidekick Artie Lange made joking references to his 2003 arrest. Stern conducted an interview instead with Roger Daltrey and repeatedly expressed regret about the utterances of his on-air colleagues, stating that they did not reflect his own feelings of respect for Townshend.
Later in 2006, Townshend appeared on the Living Legends radio show in an exclusive interview with Opal Bonfante. The interview, broadcast worldwide on Radio London, was his first live interview in 15 years. Townshend spoke about his forthcoming UK tour, his online novella and his memories of the old pirate radio stations.
Also in late 2006, Townshend granted an interview with author Mark Wilkerson, which led to Wilkerson’s 2008 biography Who Are You: The Life of Pete Townshend.
In a BBC Radio 4 interview, first broadcast on 27 October 2009, Townshend informed the audience that from the time he was involved in writing the music for the Who’s first album, he has been influenced by the works of the English Baroque composer Henry Purcell.
In BBC Radio 6 Music‘s inaugural John Peel Lecture, Townshend urged Apple to use its power to help new bands instead of “bleeding” artists like a “digital vampire”. He also argued against unauthorised file-sharing, saying the internet was “destroying copyright as we know it”.
Throughout his solo career and his career with The Who, Townshend has played (and destroyed) a large variety of guitars – mostly various Gibson and Fender models. He has also used Guild, Takamine and Gibson J-200 acoustic models, with the J-200 providing his signature recorded acoustic sound in such songs as “Pinball Wizard“.
In the early days with The Who, Townshend played an Emile Grimshaw SS De Luxe and 6-string and 12-string Rickenbacker semi-hollow electric guitars primarily (particularly the Rose-Morris UK-imported models with special f-holes). However, as instrument-smashing became increasingly integrated into The Who’s concert sets, he switched to more durable and resilient (and sometimes cheaper) guitars for smashing, such as the Fender Stratocaster, Fender Telecaster and various Danelectro models. On The Who’s famous The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour appearance in 1967, Townshend used a Vox Cheetah guitar, which he only used for that performance; and the guitar was smashed to smithereens by Townshend and Moon’s drum explosion. In the late 1960s, Townshend began playing Gibson SG models almost exclusively, specifically the Special models. He used this guitar at the Woodstock and Isle of Wight shows in 1969 and 1970, as well as the Live at Leeds performance in 1970.
By 1970, Gibson changed the design of the SG Special which Townshend had been using previously, and thus he began using other guitars. For much of the 1970s, he used a Gibson Les Paul DeLuxe, some with only two mini-humbucker pick-ups and others modified with a third pick-up in the “middle position” (a DiMarzio Superdistortion / Dual Sound). He can be seen using several of these guitars in the documentary The Kids Are Alright, although in the studio he often played a ’59 Gretsch 6120 guitar (given to him by Joe Walsh), most notably on the albums Who’s Next and Quadrophenia.
During the 1980s, Townshend mainly used Fenders, Rickenbackers and Telecaster-style models built for him by Schecter and various other luthiers. Since the late-1980s, Townshend has used the Fender Eric Clapton Signature Stratocaster, with Lace Sensor pick-ups, both in the studio and on tour. Some of his Stratocaster guitars feature a Fishman PowerBridge piezo pick-up system to simulate acoustic guitar tones. This piezo system is controlled by an extra volume control behind the guitar’s bridge.
During The Who’s 1989 Tour Townshend played a Rickenbacker guitar that was ironically smashed accidentally when he tripped over it. Instead of throwing the smashed parts away, Townshend reassembled the pieces as a sculpture. The sculpture was featured at the Rock Stars, Cars And Guitars 2 exhibit during the summer of 2009 at The Henry Ford museum.
here are several Gibson Pete Townshend signature guitars, such as the Pete Townshend SG, the Pete Townshend J-200, and three different Pete Townshend Les Paul Deluxes. The SG was clearly marked as a Pete Townshend limited edition model and came with a special case and certificate of authenticity, signed by Townshend himself. There has also been a Pete Townshend signature Rickenbacker limited edition guitar of the model 1998, which was his main 6-string guitar in the Who’s early days. The run featured 250 guitars which were made between July 1987 – March 1988, and according to Rickenbacker CEO John Hall, the entire run sold out before serious advertising could be done.
He also used the Gibson ES-335, one of which he donated to the Hard Rock Cafe. Townshend also used a Gibson EDS-1275 double neck very briefly circa late 1967, and both a Harmony Sovereign H1270 and a Fender Electric XII for the studio sessions for Tommy for the 12-string guitar parts. He also occasionally used Fender Jazzmasters on stage in 1967 and 1968 and in the studio for Tommy.
In 2006, Townshend had a pedal board designed by long-time gear guru Pete Cornish. The board apparently is composed with a compressor, an old Boss OD-1 overdrive pedal, as well as a T-Rex Replica delay pedal.
Over the years, Pete Townshend has used many types of amplifiers, including Vox, Fender, Marshall, Hiwatt etc., sticking to using Hiwatt amps for most of four decades. Around the time of Who’s Next, he used a tweed Fender Bandmaster amp, which he also used for Quadrophenia and The Who by Numbers. Since 1989, his rig consisted of four Fender Vibro-King stacks and a Hiwatt head driving two custom made 2×12″ Hiwatt/Mesa Boogie speaker cabinets. However, since 2006, he has only three Vibro-King stacks, one of which is a backup.
Townshend figured prominently in the development of what is widely known in rock circles as the “Marshall Stack”. It has been recounted by others during the start of popularity of Jim Marshall’s guitar amplifiers, that Townshend became a user of these amps.
He also ordered several speaker cabinets that contained eight speakers in a housing standing nearly six feet in height with the top half of the cabinet slanted slightly upward. These became hard to move and were incredibly heavy.
Jim Marshall then cut the massive speaker cabinet into two separate speaker cabinets, at the suggestion of Townshend, with each cabinet containing four 12-inch speakers. One of the cabinets had half of the speaker baffle slanted upwards and Marshall made these two cabinets stackable. The Marshall stack was born, and Townshend used these as well as Hiwatt stacks.
His amplifier rig currently usually consists of four Fender Vibro King amps with extension cabinets.
He has always regarded his instruments as being merely tools of the trade and has, in latter years, determinedly kept his most prized instruments well away from the concert stage. These instruments include a few vintage and reissue Rickenbackers, the Gretsch 6120, an original 1952 Fender Telecaster, Gibson Custom Shop’s artist limited edition reissues of Townshend’s Les Paul DeLuxe models 1, 3 and 9 as well his signature SG Special reissue.
Townshend also worked with synthesisers that made their debut on Who’s Next that included the EMS VCS3, the ARP Instruments, Inc. ARP 2600, some of which modified a Lowrey TBO Berkshire organ. Current photos of his home studio also show an ARP 2500. Townshend was featured in ARP promotional materials in the early 1970s.
Since the late 1980s Townshend has predominantly used Synclavier Digital Audio systems for keyboard composition, particularly solo albums and projects. He currently owns three systems, one large Synclavier 9600 Tapeless Studio system, originally installed in his riverside Oceanic Studio, later transferred to a sea going barge moored alongside the studio on the River Thames, and currently based in his home studio. He also uses a special adapted smaller Synclavier 3200 system which can be transported, enabling him to carry on working away from his main studio. This 3200 system was modified to be of similar specification to the 9600, including the addition internally of FM voices, stereo Poly voices and with the large VPK keyboard. This is the only Synclavier 3200 system of this specification in existence, custom designed and built for Townshend by Steve Hills. The third system Townshend owns is one of the first Synclavier II systems ever built. The ORK (original smaller) keyboard of which is on display in his company’s head office alongside a pink Vespa scooter.
Although known for his musical compositions and musicianship, Pete Townshend has been extensively involved in the literary world for more than three decades, writing newspaper and magazine articles, book reviews, essays, books, and scripts.
An early example of Townshend’s writing came in August 1970 with the first of nine instalments of “The Pete Townshend Page”, a monthly column written by Townshend for the British music paper Melody Maker. The column provided Townshend’s perspective on an array of subjects, such as the media and the state of U.S. concert halls and public address systems, as well as providing valuable insight into Townshend’s mindset during the evolution of his Lifehouse project.
Townshend also wrote three sizeable essays for Rolling Stone magazine, the first of which appeared in November 1970. In Love With Meher Baba described Townshend’s spiritual leanings. “Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy”, a blow-by-blow account of The Who compilation album of the same name, followed in December 1971. The third article, “The Punk Meets the Godmother”, appeared in November 1977.
Also in 1977, Townshend founded Eel Pie Publishing, which specialised in children’s titles, music books, and several Meher Baba-related publications. A bookstore named Magic Bus (after the popular Who song) was opened in London. The Story of Tommy, a book written by Townshend and his art school friend Richard Barnes (now the Who’s official biographer) about the writing of Townshend’s 1969 rock opera and the making of the 1975 Ken Russell-directed film, was published by Eel Pie the same year.
In July 1983, Townshend took a position as an acquisitions editor for London publisher Faber and Faber. Notable projects included editing Animals frontman Eric Burdon‘s autobiography, Charles Shaar Murray‘s award-winning Crosstown Traffic: Jimi Hendrix and Post-War Pop, Brian Eno and Russell Mills‘s More Dark Than Shark, and working with Prince Charles on a volume of his collected speeches. Townshend commissioned Dave Rimmer‘s Like Punk Never Happened, and was commissioning editor for radical playwright Steven Berkoff.
Two years after joining Faber and Faber, Townshend decided to publish a book of his own. Horse’s Neck, published in May 1985, was a collection of short stories he’d written between 1979 and 1984, tackling subjects such as childhood, stardom and spirituality. As a result of his position with Faber and Faber, Townshend developed friendships with both Nobel prize-winning author of Lord of the Flies, Sir William Golding, and British Poet Laureate Ted Hughes. His friendship with Hughes led to Townshend’s musical interpretation of Hughes’s children’s story, The Iron Man, six years later, as The Iron Man: The Musical by Pete Townshend, released in 1989.
Townshend has written several scripts spanning the breadth of his career, including numerous drafts of his elusive Lifehouse project, the last of which, co-written with radio playwright Jeff Young, was published in 1999. In 1978, Townshend wrote a script for Fish Shop, a play commissioned but not completed by London Weekend Television, and in mid-1984 he wrote a script for White City: A Novel which led to a short film.
In 1989, Townshend began work on a novel entitled Ray High & The Glass Household, a draft of which was later submitted to his editor. While the original novel remains unpublished, elements from this story were used in Townshend’s 1993 solo album Psychoderelict. In 1993, Townshend authored another book, The Who’s Tommy, a chronicle of the development of the award-winning Broadway version of his rock opera.
The opening of his personal website and his commerce site Eelpie.com, both in 2000, gave Townshend another outlet for literary work. Several of Townshend’s essays have been posted online, including “Meher Baba—The Silent Master: My Own Silence” in 2001, and “A Different Bomb”, an indictment of the child pornography industry, the following year.
In September 2005, Townshend began posting a novella online entitled The Boy Who Heard Music as background for a musical of the same name. He posted a chapter each week until it was completed, and novella was available to read at his website for several months. Like Psychoderelict, it was yet another extrapolation of Lifehouse and Ray High & The Glass Household.
In 1997 Townshend signed a deal with Little, Brown and Company publishing to write his autobiography, reportedly titled Pete Townshend: Who He? Townshend’s creative vagaries and conceptual machinations have been chronicled by Larry David Smith in his book The Minstrel’s Dilemma (Praeger 1999). After a lengthy delay, Townshend’s autobiography, now titled Who I Am, was released 8 October 2012. The book ranked in the top 5 of the New York Times best seller list in October 2012.
Townshend showed no predilection for religious belief in the first years of The Who’s career. By the beginning of 1968, however, Townshend had begun to explore spiritual ideas. In January 1968, The Who recorded his song “Faith in Something Bigger” (Odds & Sods). Townshend’s art school friend Mike McInnerney gave him a copy of C. B. Purdom‘s book The God-Man, introducing him to the writings of the Indian “perfect master” Meher Baba, who blended elements of Vedantic, Sufi, and Mystic schools.
Townshend swiftly absorbed all of Baba’s writings that he could find; by April 1968, he announced himself Baba’s disciple. At about this time, Townshend, who had been searching the past two years for a basis for a rock opera, created a story inspired by the teachings of Baba and other Indian spiritualists that would ultimately become Tommy.
Tommy did more than revitalise The Who’s career (which was moderately successful at this point but had reached a plateau); it also marked a renewal of Townshend’s songwriting and his spiritual studies infused most of his work from Tommy forward, including the unfinished Who project Lifehouse. The Who song “Baba O’Riley“, written for Lifehouse and eventually appearing on the album Who’s Next, was named for Meher Baba and minimalist composer Terry Riley. His newfound passion was not shared by his bandmates, whose attitude was tolerant, but who were unwilling to become the spokesmen for a particular religion. Few of the thousands of fans who packed stadiums across Europe and the U.S. to see The Who noticed the religious message in the songs: that “Bargain” and the middle section of “Behind Blue Eyes” from Who’s Next and “Listening To You” from Tommy were all originally written as prayers, that “Drowned” from Quadrophenia and “Don’t Let Go The Coat” from Face Dances were based on Baba’s sayings, that the “who are you, who, who, who, who” chorus from the song “Who Are You” was based on Sufi chants, or that “Let My Love Open The Door” was not a message from a lover but from God.
In interviews Townshend was more open about his beliefs, penning an article on Baba for Rolling Stone in 1970 and stating that following Baba’s teachings, he was opposed to the use of all psychedelic drugs, making him one of the first rock stars with counterculture credibility to turn against their use.
His stardom quickly made him the world’s most notable follower of Baba. Having missed out on meeting his guru with Baba’s death 31 January 1969 (work on Tommy kept him from making the pilgrimage), Townshend made several trips to visit Baba’s tomb in India as well as becoming a frequent visitor to the Meher Baba Spiritual Center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. At home he recorded and released his most overtly spiritual songs on records assembled, pressed and sold by Baba organisations. When these records became widely bootlegged, Townshend put together a selection of the tracks for release as the solo album Who Came First. One of the songs from that album, “Parvardigar“, a Baba prayer set to music by Townshend, would gradually be accepted as a hymn by the Baba movement. In 1976 he opened the Oceanic Centre in London, using it as a haven for English Baba followers and Americans making a pilgrimage to Baba’s tomb in Meherabad, India as well as a place for small concerts (one such in 1979 was released on CD in 2001 as Pete Townshend & Raphael Rudd—The Oceanic Concerts) and a repository for films made of Baba.
Townshend became a lower-profile member after 1982, having felt that his former addictions to cocaine and heroin made him a poor candidate for spokesman. Nevertheless, his discipleship continues to the current day.
Townshend met Karen Astley (born 12 June 1947, daughter of composer Ted Astley and sister of record producer Jon Astley), while in art school and married her in 1968. The couple separated in 1994 and divorced in 2009. They have three children: Emma (b. 1969), who is a singer/songwriter, Aminta (b. 1971), and Joseph (b. 1990). Townshend currently lives with his long-time partner, musician Rachel Fuller, in The Wick, Richmond, England. He also owns a house in Churt, Surrey, England, and in 2010 purchased a lease on the historic National Trust property Ashdown House in Oxfordshire. According to The Sunday Times Rich List his assets are worth £40 million as of 2009.
Townshend has two younger brothers by nearly a generation, Paul Townshend (b. 1958) and Simon Townshend, (b. 10 October 1960). Simon is a guitarist, songwriter, and vocalist. Simon initially had a career as a solo artist, and has performed with other bands, but began to record with The Who in the studio as early as their work on the film version of Tommy, and began to play with Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle on their solo efforts. By 1996, Simon joined The Who on their Quadrophenia support tour for two years as a backup guitarist and singer. He also returned again after the death of Entwistle as a part of their touring band. Paul played the voice of his brother, Pete, in The Simpsons episode, “A Tale of Two Springfields” as Pete was unavailable.
Pete Townshend has woven a long history of involvement with various charities and other philanthropic efforts throughout his career, both as a solo artist and with The Who. His first solo concert, for example, was a 1974 benefit show which was organised to raise funds for the Camden Square Community Play Center.
The earliest public example of Townshend’s involvement with charitable causes was in 1968, when Townshend donated the use of his former Wardour Street apartment to the Meher Baba Association. The following year, the association was moved to another Townshend-owned apartment, the Eccleston Square former residence of wife Karen. Townshend sat on a committee which oversaw the operation and finances of the centre. “The committee sees to it that it is open a couple of days a week, and keeps the bills paid and the library full”, he wrote in a 1970 Rolling Stone article.
In 1969 and 1972 Townshend produced two limited-release albums, Happy Birthday and I Am, for the London-based Baba association. This led to 1972′s Who Came First, a more widespread release, 15 percent of the revenue of which went to the Baba association. A further limited release, With Love, was released in 1976. A limited-edition boxed set of all three limited releases on CD, Avatar, was released in 2000, with all profits going to the Avatar Meher Baba Trust in India, which provided funds to a dispensary, school, hospital and pilgrimage centre.
In July 1976, Townshend opened Meher Baba Oceanic, a London activity centre for Baba followers which featured film dubbing and editing facilities, a cinema and a recording studio. In addition, the centre served as a regular meeting place for Baba followers. Townshend offered very economical (reportedly £1 per night) lodging for American followers who needed an overnight stay on their pilgrimages to India. “For a few years, I had toyed with the idea of opening a London house dedicated to Meher Baba”, he wrote in a 1977 Rolling Stone article. “In the eight years I had followed him, I had donated only coppers to foundations set up around the world to carry out the Master’s wishes and decided it was about time I put myself on the line. The Who had set up a strong charitable trust of its own which appeased, to an extent, the feeling I had that Meher Baba would rather have seen me give to the poor than to the establishment of yet another so-called ‘spiritual center’.” Townshend also embarked on a project dedicated to the collection, restoration and maintenance of Meher Baba-related films. The project was known as MEFA, or Meher Baba European Film Archive.
Townshend has been an active champion of children’s charities. The debut of Pete Townshend’s stage version of Tommy took place at San Diego’s La Jolla Playhouse in July 1992. The show was earmarked as a benefit for the London-based Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Foundation, an organisation which helps children with autism and mental retardation.
Townshend performed at a 1995 benefit organised by Paul Simon at Madison Square Garden‘s Paramount Theatre, for The Children’s Health Fund. The following year, Townshend performed at a benefit for the annual Bridge School Benefit, a California facility for children with severe speech and physical impairments with concerts organised by Neil and Pegi Young. In 1997, Townshend established a relationship with Maryville Academy, a Chicago area children’s charity. Between 1997 and 2002, Townshend played five benefit shows for Maryville Academy, raising at least $1,600,000. His 1998 album A Benefit for Maryville Academy was made to support their activities and proceeds from the sales of his release were donated to them.
As a member of The Who, Pete Townshend has also performed a series of concerts, beginning in 2000, benefiting the Teenage Cancer Trust in the UK, raising several million pounds. In 2005, Townshend performed at New York’s Gotham Hall for Samsung’s Four Seasons of Hope, an annual children’s charity fundraiser, and donated a smashed guitar to the Pediatric Epilepsy Project.
On 4 November 2011, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend launched the Daltrey/Townshend Teen and Young Adult Cancer Program at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, to be funded by The Who’s charity Who Cares. The launch, followed on 5 November by a fund-raising event, was also attended by Robert Plant and Dave Grohl.
Townshend has also advocated for drug rehabilitation. In a 1985 radio interview, he said:
|“||What I’m most active in doing is raising money to provide beds in clinics to help people that have become victims of drug abuse. In Britain, the facilities are very, very, very lean indeed … although we have a national health service, a free medical system, it does nothing particularly for class A drug addicts – cocaine abusers, heroin abusers … we’re making a lot of progress … the British government embarked on an anti-heroin campaign with advertising, and I was co-opted by them as a kind of figurehead, and then the various other people co-opted me into their own campaigns, but my main work is raising money to try and open a large clinic.||”|
The “large clinic” Townshend was referring to was a plan he and drug rehabilitation experimenter Meg Patterson had devised to open a drug treatment facility in London; however, the plan failed to come to fruition. Two early 1979 concerts by The Who raised £20,000 for Patterson’s Pharmakon Clinic in Sussex.
Further examples of Townshend’s drug rehabilitation activism took place in the form of a 1984 benefit concert (incidentally the first live performance of Manchester band, The Stone Roses), an article he wrote a few days later for Britain’s Mail On Sunday urging better care for the nation’s growing number of drug addicts, and the formation of a charitable organisation, Double-O Charities, to raise funds for the causes he’d recently championed. Townshend also personally sold fund-raising anti-heroin T-shirts at a series of UK Bruce Springsteen concerts, and reportedly financed a trip for former Clash drummer Topper Headon to undergo drug rehabilitation treatment. Townshend’s 1985–86 band, Deep End, played two benefits at Brixton Academy in 1985 for Double-O Charities.
In 1979, Townshend donated his services to the human rights organisation Amnesty International when he performed three songs for its benefit show The Secret Policeman’s Ball – performances that were released on record and seen in the film of the show. Townshend’s acoustic performances of three of his songs (“Pinball Wizard“, “Drowned”, and “Won’t Get Fooled Again“) were subsequently cited as having been the forerunner and inspiration for the “unplugged” phenomenon in the 1990s. Townshend had been invited to perform for Amnesty by Martin Lewis, the producer of The Secret Policeman’s Ball who stated later that Townshend’s participation had been the key to his securing the subsequent participation for Amnesty (in the 1981 sequel show) of Sting, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Phil Collins and Bob Geldof. Other performers inspired to support Amnesty International in future Secret Policeman’s Ball shows and other benefits because of Townshend’s early commitment to the organisation include Peter Gabriel, Bruce Springsteen, David Gilmour and U2 singer Bono who in 1986 told Rolling Stone magazine: “I saw The Secret Policeman’s Ball and it became a part of me. It sowed a seed….”
Highlights of Pete Townshend’s other public charitable efforts include the following:
- A 1972 Tommy performance which raised nearly £10,000 for the Stars Organization for Spastics charity.
- A 1979 Rock Against Racism benefit concert, organised to raise money to pay the legal costs of those arrested in a London area anti-racism demonstration. Townshend helped organise the show, topped the bill, and supplied the event lighting and equipment.
- A 1982 Prince’s Trust Gala Benefit performance.
- Performing with The Who at the 1985 Live Aid concert.
- A 2001 benefit show for San Diego’s La Jolla Playhouse which raised approximately $100,000.
- Organizing an online auction in 2000 to raise funds for Oxfam‘s emergency services to help those affected by floods in Mozambique and a combination of drought and food shortages in Ethiopia. Among the auctioned items were a selection of gold and platinum awards, letters from celebrities such as Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney, and musical instruments (including a smashed Rickenbacker guitar and the guitar on which Townshend composed the Who classic “Behind Blue Eyes”). The centerpiece of the auction, however, was a 1957 Fender Stratocaster which was given to Townshend as a gift by Eric Clapton after Townshend had helped arrange Clapton’s 1973 recovery from his own heroin addiction, and comeback show at the Rainbow. The guitar was ultimately purchased by Pete Townshend, Mick Jagger and David Bowie, and presented to British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
- Performing with The Who at the 2001 all-star The Concert for New York City at Madison Square Garden, honouring policemen and emergency personnel killed in the 11 September attacks.
- Performing at the Royal Albert Hall in a 2004 Ronnie Lane tribute show which served as a fundraiser for both Lane’s family and multiple sclerosis research.
- Performing with The Who at the 2005 Live 8 concert.
- In 1998, Townshend was named in a list of the biggest private financial donors to the UK Labour Party. He refused to let Michael Moore use “Won’t Get Fooled Again” in Fahrenheit 9/11, saying that he watched Bowling for Columbine and was not convinced.
- Performing with The Who in Detroit in 2008, donating all profits to Focus: HOPE and Gleaners Community Food Bank.
Operation Ore investigation and police caution
Townshend was cautioned by the British police in 2003 as part of Operation Ore. Following a news leak that Townshend was among the subjects of the investigation, he publicly stated that on one occasion, he had used a credit card to access a website advertising child pornography. Townshend, who had posted essays on his personal website in 2002 as part of his campaign against the widespread availability of child pornography on the internet, claimed that he had entered the site for research purposes and had not downloaded any images. A four-month police investigation, including forensic examination of all of his computers, established that Townshend was not in possession of any illegal downloaded images. The police elected to caution him, stating, “It is not a defence to access these images for research or out of curiosity.” In a statement issued by his lawyer, Townshend said, “I accept that I was wrong to access this site, and that by doing so, I broke the law, and I have accepted the caution that the police have given me.”
- Who Came First (1972)
- Rough Mix (1977) (with Ronnie Lane)
- Empty Glass (1980)
- All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes (1982)
- White City: A Novel (1985)
- The Iron Man: The Musical by Pete Townshend (1989)
- Psychoderelict (1993)
- “Because You’re Young” with David Bowie on Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (1980)
- Acoustic guitar on “Ball and Chain” with Elton John on Jump Up! (1982)
- “Lonely at the Top” and “Hard Women” with Mick Jagger on She’s the Boss (1985)
- Guitar on “Town of Plenty” with Elton John on Reg Strikes Back (1988)
- Acoustic guitar with Prefab Sprout on “Hey Manhattan!” on From Langley Park to Memphis (1988)
- “Substitute” with The Ramones on Acid Eaters (1993)
- “Joy” and “Gun” with Mick Jagger on Goddess in the Doorway (2001)
- “Slow Burn” with David Bowie on Heathen (2002)
- “Angry” and “Move Over Busker” on Paul McCartney‘s Press to Play (1986)
In 1968 Townshend helped assemble a band called Thunderclap Newman consisting of three musicians he knew. Pianist Andy Newman (an old art school friend), drummer John “Speedy” Keen (who had written “Armenia City in the Sky” for The Who to record for their 1967 album The Who Sell Out) and teenage guitarist Jimmy McCulloch (later to join Wings). Townshend produced the band and played bass on their recordings under the tongue-in-cheek pseudonym “Bijou Drains”. Their first recording was the single “Something in the Air“, which became a number one hit in the UK and a substantial hit elsewhere in the world. This was the only number one hit in the UK that Townshend performed on (The Who had none.) Following this success, Townshend produced their sole album, Hollywood Dream.
Townshend also produced “Fire” by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown in 1968 that was No. 1 in the UK and No. 2 in the US.
In 1971, Townshend, along with Keith Moon and Ronnie Lane, backed Mike Heron (of the Incredible String Band) on one song “Warm Heart Pastry” from Heron’s first solo LP, Smiling Men with Bad Reputations. On the album notes, they are listed as “Tommy and the Bijoux”. Also present on the track was John Cale on viola.
For albums Townshend composed as a member of The Who, see their entry. Not included are albums by other artists on which Townshend played as a session musician. Through much of 2005, Pete Townshend recorded and performed alongside his partner Rachel Fuller, a classically trained pianist and singer-songwriter.
In 2006, Townshend opened a website for implementation of The Lifehouse Method based on his 1971 Lifehouse concept. This website was in collaboration with composer Lawrence Ball and software developer David Snowden, with instrumentation by Steve Hills. Applicants at the website could input data to compose a musical “portrait” which the musical team could then develop into larger compositions for a planned concert or series of concerts.
- BRIT Awards 1983 – Life Achievement Award
- Tony Award 1993 – Best Original Score (music & lyrics) – The Who’s Tommy (tie)
- Grammy Awards 1993 – Best Musical Show Album (as composer and lyricist of The Who’s Tommy)
- Kennedy Center Honors 2008
- Honorary doctorate from University of West London, 2010
- Classic Album Award for Quadrophenia from the Classic Rock Roll of Honour Awards at The Roundhouse, 9 November 2011, London, England
William Rory Gallagher – 2 March 1948 – 14 June 1995) was an Irish blues-rock multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and bandleader. Born in Ballyshannon, County Donegal, and raised in Cork, Gallagher recorded solo albums throughout the 1970s and 1980s, after forming the band Taste during the late 1960s. A talented guitarist known for his charismatic performances and dedication to his craft, Gallagher’s albums have sold in excess of 30 million copies worldwide. Gallagher received a liver transplant in 1995, but died of complications later that year in London, England at the age of 47.
Gallagher was born in Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal; his father, Daniel, was employed by the Irish Electricity Supply Board, who were constructing a hydro-electric power plant on the Erne River above the town. The family moved, first to Derry City, where his younger brother Dónal was born in 1949, and then to Cork, where the two brothers were raised, and where Rory attended the North Monastery School. Their father had played the accordion and sang with the Tir Chonaill Ceile Band whilst in Donegal; their mother Monica was a singer and acted with the Abbey Players in Ballyshannon. The Theatre in Ballyshannon where Monica once acted is now called the Rory Gallagher Theatre.
Both sons were musically inclined and encouraged by their parents: at age nine, Gallagher received his first guitar from them. He built on his burgeoning ability on ukulele in teaching himself to play the guitar and perform at minor functions. After winning a talent contest when he was twelve, Gallagher began performing in his adolescence with both his acoustic guitar, and an electric guitar he bought with his prize money. However, it was his purchase three years later of a 1961 Fender Stratocaster for £100 that became his primary instrument most associated with him for the span of his lifetime.
Gallagher was initially attracted to skiffle after hearing Lonnie Donegan on the radio. Donegan frequently covered blues and folk performers from the United States. He relied entirely on radio programs and television. Occasionally, the jazz programs from the BBC would play some blues numbers, and he slowly found some song books for guitar, where he found the names of the actual composers of blues pieces. While still in school, playing songs by Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran, he discovered his greatest influence in Muddy Waters. Subsequently, Gallagher began experimenting with folk, blues, and rock music. Unable to find or afford record albums, Gallagher stayed up late to hear Radio Luxembourg and AFN where the radio brought him his only exposure to the actual songwriters and musicians whose music moved him most. Influences he discovered, and cited as he progressed, included Woody Guthrie, Big Bill Broonzy, and Lead Belly. Initially, Gallagher struck out after just an acoustic sound. Singing and later using a brace for his harmonica, Gallagher taught himself to play slide guitar. Further, throughout the next few years of his musical development, Gallagher began learning to play alto saxophone, bass, mandolin, banjo, and the coral sitar with varying degrees of proficiency. By his mid-teens, he began experimenting heavily with different blues styles.
Gallagher began playing after school with Irish showbands, while still a young teenager. In 1963, he joined one named Fontana, a sextet playing the popular hit songs of the day. The band toured Ireland and the United Kingdom, earning the money for the payments that were due on his Stratocaster guitar. Gallagher began to influence the band’s repertoire, beginning its transition from popular music, skirting along some of Chuck Berry‘s songs and by 1965, he had successfully molded Fontana into “The Impact”, with a change in their lineup into an R&B group that played gigs in Ireland and Spain until disbanding in London. Gallagher left with the bassist and drummer to perform as a trio in Hamburg, Germany. In 1966, Gallagher returned to Ireland and, experimenting with other musicians back home in Cork, decided to form his own band.
Having completed a musical apprenticeship in the showbands, and influenced by the increasing popularity of beat groups during the early 1960s, Gallagher formed “The Taste”, which was later renamed simply, “Taste“, a blues rock and R&B power trio, in 1966. Initially, the band was composed of Gallagher and two Cork musicians, Norman Damery and Eric Kitteringham, however, by 1968, they were replaced with two musicians from Belfast, featuring Gallagher on guitar and vocals, drummer John Wilson, and bassist Richard McCracken. Performing extensively in the United Kingdom, the group played regularly at the Marquee Club, supporting both Cream at their Royal Albert Hall farewell concert, and the blues supergroup Blind Faith on a tour of North America. Managed by Eddie Kennedy, the trio released the albums Taste and On The Boards, and two live recordings, Live Taste and Live at the Isle of Wight. The latter appeared long after the band’s break-up, which occurred shortly after their appearance at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival.
After the break-up of Taste, Gallagher toured under his own name, hiring former Deep Joy bass player Gerry McAvoy to play on Gallagher’s self-titled debut album, Rory Gallagher. It was the beginning of a twenty-year musical relationship between Gallagher and McAvoy; the other band member was drummer Wilgar Campbell. The 1970s were Gallagher’s most prolific period. He produced ten albums in that decade, including two live albums, Live in Europe and Irish Tour ’74. November 1971 saw the release of his album, Deuce. In the same year he was voted Melody Maker‘s International Top Musician of the Year, ahead of Eric Clapton. However, despite a number of his albums from this period reaching the UK Albums Chart, Gallagher did not attain major star status.
Gallagher played and recorded what he said was “in me all the time, and not just something I turn on …”. Though he sold over thirty million albums worldwide, it was his marathon live performances that won him greatest acclaim. He is documented in the 1974 film Irish Tour ’74, directed by Tony Palmer. During the heightened periods of political unrest in Ireland, as other artists were warned not to tour, Gallagher was resolute about touring Ireland at least once a year during his career, winning him the dedication of thousands of fans, and in the process, becoming a role model for other aspiring young Irish musicians. Gallagher himself admitted in several interviews that at first there were not any international Irish acts until Van Morrison, Gallagher, and later, Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy grew popular during the 1970s. The line-up which included Rod de’Ath on drums and Lou Martin on keyboards, performed together between 1973 and 1978. However, he eventually dropped down to just bass, guitar and drums, and his act became a power trio. Other releases from that period include Against the Grain, Calling Card, Photo-Finish and Top Priority. Gerry McAvoy has stated that the Gallagher band performed several TV and radio shows across Europe, including Beat-Club in Bremen, Germany and the Old Grey Whistle Test. He recorded two Peel Sessions, both in February 1973 and containing the same tracks, but only the first was broadcast.Along with Little Feat and Roger McGuinn, Gallagher performed the first Rockpalast live concert at the Grugahalle, Essen, Germany in 1977.
Gallagher collaborated with Jerry Lee Lewis and Muddy Waters on their respective London Sessions in the mid 1970s. He played on Lonnie Donegan’s final album. He was David Coverdale‘s second choice (after Jeff Beck) to replace Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple. Gallagher chose to perform in his own band.
In the 1980s he continued recording, producing Jinx, Defender, and Fresh Evidence. After Fresh Evidence, he embarked on a tour of the United States. In addition he played with Box of Frogs which was a band formed in 1983 by former members of The Yardbirds, who released their first album in 1984. Former Yardbirds guitarists Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page also guested on their first and second albums, respectively. Becoming obsessive over details and plagued by self-doubt, Gallagher nevertheless retained a loyal fanbase. During this period he stated “I agonize too much”.
Rory Gallagher (guitar, vocals)
1976–1981: Gerry McAvoy (bass), Ted McKenna (drums)
1981–1991: Gerry McAvoy (bass), Brendan O’Neil (drums) + frequent guest: Mark Feltham (harmonica)
1992–1994: David Levy (bass), Jim Levaton (keyboards), John Cooke (keyboards), Richard Newman (drums) + frequent guest: Mark Feltham (harmonica)
Guitars and equipment
Gallagher was always associated with his well-worn sunburst 1961 Stratocaster (Serial Number 64351), which his brother Donal has officially retired.
It was reputedly the first in Ireland, and was ordered from Fender by Jim Connolly, a showband member performing with The Irish Showband. Connolly ordered a cherry red Stratocaster through Crowley’s music shop in Cork in 1963. When Fender shipped a sunburst Stratocaster instead, it went on sale as a second-hand instrument, which Gallagher bought for just shy of £100 at Crowley’s Music Store on Cork‘s McCurtain Street. Note: the shop was at 10 Merchants Quay at the time of purchase.
The guitar was extensively modified by Gallagher. The tuning pegs are odd (5 Sperzel pegs and one Gotoh), and all of these have been found to be replacements. Second, it is thoughtthat the nut has been replaced and interchanged a number of times. Third, the scratchplate was changed during Gallagher’s time with Taste.
The pickups —none of which are original— were also changed. The final modification was that of the wiring: Gallagher disconnected the bottom tone pot and rewired it so he had just a master tone control along with the master volume control. He also installed a 5-way selector switch in place of the vintage 3-way one.
The most notable effect that the years of touring have had on the guitar is the almost complete removal of its original sunburst finish. Although the Strat was left abandoned in a rainy ditch for days after being stolen, this is not believed to have caused any of the effect. All of the wear was caused by Rory’s playing, not misuse.
It also had a period of time of having a replacement neck, with the original neck bowing due to the amount of moisture it absorbed during continuous touring. The neck was taken off and left to settle, and was eventually reunited with the Strat after returning to its correct shape. Other quirks include a ‘hump’ in the scratch plate which moves the neck pickup closer to the neck on the bass side, and a replacement of all of the pickups, though this replacement was due to damage rather than the perception of a tonal inadequacy.
One final point of interest is that one of the clay double-dot inlays at the 12th fret fell out and was replaced with a plastic one, which is why it’s whiter than the other clay inlays.
On Friday the 21st and Saturday the 22nd of October 2011, Rory’s brother Donal brought the guitar out of retirement in order to allow Joe Bonamassa to perform with it on his two nights at the London Hammersmith Apollo. Joe opened both night’s performances with his rendition of “Cradle Rock” using Rory’s Stratocaster. Photos and video of the performance can be seen on the official Rory Gallagher website.
Rory’s biographer Marcus Connaughton believes the Strat was the key to Rory’s sound. Rory could talk about it all night. ‘It’s dated November 1961 – in certain people’s opinions this is when Fender hit their peak. I like the maple neck. Like on the earlier guitars, they’re probably a bit more crisp, but there’s a warmth to this, a mellowness because of the rosewood neck. This is the best, it’s my life, this is my best friend. It’s almost like knowing its weak spots are strong spots. I don’t like to get sentimental about these things, but when you spend thirty years of your life with the same instrument it’s like a walking memory bank of your life there in your arms.’
Amplifiers and effects
Gallagher used various makes and models of amplifiers during his career. In general, however, he preferred smaller ‘combo’ amplifiers to the larger, more powerful ‘stacks’ popular with rock and hard rock guitarists. To make up for the relative lack of power on stage, he would often link several different combo amps together.
When Gallagher was with Taste, he used a single Vox AC30 with a Dallas Rangemaster treble booster plugged into the ‘normal’ input. Examples of this sound can be heard on the Taste albums, as well as the album Live in Europe. Brian May, of the band Queen, has admitted in interviews that as a young man, he was inspired to use a Vox AC30 and treble booster setup after meeting Gallagher and asking him how he got his sound. The British company, Flynn Amps, now makes a Rory Gallagher Signature Hawk Treble Booster pedal based on Gallagher’s original unit. Gallagher also used Ibanez Tube Screamers, an MXR Dyna Comp, and various Boss effects, often using a Flanger and Octaver.
In the early to mid 1970s, Gallagher began to use Fender amplifiers in conjunction with a Hawk booster, most notably a Bassman and a Twin, both 1950s vintage. An example of this sound can be heard on the Irish Tour ’74 album. He also had a Fender Concert amplifier.
In the mid to late 1970s, when Gallagher was moving towards a hard rock sound, he experimented with Ampeg VT40 and VT22 amps. He also began using Marshall combos. During this period and beyond, Gallagher used different combinations of amps on stage to achieve more power and to blend the tonal characteristics of different amps including Orange amplification.
Not that well known is his use of various German amplifiers. He used Stramp 2100a amps, which can be seen in his appearances on the German Beat Club program. Another company that hand built amplifiers for Gallagher was PCL Vintage Amp. The company is located in St. Wendel in the Saarland and they still produce high quality audio and guitar equipment.
According to sources close to Rory, including his brother Donal, Rory developed a great fear of flying as his years progressed. His trust in doctors and medicine was unflagging. Combinations of prescription medication and alcohol use resulted in severe liver damage. Despite this he continued touring. By the time of his final performance on 10 January 1995 in the Netherlands, he was visibly sick. His cause of death was complications from a liver transplant, that became necessary and was nearly successful; his health, however, quickly worsened due to a Staphylococcus (MRSA) infection, and he died in London on 14 June 1995. He was unmarried and had no children.
Gallagher was buried in St Oliver’s Cemetery, on the Clash Road just outside Ballincollig near Cork City, Ireland. His headstone is a replica of an award he received in 1972 for International Guitarist of the Year.
n 2003, Wheels Within Wheels, a collection of acoustic tracks, was released posthumously by Gallagher’s brother Donal Gallagher. Collaborators on this album included Bert Jansch, Martin Carthy, The Dubliners and Lonnie Donegan.
Many modern day musicians, including The Edge from U2, Slash of Guns N’ Roses, Johnny Marr of the Smiths, Davy Knowles, Janick Gers of Iron Maiden, Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest, Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard, Gary Mooreand Joe Bonamassa, cite Gallagher as an inspiration in their formative musical years.
Brian May, lead guitarist of Queen, relates: “so these couple of kids come up, who’s me and my mate, and say ‘How do you get your sound Mr. Gallagher?’ and he sits and tells us. So I owe Rory Gallagher my sound.” In 2010, Gallagher was ranked #42 on Gibson.com’s List of their Top 50 Guitarists of All Time. Gallagher was also listed on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, ranked at 57th place.
On 25 October 1997 a tribute sculpture to Gallagher was unveiled in the newly renamed Rory Gallagher Place (formerly St. Paul’s St. Square) in his hometown of Cork. The sculptor was a childhood friend of Gallagher, Geraldine Creedon. The two grew up together in the McCurtain Street area of the city. The band who played at the unveiling of the statue was the Dave McHugh band, who formed Ireland’s first tribute to Gallagher, ‘Aftertaste’ in 1995.
- There is a Rory Gallagher Corner at Meeting House Square in Temple Bar, Dublin, where a life-size bronze statue in the shape of his Stratocaster has been installed. Some of those who attended the unveiling include The Edge of U2 and the Lord Mayor of Dublin.
- In 2004 the Rory Gallagher Music Library was opened in Cork.
- In 2006 a plaque was unveiled at the Ulster Hall in Belfast.
- A street in Ris-Orangis, a commune in the southern suburbs of Paris, was renamed Rue Rory Gallagher.
- New York City-based Celtic rock band Black 47 paid tribute to Rory Gallagher on their 1996 major-label release, “Green Suede Shoes.” The track titled “Rory” features vocalist/guitarist Larry Kirwan delivering a passionate and heart-felt tribute to Rory Gallagher’s talent and unrealized stardom. The song lauds his musical prowess and potential greatness
- “Hey Rory, you’re off to London
- Playing with a band called Taste …
- On your night you could even leave Hendrix in the dust”,
the awe that a young Kirwan felt towards Gallagher
- “Hero came back to Dublin
- … long hair flyin’
- Blue denims dripping with sweat
- Bolts of lightenin’ in your fingers
- Pride of bein’ the best”
and expressing dismay at the loss of such a talent.
- Flynn Amps manufacture a Rory Gallagher signature Hawk pedal, cloned from Gallagher’s 1970s pedal.
- On 2 June 2010, a life-sized bronze statue of Gallagher was unveiled in the town centre of Ballyshannon. An award-winning annual Blues festival is held in his honour at the same location.
- Rory Gallagher – 1971 (BPI: 100,000)
- Deuce – 1971 (BPI: 100,000)
- Blueprint – 1973 (BPI: 100,000)
- Tattoo – 1973 (BPI: 100,000)
- Against the Grain – 1975 (BPI: 100,000) Rolling Stone review (archived)
- Calling Card – 1976 (BPI: 60,000) Rolling Stone review (archived)
- Photo-Finish – 1978 (BPI: 60,000)
- Top Priority – 1979 (BPI: 60,000)
- Jinx – 1982 (BPI: 60,000)
- Defender – 1987 (BPI: 60,000)
- Fresh Evidence – 1990 (BPI: 60,000)
John Mayall, OBE (born 29 November 1933) is an English blues singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, whose musical career spans over fifty years. In the 1960s, he was the founder of John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, a band which has included Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Peter Green, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, Mick Taylor, Don “Sugarcane” Harris, Harvey Mandel, Larry Taylor, Aynsley Dunbar, Hughie Flint, Jon Hiseman, Dick Heckstall-Smith, Andy Fraser, Johnny Almond, Walter Trout, Coco Montoya and Buddy Whittington.
Mayall’s father was Murray Mayall, a guitarist and jazz music enthusiast. From an early age, John was drawn to the sounds of American blues players such as Leadbelly, Albert Ammons, Pinetop Smith, and Eddie Lang, and taught himself to play the piano, guitars, and harmonica.
Mayall spent three years in Korea for national service and, during a period of leave, he bought his first electric guitar. Back in Manchester, he enrolled at Manchester College of Art (now part of Manchester Metropolitan University) and started playing with semi-professional bands. After graduation, he obtained a job as an art designer but continued to play with local musicians. In 1963, he opted for a full time musical career and moved to London. His previous craft would be put to good use in the designing of covers for many of his coming albums.
Since the end of the 1960s Mayall has been living in the U.S. A brush fire destroyed his house in Laurel Canyon in 1979, seriously damaging his musical collections and archives.
Mayall married twice and has six grand-children. Maggie Mayall is an American blues performer and has, since the early 1980s, taken an active part in the management of her husband’s career. Maggie and John divorced in the 2011 summer.
In 2005 Mayall was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Honours List.
The early years
In 1956, with college fellow Peter Ward, Mayall had formed the Powerhouse Four, which consisted of both men plus other local musicians, with whom they played at local dances. In 1962, Mayall became a member of the Blues Syndicate. The band was formed by trumpeter John Rowlands and alto saxophonist Jack Massarik, who had seen the Alexis Korner band at a Manchester club and wanted to try a similar blend of Jazz and Blues. It also included rhythm guitarist Ray Cummings and drummer Hughie Flint, whom Mayall already knew. It was Alexis Korner who persuaded Mayall to opt for a full time musical career and move to London. There, Korner introduced him to many other musicians and helped them to find gigs. In late 1963, with his band which was now called the Bluesbreakers, Mayall started playing at the Marquee Club. The lineup was Mayall, Ward, John McVie on bass and guitarist Bernie Watson, formerly of Cyril Davies and the R&B All-Stars. The next spring Mayall, obtained his first recording date with producer Ian Samwell. The band, with Martin Hart at the drums, recorded two tracks : “Crawling Up a Hill” as well as “Mr. James.” Shortly after, Hughie Flint replaced Hart, and Roger Dean took the guitar from Bernie Watson. This lineup backed John Lee Hooker on his British tour in 1964.
Mayall was offered a recording contract by Decca and, on 7 December 1964, a live performance of the band was recorded at the Klooks Kleek. A single, “Crocodile Walk”, was recorded later in studio and released along with the album, but both failed to achieve any success and the contract was terminated.
Mid-1960s through 1971
Eric Clapton as guitarist, 1965-66
With Eric as their new guitar player, the Bluesbreakers started to attract considerable attention. That summer the band cut a couple tracks for a single, “I’m Your Witch Doctor” b/w “Telephone Blues” (released in October). In August, however, Clapton left for a jaunt to Greece with a bunch of relative musical amateurs calling themselves the ‘Glands’. John Weider, John Slaughter, and Geoff Krivit attempted to fill in as Bluesbreaker guitarist, but finally, Peter Green took charge. John McVie was dismissed, and during the next few months, Jack Bruce, from the Graham Bond Organisation, held the bass.
In November 1965 Clapton returned, and Green had to depart, Mayall having guaranteed Clapton his spot back in the Bluesbreakers whenever he tired of the Glands fiasco. McVie was allowed back, and Bruce left. Later in the month the band entered the studio to record a single, “On Top of the World”. Mayall and Clapton cut a couple tracks without the others (although some sources give this as occurring back in the summer): “Lonely Years” b/w “Bernard Jenkins” was released as a single the next August on producer Mike Vernon‘s Purdah Records label (both tracks appeared again two decades later in Clapton’s Crossroads box set). In a February 1966 session, blues pianist-singer Champion Jack Dupree (originally from New Orleans but in the 1960s living in Europe) got Mayall and Clapton to play on a few tracks. A live date by the whole Bluesbreakers outfit—again with Jack Bruce temporarily on bass—was recorded on Mayall’s two-track tape recorder at the Flamingo on 17 March. The rough recording provided tracks that later appeared on the 1969 compilation Looking Back and the 1977 Primal Solos.
In April 1966 the Bluesbreakers returned to Decca Studios to record a second LP with producer Vernon. The sessions, with horn arrangements for some tracks (John Almond on baritone sax, Alan Skidmore on tenor sax, and Dennis Healey on trumpet), lasted just three days. Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton was released in the UK on 22 July 1966. Several of the 12 tracks were covers of pure Chicago blues (side 1 kicking off strong with Otis Rush‘s “All Your Love” and Freddy King‘s hit instrumental “Hide Away” [here spelled without a space as “Hideaway”]); Mayall wrote or arranged 5 (such as “Double Crossing Time”, a slow blues with a scorching solo by cowriter Clapton); and Eric debuted as lead vocalist, and began his practice of paying tribute to Robert Johnson, with “Ramblin’ on My Mind“. The album was Mayall’s commercial breakthrough, rising to #6 on the British chart, and has since gained classic status, largely for the audacious aggressiveness and molten fluidity of Clapton’s guitar playing. “It’s Eric Clapton who steals the limelight,” reports music mag Beat Instrumental, adding with unintended understatement, “and no doubt several copies of the album will be sold on the strength of his name.”
In the meantime, on 11 June the formation of the Cream–Clapton, bassist Jack Bruce, and drummer Ginger Baker–had been revealed in the music press, much to the embarrassment of Clapton, who had not said anything about this to Mayall. (After a May Bluesbreakers gig at which Baker had sat in, he and Clapton had first discussed forming their own band, and surreptitious rehearsal jams with Bruce soon commenced.) Eric’s last gig with the Bluesbreakers was 25 June at the Flamingo; the Cream made a warmup club debut 29 July in Manchester and its “official” live debut two days later at the Sixth National Jazz and Blues Festival, Windsor.
Peter Green as guitarist, 1966-67
Mayall had to replace Clapton, and he succeeded in persuading Peter Green to come back. During the following year, with Green on guitar and various other sidemen, some 40 tracks were recorded. The album A Hard Road was released in February 1967. Today its expanded versions include most of this material, and the album itself also stands as a classic.
But Peter Green gave notice and soon started his own project, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, which eventually was to include all three of Mayall’s Bluesbreakers at this time: Green, McVie, and drummer Mick Fleetwood.
Mick Taylor as guitarist, 1967-69
Mayall’s first choice to replace Green was 18-year-old David O’List, guitarist from the Attack. O’List declined, however, and went on to form the Nice with organist Keith Emerson. Through both a “musicians wanted” ad in Melody Maker on 10 June and his own search, Mayall found three other potential guitarists for his Bluesbreakers, a black musician named Terry Edmonds, John Moorshead, and 18-year-old Mick Taylor. The latter made the band quickly, but Mayall, curiously, also decided to hire Edmonds as a rhythm guitarist for a few days.
In the meantime, on a single day in May 1967, Mayall had put together a studio album to showcase his own abilities as a multi-instrumentalist. Former Artwoods drummer Keef Hartley appeared on only half of the tracks, and everything else was played by Mayall. The album was released in November with the apt title The Blues Alone.
A six-piece lineup—consisting of Mayall, Mick Taylor on lead guitar, John McVie still on bass, Hughie Flint or Hartley on drums, and Rip Kant and Chris Mercer on saxophones—recorded the album Crusade on 11 and 12 July 1967. These Bluesbreakers spent most of the year touring abroad, and Mayall taped the shows on a portable recorder. At the end of the tour, he had over sixty hours of tapes, which he edited into an album in two volumes: Diary of a Band, Vols. 1 & 2, released in February 1968. Meanwhile, a few lineup changes had occurred: McVie had departed and was replaced by Paul Williams, who himself soon quit to join Alan Price and was replaced by Keith Tillman; Dick Heckstall-Smith had taken the sax spot.
Following a U.S. tour, there were more lineup changes, starting with the troublesome bass position. First Mayall replaced bassist Tillman with 15-year-old Andy Fraser. Within six weeks, though, Fraser left to join Free and was replaced by Tony Reeves, previously a member of the New Jazz Orchestra. Hartley was required to leave, and he was replaced by New Jazz Orchestra drummer Jon Hiseman (who had also played with the Graham Bond Organisation). Henry Lowther, who played violin and cornet, joined in February 1968. Two months later the Bluesbreakers recorded Bare Wires, co-produced by Mayall and Mike Vernon, which came up to #6.
Hiseman, Reeves, and Heckstall-Smith then moved on to form Colosseum. The Mayall lineup retained Mick Taylor and added drummer Colin Allen (formerly of Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band / Dantalian’s Chariot, and Georgie Fame) and a young bassist named Stephen Thompson. In August 1968 the new quartet recorded Blues from Laurel Canyon.
On 13 June 1969, after nearly two years with Mayall, Taylor left and officially joined the Rolling Stones.
Mark-Almond period, 1969-70
Chas Crane filled in briefly on guitar. Drummer Allen departed to join Stone the Crows. This left as the only holdover bassist Thompson (who would also eventually join Stone the Crows).
Mayall tried a new format with lower volume, acoustic instruments, and no drummer. He recruited acoustic fingerstyle guitarist Jon Mark and flautist-saxophonist John Almond. Mark was best known as Marianne Faithfull‘s accompanist for three years and for having been a member of the band Sweet Thursday (which included pianist Nicky Hopkins and future Cat Stevens collaborator Alun Davies, also a guitarist). Almond had played with Zoot Money and Alan Price and was no stranger to Mayall’s music—he had played baritone sax on 4 cuts of Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton and some of A Hard Road. This new band was markedly different from previous Mayall projects, and its making is well documented both on the 1999 double CD The Masters and on the 2004 DVD The Godfather of British Blues: The Turning Point.
Along with the big change in sound, Mayall decided on a big change in scenery: a move to Los Angeles. The new band made its U.S. debut at the Newport Jazz Festival on 5 July, whilst the 12 July performance at the Fillmore East provided the tracks for the live album The Turning Point. A studio album, Empty Rooms, was recorded with the same personnel, with Mayall’s next bassist, former Canned Heat member Larry Taylor, playing bass in a duet with Thompson on “To a Princess.”
Harvey Mandel as guitarist, 1970-71
Mayall continued the experiment of formations without drummers on two more albums, although he took on a new electric blues-rock-R&B band in guitarist Harvey Mandel and bassist Larry Taylor, both plucked from Canned Heat, and wailing violinist Don “Sugarcane” Harris, lately of the Johnny Otis Show. On USA Union (recorded in Los Angeles, 27-28 July 1970), though, Mandel was compelled to make do without his remarkable sustain and usage of feedback as musical, even melodic, technique; and on Memories the band was stripped down to a trio.
In November 1970 Mayall launched a recording project involving many of the most notable musicians with whom he had played during the previous several years. The double album Back to the Roots features Clapton, Mick Taylor, and Mandel on guitar; Sugarcane Harris on violin; Almond on woodwinds; Thompson and Larry Taylor on bass; and Hartley on drums. Ventures guitarist Jerry McGee came along with Larry Taylor to the L.A. sessions and appears on a couple tracks; Paul Lagos was with Sugarcane and ended up drumming on five. Mayall wrote all the songs and sang all the vocals, as usual by now, plus played harmonica, guitar, keyboards, drums, and percussion. The London sessions took place in January 1971 and as such represent some of Clapton’s last work before Derek and the Dominos’ attempted Layla follow-up sessions and band disintegration that spring.
Back to the Roots did not promote new names, and USA Union and Memories had been recorded with American musicians. Mayall had exhausted his catalytic role on the British blues-rock scene and was living in L.A. Yet, the list of musicians who benefited from association with him, starting with ruling the London blues scene, remains impressive.
By the start of the 1970s Mayall had relocated in the USA where he spent most of the next 15 years, recording with local musicians for various labels. In August 1971, Mayall produced a jazz- oriented session for bluesman Albert King and a few months later took on tour the musicians present in the studio.
A live album Jazz Blues Fusion was released in the following year, with Mayall on harmonica, guitar and piano, Blue Mitchell on trumpet, Clifford Solomon and Ernie Watts on saxophones, Larry Taylor on bass, Ron Selico on drums and Freddy Robinson on guitar. A few personnel changes are noted at the release of a similar album in 1973, the live Moving On.
During the next decade Mayall continued shifting musicians and switching labels and released a score of albums. Tom Wilson, Don Nix and Allen Toussaint occasionally served as producers. At this stage of his career most of Mayall’s music was rather different from electric blues played by rock musicians, incorporating jazz, funk or pop elements and adding even female vocals. A notable exception is The Last Of the British Blues (1978), a live album excused apparently by its title for the brief return to this type of music.
The return of the Bluesbreakers
In 1984 Mayall restored the name Bluesbreakers for a lineup comprising the two lead guitars of Walter Trout and Coco Montoya, bassist Bobby Haynes and drummer Joe Yuele. The mythic name did perhaps something to enhance the interest in a band which by all standards was already remarkable.
A successful world tour and live recordings achieved the rest. In the early 1990s most of the excitement was already spent and Buddy Whittington became the sole lead guitarist in a formation which included then organist Tom Canning.
On the occasion of the 40th year of his career Mayall received carte blanche to invite fellow musicians for the recording of a celebratory album. Along for the Ride appeared in 2001, credited to John Mayall and Friends with twenty names listed on the cover, including some Bluesbreakers, old and new, and also Gary Moore, Jonny Lang, Steve Cropper, Steve Miller, Otis Rush, Billy Gibbons, Chris Rea, Jeff Healey, Shannon Curfman and a few others.
To celebrate his 70th birthday Mayall reunited with special guests Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor and Chris Barber during a fundraiser show. This “Unite for Unicef” concert took place on 19 July 2003 at the Kings Dock Arena in Liverpool and was captured on film for a DVD release. In 2005, Mayall was awarded an OBE in the Honours List. “It’s the only major award I’ve ever received. I’ve never had a hit record or a Grammy or been in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” commented Mayall.
In November 2008, Mayall announced on his website he was disbanding the Bluesbreakers, to cut back on his heavy workload and give himself freedom to work with other musicians. Three months later a solo world tour was announced, with: Rocky Athas on guitar, Greg Rzab on bass, and Jay Davenport on drums. Tom Canning, on organ, joined the band for the tour which started in March 2009. An album was released in September 2009. Since then, Mayall has continued to tour with the same backing band, minus Canning, who left due to other priorities.
Original John Mayall albums
- 1965: John Mayall Plays John Mayall (Decca) [live, December 1964]
- 1966: Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton (Decca) UK #6
- 1967: A Hard Road (Decca) UK #10
- 1967: Crusade (Decca) UK #8
- 1967: The Blues Alone (Ace of Clubs) UK #24
- 1968: The Diary of a Band – Volume One (Decca) [live] UK #27
- 1968: The Diary of a Band – Volume Two (Decca) [live] UK #28
- 1968: Bare Wires (Decca) UK #3
- 1968: Blues from Laurel Canyon (Decca) UK #33
- 1969: Looking Back (Decca)
- 1969: Thru the Years (London)
- 1969: The Turning Point (Polydor) [live] UK #11
- 1970: Empty Rooms (Polydor) UK #9
- 1970: USA Union (Polydor) UK #50
- 1971: Back to the Roots (Polydor, 2LP) UK #31
- 1971: Memories (Polydor)
- 1971 (<-1968): John Mayall – Live In Europe (London PS 589) [a US release of The Diary Of A Band Vol. 2]
- 1972: Jazz Blues Fusion (Polydor) [live, US, November - December 1971]
- 1973: Moving On (Polydor) [live, US, July 1972]
- 1973: Ten Years Are Gone (Polydor, 2LP/December 2008 reissue) [studio + live New York 1972]
- 1974: The Latest Edition (Polydor)
- 1975: New Year, New Band, New Company (ABC – One Way)
- 1975: Notice to Appear (ABC – One Way)
- 1976: Banquet in Blues (ABC – One Way)
- 1977: Lots of People (ABC – One Way) [live Los Angeles, November 1976]
- 1977: A Hard Core Package (ABC – One Way)
- 1977: Primal Solos (Decca) [live 1966 and 1968, UK]
- 1978: The Last of the British Blues (ABC – One Way) [live US]
- 1979: Bottom Line (DJM)
- 1980: No More Interviews (DJM)
- 1982: Road Show Blues(DJM), reissues:1985: Return Of The Bluesbreakers (AIM Australia) [1981 and 1982]
- 1995: Why Worry
- 1997: [Bluesbreaker]
- 2000: Lost and Gone
- 2001: Reaching for the Blues
- 2006: Godfather of the Blues
- 2007: Big Man
- 1985: Behind the Iron Curtain(GNP Crescendo) [live Hungary], reissue:
- 2004: Steppin’ Out
- 1987: Chicago Line(Entente – Island), reissues:
- 1994: Uncle John’s Nickel Guitar
- 1999: Blues Power (with bonus CD Life in the Jungle – Charly Blues Masterworks Vol.4)
- 2000: Blues Breaker (with two bonus tracks)
- 1988: The Power of the Blues(Entente) [live Germany 1987], reissues:1988: (<-1971) Archives to Eighties (Polydor)
- 1993: New Bluesbreakers (The Blues Collection 8)
- 2003: Blues Forever (Fuel) (with bonus CD Life in the Jungle – Charly Blues Masterworks Vol.4)
- 1990: A Sense of Place (Island)
- 1992: Cross Country Blues (One Way) [1981 and 1984]
- 1992: London Blues 1964-1969 (Deram Chronicles, 2CD)
- 1993: Wake Up Call (Silvertone) UK #61
- 1994: The 1982 Reunion Concert (One Way) [live, US]
- 1994: John Lee Boogie (Charly)
- 1995: Spinning Coin (Silvertone)
- 1997: Blues for the Lost Days (Silvertone)
- 1999: Padlock on the Blues (Eagle)
- 1999: Rock the Blues Tonight (Indigo) [live 2CD 1970 and 1971, Canada]
- 1999: Live at the Marquee 1969 (Eagle) [live '69, London]
- 1999: The Masters (Eagle) [live 2CD, UK 1969]
- 1999: Live:1969(Eagle), reissue:2000: New Year, New Band, New Company/Lots Of People (Beat Goes On, 2CD)
- 2004: The Turning Point Soundtrack
- 2001: Along for the Ride (Eagle/Red Ink)
- 2002: Stories (Eagle/Red Ink)
- 2003: 70th Birthday Concert (Eagle) [live in Liverpool]
- 2005: Road Dogs (Eagle)
- 2005: Rolling with the Blues(Recall) [live 1972 and 1973 and 1980 and 1982, various countries, 2CD + DVD interview], reissue:2007: Live at the BBC (Decca) [1965 and 1967 and 1975]
- 2006: The Private Collection (Snapper 2CD)
- 2007: In the Palace of the King (Eagle)
- 2007: Live from Austin, Tx (NW Records) [live 1993]
- 2009: Tough (Eagle)
- 2011: Live In London (Nov. 1, 2010, 2CD, Dvd, Private Stash or CD Baby)
Unofficial, limited editions and bootlegs
- 1990: Crocodile Walk
- 1984: Blues Alive (RCA/Columbia)
- 198?: Back to the Roots (Gaha 02)[same as Blues Alive]
- 198?: Dal vivo a Milano (bootleg)[live 26 Nov. 1982]
- 1996: Bulldogs For Sale (bootleg)[same as Crocodile Walk]
- 199?: Beano’s Boys (bootleg)
- 199?: The First 5 Years (Pontiac)[Crocodile Walk+BBC Sessions +unreleased]
- 199?: Simply Outstanding, live at the Fillmore West ’68 (Vintage Masters VMCDR 107) [same as Wolfgang's Vault]
- 1999: Horny Blues (Massive Attack) [live '72]
- 1999: Mayallapolis Blues (Blues Tune BT09)[live in Minneapolis 3 March 1993]
- 2000: Time Capsule (Private Stash) Limited release (J.Mayall’s private archive 57-62)
- 2001: UK Tour 2K (Private Stash) Limited release
- 2001: Boogie Woogie Man (Private Stash) Limited release
- 2001: Archive:live (Rialto)
- 2003: No Days Off (Private Stash) Limited release
- 2003: 70th Birthday Concert (Eagle) live ’03 CD & DVD
- 2004: Live at Iowa State University DVD live’87
- 2004: Cookin’ Down Under DVD (Private Stash) Limited release
- 2004: The Godfather of British Blues/Turning Point DVD (Eagle)
- 2005: Rolling with the Blues (Recall) live’72-82 2CD+DVD
- 2007: Live at the Bottom Line, New York 1992
- 2008: Live At Iowa State University
- 1964: “Crawling Up The Hill / Mr. James” (Decca F11900)
- 1965: “Crocodile Walk / Blues City Shakedown” (Decca F12120)
- October 1965: “I’m Your Witchdoctor / Telephone Blues” (Immediate IM012)
- August 1966: “Lonely Years / Bernard Jenkins” (Purdah 453502)
- September 1966: “Parchman Farm / Key To Love” (Decca F12490)
- 1966: “Looking Back / So Many Roads” (Decca F12506)
- 1967: “Sitting In The Rain / Out Of Reach” (Decca F12545)
- 1967: “Curly / Rubber Duck” (Decca F12588)
- 1967: “I’m Your Witchdoctor/ Telephone Blues” (Immediate IM051)
- 1967: “Double Trouble / It Hurts Me Too” (Decca F12621)
- 1967: “Suspicions Pt.1 / Suspicions Pt.2″ (Decca F12684)
- 1968: “Picture On The Wall / Jenny” (Decca F12732)
- 1968: “No Reply / She’s Too Young” (Decca F12792)
- 1968: “The Bear / 2401″ (Decca F12846)
Eric Patrick Clapton, CBE (born 30 March 1945) is an English guitarist and singer-songwriter. Clapton is the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: once as a solo artist, and separately as a member of The Yardbirds and Cream. Clapton has been referred to as one of the most important and influential guitarists of all time. Clapton ranked second in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” and fourth in Gibson’s Top 50 Guitarists of All Time.
In the mid 1960s, Clapton departed from the Yardbirds to play blues with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. In his one-year stay with Mayall, Clapton gained the nickname “Slowhand”. Immediately after leaving Mayall, Clapton formed Cream, a power trio with drummer Ginger Baker and bassist Jack Bruce in which Clapton played sustained blues improvisations and “arty, blues-based psychedelic pop.” For most of the 1970s, Clapton’s output bore the influence of the mellow style of J.J. Cale and the reggae of Bob Marley. His version of Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” helped reggae reach a mass market. Two of his most popular recordings were “Layla“, recorded by Derek and the Dominos, another band he formed and Robert Johnson‘s “Crossroads“, recorded by Cream. A recipient of seventeen Grammy Awards, in 2004 Clapton was awarded a CBE at Buckingham Palace for services to music. In 1998, Clapton, a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, founded the Crossroads Centre on Antigua, a medical facility for recovering substance abusers.
Eric Patrick Clapton was born in Ripley, Surrey, England, the son of 16-year-old Patricia Molly Clapton (b. 7 January 1929 d. March 1999) and Edward Walter Fryer (21 March 1920 – 15 May 1985), a 25-year-old soldier from Montreal, Quebec.Fryer shipped off to war prior to Clapton’s birth and then returned to Canada. Clapton grew up with his grandmother, Rose, and her second husband, Jack Clapp, who was stepfather to Patricia Clapton and her brother Adrian, believing they were his parents and that his mother was actually his older sister. The similarity in surnames gave rise to the erroneous belief that Clapton’s real surname is Clapp (Reginald Cecil Clapton was the name of Rose’s first husband, Eric Clapton’s maternal grandfather). Years later, his mother married another Canadian soldier and moved to Germany, leaving young Eric with his grandparents in Surrey.
Clapton received an acoustic Hoyer guitar, made in Germany, for his thirteenth birthday, but the inexpensive steel-stringed instrument was difficult to play and he briefly lost interest. Two years later Clapton picked it up again and started playing consistently. Clapton was influenced by the blues from an early age, and practised long hours to learn the chords of blues music by playing along to the records. He preserved his practice sessions using his portable Grundig reel-to-reel tape recorder, listening to them over and over until he felt he’d got it right.
After leaving Hollyfield School, in Surbiton, in 1961, Clapton studied at the Kingston College of Art but was dismissed at the end of the academic year because his focus remained on music rather than art. His guitar playing was so advanced that by the age of 16 he was getting noticed. Around this time Clapton began busking around Kingston, Richmond, and the West End. In 1962, Clapton started performing as a duo with fellow blues enthusiast David Brock in pubs around Surrey. When he was seventeen years old Clapton joined his first band, an early British R&B group, “The Roosters”, whose other guitarist was Tom McGuinness. He stayed with this band from January through August 1963. In October of that year, Clapton did a seven-gig stint with Casey Jones & The Engineers.
1960s; The Yardbirds and the Bluesbreakers
In October 1963 Clapton joined The Yardbirds, a blues-influenced rock and roll band, and stayed with them until March 1965. Synthesising influences from Chicago blues and leading blues guitarists such as Buddy Guy, Freddie King, and B. B. King, Clapton forged a distinctive style and rapidly became one of the most talked-about guitarists in the British music scene. The band initially played Chess/Checker/Vee-Jay blues numbers and began to attract a large cult following when they took over the Rolling Stones‘ residency at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond. They toured England with American bluesman Sonny Boy Williamson II; a joint LP album, recorded in December 1963, was issued in 1965.
It was during this time period that Clapton’s Yardbirds rhythm guitarist, Chris Dreja, recalled that whenever Clapton broke a guitar string during a concert, he would stay on stage and replace it. The English audiences would wait out the delay by doing what is called a “slow handclap“. Clapton told his official biographer, Ray Coleman, that, “My nickname of ‘Slowhand’ came from Giorgio Gomelsky. He coined it as a good pun. He kept saying I was a fast player, so he put together the slow handclap phrase into Slowhand as a play on words”.
In March 1965 the Yardbirds had their first major hit, “For Your Love“, on which Clapton played guitar. The Yardbirds elected to move toward a pop-oriented sound, in part because of the success of “For Your Love”, written by pop songwriter-for-hire Graham Gouldman, who had also written hit songs for Herman’s Hermits and The Hollies. Still musically devoted to the blues, Clapton was opposed to the move, and left the band. He recommended fellow guitarist Jimmy Page as his replacement, but Page was at that time unwilling to relinquish his lucrative career as a freelance studio musician, so Page in turn recommended Clapton’s successor, Jeff Beck. While Beck and Page played together in the Yardbirds, the trio of Beck, Page, and Clapton were never in the group together. However, the trio did appear on the 12-date benefit tour for Action for Research into Multiple Sclerosis in 1983, as well as on the album Guitar Boogie.
Clapton joined John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers in April 1965, only to quit a few months later. In the summer of 1965 he left for Greece with a band called The Glands, which included his old friend Ben Palmer on piano. In November 1965 he rejoined John Mayall. During his second Bluesbreakers stint, Clapton gained a reputation as the best blues guitarist on the club circuit. Although Clapton gained world fame for his playing on the influential album, Blues Breakers – John Mayall – With Eric Clapton, this album was not released until Clapton had left the Bluesbreakers for the last time. Having swapped his Fender Telecaster and Vox AC30 amplifier for a 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard guitar and Marshall amplifier, Clapton’s sound and playing inspired a well-publicised graffiti that deified him with the famous slogan “Clapton is God”. The phrase was spray-painted by an admirer on a wall in an Islington Underground station in the autumn of 1967. The graffiti was captured in a now-famous photograph, in which a dog is urinating on the wall. Clapton is reported to have been embarrassed by the slogan, saying in his The South Bank Show profile in 1987, “I never accepted that I was the greatest guitar player in the world. I always wanted to be the greatest guitar player in the world, but that’s an ideal, and I accept it as an ideal”. The phrase began to appear in other areas of Islington throughout the mid 1960s.
Clapton left the Bluesbreakers in July 1966 (to be replaced by Peter Green) and was invited by drummer Ginger Baker to play in his newly formed band Cream, one of the earliest supergroups, with Jack Bruce on bass (also of Manfred Mann, the Bluesbreakers, and the Graham Bond Organisation). Before the formation of Cream, Clapton was not well known in the United States; he left the Yardbirds before “For Your Love” hit the American Top Ten, and had yet to perform there. During his time with Cream, Clapton began to develop as a singer, songwriter, and guitarist, though Bruce took most of the lead vocals and wrote the majority of the material with lyricist Pete Brown. Cream’s first gig was an unofficial performance at the Twisted Wheel Club in Manchester on 29 July 1966 before their full debut two nights later at the National Jazz and Blues Festival in Windsor. Cream established its enduring legend with the high-volume blues jamming and extended solos of their live shows.
In early 1967 Clapton’s status as Britain’s top guitarist was rivalled by the emergence of Jimi Hendrix, an acid rock-infused guitarist who used wailing feedback and effects pedals to create new sounds for the instrument. Hendrix attended a performance of the newly-formed Cream at the Central London Polytechnic on 1 October 1966, during which Hendrix sat in on a double-timed version of “Killing Floor“. Top UK stars including Clapton, Pete Townshend, and members of The Rolling Stones and The Beatles avidly attended Hendrix’s early club performances. Hendrix’s arrival had an immediate and major effect on the next phase of Clapton’s career, although Clapton continued to be recognised in UK music polls as the premier guitarist.
Clapton first visited the United States while touring with Cream. In March 1967, Cream performed a nine-show stand at the RKO Theater in New York. They recorded Disraeli Gears in New York from 11–15 May 1967. Cream’s repertoire varied from hard rock (“I Feel Free“) to lengthy blues-based instrumental jams (“Spoonful“). Disraeli Gears featured Clapton’s searing guitar lines, Bruce’s soaring vocals and prominent, fluid bass playing, and Baker’s powerful, polyrhythmic jazz-influenced drumming. Together, Cream’s talents secured them as an influential power trio.
In 28 months, Cream had become a commercial success, selling millions of records and playing throughout the U.S. and Europe. They redefined the instrumentalist’s role in rock and were one of the first blues-rock bands to emphasise musical virtuosity and lengthy jazz-style improvisation sessions. Their U.S. hit singles include “Sunshine of Your Love” (#5, 1968), “White Room” (#6, 1968) and “Crossroads” (#28, 1969) – a live version of Robert Johnson‘s “Cross Road Blues”. Though Cream was hailed as one of the greatest groups of its day, and the adulation of Clapton as a guitar hero reached new heights, the supergroup was short-lived. Drug and alcohol use escalated tension between the three members, and conflicts between Bruce and Baker eventually led to Cream’s demise. A strongly critical Rolling Stone review of a concert of the group’s second headlining U.S. tour was another significant factor in the trio’s demise, and it affected Clapton profoundly.
Cream’s farewell album, Goodbye, featuring live performances recorded at The Forum, Los Angeles, 19 October 1968, was released shortly after Cream disbanded; it also featured the studio single “Badge“, co-written by Clapton and George Harrison. Clapton met Harrison and became friends with him after the Beatles shared a bill with the Clapton-era Yardbirds at the London Palladium. The close friendship between Clapton and Harrison resulted in Clapton’s playing on Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” from the Beatles’ White Album (1968). Harrison also released his solo debut album, Wonderwall Music, in 1968. It became the first of many Harrison solo records to feature Clapton on guitar. Clapton would go largely uncredited for his contributions to Harrison’s albums due to contractual restraints. The pair would often play live together as each other’s guest. A year after Harrison’s death in 2001, Clapton helped organise a tribute concert, for which he was musical director. In 1969, when The Beatles were recording/filming what became Let It Be, tensions became so acute that Harrison quit the group for several days, prompting the others to consider replacing him with Clapton, an idea that particularly appealed to John Lennon, who was captured on tape saying that if: “George doesn’t come back by Monday or Tuesday, we ask Eric Clapton to play”, and that this would be congenial to Clapton in that The Beatles, unlike Cream, “would give him full scope to play his guitar.” Years later, Clapton commented on the absurdity of this idea: “There may have been [a suggestion that I would be asked to join The Beatles in January 1969]. The problem with that was I had bonded or was developing a relationship with George, exclusive of them. I think it fitted a need of his and mine, that he could elevate himself by having this guy that could be like a gunslinger to them. Lennon would use my name every now and then for clout, as if I was the fastest gun. So, I don’t think I could have been brought into the whole thing because I was too much a mate of George’s.”
In 2012 a letter from Lennon to Clapton was put up for auction. In the letter, penned in September 1971, Lennon asked Clapton if he would like to form a new band.
Cream briefly reunited in 1993 to perform at the ceremony inducting them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; a full reunion took place in May 2005, with Clapton, Bruce, and Baker playing four sold-out concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall, and three shows at New York’s Madison Square Garden that October. Recordings from the London shows, Royal Albert Hall London May 2-3-5-6, 2005, were released on CD, LP, and DVD in September/December 2005.
Blind Faith and Delaney and Bonnie and Friends
Clapton’s next group, Blind Faith (1969), was composed of Cream drummer Ginger Baker, Steve Winwood of Traffic, and Ric Grech of Family, and yielded one LP and one arena-circuit tour. The supergroup debuted before 100,000 fans in London’s Hyde Park on 7 June 1969. They performed several dates in Scandinavia and began a sold-out American tour in July before their only album was released. The LP Blind Faith consisted of just six songs, one of them a 15-minute jam entitled “Do What You Like”. The album’s jacket image of a topless pubescent girl was deemed controversial in the United States and was replaced by a photograph of the band. Blind Faith dissolved after less than seven months.
Clapton subsequently toured as a sideman for an act that had opened for Blind Faith, Delaney and Bonnie and Friends. He also played two dates as a member of The Plastic Ono Band that autumn, including a recorded performance at the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival in September 1969 released as the album Live Peace in Toronto 1969. On 15 December 1969 Clapton performed with John Lennon, George Harrison, and others as the Plastic Ono Band at a fundraiser for UNICEF in London.
Delaney Bramlett encouraged Clapton in his singing and writing. During the summer of 1969, Clapton and Bramlett contributed to the Music From Free Creek “supersession” project. Clapton, appearing as “King Cool” for contractual reasons, played with Dr. John on three songs, joined by Bramlett on two tracks.
Using the Bramletts’ backing group and an all-star cast of session players (including Leon Russell and Stephen Stills), Clapton recorded his first solo album during two brief tour hiatuses, fittingly named Eric Clapton. Delaney Bramlett co-wrote six of the songs with Clapton, and Bonnie Bramlett co-wrote “Let It Rain”. The album yielded the unexpected U.S. No. 18 hit, J. J. Cale‘s “After Midnight”. Clapton went with Delaney and Bonnie from the stage to the studio with the Dominos to record George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass in spring 1970. During this busy period, Clapton also recorded with other artists including Dr. John, Leon Russell, Plastic Ono Band, Billy Preston, and Ringo Starr.
Derek and the Dominos
With the intention to counteract the “star” cult faction that had begun to form around him, Clapton assembled a new band composed of Delaney and Bonnie’s former rhythm section, Bobby Whitlock as keyboardist and vocalist, Carl Radle as the bassist, and drummer Jim Gordon, with Clapton playing guitar. It was his intention to show that he need not fill a starring role, and functioned well as a member of an ensemble. During this period, Clapton was increasingly influenced by The Band and their album Music from Big Pink, saying, “What I appreciated about The Band was that they were more concerned with songs and singing. They would have three- and four-part harmonies, and the guitar was put back into perspective as being accompaniment. That suited me well, because I had gotten so tired of the virtuosity—or pseudo-virtuosity—thing of long, boring guitar solos just because they were expected. The Band brought things back into perspective. The priority was the song.” Naming the band, “Eric Clapton and Friends” at first, the name “Derek and the Dominos” was a fluke. It occurred when the band’s provisional name of “Del and the Dynamos” was misread as Derek and the Dominos. Clapton’s biography states that Tony Ashton of Ashton, Gardner and Dyke told Clapton to call the band “Del and the Dominos”, since “Del” was his nickname for Eric Clapton. Del and Eric were combined and the final name became “Derek and the Dominos”.
Clapton’s close friendship with George Harrison brought him into contact with Harrison’s wife, Pattie Boyd, with whom he became deeply infatuated. When she spurned his advances, Clapton’s unrequited affections prompted most of the material for the Dominos’ album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970). Heavily blues-influenced, the album features the twin lead guitars of Duane Allman and Clapton, with Allman’s slide guitar as a key ingredient of the sound. Working at Criteria Studios in Miami with Atlantic Records producer Tom Dowd, who had worked with Clapton on Cream’s Disraeli Gears, the band recorded a double album.
The album features the hit love song “Layla“, inspired by the classical poet of Persian literature, Nizami Ganjavi‘s The Story of Layla and Majnun, a copy of which Ian Dallas had given to Clapton. The book moved Clapton profoundly, as it was the tale of a young man who fell hopelessly in love with a beautiful, unavailable woman and who went crazy because he could not marry her. The two parts of “Layla” were recorded in separate sessions: the opening guitar section was recorded first, and for the second section, laid down several months later, drummer Jim Gordon composed and played the piano part.
The Layla LP was actually recorded by a five-piece version of the group, thanks to the unforeseen inclusion of guitarist Duane Allman of The Allman Brothers Band. A few days into the Layla sessions, Dowd—who was also producing the Allmans—invited Clapton to an Allman Brothers outdoor concert in Miami. The two guitarists met first on stage, then played all night in the studio, and became friends. Duane first added his slide guitar to “Tell the Truth” and “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out“. In four days, the five-piece Dominos recorded “Key to the Highway“, “Have You Ever Loved a Woman” (a blues standard popularised by Freddie King and others), and “Why Does Love Got to be So Sad”. In September, Duane briefly left the sessions for gigs with his own band, and the four-piece Dominos recorded “I Looked Away”, “Bell Bottom Blues“, and “Keep on Growing”. Duane returned to record “I am Yours”, “Anyday”, and “It’s Too Late”. On 9 September, they recorded Hendrix’s “Little Wing” and the title track. The following day, the final track, “It’s Too Late”, was recorded.
Tragedy dogged the group throughout its brief career. During the sessions, Clapton was devastated by news of the death of Jimi Hendrix; eight days previously the band had cut a cover of “Little Wing” as a tribute to Hendrix. On 17 September 1970, one day before Hendrix’s death, Clapton had purchased a left-handed Fender Stratocaster that he had planned to give to Hendrix as a birthday gift. Adding to Clapton’s woes, the Layla album received only lukewarm reviews upon release. The shaken group undertook a U.S. tour without Allman, who had returned to the Allman Brothers Band. Despite Clapton’s later admission that the tour took place amidst a veritable blizzard of drugs and alcohol, it resulted in the live double album In Concert. The band had recorded several tracks for a second album in London during the spring of 1971 (five of which were released on the Eric Clapton box-set Crossroads), but the results were mediocre.
A second record was in the works when a clashing of egos took place and Clapton walked, thus disbanding the group. Allman was killed in a motorcycle accident on 29 October 1971. Clapton wrote later in his autobiography that he and Allman were inseparable during the sessions in Florida; he talked about Allman as the “musical brother I’d never had but wished I did.” Although Radle would remain Clapton’s bass player until the summer of 1979 (Radle died in May 1980 from the effects of alcohol and narcotics), it would be 2003 before Clapton and Whitlock appeared together again (Clapton guested on Whitlock’s appearance on the Later with Jools Holland show). Another tragic footnote to the Dominos story was the fate of drummer Jim Gordon, who was an undiagnosed schizophrenic and years later murdered his mother during a psychotic episode. Gordon was confined to 16-years-to-life imprisonment, later being moved to a mental institution, where he remains today.
Clapton’s career successes in the 1970s were in stark contrast with his personal life, which was troubled by romantic longings and drug and alcohol addiction. While suffering his (temporarily) unrequited and intense attraction to Pattie Boyd, he withdrew from recording and touring to isolation in his Surrey, England, residence. There he nursed his heroin addiction, which resulted in a career hiatus interrupted only by the Concert for Bangladesh in August 1971 (where he passed out on stage, was revived, and continued his performance). In January 1973, The Who‘s Pete Townshend organised a comeback concert for Clapton at London’s Rainbow Theatre, aptly titled the “Rainbow Concert“, to help Clapton kick his addiction. Clapton would return the favour by playing ‘The Preacher’ in Ken Russell’s film version of The Who’s Tommy in 1975; his appearance in the film (performing “Eyesight to the Blind”) is notable as he is clearly wearing a fake beard in some shots, the result of deciding to shave off his real beard after the initial takes in an attempt to force the director to remove his earlier scene from the movie and leave the set.
In 1974, now partnered with Pattie (they would not actually marry until 1979) and no longer using heroin (although starting to drink heavily), Clapton put together a more low-key touring band that included Radle, Miami guitarist George Terry, keyboardist Dick Sims (who died in 2011), drummer Jamie Oldaker, and vocalists Yvonne Elliman and Marcy Levy (also known as Marcella Detroit). With this band Clapton recorded 461 Ocean Boulevard (1974), an album with an emphasis on more compact songs and fewer guitar solos; the cover version of “I Shot The Sheriff” was Clapton’s first No. 1 hit and was important in bringing reggae and the music of Bob Marley to a wider audience. The 1975 album There’s One in Every Crowd continued this trend. The album’s original title, The World’s Greatest Guitar Player (There’s One In Every Crowd), was changed before pressing, as it was felt its ironic intention would be misunderstood. The band toured the world and subsequently released the 1975 live LP, E.C. Was Here. Clapton continued to release albums and toured regularly. Highlights of the period include No Reason to Cry (a collaboration with Bob Dylan and The Band); Slowhand, which featured “Wonderful Tonight” (another song inspired by Boyd); and a second J.J. Cale cover, “Cocaine“. In 1976 he performed, alongside a string of notable guests, to pay tribute to the farewell performance of The Band, filmed in a Martin Scorsese documentary called The Last Waltz.
In 1981 Clapton was invited by producer Martin Lewis to appear at the Amnesty International benefit The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball. Clapton accepted the invitation and teamed up with Jeff Beck to perform a series of duets—reportedly their first-ever billed stage collaboration. Three of the performances were released on the album of the show, and one of the songs was featured in the film. The performances heralded a return to form and prominence for Clapton in the new decade. Many factors had influenced Clapton’s comeback, including his “deepening commitment to Christianity”, to which he had converted prior to his heroin addiction.
After an embarrassing fishing incident, Clapton finally called his manager and admitted he was an alcoholic. In January 1982 Roger and Clapton flew to Minneapolis – St. Paul; Clapton would be checked in at Hazelden Treatment Center, located in Center City, Minnesota. On the flight over, Clapton indulged in a large number of drinks, for fear he would never be able to drink again. Clapton is quoted as saying from his autobiography, “In the lowest moments of my life, the only reason I didn’t commit suicide was that I knew I wouldn’t be able to drink any more if I was dead. It was the only thing I thought was worth living for, and the idea that people were about to try and remove me from alcohol was so terrible that I drank and drank and drank, and they had to practically carry me into the clinic.”
After being discharged, it was recommended by doctors of Hazelden that Clapton not partake in any activities that would act as triggers for his alcoholism or stress, until he was fully situated back at Hurtwood. A few months after his discharge, Clapton began working on his next album, against the Hazelden doctors’ orders. Working with Tom Dowd, Clapton produced what he thought as his “most forced” album to date, Money and Cigarettes.
In 1984 he performed on Pink Floyd member Roger Waters‘ solo album, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, and went on tour with Waters following the release of the album. Since then Waters and Clapton have had a close relationship. In 2005 they performed together for the Tsunami Relief Fund. In 2006 they performed at the Highclere Castle, in aid of the Countryside Alliance, playing two set pieces of “Wish You Were Here” and “Comfortably Numb“. Clapton, now a seasoned charity performer, played at the Live Aid concert on 13 July 1985. When offered a slot close to peak viewing hours, he was apparently flattered. As Clapton recovered from his addictions, his album output continued in the 1980s, including two produced with Phil Collins, 1985′s Behind the Sun, which produced the hits “Forever Man” and “She’s Waiting”, and 1986′s August.
August was suffused with Collins’s trademark drum and horn sound, and became Clapton’s biggest seller in the UK to date, matching his highest chart position, number 3. The album’s first track, the hit “It’s In The Way That You Use It”, was featured in the Tom Cruise – Paul Newman movie The Color of Money. The horn-peppered “Run” echoed Collins’ “Sussudio” and rest of the producer’s Genesis/solo output, while “Tearing Us Apart” (with Tina Turner) and the unimpressed “Miss You” echoed Clapton’s angry sound. This rebound kicked off Clapton’s two-year period of touring with Collins and their August collaborates, bassist Nathan East and keyboard player/songwriter Greg Phillinganes. While on tour for August, two concert videos were recorded of the four-man band, Eric Clapton Live from Montreux and Eric Clapton and Friends. Clapton later remade “After Midnight” as a single and a promotional track for the Michelob beer brand, which had also marketed earlier songs by Collins and Steve Winwood. Clapton won a British Academy Television Award for his collaboration with Michael Kamen on the score for the 1985 BBC Television thriller serial Edge of Darkness. In 1989, Clapton released Journeyman, an album which covered a wide range of styles including blues, jazz, soul and pop. Collaborators included George Harrison, Phil Collins, Daryl Hall, Chaka Khan, Mick Jones, David Sanborn and Robert Cray.
In 1984, while still married to Pattie Boyd, Clapton began a year-long relationship with Yvonne Kelly. The two had a daughter, Ruth, who was born in January 1985, but her existence was kept a secret by her parents. She was not publicly revealed as his child until 1991. Boyd criticised Clapton because he had not revealed the child’s existence.
At the 1987 Brit Awards in London, Clapton picked up the prize for Outstanding Contribution to Music. Hurricane Hugo hit Montserrat in 1989, and this resulted in the closure of Sir George Martin and John Burgess’s recording studio AIR Montserrat, where Kelly was Managing Director. Kelly and Ruth moved back to England, and stories about Eric’s secret daughter began as a result of newspaper articles published at the time. Clapton and Boyd divorced in 1988 following his affair with Italian model Lory Del Santo, who gave birth to their son, Conor, on 21 August 1986. Boyd was never able to conceive children, despite attempts at in vitro fertilisation. Their divorce was granted on grounds of “infidelity and unreasonable behaviour.”
Clapton was known to date a host of beautiful women, including Krissy Wood (ex-wife of Ron Wood), actress Charlotte Martin, socialite Alice Ormsby-Gore, Paula Boyd (the younger sister of his future wife Pattie), singer Janis Joplin, singer Marianne Faithfull, rock muses Catherine James, Cyrinda Fox, and Geraldine Edwards, the inspiration for Penny Lane in Almost Famous, singer Rosanne Cash, the former First Lady of France and former model Carla Bruni, and actresses Patsy Kensit, Sharon Stone, and Alicia Witt.
The 1990s brought a series of 32 concerts to the Royal Albert Hall, such as the 24 Nights series of concerts that took place around January through February 1990, and February through March 1991. On 27 August 1990, fellow blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, who was touring with Clapton, and three members of their road crew were killed in a helicopter crash between concerts. Then, on 20 March 1991, Clapton’s four-year-old son, Conor, died after falling from the 53rd-floor window of his mother’s friend’s New York City apartment at 117 East 57th Street. Conor’s funeral took place on 28 March at St Mary Magdelene’s Church in Clapton’s home village in Ripley, Surrey. Clapton’s grief was expressed in the song “Tears in Heaven“, which was co-written by Will Jennings. At the 35th Grammy Awards, Clapton received six Grammy Awards for the single “Tears in Heaven” and his Unplugged album. The album reached number one on the Billboard 200, and has since been certified Diamond by the RIAA for selling over 10 million copies in the United States. On 9 September 1992, Clapton performed “Tears in Heaven” at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles, and won the award for Best Male Video.
In October 1992 Clapton was among the dozens of artists performing at Bob Dylan‘s 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration. Recorded at Madison Square Garden in New York City, the live two-disk CD/DVD captured a show full of celebrities performing classic Dylan songs, before ending with a few performances from Dylan himself. Despite the presence of 10 other guitarists on stage, including George Harrison, Neil Young, Roger McGuinn, Steve Cropper, Tom Petty, and Dylan, Clapton played the lead on a nearly 7-minute version of Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” as part of the finale.
While Unplugged featured Clapton playing acoustic guitar, his 1994 album From the Cradle contained new versions of old blues standards, highlighted by his electric guitar playing. Clapton’s 1996 recording of the Wayne Kirkpatrick/Gordon Kennedy/Tommy Sims tune “Change the World” (featured in the soundtrack of the movie Phenomenon) won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 1997, the same year he recorded Retail Therapy (an album of electronic music with Simon Climie under the pseudonym TDF). The following year, Clapton released the album Pilgrim, the first record featuring new material for almost a decade. Clapton finished the twentieth century with collaborations with Carlos Santana and B. B. King.
In 1996 Clapton had a relationship with singer/songwriter Sheryl Crow. They remain friends, and Clapton appeared as a guest on Crow’s Central Park Concert. The duo performed a Cream hit single, “White Room“. Later, Clapton and Crow performed an alternate version of “Tulsa Time” with other guitar legends at the Crossroads Guitar Festival in June 2007.
In 1998 Clapton, then 53, met 22-year-old administrative assistant Melia McEnery in Columbus, Ohio, at a party given for him after a performance. He quietly dated her for a year, and went public with the relationship in 1999. They married on 1 January 2002 at St Mary Magdalene church in Clapton’s birthplace, Ripley. As of 2005 they have three daughters, Julie Rose (13 June 2001), Ella May (14 January 2003), and Sophie Belle (1 February 2005).
At the 41st Grammy Awards on 24 February 1999, Clapton received his third Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, for his song “My Father’s Eyes”. In October 1999, the compilation album, Clapton Chronicles: The Best of Eric Clapton, was released, which contained a new song, “Blue Eyes Blue”, that also appears in soundtrack for the film, Runaway Bride.
Following the release of the 2001 record Reptile, in June 2002, Clapton performed “Layla” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” at the Party at the Palace concert in the grounds of Buckingham Palace. On 29 November 2002, the Concert for George was held at the Royal Albert Hall, a tribute to George Harrison, who had died a year earlier of cancer. Clapton was a performer and the musical director. The concert featured Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Ravi Shankar, Gary Brooker, Billy Preston, Joe Brown and Dhani Harrison. In 2004, Clapton released two albums of covers of songs by bluesman Robert Johnson, Me and Mr. Johnson and Sessions for Robert J. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Clapton No. 53 on their list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”.
On 22 January 2005, Clapton performed in the Tsunami Relief Concert held at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, in aid of the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. In May 2005 Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker reunited as Cream for a series of concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Concert recordings were released on CD and DVD. Later, Cream performed in New York at Madison Square Garden. Back Home, Clapton’s first album of new original material in nearly five years, was released on Reprise Records on 30 August. In 2006 he invited Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall II to join his band for his 2006–2007 world tour. Trucks is the third member of the Allman Brothers Band to tour supporting Clapton, the second being pianist/keyboardist Chuck Leavell, who appeared on the MTV Unplugged album and the 24 Nights performances at the Royal Albert Hall theatre of London in 1990 and 1991, as well as Clapton’s 1992 U.S. tour.
On 20 May 2006, Clapton performed with Queen drummer Roger Taylor and former Pink Floyd bassist/songwriter Roger Waters at the Highclere Castle, Hampshire, in support of the Countryside Alliance. On 13 August 2006, Clapton made a guest appearance at the Bob Dylan concert in Columbus, Ohio, playing guitar on three songs in Jimmie Vaughan‘s opening act. A collaboration with guitarist J. J. Cale, titled The Road to Escondido, was released on 7 November 2006, featuring Derek Trucks and Billy Preston. The 14-track CD was produced and recorded by the duo in August 2005 in California. The chemistry between Trucks and Clapton convinced him to invite The Derek Trucks Band to open for Clapton’s set at his 2007 Crossroads Guitar Festival. Trucks remained on set afterward, performed with Clapton’s band throughout his performances, and later embarked on a world tour with him.
The rights to Clapton’s official memoirs, written by Christopher Simon Sykes and published in 2007, were sold at the 2005 Frankfurt Book Fair for US$4 million.
On 26 February 2008, it was reported that North Korean officials had invited Clapton to play a concert in the communist state. Clapton’s management received the invitation and passed it on to the singer, who agreed in principle and suggested it take place sometime in 2009. Kristen Foster, a spokesperson, said, “Eric Clapton receives numerous offers to play in countries around the world,” and “[t]here is no agreement whatsoever for him to play in North Korea.”
In 2007 Clapton learned more about his father, a Canadian soldier who left the UK after the war. Although Clapton’s grandparents eventually told him the truth about his parentage, he only knew that his father’s name was Edward Fryer. This was a source of disquiet for Clapton, as witnessed by his 1998 song “My Father’s Eyes“. A Montreal journalist named Michael Woloschuk researched Canadian Armed Forces service records and tracked down members of Fryer’s family, and finally pieced together the story. He learned that Clapton’s father was Edward Walter Fryer, born 21 March 1920, in Montreal and died 15 May 1985 in Newmarket, Ontario. Fryer was a musician (piano and saxophone) and a lifelong drifter who was married several times, had several children, and apparently never knew that he was the father of Eric Clapton. Clapton thanked Woloschuk in an encounter at Macdonald Cartier Airport, in Ottawa, Canada.
In February 2008 Clapton performed with his long-time friend Steve Winwood at Madison Square Garden and guested on his recorded single, “Dirty City”, on Winwood’s album Nine Lives. The two former Blind Faith bandmates met again for a series of 14 concerts throughout the United States in June 2009.
Clapton’s 2008 Summer Tour began on 3 May at the Ford Amphitheatre, Tampa Bay, Florida, and then moved to Canada, Ireland, England, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Poland, Germany, and Monaco. On 28 June 2008, he headlined Saturday night for Hard Rock Calling 2008 in London’s Hyde Park (previously Hyde Park Calling) with support from Sheryl Crow and John Mayer. In September 2008 Clapton performed at a private charity fundraiser for The Countryside Alliance at Floridita in Soho, London, that included such guests as the London Mayor Boris Johnson.
In March 2009, the Allman Brothers Band (amongst many notable guests) celebrated their 40th year, dedicating their string of concerts to the late Duane Allman on their annual run at the Beacon Theatre. Eric Clapton was one of the performers, with drummer Butch Trucks remarking that the performance was not the typical Allman Brothers experience, given the number and musical styles of the guests who were invited to perform. Songs like “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” were punctuated with others, including “The Weight“, with Levon Helm; Johnny Winter sitting in on Hendrix’s “Red House“; and “Layla”. On 4 May 2009 Clapton appeared as a featured guest at the Royal Albert Hall, playing “Further on Up the Road” with Joe Bonamassa.
Clapton was scheduled to be one of the performers at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame‘s 25th anniversary concert in Madison Square Garden on 30 October 2009, but cancelled due to gallstone surgery. Van Morrison (who also cancelled) said in an interview that he and Clapton were to do a “couple of songs”, but that they would do something else together at “some other stage of the game”.
Clapton performed a two-night show with Jeff Beck at London’s O2 Arena on 13–14 February 2010. The two former Yardbirds extended their 2010 tour with stops at Madison Square Garden, the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, and the Bell Centre in Montreal. Clapton performed a series of concerts in 11 cities throughout the United States from 25 February to 13 March 2010, including Roger Daltrey as opening act. His third European tour with Steve Winwood began on 18 May and ended 13 June, including Tom Norris as opening act. He then began a short North American tour lasting from 26 June to 3 July, starting with his third Crossroads Guitar Festival on 26 June at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois. Clapton released a new studio album, Clapton, on 27 September 2010 in the United Kingdom and 28 September 2010 in the United States. On 17 November 2010, Clapton performed as guest on the Prince’s Trust rock gala held at the Royal Albert Hall, supported by the house band for the evening, which included Jools Holland, Midge Ure and Mark King.
On 24 June 2011 Clapton was in concert with Pino Daniele in Cava de’ Tirreni stadium, Italy, with an audience of 15,000 people before performing a series of concerts in South America from 6 to 16 October 2011. He spent the November and December 2011 touring Japan with Steve Winwood, playing 13 shows in various cities throughout the country. On 24 February 2012 Clapton, Keith Richards, Gary Clark Jr., Derek Trucks, Doyle Bramhall II, Kim Wilson and other artists performed together in the Howlin’ For Hubert Tribute concert held at the Apollo Theater of NYC honoring blues guitarist Hubert Sumlin who died at age 80 in 4 December. Clapton is scheduled to perform a series of 12 concerts in the United Kingdom from 13 to 26 May 2013 to celebrate his 50 years as a professional musician, following the fourth Crossroads Guitar Festival held at Madison Square Garden in 12–13 April.
Clapton cites Freddie King, B.B. King, Albert King, Buddy Guy, and Hubert Sumlin as guitar playing influences. Clapton stated blues musician Robert Johnson to be his single most important influence. In 2004 Clapton released CDs and DVDs entitled Sessions for Robert Johnson, featuring Clapton covering Robert Johnson songs using electric and acoustic guitars.
Clapton co-authored with others the book Discovering Robert Johnson, in which Clapton said Johnson was
“…the most important blues musician who ever lived. He was true, absolutely, to his own vision, and as deep as I have gotten into the music over the last 30 years, I have never found anything more deeply soulful than Robert Johnson. His music remains the most powerful cry that I think you can find in the human voice, really. … it seemed to echo something I had always felt.”
Clapton has been referred to as one of the most important and influential guitarists of all time. Clapton is the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: once as a solo artist, and separately as a member of The Yardbirds and Cream. He ranked second in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” and fourth in Gibson’s Top 50 Guitarists of All Time.
Guitarists influenced by Clapton include Slash, Richie Sambora, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Gary Moore, Duane Allman, Derek Trucks,Eddie Van Halen, Brian May, Tony Iommi, Lenny Kravitz, Orianthi, Vince Gill, Brad Paisley, Jonny Buckland, Joe Don Rooney, Alex Lifeson, Jonny Lang, John Mayer, Joe Satriani, Joe Bonamassa, Davy Knowles, Neal Schon, and George Harrison.
Clapton’s choice of electric guitars has been as notable as the man himself; alongside Hank Marvin, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, Clapton exerted a crucial and widespread influence in popularising particular models of electric guitar. With the Yardbirds, Clapton played a Fender Telecaster, a Fender Jazzmaster, a double-cutaway Gretsch 6120, and a 1964 Cherry-Red Gibson ES-335. He became exclusively a Gibson player for a period beginning in mid-1965, when he purchased a used sunburst Gibson Les Paul guitar from a guitar store in London. Clapton commented on the slim profile of the neck, which would indicate it was a 1960 model.
Early during his stint in Cream, Clapton’s first Les Paul Standard was stolen. He continued to play Les Pauls exclusively with Cream (one bought from Andy Summers was almost identical to the stolen guitar) until 1967, when he acquired his most famous guitar in this period, a 1964 Gibson SG. Just before Cream’s first U.S. appearance in 1967, Clapton’s SG, Bruce’s Fender VI, and Baker’s drum head were all repainted in psychedelic designs created by the visual art collective known as The Fool. In 1968 Clapton bought a Gibson Firebird and started using the 1964 Cherry-Red Gibson ES-335 again. The aforementioned 1964 ES-335 had a storied career. Clapton used it at the last Cream show in November 1968 as well as with Blind Faith, played it sparingly for slide pieces in the 1970s, used it on “Hard Times” from Journeyman, the Hyde Park live concert of 1996, and the From the Cradle sessions and tour of 1994–95. It was sold for US$847,500 at a 2004 auction. Gibson produced a limited run of 250 “Crossroads 335″ replicas. The 335 was only the second electric guitar Clapton bought.
In July 1968 Clapton gave George Harrison a 1957 ‘goldtop’ Gibson Les Paul that been refinished with a red colour. The following September, Clapton played the guitar on the Beatles’ studio recording of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps“. His SG found its way into the hands of George Harrison’s friend Jackie Lomax, who subsequently sold it to musician Todd Rundgren for US$500 in 1972. Rundgren restored the guitar and nicknamed it “Sunny”, after “Sunshine of Your Love”. He retained it until 2000, when he sold it at an auction for US$150,000. At the 1969 Blind Faith concert in Hyde Park, London Clapton played a Fender Custom Telecaster, which was fitted with “Brownie“‘s neck.
In late 1969 Clapton made the switch to the Fender Stratocaster. “I had a lot of influences when I took up the Strat. First there was Buddy Holly, and Buddy Guy. Hank Marvin was the first well known person over here in England who was using one, but that wasn’t really my kind of music. Steve Winwood had so much credibility, and when he started playing one, I thought, oh, if he can do it, I can do it.” The first—used during the recording of Eric Clapton—was “Brownie”, which in 1974 became the backup to the most famous of all Clapton’s guitars, “Blackie“. In November 1970 Eric bought six Fender Stratocasters from the Sho-bud guitar shop in Nashville, Tennessee while on tour with the Dominos. He gave one each to George Harrison, Steve Winwood, and Pete Townshend.
Clapton assembled the best components of the remaining three to create “Blackie”, which was his favourite stage guitar until its retirement in 1985. It was first played live 13 January 1973 at the Rainbow Concert. Clapton called the 1956/57 Strat a “mongrel”. On 24 June 2004, Clapton sold “Blackie” at Christie’s Auction House, New York, for US$959,500 to raise funds for his Crossroads Centre for drug and alcohol addictions. “Brownie” is now on display at the Experience Music Project. The Fender Custom Shop has since produced a limited run of 275 ‘Blackie’ replicas, correct in every detail right down to the ‘Duck Brothers’ flight case, and artificially aged using Fender’s ‘Relic’ process to simulate years of hard wear. One was presented to Eric upon the model’s release and was used for three numbers during a concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 17 May 2006.
In 1981 Clapton gave his signed Fender Lead II guitar to the Hard Rock Cafe to designate his favourite bar stool. Pete Townshend also donated his own Gibson Les Paul guitar, with a note attached: “Mine’s as good as his! Love, Pete.”
In 1988 Fender honoured Clapton with the introduction of his signature Eric Clapton Stratocaster. These were the first two artist models in the Stratocaster range. Since then, the artist series has grown to include models inspired by Clapton’s contemporaries such as Rory Gallagher, Mark Knopfler, Jeff Beck, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and by those who have influenced him, such as Buddy Guy. Clapton uses Ernie Ball Slinky and Super Slinky strings, gauge .10 to.46. Clapton has been honoured with several signature-model 000-sized acoustic guitars made by the American firm of C.F. Martin & Company. The first, of these, introduced in 1995, was a limited edition 000-42EC Eric Clapton signature model with a production run of 461. As of December 2007, Martin had produced seven EC signature models. His 1939 000-42 Martin that he played on the Unplugged album sold for US$791,500 at auction. Clapton plays a custom 000-ECHF Martin these days.
In 1999, Clapton auctioned off some of his guitar collection to raise more than US$5 million for continuing support of the Crossroads Centre in Antigua, which he founded in 1997. The Crossroads Centre is a treatment base for addictive disorders such as drugs and alcohol. In 2004 Clapton organised and participated in the Crossroads Guitar Festival to benefit the Centre. A second guitar auction, including the “Cream” of Clapton’s collection – as well as guitars donated by famous friends – was held on 24 June 2004. His Lowden acoustic guitar sold for US$41,825. The revenue garnered by this auction at Christie’s was US$7,438,624.
In 2010 Eric Clapton announced that he would be auctioning off over 150 items at a New York auction in 2011. Proceeds will benefit his Crossroads Centre in Antigua. Items include Clapton’s guitar from the Cream reunion tour in 2005, speaker cabinets used in the early 1970s from his days with Derek and the Dominoes, and some guitars from Jeff Beck, J.J. Cale, and Joe Bonamassa. In March 2011 Clapton raised more than US$2.15 million when he auctioned off key items, including a 1984 Gibson hollow body guitar, a Gianni Versace suit from his 1990 concert at the Royal Albert Hall, and a replica of the famous Fender Stratocaster known as “Blackie”, which fetched more than $30,000. All proceeds from the auction were donated to Clapton’s Crossroads drug and rehabilitation centre in Antigua.
The “woman tone” is the informal term used by Clapton to refer to his distinctive mid- to late-1960s electric guitar sound, created using his Gibson SG solid body guitar (with Humbucker pick-ups) and a Marshall tube amplifier. It is an overdriven sound that is articulate yet thick. It is characterised by being quite distorted (or even achieved with a fuzz) but muted, in contrast to the bright and twangy distortion that most guitarists were using at the time. Many players have tried to duplicate it, usually without success, in part because Clapton’s playing technique had a lot to do with the tone.
Among the techniques used to replicate Clapton’s sound is a technique by which the amplifier’s volume is turned up to full, while the guitar’s tone knob is turned down to zero or one.
Perhaps the best example of the “woman tone” is Clapton’s famous riff and solo from Cream’s 1967 hit “Sunshine of Your Love“. Clapton has explained that he obtained the tone with his Gibson’s tone control rolled all the way down, switching to the neck pick-up (closest to the fretboard) and the volume all the way up, with his distortion turned all the way up. The treble, mids and bass controls on the amplifier were also maxed out. Some versions of the “woman tone” may also have involved strategic positioning of Clapton’s wah-wah pedal.
Other media appearances
Clapton frequently appears as a guest on the albums of other musicians. For example, he is credited on Dire Straits‘s Brothers in Arms album, as he lent Mark Knopfler one of his guitars. He played lead guitar and synthesiser on The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, Roger Waters‘ debut solo album. Other media appearances include the Toots & the Maytals album True Love, where he played guitar on the track “Pressure Drop“. He played on Paul Brady‘s 1985 album Back to the Centre on the track “Deep in your Heart”.He can also be heard at the beginning of Frank Zappa‘s album, We’re Only in It for the Money, repeating the phrase, “Are you hung up?” over and over again. In 1985, Clapton appeared on the charity concert Live Aid in Philadelphia with Phil Collins, Tim Renwick, Chris Stainton, Jamie Oldaker, Marcy Levy, Shaun Murphy, and Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn. In 1988 he played with Dire Straits and Elton John at the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute at Wembley Stadium and the Prince’s Trust rock gala at the Royal Albert Hall. On 30 June 1990, Dire Straits, Clapton, and Elton John made a guest appearance in the Nordoff-Robbins charity show held at Knebworth. In 1991 Clapton was featured on Richie Sambora‘s album, Stranger In This Town, in a song dedicated to him, called “Mr. Bluesman”. He contributed guitar and vocals to “Runaway Train”, a duet with Elton John on the latter’s The One album the following year.
On 12 September 1996 Clapton played a party for Armani at New York City’s Lexington Armory with Greg Phillinganes, Nathan East, and Steve Gadd. Sheryl Crow appeared on one number, performing “Tearing Us Apart“, a track from August, which was first performed by Tina Turner during the Prince’s Trust All-Star Rock show in 1986. It was Clapton’s sole US appearance that year, following the open-air concert held at Hyde Park. The concert was taped and the footage was released both on VHS video cassette and later, on DVD.
Clapton was featured in the movie version of Tommy, the first full length rock opera, written by The Who. The movie version gave Clapton a cameo appearance as The Preacher, performing Sonny Boy Williamson‘s song, “Eyesight to the Blind”. He appeared in Blues Brothers 2000 as one of the Louisiana Gator Boys. In addition to being in the band, he had a small speaking role. Clapton has appeared in an advertisement for the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen. In March 2007 Clapton appeared in an advertisement for RealNetwork’s Rhapsody online music service. In 2010 Clapton started appearing as a spokesman for T-Mobile, advertising their MyTouch Fender cell phone.
Political views and advocacy
Controversy over remarks on immigration
On 5 August 1976 Clapton provoked an uproar and lingering controversy when he spoke out against increasing immigration during a concert in Birmingham. Visibly intoxicated, Clapton voiced his support of controversial political candidate Enoch Powell, and announced on stage that Britain was in danger of becoming a “black colony”. Clapton was quoted as saying, “I think Enoch’s right … we should send them all back. Throw the wogs out! Keep Britain white!” The latter phrase was at the time a British National Front slogan. Clapton continued:
“I used to be into dope, now I’m into racism. It’s much heavier, man. Fucking wogs, man. Fucking Saudis taking over London. Bastard wogs. Britain is becoming overcrowded and Enoch will stop it and send them all back. The black wogs and coons and Arabs and fucking Jamaicans and fucking [indecipherable] don’t belong here, we don’t want them here. This is England, this is a white country, we don’t want any black wogs and coons living here. We need to make clear to them they are not welcome. England is for white people, man. We are a white country. I don’t want fucking wogs living next to me with their standards. This is Great Britain, a white country, what is happening to us, for fuck’s sake? We need to vote for Enoch Powell, he’s a great man, speaking truth. Vote for Enoch, he’s our man, he’s on our side, he’ll look after us. I want all of you here to vote for Enoch, support him, he’s on our side. Enoch for Prime Minister! Throw the wogs out! Keep Britain white!”
This incident, along with some explicitly pro-fascism remarks made around the same time by David Bowie as well as uses of Nazi-related imagery by Sid Vicious and Siouxsie Sioux, were the main catalysts for the creation of Rock Against Racism, which occurred on 30 April 1978.
In response to the comments, rock photographer Red Saunders and others published an open letter in NME, Melody Maker, Sounds, and the Socialist Worker. It read “Come on Eric… Own up. Half your music is black. You’re rock music’s biggest colonist”. It concluded, “P.S. Who shot the Sheriff, Eric? It sure as hell wasn’t you!”
In an interview from October 1976 with Sounds magazine, Clapton remarked, “I thought it was quite funny actually. I don’t know much about politics. I don’t even know if it would be good or bad for him to get in. I don’t even know who the Prime Minister is now. I just don’t know what came over me that night. It must have been something that happened in the day but it came out in this garbled thing… I thought the whole thing was like Monty Python. There’s this rock group playing on-stage and the singer starts talking about politics. It’s so stupid. Those people who paid their money sittin’ listening to this madman dribbling on and the band meanwhile getting fidgety thinking ‘oh dear’.”
In a 2004 interview with Uncut, Clapton referred to Powell as “outrageously brave”, and stated that his “feeling about this has not changed”, because the UK is still “… inviting people in as cheap labour and then putting them in ghettos.” In 2004 Clapton told an interviewer for Scotland on Sunday, “There’s no way I could be a racist. It would make no sense”. In his 2007 autobiography, Clapton called himself “deliberately oblivious to it all” and wrote, “I had never really understood or been directly affected by racial conflict … when I listened to music, I was disinterested in where the players came from or what colour their skin was. Interesting, then, that 10 years later, I would be labelled a racist … Since then, I have learnt to keep my opinions to myself. Of course, it might also have had something to do with the fact that Pattie had just been leered at by a member of the Saudi royal family.” In a December 2007 interview with Melvyn Bragg on The South Bank Show, Clapton reiterated his support for Enoch Powell and again denied that Powell’s views were “racist”.
Wealth and assets
In 2009 Surrey Life Magazine ranked Eric Clapton as number 17 in their list of richest Surrey residents, estimating Clapton’s fortune at £120 million in assets. This was a compilation of property and income which include a £9 million yacht, “Va Bene” (previously owned by Bernie Ecclestone), his back music catalogue, his touring income, and his Marshbrook holding company, which had earned him £110 million since 1989. In 2003, he purchased a 50 percent share of gentleman’s outfitters Cordings Piccadilly. At the time, owner Noll Uloth was trying to save the shop from closure and thought ‘I will go and talk to my best client”. He is reported to have contacted Clapton and within five minutes he had a reply saying ‘I can’t let this happen.” In 2012, Clapton purchased the custom made Ferrari SP12 EC. It is a car based on the Ferrari 458 Italia with the styling of a Ferrari BB (Clapton’s favorite car). It also has the headlights of the legendary Ferrari Enzo.
Awards and honours
1983 Presented the Silver Clef Award from Princess Michael of Kent for outstanding contribution to British music.
1993 “Tears In Heaven” won three Grammy awards for Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Male Pop Vocal Performance. Clapton also won Album of the Year and Best Rock Vocal Performance for Unplugged and Best Rock Song for “Layla”.
1994 Awarded the OBE for services to music.
2000 Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for the third time, this time as a solo artist. He was earlier inducted as a member of the bands Cream and The Yardbirds.
2006 Awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award as a member of Cream.
In 1982 he performed a concert before West Bromwich Albion player John Wile’s testimonial game at the Hawthorns, and it is often reported by various sources that Clapton is an Albion supporter. Credence for this notion can be taken from the cover pictures to the “Backless” solo album, where he is seen on the front cover to be wearing a football scarf; the rear cover photograph reveals the slogan “ALBION” on the scarf. It has been reported that the club rejected his offer to invest cash in the club around this time, and that he has since expressed more of an interest in Chelsea.
Clapton’s music in film and TV
- Mean Streets (1973) – “I Looked Away”
- Private Lessons (1981 film) (1981) – Next Time You See Her
- Purple Haze (1983) – “I Feel Free”
- The Hit (1984) – Score
- Miami Vice (1984–1989) – Four songs over the course of the show’s five seasons: “Wonderful Tonight”, “Knock On Wood”, “She’s Waiting”, and “Layla”
- Back to the Future (1985) – “Heaven Is One Step Away”
- Edge of Darkness (1985) – Soundtrack
- The Color of Money (1986) – “It’s In The Way That You Use It”
- SpaceCamp (1986 film) – “Forever Man” plays when Tate Donovan’s character arrives at the Space Camp
- The German car manufacturer Opel and Vauxhall in the UK used the guitar riff of Clapton’s “Layla” in its advertising campaign throughout in 1987–95.
- Lethal Weapon (1987) – Soundtrack with Michael Kamen.
- 1969 (film) (1988) – “White Room”.
- Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) – “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”
- Communion (1989) – Clapton wrote the score
- Goodfellas (1990) – “Layla” and “Sunshine of Your Love“
- Rush (1991) – Clapton wrote the score
- Wayne’s World (1992) – “Loving your Loving”
- Peter’s Friends (1992) – “Give Me Strength”
- Lethal Weapon 3 (1992) – Clapton contributed to the score and co-wrote and co-performed the song “It’s Probably Me” with Sting and “Runaway Train” with Elton John.
- True Lies (1994) – “Sunshine of Your Love”
- The Simpsons episode “Mother Simpson” (1995) – “Sunshine of Your Love”
- Twister (1996) – “Motherless Child”
- Phenomenon (1996) – “Change the World“
- The Van (1996) – Soundtrack
- Happy Gilmore (1996) – “Wonderful Tonight”
- Patch Adams (1998) – “Let It Rain”
- Lethal Weapon 4 (1998) – “Pilgrim”
- City of Angels (1998) – “Further On Up The Road”
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes “Band Candy” and “Forever” (1998) – “Tales of Brave Ulysses“
- Runaway Bride (1999) – “Blue Eyes Blue”
- The Story of Us (1999) – “(I) Get Lost” (featured multiple times)
- Friends episode “The One with the Proposal, Part 2” (2000) – “Wonderful Tonight”
- Dancing At The Blue Iguana (2000) – “River of Tears”
- A Knight’s Tale (2001) – “Further On Up The Road”
- Blow (2001) – “Strange Brew”
- Friends episode “The One Where Rachel Has a Baby, Part Two” (2002) – “River of Tears”
- Futurama episode “The 30% Iron Chef” (2002) – “Sunshine of Your Love”
- The Sopranos episode “Whitecaps” (2002) – Tony Soprano is seen listening to “Layla” in his Suburban.
- School of Rock (2003) – “Sunshine of Your Love”
- Starsky & Hutch (2004) – “Cocaine”
- Anger Management (2004) – “Strange Brew”
- Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) – “Cocaine”
- Bad News Bears (2005) – “Cocaine”
- Lords of Dogtown (2005) – “Strange Brew”
- Lord of War (2005) – “Cocaine”
- United States of Tara episode – “Cocaine”
- Community episode – “Layla”
- The Good Guys Episode Silvio’s Way – “Layla”
- Due Date (2010) – “White Room”
- Shameless (U.S. TV series) (2011) – “White Room”
- Men in Black III (2012) – “Strange Brew”
Solo studio albums
Born in Nottingham England, ALVIN LEE began playing guitar age 13 and formed the core of the band Ten Years After by aged 15. Originally influenced by his parent’s collection of jazz and blues records, it was the advent of rock and roll that truly sparked his interest and creativity, and guitarists like Chuck Berry and Scotty Moore provided his inspiration.
The Jaybirds, as Lee’s early band was called, were popular locally and had success in Hamburg, Germany, following the Beatles there in 1962. But it wasn’t until the band moved to London in 1966 and changed its name to TYA that international success beckoned. The band secured a residency at the legendary Marquee Club, and an invitation to the famous Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival in 1967 led to their first recording contract. The self titled debut album surprisingly received play on San Francisco’s underground radio stations and was enthusiastically embraced by listeners, including concert promoter Bill Graham who invited the band to tour America for the first time in the summer of 1968. Audiences were immediately taken with Lee’s distinctive, soulful, rapid fire guitar playing and the band’s innovative mix of blues, swing jazz and rock, and an American love affair began. TYA would ultimately tour the USA 28 times in 7 years, more than any other U.K. band.
Appearing at the famed Woodstock Festival, Lee’s virtuoso performance was one of the highlights and remains today a standard for many other guitarists. Captured on film in the documentary of the festival, his inspired playing catapulted him into superstardom, and soon the band was playing arenas and stadiums around the globe. Although Lee later lamented that he missed the intimacy of smaller venues, there is no denying the impact the film made in bringing his music to a worldwide audience.
TYA had great success, releasing ten albums together, but by 1973 Lee was feeling limited by the band’s style. With American gospel singer Mylon LeFevre and a host of rock talents like George Harrison, Steve Winwood, Ron Wood and Mick Fleetwood , he recorded and released On The Road To Freedom, a highly acclaimed album that was at the forefront of country rock. A year later, in response to a dare, Lee formed Alvin Lee & Company to play a show at the Rainbow in London and released it as a double live album, In Flight. An energetic mix of rhythm & blues and rock, with a tribute to Elvis Presley thrown in for good measure, Lee once, in his understated fashion, called this band “a funky little outfit”. They were far more than that and various members of the band continued on with Lee for his next two albums, Pump Iron and Let it Rock. He finished out the 70s with a powerhouse trio he called Ten Years Later who also released two albums, Ride On and Rocket Fuel, and toured extensively throughout Europe and the United States.
The 80s brought another change in Lee’s direction, with two albums that were strong collaborations with Rarebird’s Steve Gould and an extensive tour with the Rolling Stones’ Mick Taylor joining his band.
Lee’s overall musical output includes more than 20 albums, including 1985′s Detroit Diesel and the back to back 90s collections of Zoom and 1994 (I Hear You Rocking). Guest artists on both albums include George Harrison, whose brilliant slide guitar perfectly complements Lee’s lead. Their duet on 1994′s The Bluest Blues led one reviewer to call it “the most perfect blues song ever recorded.”
“Alvin Lee in Tennessee”, released in 2004, was recorded with rock and roll legends Scotty Moore and D.J. Fontana. The critically acclaimed album features an upbeat selection of songs that are timely and forward looking, yet borrow from Lee’s beloved 50s rock and roll. It was followed in 2007 by Saguitar, a uniquely varied collection of songs that flowed from melancholic blues to raucous rock to an innovative interpretation of rap.
Throughout it all, Alvin Lee has managed to stay true to himself, making the music he wants without outside influence or expectations. On his newest CD “Still On the Road to Freedom” he takes the listener on an musical journey to the past and present and back again, enthralling us with his talent and music and proving without a doubt that he can do it his way…and still deliver the goods.
On The Road To Freedom (with Mylon LeFevre) (1973)
- In Flight (1974)
- Pump Iron (1975)
- Let It Rock (1978)
- Rocket Fuel (1978)
- Ride On (1979)
- Free Fall (1980)
- RX5 (1981)
- Detroit Diesel (1986)
- Zoom (1992)
- Nineteen Ninety-Four (1994)
- Alvin Lee In Tennessee (2004)
- Saguitar (2007)
James Patrick “Jimmy” Page, OBE (born 9 January 1944) is an English guitarist, songwriter, and record producer. He began his career as a studio session guitarist in London and was subsequently a member of The Yardbirds from 1966 to 1968, after which he founded the English rock band Led Zeppelin.
Jimmy Page is viewed by critics, fans and fellow musicians alike as one of the most influential and important guitarists and songwriters in rock music. Rolling Stone magazine has described him as “the pontiff of power riffing” In 2010, Jimmy Page was ranked number two in Gibson‘s list of “Top 50 Guitarists of All Time” and, in 2007, number four on Classic Rock Magazine‘s “100 Wildest Guitar Heroes”. Page was ranked third in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” in 2011. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice; once as a member of The Yardbirds (1992), and once as a member of Led Zeppelin (1995).
Jimmy Page was born to James Patrick Page and Patricia Elizabeth Page (née Gaffikin) in the West London suburb of Heston, which today forms part of the London Borough of Hounslow. His father was an industrial personnel manager and his mother, who was of Irish descent, was a doctor’s secretary. In 1952 they moved to Feltham, and later again to Miles Road, Epsom in Surrey, which is where Page came across his first guitar. “I don’t know whether [the guitar] was left behind by the people [in the house] before [us], or whether it was a friend of the family’s—nobody seemed to know why it was there.” First playing the instrument at the age of twelve years, he took a few lessons in nearby Kingston, but was largely self-taught:
When I grew up there weren’t many other guitarists … There was one other guitarist in my school who actually showed me the first chords that I learned, and I went on from there. I was bored so I taught myself the guitar from listening to records. So obviously it was a very personal thing.
Among Page’s early influences were rockabilly guitarists Scotty Moore and James Burton, who both played on recordings made by Elvis Presley. Hearing the Elvis Presley song “Baby Let’s Play House” is cited by Page as being his inspiration to take up playing the guitar. Although he appears on BBC1 in 1957 with another guitar, Page states that his first guitar was a second-hand 1959 Futurama Grazioso, which was later replaced by a Telecaster.
Page’s musical tastes included skiffle (a popular English music genre of the time) and acoustic folk playing, particularly that of Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, and the blues sounds of Elmore James, B.B. King, Willie Dixon, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, Freddie King and Hubert Sumlin. “Basically, that was the start: a mixture between rock and blues.”
At the age of 13, Page appeared on Huw Wheldon‘s All Your Own talent quest programme in a skiffle quartet, one performance of which was aired on BBC TV in 1957. The group played “Mama Don’t Want To Skiffle Anymore” and another very American-flavoured song, “In Them Ol’ Cottonfields Back Home”. When asked by Wheldon what he wanted to do after schooling, Page said, “I want to do biological research” to find a cure for “cancer, if it isn’t discovered by then”.
In an interview with Guitar Player magazine, Page stated that “there was a lot of busking in the early days, but as they say, I had to come to grips with it, and it was a good schooling.” Page would take a guitar to school each day and have it confiscated and handed back to him at 4:00 pm. Although he had an interview for a job as a laboratory assistant, he ultimately chose to leave Danetree Secondary School, West Ewell, to pursue music instead.
Initially, Page had difficulty finding other musicians with whom he could play on a regular basis. “It wasn’t as though there was an abundance. I used to play in many groups… anyone who could get a gig together, really.” Following stints backing recitals by Beat poet Royston Ellis at the Mermaid Theatre between 1960–61, and singer Red E. Lewis, he was asked by singer Neil Christian to join his band, The Crusaders, after Christian had seen a fifteen-year-old Page playing in a local hall. Page toured with Christian for approximately two years and later played on several of his records, including the November 1962 single, “The Road to Love”.
During his stint with Christian, Page fell seriously ill with glandular fever (infectious mononucleosis) and couldn’t continue touring. While recovering, he decided to put his musical career on hold and concentrate on his other love, painting, and enrolled at Sutton Art College in Surrey. As he explained in 1975:
[I was] travelling around all the time in a bus. I did that for two years after I left school, to the point where I was starting to get really good bread. But I was getting ill. So I went back to art college. And that was a total change in direction. That’s why I say it’s possible to do. As dedicated as I was to playing the guitar, I knew doing it that way was doing me in forever. Every two months I had glandular fever. So for the next 18 months I was living on ten dollars a week and getting my strength up. But I was still playing.
While still a student, Page would often perform on stage at The Marquee with bands such as Cyril Davies‘ All Stars, Alexis Korner‘s Blues Incorporated and with guitarists Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton. He was spotted one night by John Gibb of Brian Howard & The Silhouettes, who asked him to help record a number of singles for Columbia Graphophone Company, including “The Worrying Kind”. Mike Leander of Decca Records first offered Page regular studio work. His first session for the label was the recording “Diamonds” by Jet Harris and Tony Meehan, which went to Number 1 on the singles chart in early 1963.
After brief stints with Carter-Lewis and the Southerners, Mike Hurst and the Method, and Mickey Finn and the Blue Men, Page committed himself to full-time session work. As a session guitarist he was known as ‘Little Jim’ so there was no confusion with other noted British session guitarist Big Jim Sullivan. Page was mainly called in to sessions as “insurance” in instances when a replacement or second guitarist was required by the recording artist. “It was usually myself and a drummer”, he explained, “though they never mention the drummer these days, just me … Anyone needing a guitarist either went to Big Jim [Sullivan] or myself.” He has also stated that “In the initial stages they just said, play what you want, cos at that time I couldn’t read music or anything.”
Page was the favoured session guitarist of producer Shel Talmy. Talmy would later state in an interview with Finding Zoso, “I mean, he was original. At that time in London where there were very few really current musicians. A lot of good musicians, but kind of mired slightly in the past. There was like one or two good rhythm sections and that was it. I originally started using Big Jim Sullivan who was the only other one, and then when I found Jimmy, who I thought was even better because he was more with it. He was doing what I thought should be done and certainly what was being done in the states so it was a no-brainer.” As a result, he secured session work on songs for The Who and The Kinks.Page is credited with playing acoustic twelve string guitar on two tracks on The Kinks’ debut album “I’m a Lover Not a Fighter” and “I’ve Been Driving On Bald Mountain” and possibly on the b-side “I Gotta Move”. He played six-string rhythm guitar on the sessions for The Who’s first single “I Can’t Explain” (although Pete Townshend was reluctant to allow Page’s contribution on the final recording, Page also played lead guitar on the B-side “Bald Headed Woman“). Page’s studio output in 1964 included Marianne Faithfull‘s “As Tears Go By“, The Nashville Teens‘ “Tobacco Road“, The Rolling Stones‘ “Heart of Stone” (released on Metamorphosis), Van Morrison & Them’s “Baby Please Don’t Go” and “Here Comes the Night“, Dave Berry’s “The Crying Game” and “My Baby Left Me”, Brenda Lee‘s “Is It True,” and Petula Clark‘s “Downtown“.
In 1965 Page was hired by Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham to act as house producer and A&R man for the newly formed Immediate Records label, which also allowed him to play on and/or produce tracks by John Mayall, Nico, Chris Farlowe, Twice as Much and Eric Clapton. Page also formed a brief songwriting partnership with then romantic interest, Jackie DeShannon. He also composed and recorded songs for the John Williams album The Maureeny Wishful Album with Big Jim Sullivan. Page worked as session musician on Donovan Leitch’s Sunshine Superman (1966) and the Johnny Hallyday albums Jeune Homme (1968) and Je Suis Né Dans La Rue (1969), the Al Stewart album Love Chronicles (1969), and played guitar on five tracks of Joe Cocker‘s debut album, With a Little Help from My Friends. Over the years since 1970 Page has played lead guitar on 10 Roy Harper tracks, comprising 81 minutes of music.
When questioned about which songs he played on, especially ones where there exists some controversy as to what his exact role was, Page often points out that it is hard to remember exactly what he did given the enormous number of sessions he was playing at the time. In a radio interview he explained that “I was doing three sessions a day, fifteen sessions a week. Sometimes I would be playing with a group, sometimes I could be doing film music, it could be a folk session … I was able to fit all these different roles.”
Although Page recorded with many notable musicians, many of these early tracks are only available as bootleg recordings, several of which were released by the Led Zeppelin fan club in the late 1970s. One of the rarest of these is the early jam session featuring Jimmy Page and Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards covering Robert Johnson‘s “Little Queen of Spades”. Several early tracks with Page were compiled on the twin album release, Jimmy Page: Session Man.
Page decided to leave studio work when the increasing influence of Stax Records on popular music led to the greater incorporation of brass and orchestral arrangements into recordings at the expense of guitars. However, he has stated that his time as a session player served as extremely good schooling for his development as a musician:
My session work was invaluable. At one point I was playing at least three sessions a day, six days a week! And I rarely ever knew in advance what I was going to be playing. But I learned things even on my worst sessions – and believe me, I played on some horrendous things. I finally called it quits after I started getting calls to do Muzak. I decided I couldn’t live that life any more; it was getting too silly. I guess it was destiny that a week after I quit doing sessions Paul Samwell-Smith left The Yardbirds, and I was able to take his place. But being a session musician was good fun in the beginning – the studio discipline was great. They’d just count the song off, and you couldn’t make any mistakes.
n late 1964, Page was approached about the possibility of replacing Eric Clapton in The Yardbirds, but he declined the offer out of loyalty to his friend. In February 1965 Clapton quit the Yardbirds, and Page was formally offered Clapton’s spot, but because he was unwilling to give up his lucrative career as a session musician, and because he was still worried about his health under touring conditions, he suggested his friend, Jeff Beck. On 16 May 1966, drummer Keith Moon, bass player John Paul Jones, keyboardist Nicky Hopkins, Jeff Beck and Page recorded “Beck’s Bolero” in London’s IBC Studios. The experience gave Page an idea to form a new supergroup featuring Beck, along with The Who‘s John Entwistle on bass and Keith Moon on drums. However, the lack of a quality vocalist and contractual problems prevented the project from getting off the ground. During this time, Moon suggested the name “Lead Zeppelin” for the first time, after Entwistle commented that the proceedings would take to the air like a lead balloon.
Within weeks, Page attended a Yardbirds concert at Oxford. After the show he went backstage where Paul Samwell-Smith announced that he was leaving the group. Page offered to replace Samwell-Smith and this was accepted by the group. He initially played electric bass with the Yardbirds before finally switching to twin lead guitar with Beck when Chris Dreja moved to bass. The musical potential of the line-up was scuttled, however, by interpersonal conflicts caused by constant touring and a lack of commercial success, although they released one single, “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago“. (While Page and Jeff Beck played together in The Yardbirds, the trio of Page, Beck and Clapton never played in the original group at the same time. The three guitarists did appear on stage together at the ARMS charity concerts in 1983.)
After Beck’s departure, the Yardbirds remained a quartet. They recorded one album with Page on lead guitar, Little Games. The album received indifferent reviews and was not a commercial success, peaking at only number 80 on the Billboard Music Charts. Though their studio sound was fairly commercial at the time, the band’s live performances were just the opposite, becoming heavier and more experimental. These concerts featured musical aspects that Page would later perfect with Led Zeppelin, most notably performances of “Dazed and Confused“.
Once [the other Yardbirds] decided not to continue, then I was going to continue. And shift the whole thing up a notch … The whole thing was putting a group together and actually being able to play together. There were a lot of virtuoso musicians around at the time who didn’t gel as a band. That was the key: to find a band that was going to fire on all cylinders.
To this end, Page recruited vocalist Robert Plant and drummer John Bonham, and he was also contacted by John Paul Jones who asked to join. During the Scandinavian tour the new group appeared as “The New Yardbirds”, but soon recalled the old joke by Keith Moon and John Entwistle. Page stuck with that name to use for his new band. Peter Grant changed it to “Led Zeppelin”, to avoid a mispronunciation of “Leed Zeppelin.”
Page has explained that he had a very specific idea in mind as to what he wanted Led Zeppelin to be, from the very beginning:
I had a lot of ideas from my days with The Yardbirds. The Yardbirds allowed me to improvise a lot in live performance and I started building a textbook of ideas that I eventually used in Zeppelin. In addition to those ideas, I wanted to add acoustic textures. Ultimately, I wanted Zeppelin to be a marriage of blues, hard rock and acoustic music topped with heavy choruses – a combination that had never been done before. Lots of light and shade in the music.
ed Zeppelin broke up in 1980 following the death of drummer John Bonham at Page’s home, The Old Mill House at Clewer in Berkshire. Page refused to touch a guitar out of sadness for the loss of his friend Bonham, but made a return to the stage at a Jeff Beck show in March 1981 at the Hammersmith Odeon. Also in 1981 Page joined with Yes bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White to form a supergroup called XYZ (for ex-Yes-Zeppelin). They rehearsed several times, but the project was shelved. Demos of these sessions have turned up on bootleg and they reveal that some of the material emerged on later projects, notably The Firm‘s “Fortune Hunter” and Yes songs “Mind Drive” and “Can You Imagine?”. Page would later join Yes on stage in 1984 at Westfalenhalle in Dortmund, Germany, playing “I’m Down“.
In 1982 Page collaborated with director Michael Winner to record the Death Wish II soundtrack. This, and several subsequent Page recordings including Death Wish III soundtrack (1985), were recorded and produced at his own recording studio, The Sol in Cookham, which he had purchased from Gus Dudgeon in the early 1980s.
In 1983 Page appeared with the A.R.M.S. (Action Research for Multiple Sclerosis) charity series of concerts which honoured Small Faces bass player Ronnie Lane, who suffered from the disease. For the first shows at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Page’s set consisted of songs from the Death Wish II soundtrack (with Steve Winwood on vocals) and an instrumental version of “Stairway to Heaven”. A four-city tour of the United States followed, with Paul Rodgers of Bad Company replacing Winwood as vocalist. During the US tour, Page and Rodgers also performed “Midnight Moonlight” which would later be recorded for The Firm’s first album. All of the shows featured an on stage jam of “Layla” that reunited Page with Yardbirds guitarists Beck and Eric Clapton. According to the book Hammer of the Gods, it was reportedly around this time that Page told friends that he’d just given up heroin after seven years of use. On 13 December 1983, Page joined Robert Plant on-stage for one encore at the Hammersmith Odeon in London.
Page next linked up with Roy Harper for the 1984 album (Whatever Happened to Jugula?) and occasional concerts, performing a predominantly acoustic set at folk festivals under various guises such as the MacGregors, and Themselves. Also in 1984 Page recorded with former Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant as The Honeydrippers on the albumThe Honeydrippers: Volume 1, and with John Paul Jones on the film soundtrack Scream for Help.
Page subsequently collaborated with Paul Rodgers to record two albums under the name The Firm. The first album, released in 1985, was the self-titled The Firm. Popular songs included “Radioactive” and “Satisfaction Guaranteed”. The album peaked at number 17 on the Billboard pop albums chart and went gold in the US. It was followed by Mean Business in 1986. The band toured in support of both albums, but soon split up.
Various other projects followed, such as session work for Graham Nash, Stephen Stills and The Rolling Stones (on their 1986 single “One Hit (to the Body)“). In 1986, Page reunited temporarily with his ex-Yardbirds band members to play on several tracks of the Box of Frogs album Strange Land. Page released a solo album entitled Outrider in 1988 which featured contributions from Robert Plant, with Page contributing in turn to Plant’s solo album Now and Zen, which was released the same year. Page also embarked on a collaboration with David Coverdale in 1993 entitled Coverdale Page.
Throughout these years Page also reunited with the other former members of Led Zeppelin to perform live on a few occasions, most notably in 1985 for the Live Aid concert with both Phil Collins and Tony Thompson filling drum duties. However, the band members considered this performance to be sub-standard, with Page having been let down by a poorly tuned Les Paul. Page, Plant and Jones, as well as John Bonham‘s son Jason, performed at the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary show on 14 May 1988, closing the 12-hour show. In 1990, a Knebworth concert to aid the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Centre and the British School for Performing Arts and Technology saw Plant unexpectedly joined by Page to perform “Misty Mountain Hop“, “Wearing and Tearing” and “Rock and Roll“. Page also performed with the band’s former members at various private family functions.
In 1994, Page reunited with Plant for the penultimate performance in MTV’s “Unplugged” series. The 90-minute special, dubbed Unledded, premiered to the highest ratings in MTV’s history. In October of the same year, the session was released as the CD No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded, and in 2004 as the DVD No Quarter Unledded. Following a highly successful mid-90s tour to support No Quarter, Page and Plant recorded 1998′s Walking into Clarksdale.
Since 1990, Page has been heavily involved in remastering the entire Led Zeppelin back catalogue and is currently participating in various charity concerts and charity work, particularly the Action for Brazil’s Children Trust (ABC Trust), founded by his wife Jimena Gomez-Paratcha in 1998. In the same year, Page played guitar for rap singer/producer Puff Daddy‘s song “Come with Me“, which heavily samples Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” and was included in the soundtrack of Godzilla. The two later performed the song on Saturday Night Live.
In October 1999, Page teamed up with The Black Crowes for a two-night performance of material from the Led Zeppelin catalogue and old blues and rock standards. The concert was recorded and released as a double live album, Live at the Greek in 2000. In 2001 he made an appearance on stage with Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst and Wes Scantlin of Puddle of Mudd at the MTV Europe Video Music Awards in Frankfurt, where they performed a version of Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You“.
In 2005, Page was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in recognition of his Brazilian charity work for Task Brazil and Action For Brazil’s Children’s Trust, made an honorary citizen of Rio de Janeiro later that year, and was awarded a Grammy award.
In November 2006, Led Zeppelin was inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame. The television broadcasting of the event consisted of an introduction to the band by various famous admirers (including Roger Taylor, Slash, Joe Perry, Steven Tyler, Jack White and Tony Iommi), a presentation of an award to Jimmy Page, and then a short speech by the guitarist. After this, rock group Wolfmother played a tribute to Led Zeppelin, playing the song “Communication Breakdown“.
In 2006, Page attended the induction of Led Zeppelin to the UK Music Hall of Fame. During an interview for the BBC for said event, he expressed plans to record new material in 2007, saying “It’s an album that I really need to get out of my system… there’s a good album in there and it’s ready to come out” and “Also there will be some Zeppelin things on the horizon”.
For the 2008 Olympics, Jimmy Page, David Beckham and Leona Lewis represented Britain during the closing ceremonies on 24 August 2008. Beckham rode a double-decker bus into the stadium, and Page and Lewis performed “Whole Lotta Love“.
In 2008 Page co-produced a documentary film directed by Davis Guggenheim entitled It Might Get Loud. The film examines the history of the electric guitar, focusing on the careers and styles of Page, The Edge, and Jack White. The film premiered on 5 September 2008 at the Toronto Film Festival. Page also participated in the 3 part BBC documentary London Calling: The making of the Olympic handover ceremony on 4 March 2009. On 4 April 2009, Page inducted Jeff Beck into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Page has announced his 2010 solo tour while talking to the Sky News on 16 December 2009.
In January 2010, Jimmy Page announced he is publishing an autobiography through Genesis Publications, in a hand-crafted, limited edition of 2,500 copies. Page has also been honoured with a first-ever Global Peace Award by the United Nations’ Pathways to Peace organisation after confirming reports that he would be among the headliners at a planned Show of Peace Concert in Beijing, China on 10 October 2010.
On 3 June 2011, Jimmy Page played with Donovan “Mellow Yellow” and “Sunshine Superman” twice, live at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The concert was filmed. Page made an unannounced appearance with The Black Crowes at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London on 13 July 2011. He also played alongside Roy Harper at Harper’s 70th birthday celebratory concert, in London’s Royal Festival Hall on 13 July 2011.
In November 2011, Conservative MP Louise Mensch launched a campaign to have Page knighted for his contributions to the music industry.
Legacy and influence
Page’s past experiences both in the studio and with the Yardbirds were very influential in contributing to the success of Led Zeppelin in the 1970s. As a producer, composer, and guitarist he helped make Led Zeppelin a prototype for countless future rock bands, and was one of the major driving forces behind the rock sound of that era, influencing a host of other guitarists. Allmusic states that “just about every rock guitarist from the late ’60s/early ’70s to the present day has been influenced by Page’s work with Led Zeppelin”. For example, Dictators bassist Andy Shernoff states that Jimmy Page’s sped up, downstroke guitar riff in “Communication Breakdown“, an influential song that contained elements of protopunk, was an inspiration for The Ramones guitarist Johnny Ramone‘s downstroke guitar style. Ramone, who has described Page as “probably the greatest guitarist who ever lived”, stated in the documentary “Ramones:The True Story” that he improved at his down-stroke picking style by playing the song over and over again for the bulk of his early career. Brian May of Queen, who was also influenced by Page, has said “I don’t think anyone has epitomised riff writing better than Jimmy Page – he’s one of the great brains of rock music”. Tom Scholz of Boston was heavily influenced by Jimmy Page and credits the dual guitar harmonies in Led Zeppelin’s “How Many More Times” as the inspiration for Boston’s distinctive sound.Page’s guitar solo from the song “Heartbreaker” has been credited by Eddie Van Halen as being the inspiration for his two-hand tapping technique after he had seen Led Zeppelin perform in 1971. Similarly, Steve Vai has also commented about the song in a September 1998 Guitar World interview: “This one [Heartbreaker] had the biggest impact on me as a youth. It was defiant, bold, and edgier than hell. It really is the definitive rock guitar solo.”
Many other rock guitarists were also influenced by Jimmy Page, such as Ace Frehley, Joe Satriani, John Frusciante,James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Zakk Wylde, Yngwie Malmsteen, Tony Iommi, Joe Perry, Richie Sambora, Angus Young, Slash, Dave Mustaine, Mike McCready, Jerry Cantrell, Stone Gossard, Mick Mars, Paul Stanley, Alex Lifeson, and Dan Hawkins.
Page has been described by Uncut as the “rock’s greatest and most mysterious guitar hero”. According to msnbc.com Jimmy Page “played some of the most fundamental and memorable guitar in rock history—from the heaviest crunch to the most delicate acoustic finger picking.” Page’s solo in the famous epic “Stairway to Heaven” has been voted by readers of Guitar World and Total Guitar as the greatest guitar solo of all time, and he was named ‘Guitarist of the Year’ five times during the 1970s in Creem magazine’s annual reader poll. Guitar World wrote: “Truly a guitar god, Jimmy Page is one of the most captivating soloists the rock world has ever known.” In 1996 Mojo Magazine ranked him number 7 on their list of “100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time”. In 2002 he was voted the second greatest guitarist of all time in a Total Guitar magazine reader poll. In 2007, Classic Rock Magazine ranked him number four on their list of the “100 Wildest Guitar Heroes”. Gigwise.com, an online music magazine, ranked Page number two on their list of the “50 greatest guitarists ever” in 2008. In August 2009, Time Magazine ranked him the 6th greatest electric-guitar player of all time. In 2010, Jimmy Page was ranked number two on Gibson‘s “Top 50 Guitarists of All Time” In 2011, Rolling Stone magazine named him number three on their list of the “100 greatest guitarists of all time”.
David Fricke, a senior editor at Rolling Stone magazine, described Jimmy Page in 1988 as “probably the most digitally sampled artist in pop today after James Brown.” Roger Daltrey of The Who has been a longtime fan of Page and expressed his desire to form a supergroup with Page in 2010 saying: “I’d love to do something, I’d love to do an album with Jimmy Page.” Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones has described Jimmy Page as “one of the best guitar players I’ve ever known.” Jimmy Page was the first inductee onto the British Walk of Fame in August 2004. Page was awarded “Living Legend Award” at Classic Rock Magazine Roll of Honour 2007. In June 2008, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Surrey for his services to the music industry. Page was inducted into Mojo Hall Of Fame at the magazine’s award ceremony on 11 June 2010.
In August 2010, Auburn University graduate student Justin Havird named a new species of fish “Lepidocephalichthys zeppelini” after Led Zeppelin, because the fish’s pectoral fin reminded him of the double-neck guitar used by Jimmy Page.
Equipment and recording techniques
For the recording of most of Led Zeppelin material from Led Zeppelin’s second album onwards, Page used a Gibson Les Paul guitar (sold to him by Joe Walsh) with Marshall amplification. A Harmony Sovereign H-1260 was used in-studio on Led Zeppelin III and Led Zeppelin IV and on-stage from 5 March 1971 to 28 June 1972. During the studio sessions for Led Zeppelin, and later for recording the guitar solo in “Stairway to Heaven”, he used a Fender Telecaster (a gift from Jeff Beck). He also used a Danelectro 3021, tuned to DADGAD, most notably on live performances of “Kashmir“.
Page also plays his guitar with a cello bow, as on the live versions of the songs “Dazed and Confused” and “How Many More Times“. This was a technique he developed during his session days. On MTV’s Led Zeppelin Rockumentary, Page said that he obtained the idea of playing the guitar with a bow from David McCallum, Sr. who was also a session musician. Page used his Fender Telecaster and later his Gibson Les Paul for his bow solos.
- 1959 Fender Telecaster (given to Page by Jeff Beck and repainted with a psychedelic dragon design by Page) played with the Yardbirds. Used to record the first Led Zeppelin album and used on the early tours during 1968–1969. In 1971, it was used for recording the “Stairway to Heaven” solo.
- 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard (No. 1) (Sold to Page by Joe Walsh) modified with a shaved neck. This guitar was also used by Gibson as the model for the company’s second run of Page signature models in 2004. Produced by Gibson and aged by luthier Tom Murphy, this second generation of Page tribute models was limited to 25 guitars signed by Page himself; and only 150 guitars in total for the aged model issue.
- 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard (No. 2) with a shaved down neck to match the profile on his No. 1; He added four push/pull pots to coil split the humbuckers as well as phase and series switches which were added under the pick guard after the break-up of Led Zeppelin.
- 1991 English luthier Roger Giffin built a guitar for Page based loosely on Page’s #2. Giffin’s work was later copied for Gibson’s original run of Jimmy Page Signature model Les Pauls in the mid-1990s.
- 1971 Gibson EDS-1275 (used for playing “Stairway to Heaven“, “The Song Remains the Same“, “The Rain Song“, “Celebration Day” during live concerts including the Knebworth, “Tangerine” at the 1975 Earls Court shows, and “Sick Again” throughout the 1977 North American tour)
- 1959 Danelectro 59-DC (tuned to DADGAD and used live for “White Summer”, “Black Mountain Side”, “Kashmir” and “Midnight Moonlight” with The Firm).
- Danelectro 3021 (tuned to open G and used on the Outrider tour for “In My Time Of Dying”. This one has a smaller pickguard, as opposed to the large “seal” pickguard on his first Danelectro.
- 1967 Vox 12-String used during the recording for the Yardbirds Little Games album and for on-stage appearances.
- 1960 Black Gibson Les Paul Custom (with Bigsby Tremolo) – stolen in 1970. An ad was placed by Page for the return of this highly modified instrument but the guitar was never recovered. In 2008 the Gibson Custom Shop produced a limited run of 25 re-creations of the guitar, each with a Bigsby Tremolo and a new custom 6-way toggle switch.1953 Botswana Brown Fender Telecaster featuring a Parsons and White B-string bender, with a maple neck and then salvaged the rosewood neck from the “Dragon Telecaster”. Seen primarily during the 1980s since it was one of his main guitars on stage during The Firm and Outrider era. Also used on the Led Zeppelin’s 1977 concert tour of the United States and at Knebworth in 1979, notably on “Ten Years Gone” and “Hot Dog”.
- 1969 Gibson Les Paul Standard (seen in “The Song Remains The Same” during the theremin/solo section of “Whole Lotta Love” and for “Kashmir” at the O2 reunion concert. This guitar was later fitted with a Parsons-White B-string bender and used extensively by Page from the mid-to-late 1980s onward, including the Outrider tour, and the Page/Plant “Unledded” special on MTV.
- 1964 Lake Placid Blue Fender Stratocaster (Used during recording sessions for In Through the Out Door at Earls Court 1975 and in 1979 at Knebworth for In the Evening).
- 1966 Cream Fender Telecaster (Used on Physical Graffiti and on All My Love during the Tour Over Europe 1980).
- 1965 Fender Electric XII (12-String) used to record Thank You and Stairway to Heaven.
- 1972 Martin D28 used to record acoustic songs after Led Zeppelin IV, used live at Earls Court 1975
- In 1994 Andy Manson was commissioned to make another triple neck guitar for Page. It was used during the Unledded performances with Robert Plant.
- Ernie Ball Super Slinky electric guitar strings .009s-.042s
Gibson released Jimmy Page Signature Les Paul which was discontinued in 1999, then released another version in 2004, which has also been discontinued. The 2004 version included 25 guitars signed by Page, 150 aged by a former Gibson employee (an acknowledged ageing ‘master’), and 840 ‘unlimited’ production guitars. The Jimmy Page Signature EDS-1275 has been produced by Gibson. Recently, Gibson reproduced Page’s 1960 Les Paul Black Beauty, the one stolen from him in 1970, with modern modifications. This guitar was sold in 2008 with a run of 25, again signed by Page, plus an additional 500 unsigned guitars.
In December 2009, Gibson released the ‘Jimmy Page “Number Two” Les Paul’. This is a re-creation of Page’s famous number 2 Les Paul used by him since about 1974 until present. The model includes the same pick-up switching setup as devised by Page, shaved-down neck profile, Burstbucker pick-up at neck and ‘Pagebucker’ at the bridge. A total of 325 were made in three finishes: 25 Aged by Gibson’s Tom Murphy, signed and played by Page ($26,000), 100 aged ($16,000) and 200 with VOS finish ($12,000).
Amplifiers and effects
He usually recorded in studio with a Vox AC30, Fender, and Orange amplification. The first Led Zeppelin album and the solo on “Stairway to Heaven” were played on a Fender Telecaster through a Supro amplifier.
Page used a limited number of effects, including a Maestro Echoplex, a Dunlop Cry Baby, an MXR Phase 90, a Vox Cry Baby Wah, a Boss CE-2 Chorus, a Yamaha CH-10Mk II Chorus, a Sola Sound Tone Bender Professional Mk II, an MXR Blue Box (distortion/octaver) and a DigiTech Whammy. Page also played a theremin.
Music production techniques
Jimmy Page is credited for the innovations in sound recording he brought to the studio during the years he was a member of Led Zeppelin, many of which he had initially developed as a session musician:
This apprenticeship … became a part of [learning] how things were recorded. I started to learn microphone placements and things like that, what did and what didn’t work. I certainly knew what did and didn’t work with drummers because they put drummers in these little sound booths that had no sound deflection at all, and the drums would just sound awful. The reality of it is the drum is a musical instrument, it relies on having a bright room and a live room … And so bit by bit I was learning really how not to record.
He developed a reputation for employing effects in new ways and trying out different methods of using microphones and amplification. During the late 1960s, most British music producers placed microphones directly in front of amplifiers and drums, resulting in the sometimes “tinny” sound of the recordings of the era. Page commented to Guitar World magazine that he felt the drum sounds of the day in particular “sounded like cardboard boxes.” Instead, Page was a fan of 1950s recording techniques, Sun Studios being a particular favourite. In the same Guitar World interview, Page remarked, “Recording used to be a science”, and “[engineers] used to have a maxim: distance equals depth.” Taking this maxim to heart, Page developed the idea of placing an additional microphone some distance from the amplifier (as much as twenty feet) and then recording the balance between the two. By adopting this technique, Page became one of the first British producers to record a band’s “ambient sound” – the distance of a note’s time-lag from one end of the room to the other.
For the recording of several Led Zeppelin tracks, such as “Whole Lotta Love” and “You Shook Me“, Page additionally utilised “reverse echo” – a technique which he claims to have invented himself while with The Yardbirds (he had originally developed the method when recording the 1967 single “Ten Little Indians“). This production technique involved hearing the echo before the main sound instead of after it, achieved by turning the tape over and employing the echo on a spare track, then turning the tape back over again to get the echo preceding the signal.
Page has stated that, as producer, he deliberately changed the audio engineers on Led Zeppelin albums, from Glyn Johns for the first album, to Eddie Kramer for Led Zeppelin II, to Andy Johns for Led Zeppelin III and later albums. He explained that “I consciously kept changing engineers because I didn’t want people to think that they were responsible for our sound. I wanted people to know it was me.”
John Paul Jones acknowledged that Page’s production techniques were a key component of the success of Led Zeppelin:
The backwards echo stuff [and] a lot of the microphone techniques were just inspired. Using distance-miking… and small amplifiers. Everybody thinks we go in the studio with huge walls of amplifiers, but Page doesn’t. He uses a really small amplifier and he just mikes it up really well, so that it fits into a sonic picture.
In an interview that Page himself gave to Guitar World magazine in 1993, he remarked on his work as a producer:
Many people think of me as just a riff guitarist, but I think of myself in broader terms… As a producer I would like to be remembered as someone who was able to sustain a band of unquestionable individual talent, and push it to the forefront during its working career. I think I really captured the best of our output, growth, change and maturity on tape – the multifaceted gem that is Led Zeppelin.
French model Charlotte Martin was Page’s partner from 1970 to about 1982 or 1983. Page called her ‘My Lady’. Together they have a daughter, Scarlet Page (born in 1971), who is a photographer.
From 1986 to 1995 Page was married to Patricia Ecker, a model and waitress. They have a son, James Patrick Page III (born April 1988). Page later married Jimena Gómez-Paratcha, whom he met in Brazil on the No Quarter tour. He adopted her oldest daughter Jana (born 1994), and they have two children together: Zofia Jade (born 1997) and Ashen Josan (born 1999).
In 1972 Page bought, from Richard Harris, the home which William Burges (1827–1881) designed for himself in London, The Tower House. “I had an interest going back to my teens in the pre-Raphaelite movement and the architecture of Burges”, he said. “What a wonderful world to discover.” The reputation of Burges rests on his extravagant designs and his contribution to the Gothic revival in architecture in the nineteenth century.
From the early 1970s to the early 1990s, Page owned the Boleskine House, the former residence of occultist Aleister Crowley. Sections of Page’s fantasy sequence in the film The Song Remains the Same were filmed at night on the mountain side directly behind Boleskine House.
According to The Sunday Times Rich List, Page’s assets are worth £75 million as of 2009. He resides in Sonning, Berkshire in Deanery Garden, a house designed by Edwin Lutyens for the owner of Country Life magazine, Edward Hudson. Page also previously owned Plumpton Place in Sussex, also formerly owned by Edward Hudson and with certain parts of the house also designed by Edwin Lutyens. This house features in the Zeppelin film “The Song Remains The Same” where Jimmy is seen sitting on the lawn playing a hurdy gurdy.
Recreational drug use
Page has acknowledged heavy recreational drug use throughout the 1970s. In an interview with Guitar World magazine in 2003, he stated, “I can’t speak for the [other members of the band], but for me drugs were an integral part of the whole thing, right from the beginning, right to the end.” After the band’s 1973 concert tour of the United States, Page told Nick Kent, “Oh, everyone went over the top a few times. I know I did and, to be honest with you, I don’t really remember much of what happened.”
In 1975, Page began to use heroin, a fact attributed to Richard Cole, who stated that Page (in addition to himself) was taking the drug during the recording sessions of the album Presence in that year, and that Page admitted to him shortly afterwards that he was addicted to the drug.
By Led Zeppelin’s 1977 tour of the United States, Page’s heroin addiction was beginning to hamper his guitar playing performances. By this time the guitarist had lost a noticeable amount of weight. His onstage appearance was not the only obvious change; his addiction caused Page to become so inward and isolated it altered the dynamic between him and Plant considerably. During the recording sessions for In Through the Out Door in 1978, Page’s diminished influence on the album (relative to bassist John Paul Jones) is partly attributed to his heroin addiction, which resulted in his absence from the studio for long periods of time.
Page reportedly kicked his heroin habit in the early 1980s. In a 1988 interview with Musician magazine, Page took offence when the interviewer noted that heroin had been associated with his name, and insisted “Do I look as if I’m a smack addict? Well, I’m not. Thank you very much.”
I don’t regret it at all because when I needed to be really focused, I was really focused. That’s it. Both Presence and In Through the Out Door were only recorded in three weeks: that’s really going some. You’ve got to be on top of it.
Interest in the occult
The appearance of four symbols on the jacket of Led Zeppelin’s fourth album has been linked to Page’s interest in the occult. The four symbols represented each member of the band. Page’s own so-called “Zoso” symbol originated in ‘Ars Magica Arteficii’ (1557) by Gerolamo Cardano, an old alchemical grimoire, where it has been identified as a sigil consisting of zodiac signs. The sigil is reproduced in “Dictionary of Occult, Hermetic and Alchemical Sigils” by Fred Gettings.
During tours and performances after the release of the fourth album, Page often had the “Zoso” symbol embroidered on his clothes, along with zodiac symbols. These were visible most notably on his “Dragon Suit”, which included the signs for Capricorn, Scorpio and Cancer which are Page’s Sun, Ascendant, and Moon signs, respectively.
The artwork inside the album cover of Led Zeppelin IV is from a painting attributed to the artist Barrington Colby MOM, influenced by the traditional Rider/Waite Tarot card design for the card called “The Hermit”.Very little is known about Colby and rumours have persisted down the years that Page himself is responsible for the painting. Page transforms into this character during his fantasy sequence in Led Zeppelin’s concert film The Song Remains the Same.
In the early 1970s Page owned an occult bookshop and publishing house, “The Equinox Booksellers and Publishers” in Kensington High Street, London, eventually closing it as the increasing success of Led Zeppelin resulted in his having insufficient time to devote to it. The company published a facsimile of English occultist’s Aleister Crowley‘s 1904 edition of The Goetia. Page has maintained a strong interest in Crowley for many years. In 1978, he explained:
I feel Aleister Crowley is a misunderstood genius of the 20th century. Because his whole thing was liberation of the person, of the entity, and that restrictions would foul you up, lead to frustration which leads to violence, crime, mental breakdown, depending on what sort of makeup you have underneath. The further this age we’re in now gets into technology and alienation, a lot of the points he’s made seem to manifest themselves all down the line.
Page was commissioned to write the soundtrack music for the film Lucifer Rising by another occultist and Crowley admirer, underground movie director Kenneth Anger. Page ultimately produced 23 minutes of music which Anger felt was insufficient because the film ran for 28 minutes and Anger wanted the film to have a full soundtrack. Anger claimed Page took three years to deliver the music, and the final product was only 23 minutes of droning. The director also slammed the guitarist in the press by calling him a “dabbler” in the occult and an addict, and being too strung out on drugs to complete the project. Page countered that he had fulfilled all his obligations, even going so far as to lend Anger his own film editing equipment to help him finish the project.
Although Page collected works by Crowley, he has never described himself as a Thelemite nor was he ever initiated into the O.T.O. The Equinox Bookstore and Boleskine House were both sold off during the 1980s, as Page settled into family life and participated in charity work.
- “She Just Satisfies”/”Keep Moving” (February 1965)
Before Led Zeppelin (1963–1969)
Many pre-Led Zeppelin session recordings have been released on various labels and compilation packages, including:
- Mannish Boys, 1965 recordings with David Bowie (then Davy Jones) and ‘The Lower 3rd’ group. Page was a session guitarist for side A of the EP, titled The Manish Boys. They recorded just two tracks, “I Pity the Fool” and “Take my Tip”.
- Blues Anytime 1, 2, 3 series on Immediate Records featuring the Immediate All-Stars, mid-1960s
- No Introduction Necessary (1968), recordings featuring John Paul Jones, Albert Lee, Nicky Hopkins, Clem Cattini and Keith de Groot
- Jimmy Page and Friends – Wailing Sounds (2006). Includes Lord Sutch & Heavy Friends album (1970) and six tracks from the 1968 sessions for Keith De Groot’s debut album.
- Guitar Boogie (1971) Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton compilation album from the recordings on the Blues Anytime series on Immediate Records.
- Special Early Works (1972), 1965 session recordings with Sonny Boy Williamson
- Smoke and Fire (1984), session recordings with Jeff Beck, Noel Redding and Nicky Hopkins
- Jimmy Page: Session Man Vol. 1 (1989)
- Jimmy Page: Session Man Vol. 2 (1990)
- Jimmy’s Back Pages…The Early Years (1992)
- Jimmy Page and His Heavy Friends: Hip Young Guitar Slinger (2000, double CD)
- This Guitar Kills: More 60s Groups & Sessions – remastered by Jimmy Page (2007, the 2003 ed. is not remastered) (double CD)
- Jimmy Page and Friends (2006, double CD)
James Marshall Hendrix (born Johnny Allen Hendrix; November 27, 1942 – September 18, 1970) was an American musician, singer and songwriter. Despite a limited mainstream exposure of four years, he is widely considered to have been the most influential electric guitarist in the history of popular music, and one of the most important musicians of the 20th century.
Influenced musically by American rock and roll and electric blues, following initial success in Europe with his band the Jimi Hendrix Experience, he achieved fame in the US after his 1967 performance at the Monterey Pop Festival. Later, he headlined the Woodstock Festival in 1969, and the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970, before dying from drug-related asphyxia at the age of 27.
Instrumental in developing the previously undesirable technique of guitar amplifier feedback, Hendrix favored overdriven amplifiers with high volume, gain and treble. He helped to popularize use of the wah-wah pedal in mainstream rock, which he often used to deliver tonal exaggerations in his solos. He also pioneered experimentation with stereophonic phasing effects in rock music recordings.
The recipient of several prestigious rock music awards during his lifetime and posthumously, the Jimi Hendrix Experience was inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. English Heritage erected a blue plaque to identify his former residence on Brook Street, London, in September 1997. Rolling Stone ranked his three non-posthumous studio albums, Are You Experienced (1967), Axis: Bold as Love (1967) and Electric Ladyland (1968) among the top 100 Greatest Albums of All Time. They ranked Hendrix number one on their list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all-time, and number six on their list of the 100 greatest artists of all time.
Genealogy and childhood
Jimi Hendrix was of a mixed geneaology that included African American, Irish, and Cherokee ancestors. His paternal great grandmother, Zenora, was a full-blooded Cherokee from Georgia who married an Irishman named Moore. In 1883, they had a daughter whom they named Zenora “Nora” Rose Moore, Hendrix’ paternal grandmother. The illegitimate son of a black slave woman named Fanny and her white overseer, Jimi’s paternal grandfather, Bertran Philander Ross Hendrix (born 1866), was named after his biological father, a grain dealer from Urbana, Ohio, and one of the wealthiest white men in the area at the time.On June 10, 1919, Hendrix and Moore had a son they named James Allen Ross Hendrix (died 2002); people called him Al.
In 1941, Al met Lucille Jeter (1925–1958) at a dance in Seattle; they married on March 31, 1942. Drafted into the United States Army due to World War II, Al went to war three days after their wedding. Born Johnny Allen Hendrix on November 27, 1942 in Seattle, Washington, the first of five children born to Lucille, in 1946, having been unable to consult Johnny’s father Al Hendrix, serving in the US army at the time, about his son’s name, they changed Johnny’s name to James Marshall Hendrix, in honor of Al, and Al’s late brother Leon Marshall.As a young child, friends and family called James “Buster”; his brother Leon claims that Jimi chose the nickname after his hero Buster Crabbe, of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers fame.
Al completed his basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Stationed in Alabama at the time of Johnny’s birth, and having been denied the standard military furlough afforded servicemen for childbirth, the commanding officer placed him in the stockade as a preventative measure against him going AWOL to Seattle to see his new son. Al spent two months locked-up without trial, and while in the stockade, he received a telegram announcing his son’s birth. Al spent most of his time in the service in the South Pacific Theater, in Fiji.During his three year absence, Lucille struggled to raise her infant son, at times neglecting him in favour of nightlife. Family members and friends mostly cared for Hendrix during this period, notably Lucille’s sister, Delores Hall, and her friend Dorothy Harding.Al received an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army on September 1, 1945. Two months later, unable to find Lucille, he went to the Berkeley home of a family friend who had taken care of, and attempted to adopt Jimi, Mrs. Champ, where he met his son for the first time.
Another key member of the family circle was Jimi’s paternal grandmother, Nora Hendrix. A former vaudeville dancer, she moved to Vancouver, Canada, from Tennessee after meeting her husband, former special police officer Bertram Philander Ross Hendrix, on the Dixieland circuit. Nora shared a love for theatrical clothing and adornment, music, and performance with Jimi. She also imbued him with the stories, rituals and music that had been part of her own Afro-Cherokee heritage and her former life on the stage. Along with his attendance at black Pentecostal church services, writers have suggested these experiences may later have informed Hendrix’s thinking about the connections between emotions, spirituality and music.
Jimi’s relationship with his brother Leon (born 1948) was close but precarious; with Leon in and out of foster care, they lived with an almost continuous threat of fraternal separation. In addition to Leon, Jimi had three other younger siblings, Joseph, born 1949, Kathy in 1950, and Pamela, 1951, all of whom Al and Lucille surrendered into foster care and adoption.
After his 1946 return from service, Al reunited with Lucille, but his difficulty finding steady work left the family impoverished. Both he and Lucille struggled with alcohol and fought frequently. At one point a pimp named John Page who had a history with Lucille even tried to commandeer her out of a movie theater while she was with Al. Al objected and a fight ensued, spilling out into the street. Al had been an amateur boxer and stunned the pimp with a first punch, eventually winning the brawl and they never saw the pimp again. His parents’ fighting sometimes made Hendrix withdraw and hide in a closet in their home. The family moved often, staying in cheap hotels and apartments around Seattle. On occasion Hendrix was taken to Vancouver to stay at his grandmother’s and sometimes his uncle Frank’s family. A shy, sensitive boy, all these experiences deeply and irrevocably affected Hendrix.
In addition to the instability of his home life as a child, in later years Hendrix confided to one girlfriend that he had been the victim of sexual abuse by a man, although he did not go into detail. Once while he was living in Harlem, he broke down crying as his girlfriend related the sexual abuse she had suffered as a child, telling her that the same thing had happened to him.
On December 17, 1951, when Hendrix was nine years old, his parents divorced; the court granted Al custody of Jimi and Leon. At thirty-three, his mother had developed cirrhosis of the liver and died on February 2, 1958 when her spleen ruptured. Instead of letting his boys attend their mother’s funeral, Al Hendrix instructed them on how “men dealt with their grief”, by giving them shots of whiskey. Some of Hendrix’s feelings about his mother’s death were revealed in a survey he took for the British publication, New Musical Express in 1967: “Personal ambition: Have my own style of music. See my mother again.”
At Horace Mann Elementary School in Seattle, Hendrix’s habit of carrying a broom with him everywhere, to imitate a guitar, got the attention of the school’s social worker (he destroyed several brooms in the process of fashioning a guitar). “After a year of this pitiable behaviour” where he clung to each broom “like a blanket,” she insisted in her letter to Hendrix’s father that leaving him without a guitar might result in psychological damage. Her efforts to get either school funding intended for underprivileged children or his father to buy Hendrix a guitar failed.
At age 15, around the time his mother died, Hendrix acquired his first acoustic guitar for $5 from an acquaintance of his father. This guitar replaced the ukulele his father had found in a basement when cleaning it out. Al was reminiscing about Jimi as a young boy when he said he found an old ukelele while cleaning out a basement, took it home to Jimi and got a set of strings for it, but does not mention Leon. Leon claimed that he and Jimi were helping Al on one of his odd jobs, and that Jimi found the ukulele Learning “by ear” as he spent “hours and hours” with the one-string instrument “playing single notes, [Hendrix] still followed along to a couple of Elvis Presley songs on the radio.” Hendrix saw Presley perform in Seattle in 1957. He learned to play by continuing to apply himself, practicing for several hours daily, watching others, getting tips from more experienced guitarists, and listening to Ernestine Benson’s blues records by Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson and other artists.
In mid-1959, his father bought him a white Supro Ozark, his first electric guitar, but there was no available amplifier. According to Hendrix’s Seattle band mates, he learned most of his acrobatic stage moves, including playing with his teeth and behind his back, as well as Chuck Berry‘s trademark “duck walk”, from a fellow young musician, Raleigh “Butch” Snipes. Hendrix played in local bands, occasionally playing outlying gigs in Washington State and at least once over the border in Vancouver, British Columbia. His first gig was with an unnamed band in the basement of a synagogue, Seattle’s Temple De Hirsch. After too much wild playing and showing off, he was fired between sets. The first formally organised band he played in was The Velvetones, which performed regularly at the Yesler Terrace Neighborhood House without pay. He later joined the Rocking Kings, which played professionally at such venues as the Birdland club. When his guitar was stolen (after he left it backstage overnight), Al bought him a white Silvertone Danelectro. He painted it red and had “Betty Jean”, the name of his high school girlfriend, emblazoned on it.
Hendrix completed his studies at Washington Junior High School with little trouble but did not graduate from Garfield High School. The school had a relatively even ethnic mix of African, European, and Asian-Americans. The school later awarded him an honorary diploma and in the 1990s, they placed a bust of him in the school library. After he became famous in the late 1960s, Hendrix told reporters that he had been expelled from Garfield by racist faculty for holding hands with a white girlfriend in study hall. Principal Frank Hanawalt says that it was due to poor grades and attendance problems.
Law enforcement authorities twice caught Hendrix riding in stolen cars. Given a choice between spending two years in prison or joining the Army, Hendrix chose the latter and enlisted on May 31, 1961.After completing basic training at Fort Ord near Monterey in California, the Army assigned him to the 101st Airborne Division and stationed him in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Because Hendrix would often play his guitar late at night keeping other servicemen in his barracks awake, they would often take the guitar away and hide it from him. Hendrix eventually began to sleep with his guitar in order to keep it safe and one one occasion some servicemen bullied and beat him up over the guitar, which he protected more than himself.
One night in November 1962, fellow servicemen Billy Cox walked past the service club and heard Hendrix playing guitar inside. Cox, intrigued by the proficient playing immediately checked-out a bass guitar and the two began to jam. Soon after, Cox and Hendrix began performing at the base clubs on the weekends with other musicians in a loosely organized band called the Casuals. This was a loyal friendship that Hendrix called upon from April 1969 until shortly before his death.
After he had served only one year, Captain Gilbert Batchman granted Private Hendrix an honourable discharge on the basis of unsuitability on June 29, 1962. The National Personnel Records Centre contain 98 pages documenting Hendrix’s army service, including his numerous infractions. Hendrix later spoke about his military service and his first parachuting experience: “once you get out there everything is so quiet, all you hear is the breezes-s-s-s.” In interviews with Melody Maker in 1967 and 1969, he spoke of his dislike of the army. He also claimed to reporters that he had received a medical discharge after breaking his ankle during his 26th parachute jump.
In September 1963, after Cox’s Army discharge, he and Hendrix moved to nearby Clarksville, Tennessee and formed a new band called name the “King Kasuals”. Hendrix had already seen Butch Snipes play with his teeth in Seattle and by now Alphonso ‘Baby Boo’ Young, the other guitarist in the band, also performed this guitar gimmick. Not to be upstaged, it was then that Hendrix learned to play with his teeth properly, according to Hendrix: “the idea of doing that came to me in a town in Tennessee. Down there you have to play with your teeth or else you get shot. There’s a trail of broken teeth all over the stage.”They played mainly in low-paying gigs at obscure venues. The band eventually moved to Nashville‘s Jefferson Street, the traditional heart of Nashville’s black community and home to a thriving rhythm and blues music scene.
While in Nashville, they earned a residency playing at one of the better venues in town, the Club del Morocco. Hendrix’s girlfriend at this time was Joyce Lucas. Bill ‘Hoss’ Allen’s memory of Hendrix’s supposed participation in a session with Billy Cox in November 1962, in which he cut Hendrix’s contribution due to his over-the-top playing, has now been called into question; a suggestion has been made that he may have confused this with a later 1965 session by Frank Howard and the Commanders in which Hendrix participated.
For the next two years, Hendrix made a living performing in and around and on a circuit of venues throughout the South and up to New York catering to black audiences. These were venues affiliated with the Theater Owners’ Booking Association (TOBA), sarcastically known as “Tough on Black Asses” because the audiences were very demanding. The TOBA circuit was also widely known as the Chitlin’ Circuit. In addition to performing in his own band, Hendrix performed with Bob Fisher and the Bonnevilles, and in backing bands for various soul, R&B, and blues musicians, including Chuck Jackson, Slim Harpo, Tommy Tucker, Sam Cooke, and Jackie Wilson. The Chitlin’ Circuit was where Hendrix refined his style.
Feeling he had artistically outgrown the circuit and frustrated at following the rules of bandleaders, Hendrix decided to try his luck in New York City and in January 1964 moved into the Hotel Theresa in Harlem, where he soon befriended Lithofayne Pridgeon. Known as “Faye”, she became his girlfriend. He also met the Allen twins, Arthur and Albert (now known as Taharqa and Tunde-Ra Aleem). The Allen twins became friends and kept Hendrix out of trouble in New York. The twins also performed as backup singers (under the name Ghetto Fighters) on some of Hendrix’s recordings, most notably the song “Freedom“. Pridgeon, a Harlem native with connections throughout the area’s music scene, provided Hendrix with shelter, support, and encouragement. In February 1964, Hendrix won first prize in the Apollo Theater amateur contest. Hoping to land a gig, Hendrix made the club circuit and sat in with various bands. Eventually, Hendrix was offered the guitarist position with the Isley Brothers‘ back-up band and he readily accepted.
Hendrix’ first studio recording occurred in March 1964, when the Isley Brothers, with Hendrix as a member of the band, recorded the two-part single “Testify“. Hendrix then went on tour with the Isley Brothers. “Testify” was released in June 1964, but did not make an impact on the charts. After touring as a member of the Isley Brothers through the summer of 1964, Hendrix left the band after a gig in Nashville. In September, Hendrix (then calling himself Maurice James) began touring and recording with Little Richard.There, he found work with the tour’s MC “Gorgeous” George Odell. During a stop in Los Angeles while touring with Little Richard in 1965, Hendrix played a session for Rosa Lee Brooks on her single “My Diary”. This was his first recorded involvement with Arthur Lee of the band Love. While in L.A., he also played on the session for Little Richard’s final single for Vee-Jay, “I Don’t Know What You’ve Got, But It’s Got Me”. In July 1965, on Nashville’s Channel 5 Night Train, he made his first television appearance. Performing in Little Richhard’s ensemble band, Hendrix backed up vocalists “Buddy and Stacy” on “Shotgun”. The video recording of the show marks the earliest known footage of Hendrix performing live.
Hendrix clashed with Richard, over tardiness, wardrobe, and, above all, Hendrix’s stage antics. On tour they shared billing a couple of times with Ike & Tina Turner. It has been suggested that Hendrix left Richard and played with the Turners briefly before returning to Richard, but there is no firm evidence to support this. Hendrix mentioned playing with them, and Ike Turner shortly before his death claimed that he did, but this is emphatically denied by Tina. Months later, he was either fired or he left after missing the tour bus in Washington, D.C. He then rejoined the Isley Brothers in the summer of 1965 and recorded a second single with them, “Move Over and Let Me Dance” backed with “Have You Ever Been Disappointed” (1965 Atlantic 45-2303).
Later in 1965, Hendrix joined a New York–based R&B band, Curtis Knight and the Squires, after meeting Knight in the lobby of the Hotel America, where both men were staying at the time. Hendrix performed on and off with them for eight months. In October 1965, Hendrix recorded a single with Curtis Knight, “How Would You Feel” backed with “Welcome Home” (1966 RSVP 1120) and on October 15 he signed a three-year recording contract with entrepreneur Ed Chalpin, receiving 1% royalty. While the relationship with Chalpin was short-lived, his contract remained in force, which caused considerable problems for Hendrix later on in his career. Several songs and demos from the 1965–1966 Curtis Knight recording sessions, deemed not worth releasing at the time, were marketed as “Jimi Hendrix” recordings after he became famous. Aside from Curtis Knight and the Squires, Hendrix then toured for two months with Joey Dee and the Starliters.
In between performing with Curtis Knight in 1966, Hendrix toured and recorded with King Curtis. Hendrix recorded the two-part single “Help Me (Get the Feeling)” with Ray Sharpe and the King Curtis Orchestra (1966 Atco 45-6402) (the backing track was subsequently overdubbed by other vocalists with different lyrics and released as new songs). Later in 1966, Hendrix also recorded with Lonnie Youngblood, a saxophone player who occasionally performed with Curtis Knight. The sessions produced two singles for Youngblood: “Go Go Shoes”/”Go Go Place” (Fairmount F-1002) and “Soul Food (That’s What I Like)”/”Goodbye Bessie Mae” (Fairmount F-1022). Additionally, singles for other artists came out of the sessions: The Icemen’s “(My Girl) She’s a Fox”/ “(I Wonder) What It Takes” (1966 SAMAR S-111) and Jimmy Norman‘s “You’re Only Hurting Yourself”/”That Little Old Groove Maker” (1966 SAMAR S-112). As with the King Curtis recordings, backing tracks and alternate takes for the Youngblood sessions would be overdubbed and otherwise manipulated to create many “new” tracks. Many Youngblood tracks without any Hendrix involvement would later be marketed as “Jimi Hendrix” recordings. Also around this time in 1966, Hendrix earned his first composer credits for two instrumentals “Hornets Nest” and “Knock Yourself Out”, released as a Curtis Knight and the Squires single in 1966.
Hendrix, now going by the name Jimmy James, formed his own band, the Blue Flame, composed of Randy Palmer (bass), Danny Casey (drums), and a 15-year-old guitarist who played slide and rhythm named Randy Wolfe in June 1966. The band came to be mistakenly labeled as Jimmy James and the Blue Flames after Hendrix’s rise to fame. The misnomer was repeated enough times to be considered a factoid. The only surviving advert for the band, however, billed them as the Blue Flame. Hendrix himself referred to the band as such in his 1969 interview with Nancy Carter, as did John Hammond. Randy California would later co-found the band Spirit with his stepfather, drummer Ed Cassidy.
Hendrix and his new band played at several places in New York, but their primary venue was a residency at the Cafe Wha? on MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village. The street runs along “Washington (Square) Park” which appeared in at least two of Hendrix’s songs. Their last concerts were at the Cafe au Go Go, as John Hammond Jr.‘s backing group, billed as “the Blue Flame”. Singer-guitarist Ellen McIlwaine and guitarist Jeff Baxter also claim to have briefly worked with Hendrix in this period.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Early in 1966, at the Cheetah Club on Broadway at 53rd Street, Linda Keith, the girlfriend of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, befriended Hendrix and recommended him to Stones’ manager Andrew Loog Oldham and later, producer Seymour Stein. Neither man appreciated Hendrix’s music, and they both passed. She then referred Hendrix to Chas Chandler, who was ending his tenure as bassist in the Animals and looking for talent to manage and produce. Chandler liked the song “Hey Joe” and was convinced he could create a hit single with the right artist.
Impressed with Hendrix’s version, Chandler brought him to London in September 1966 and signed him to a management and production contract with himself and ex-Animals manager Michael Jeffery. Chandler then helped Hendrix form a new band, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, with guitarist-turned-bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell, both English musicians. Chandler also convinced Hendrix to change the spelling of his first name from “Jimmy” to the more exotic “Jimi”.
Shortly before the Experience was formed, Chandler introduced Hendrix to Brian Auger, Eric Burdon, Pete Townshend and to Eric Clapton, who had only recently helped put together Cream. At Chandler’s request, Cream let Hendrix join them on stage for a jam. Hendrix performed two songs, one of which was the song “Killing Floor“. Hendrix and Clapton remained friends up until Hendrix’s death. The first night Hendrix arrived in London, he began a relationship with Kathy Etchingham that lasted until February 1969. She later wrote an autobiographical book about their relationship and the sixties London scene in general.
After his enthusiastically received performance at France’s No. 1 venue, the Olympia theatre in Paris on the Johnny Hallyday tour, an on-stage jam with Cream, a showcase gig at the newly opened, pop-celebrity oriented nightclub Bag O’Nails and the all important appearances on the top UK TV pop shows Ready Steady Go! and the BBC’s Top of the Pops, word of Hendrix spread throughout the London music community in late 1966. His showmanship and virtuosity made instant fans of reigning guitar heroes Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, as well as Brian Jones and members of the Beatles and the Who, whose managers signed Hendrix to their new record label, Track Records.
Hendrix’s first single was a cover of “Hey Joe“, using Tim Rose‘s slower arrangement of the song including his addition of a female backing chorus. Backing this first 1966 “Experience” single was Hendrix’s first songwriting effort, “Stone Free“. Further success came in early 1967 with “Purple Haze” which featured the “Hendrix chord” and “The Wind Cries Mary“. The three singles were all UK Top 10 hits and were also popular internationally including Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan (though failed to sell when released later in the US).
Are You Experienced
Released in the UK in May 1967, and in the US in August, the first Jimi Hendrix Experience album, Are You Experienced, reached number 2 in the UK and number 5 in the US. The LP contained none of the previously released (outside the United States and Canada) singles or their B sides (“Hey Joe“/”Stone Free“, “Purple Haze“/”51st Anniversary” and “The Wind Cries Mary“/”Highway Chile“). Only the Beatles‘ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band prevented Are You Experienced from reaching No. 1 on the UK charts.
At this time, the Experience extensively toured the United Kingdom and parts of Europe. This allowed Hendrix to develop his stage presence, which reached a high point on March 31, 1967, when, booked to appear as one of the opening acts on the Walker Brothers farewell tour, he set his guitar on fire at the end of his first performance, as a publicity stunt. This guitar has now been identified as the guitar “found” and later restored by Frank Zappa. He used it to record his album, Zoot Allures (1971). When Zappa’s son, Dweezil Zappa, found the guitar some twenty years later, Zappa gave it to him.
On June 4, 1967, Hendrix opened a show at the Saville Theatre in London, with his own rendition of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band“, released three days earlier. Beatles manager Brian Epstein had owned the Saville at the time, and both George Harrison and Paul McCartney attended the performance. McCartney described the moment: “It’s still a shining memory for me … The curtains flew back and he came walking forward playing ‘Sgt. Pepper’. It’s a pretty major compliment in anyone’s book. I put that down as one of the great honors of my career.”
While on tour in Sweden during 1967, Hendrix jammed with the duo Hansson & Karlsson, and later opened several concerts with their song “Tax Free”, also recording a cover of it during the Electric Ladyland sessions.
Months later, Reprise Records released the US and Canadian version of Are You Experienced with a new cover by Karl Ferris, removing “Red House”, “Remember” and “Can You See Me” to make room for the first three single A-sides. Where the (Rest of the World) album kicked off with “Foxy Lady“, the US and Canadian one started with “Purple Haze”. Both versions offered a startling introduction to the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and the album was a blueprint for what had become possible on an electric guitar, basically recorded on four tracks, mixed into mono and only modified at this point by a “fuzz” pedal, reverb and a small bit of the experimental “Octavia” pedal on “Purple Haze”, produced by Roger Mayer in consultation with Hendrix. A remix using the mostly mono backing tracks with the guitar and vocal overdubs separated and occasionally panned to create a stereo mix was also released, only in the US and Canada.
Although very popular in Europe at this time, the Jimi Hendrix Experience had yet to crack the United States. Their first single there, “Hey Joe” c/w “51st Anniversary” (Reprise 0572, released May 1, 1967), failed to reach the Billboard chart.
Their chance came when Paul McCartney recommended the group to the organizers of the Monterey International Pop Festival. This proved to be a great opportunity for Hendrix, not only because of the large audience present at the event, but also because of the many journalists covering the event who wrote about him. The performances were filmed by D. A. Pennebaker and later shown in some movie theaters around the country in early 1969 as the concert documentary Monterey Pop, which immortalized Hendrix’s iconic burning and smashing of his guitar at the finale of his performance.
Hendrix opened with a fast arrangement of Howlin’ Wolf’s 1965 R&B hit “Killing Floor”. The Monterey performance also included an equally lively rendering of B.B. King’s 1964 R&B hit “Rock Me Baby”, Tim Rose’s arrangement of “Hey Joe” and Bob Dylan‘s 1965 pop hit “Like a Rolling Stone“. The set ended with the Troggs‘ “Wild Thing” and Hendrix repeating the gimmick that had boosted his profile in Europe; burning his guitar on stage, then smashing before tossing pieces out to the audience. The performance earned Hendrix the attention of the US public. A large chunk of this guitar was on display at the Experience Music Project in Seattle, along with the other psychedelically painted Stratocaster that Hendrix smashed (but did not burn) at his farewell concert in England before he left for the US and Monterey.
Hendrix most likley first heard a wah-wah pedal used with an electric guitar in Cream‘s “Tales of Brave Ulysses“, released in May 1967. In July, while playing sets at the Scene club in New York City, Hendrix met Frank Zappa, whose Mothers of Invention were playing the adjacent Garrick Theater. Hendrix immediately became fascinated by Zappa’s use of a wah-wah pedal and Hendrix used one later that evening while recording overdubs in a studio.
Following the Monterey Pop Festival, the Experience played a series of concerts at Bill Graham’s Fillmore replacing the original headliners Jefferson Airplane at the top of the bill. It was at this time that Hendrix became acquainted with future musical collaborator Stephen Stills, and reacquainted himself with Buddy Miles who introduced Hendrix to his future partner, Devon Wilson. She had a turbulent on/off relationship with him, right up to the night of his death, and was the only one of his partners to record with him. She died only six months after Hendrix under mysterious circumstances, apparently falling from an upper window in the Chelsea Hotel.
Following this very successful West Coast introduction, which also included two open air concerts (one of them a free concert in the “panhandle” of Golden Gate Park) and a concert at the Whisky a Go Go, they were booked as one of the opening acts for pop group the Monkees on their first American tour. The Monkees asked for Hendrix because they were fans, but their (mostly early teens) audience sometimes did not warm to their act, and he quit the tour after a few dates. Chas Chandler later admitted that being thrown off the Monkees tour was engineered to gain maximum media impact and publicity for Hendrix,similar to that gained from the manufactured Rank Theatre’s indecency dispute on the earlier UK Walker Brothers tour. At the time, a story circulated claiming that Hendrix was removed from the tour because of complaints made by the Daughters of the American Revolution that his stage conduct was “lewd and indecent”. This report was concocted by a journalist accompanying the tour, the Australian Lillian Roxon.
Meanwhile in Western Europe, where Hendrix was appreciated for his authentic blues as well as his hit singles and recognized for his avant-garde musical ideas, his wild-man image and musical gimmickry (such as playing the guitar with his teeth and behind his back) had faded; but they later plagued him in the US following Monterey. He became frustrated by the US media and audience when they concentrated on his stage tricks and best known songs.
Axis: Bold as Love
The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s second 1967 album, Axis: Bold as Love was his first recording made for stereo release and used panning and other stereo effects. It continued the style established by Are You Experienced. The opening track, “EXP”, featured a stereo effect in which a sound emanating from Hendrix’s guitar appeared to revolve around the listener, fading out into the distance from the right channel, then returning in on the left. This album marked the first time Hendrix recorded the whole album with his guitar tuned down one half-step, to E♭, which he used exclusively thereafter and was his first to feature the wah-wah pedal.
A mishap almost delayed the album’s pre-Christmas release: Hendrix lost the master tape of side one of the LP, leaving it in the back seat of a London taxi. With the release deadline looming, Hendrix, Chas Chandler and engineer Eddie Kramer had to remix most of side one in an overnight session, but they could not match the lost mix of “If 6 Was 9“. They soon learned that bassist Noel Redding had a tape recording of this mix, which had to be smoothed out with an iron as it had gotten wrinkled.
Disappointed that the album had to be finished so quickly, Hendrix felt it could have been better had they been given more time. He also expressed disappointment in the album cover art work, which depicts Hendrix and the Experience as various forms of Vishnu, incorporating a painting of them by Roger Law (from a photo-portrait by Karl Ferris). Hendrix remarked that it would have been more appropriate if the cover had highlighted his American Indian heritage.
They released the album in the UK near the end of their first headlining tour there, after which their performance frequency slowed briefly during the Christmas holidays.
In January 1968, the band travelled to Sweden for a one-week tour of Europe. During the early morning hours of the first day, Hendrix became engaged in a drunken brawl in the Hotel Opalen, smashing a plate-glass window and injuring his right hand, for which he received medical treatment. The incident culminated in his arrest, though the authorities released him pending a court appearence on the 16th. The remainder of the tour was uneventful, though Hendrix had to spend some time in Sweden awaiting his trial, which resulted in a large fine.
Hendrix’s third recording, the double album Electric Ladyland (1968), was a departure from previous efforts. Following his third and penultimate French concert at the Paris Olympia, Hendrix flew to the US to start his first tour there, and after two months returned to his Electric Ladyland project at the newly opened Record Plant Studios with engineers Eddie Kramer and Gary Kellgren and initially Chas Chandler as producer.
As the album’s recording progressed, Chas Chandler became so frustrated with Hendrix’s perfectionism and with various friends and guests milling about the studio that he decided to sever his professional relationship with Hendrix. Chandler’s departure had a clear impact on the artistic direction that the recording took.
For this album Hendrix began experimenting with different combinations of musicians and instruments. During production, Hendrix appeared at an impromptu jam with B.B. King, Al Kooper, and Elvin Bishop. In March 1968, Jim Morrison of the Doors joined Hendrix onstage at the Scene Club in New York.
In November 1968, the album reached number 1 in the US, spending two weeks at the top spot. The LP peaked at number 6 on the UK charts, spending 12 weeks on the chart.
Breakup of the Experience
After a year based in the US, Hendrix temporarily moved back to London and into his girlfriend Kathy Etchingham‘s rented Brook Street flat, next door to the Handel House Museum, in the West End of London. During this time, the Jimi Hendrix Experience toured Scandinavia, Germany, and included a final French concert. They later performed two sold-out concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall on February 18 and 24, 1969, which were the last European appearances of this line-up of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Gold and Goldstein filmed these shows; however, as of 2012, they have not seen an official release.
Noel Redding formed his own band Fat Mattress, which allowed him to play his preferred instrument, the guitar. Redding spent less time with Hendrix, which resulted in Hendrix playing many of the bass parts on Electric Ladyland. Fruitless recording sessions at Olympic in London; Olmstead and the Record Plant in New York that ended on April 9, which only produced a remake of “Stone Free” for a possible single release, were the last to feature Redding. Hendrix then flew Billy Cox to New York and started recording and rehearsing with him on April 21 as a replacement for Noel.
The last Experience concert took place on June 29, 1969 at Barry Fey’s Denver Pop Festival, a three-day event held at Denver‘s Mile High Stadium that was marked by Denver police using tear gas to control the audience as the band played “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)“. They narrowly escaped from the venue in the back of a rental truck which was partly crushed by fans trying to escape the tear gas. The next day, Redding quit the Experience, returning to London. He blamed Hendrix’s plans to expand the group without allowing for his input as a primary reason for leaving.
Gypsy Sun and Rainbows
After the departure of Noel Redding from the group, Hendrix rented the eight-bedroom ‘Ashokan House’ in the hamlet of Boiceville near Woodstock in upstate New York, where he spent some time in mid-1969. Manager Michael Jeffery, who owned a house in Woodstock, arranged the stay, with hopes that the respite would produce a new album. To replace Redding as bassist, Hendrix had been rehearsing and recording with Billy Cox, his old and trusted Army buddy, since April 21. Mitchell was unavailable to help fulfill Hendrix’s commitments at this time, which include his first appearance on US TV – on the Dick Cavett show – where he was backed by the studio orchestra, and an appearance on The Tonight Show where he appeared with his new bass player Billy Cox, and session drummer Ed Shaughnessy sitting in for Mitchell.
Hendrix was advertised to play the Woodstock Music Festival, along with many of the other biggest rock groups of the time. It was to take place on rented farmland in Upper State New York from August 15–18, 1969. Although Hendrix’s music had been written for a power trio of guitar, bass, and drums, he wanted to expand his sound so he added rhythm guitarist Larry Lee (another old friend from his R&B days), and Juma Sultan and Jerry Velez to play congas. After drummer Mitch Mitchell arrived, this new lineup rehearsed for less than two weeks before the festival and according to Mitchell never really meshed. In addition, although Woodstock would become famous and mythologized through the documentary film of the same name, by the time of his performance, Hendrix had been up for three days, and his band was short on sleep as well, contributing a rawness to their filmed performance.
Before Hendrix even arrived at the festival he started to hear media reports that the crowds of kids showing up for the festival were swelling to biblical proportions, in addition to the emerging logistical problems being reported at the site. This gave Hendrix cause for concern since he did not like performing in front of very large crowds.Since he was considered an important draw for the festival, and because of his manager’s negotiations, Hendrix was getting paid more than the other performers, (US$18,000, plus US$12,000 for rights to film him). As the scheduled time slot of Sunday night at midnight drew closer, Hendrix indicated that he would rather wait and close the show. A substantial rainstorm that day had delayed the schedule of performers, so when Hendrix insisted on being the closing headliner, it pushed back the time when they finally hit the stage – which ended up being 8:30 am Monday morning. The audience which had peaked at an estimated 400,000 people during the festival, was now reduced to about 30–40,000 by that point; many of whom merely waited to catch a glimpse of Hendrix before leaving during his show. This reflected the reality that by the third day attendees had been sleeping in muddy conditions with limited food.
Hendrix and his band were introduced by the festival MC, Chip Monck, as “the Jimi Hendrix Experience”, but once on stage Hendrix clarified saying, “We decided to change the whole thing around and call it ‘Gypsy Sun and Rainbows’. For short, it’s nothin but a ‘Band of Gypsys’”. He then launched into a two hour set, the longest of his career. Hendrix started off with a new song, “Message to Love”. (His Woodstock set consisting of new material, along with his well-known hits).
Hendrix’s rendition of the U.S. national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner” occurred about 3/4 into their set (after which he morphed into “Purple Haze”). The song had actually been part of his set for over a year and he had already performed it at at least 28 different concerts and recorded a studio version. During the number, Hendrix used feedback and sustain on his guitar to recreate the sound of wails and falling rockets. Although pundits quickly branded the song as a political manifesto against the Vietnam War, Hendrix himself never explained its meaning other than to say at a press conference three weeks later, “We’re all Americans … it was like ‘Go America!’ … We play it the way the air is in America today. The air is slightly static, see”. The song would become “part of the sixties Zeitgeist” as it was captured forever in the Woodstock film; Hendrix’s image performing this number during the day wearing a blue-beaded white leather jacket with fringe and a red head scarf, has since been regarded as a defining moment of the 1960s.
Hendrix performed “Hey Joe” as the encore to finish off their set which concluded the 3½ day Woodstock Music Festival. Upon leaving the stage, Hendrix collapsed from exhaustion. After Woodstock, this particular lineup of the band appeared on only two more occasions. The first was a street benefit in Harlem where, in a scenario similar to the festival, most of the audience had left and only a fraction remained by the time Hendrix took the stage. Within seconds of Hendrix arriving at the site two youths had stolen his guitar from the back seat of his car, although it was later recovered. The band’s only other appearance was at the Salvation club in Greenwich Village, New York. After some studio recordings, Hendrix disbanded the group. Some of this band’s recordings can be heard on the MCA Records box set The Jimi Hendrix Experience and on South Saturn Delta. Their final session together before Lee and Velez left the band took place on September 16.
Band of Gypsys
In 1968, a contractual dispute arose in relation to a previous agreement Hendrix had entered into with producer Ed Chalpin. The resolution for the dispute included Hendrix having to record an LP of new material for Chalpin’s company. For the agreed upon album, Hendrix chose to record the live LP, Band of Gypsys.
Against the backdrop of widespread social upheaval in the United States that included the African-American Civil Rights Movement, the escalation of the Vietnam War, the growing Black Power movement, and several notable assassinations, Hendrix created a new all-black band with Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles (formerly with Wilson Pickett, the Electric Flag and the Buddy Miles Express). He had been recording with Cox since April and jamming with Miles since September. He wrote and rehearsed material which they then performed at a series of four concerts over two nights, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day at Fillmore East. Recordings of these concerts became the material for the Band Of Gypsys LP, produced by Hendrix. The album contains the track, “Machine Gun“, described by musicologist Andy Aledort as the pinnacle of Hendrix’s career, and “the premiere example of Hendrix’s unparalleled genius as a rock guitarist … In this performance, Jimi transcended the medium of rock music, and set an entirely new standard for the potential of electric guitar.”
Some have thought that the creation of the band was Hendrix’s efforts to appease overtures from the Black Power movement and others in the black communities asking him to become more militant in using his fame to speak up for civil rights. In 1967, Hendrix told Open City, a Los Angeles-based underground newspaper: “Quite naturally I don’t like to see houses being burnt”, referring to the Watts Riots that had occurred in 1965. He clarified: “I don’t have much feeling for either side right now… Maybe I’ll have more to say later, when I get more political.”
The Band of Gypsys album was the only official live, complete LP of Hendrix’s music released during his lifetime. A couple of tracks from Woodstock and one side of an LP of tracks from his Monterey show were also released, later, in his lifetime. The album reached the top ten in both the US and the UK in April 1970. The band also released a single “Stepping Stone“, which was given no publicity and failed to sell, and recorded three other studio songs slated for Hendrix’s future LP. In 1999, the tapes from the four Fillmore concerts were remastered and additional tracks and edits were released as Live at the Fillmore East. Litigation with Chalpin ended in 2007 after the “singularly uncredible witness” was fined nearly US$900,000 for failure to abide by contractual limitations and failure to pay Experience Hendrix L.L.C. its court ordered royalties.
On January 26 and 27, 1970, Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding flew into New York and signed contracts with Jeffery for the upcoming Jimi Hendrix Experience tour. The next day, a second and final Band of Gypsys appearance occurred at a twelve-act show in Madison Square Garden which was a benefit for the anti-Vietnam War Moratorium Committee, titled the “Winter Festival for Peace”. Similar to Woodstock, set delays forced Hendrix to take the stage at an inopportune 3 am, only this time he was obviously in no shape to play. He played “Who Knows” before snapping a vulgar response at a woman who shouted a request for “Foxy Lady“. He played a second song, “Earth Blues”, he then told the audience: “That’s what happens when earth fucks with space—never forget that”. He then sat down on the drum riser for a minute and then walked off stage. Various unverifiable assertions have been proffered to explain this bizarre scene. Buddy Miles claimed that manager Michael Jeffery dosed Hendrix with LSD in an effort to sabotage the current band and bring about the return of the Experience lineup, but none of Hendrix’s other close associates verifies his statement.
Cry of Love tour
A week after the botched Band of Gypsys show, Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding gave an interview to Rolling Stone for the upcoming tour dates as a reunited Jimi Hendrix Experience. However, Redding never made the time to rehearse, as Hendrix continued to work with Billy Cox. Noel was not told he was not going to be playing until the pretour rehearsals. Fans refer to this final “Jimi Hendrix Experience” lineup as the “Cry of Love” band, named after The Cry of Love Tour to distinguish it from the original. Billy Cox has countered on several occasions that this lineup considered themselves “the Jimi Hendrix Experience” before they even went on tour and that any other title is bogus. All billing, adverts, tickets etc. on the tour used “Jimi Hendrix Experience” or occasionally, as previously, just “Jimi Hendrix”.
Two of Hendrix’s later recordings were the lead guitar parts on “Old Times Good Times” from Stephen Stills hit eponymous album (1970), and on “The Everlasting First” from Arthur Lee‘s new incarnation of Love, not so successful and aptly named LP False Start both tracks were recorded with these old friends on a fleeting and unexplained visit to London in March 1970, following Kathy Etchingham‘s marriage.
He spent the next four months of 1970 working on his next LP tentatively titled First Rays of the New Rising Sun, recording during the week and playing live on the weekends. The Cry of Love tour, launched that April at the L.A. Forum, was partly undertaken to earn money to repay the Warner Bros. loan for completing his Electric Lady Studios. Performances on this tour featured Hendrix, Cox, and Mitchell playing new material alongside older audience favorites. The American leg of the tour included 30 performances and ended at Honolulu, Hawaii on August 1, 1970. A number of these shows were recorded and produced some of Hendrix’s most memorable live performances. At one of them, the Second Atlanta International Pop Festival (1970), on July 4, Hendrix played to the largest American audience of his career.
Electric Lady Studios
In 1968, Hendrix and Jeffery had invested jointly in the purchase of the Generation Club in Greenwich Village. Their initial plans to reopen the club were scrapped when the pair decided that the investment would serve them much better as a recording studio. The studio fees for the lengthy Electric Ladyland sessions were astronomical, and Hendrix was constantly in search of a recording environment that suited him. In August 1970, Electric Lady Studios was opened in New York.
Designed by architect and acoustician John Storyk, the studio was made specifically for Hendrix, with round windows and a machine capable of generating ambient lighting in a myriad of colors. It was designed to have a relaxing feel to encourage Hendrix’s creativity, but at the same time provide a professional recording atmosphere. Engineer Eddie Kramer upheld this by refusing to allow any drug use during session work.
Hendrix spent only two and a half months recording in Electric Lady, most of which took place while the final phases of construction were still ongoing. Following a mastering session at Sterling Sound on August 26, they held an opening party later that day for Electric Lady Studios. Hendrix left for London after the party and never returned to the newly finished studio. He then boarded an Air India flight for London with Billy Cox, joining Mitch Mitchell to perform at the Isle of Wight Festival.
The group then commenced the European leg of the tour. Longing for his new studio and creative outlets, the tour was a commitment that Hendrix was not eager to perform. In Aarhus, Hendrix abandoned the performance after only three songs, remarking: “I’ve been dead a long time”. On September 6, 1970, his final concert performance, Hendrix was greeted with some booing and jeering by fans at the Isle of Fehmarn Festival in Germany, due to his non-appearance at the end of the previous night’s bill (due to the torrential rain and risk of electrocution). Several acts played after he left the stage; later, part of the stage was burnt during the first stage appearance of Ton Steine Scherben. Billy Cox quit the tour and headed home to Memphis, Tennessee, reportedly suffering paranoia after taking LSD or being given it unknowingly, earlier in the tour. A live recording of the concert was later released as Live at the Isle of Fehmarn.
Hendrix returned to London, where he reportedly spoke to Chas Chandler, Eric Burdon, and others about leaving his manager, Michael Jeffery. Hendrix’s last public performance was an informal jam at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in Soho with Burdon and his latest band, War. Much of this was recorded on a Sony cassette recorder by Bill Baker, of Shepherds Bush, London, then aged 20, who was present throughout the entire performance. Two Hendrix tracks from this recording, “Mother Earth” and “Tobacco Road”, were later included, without permission from Baker, on a bootleg LP, Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?, produced in the mid-to-late 1970s, and on an audio tape of poor quality that went into circulation some years later. It was not until 2009, however, that the entire recording entered general circulation within the collecting community. This was remastered in California in December 2010 and includes tracks from the same night’s performance by Eric Burdon‘s War. Hendrix’s last known recording, he died approximately 24 hours later.
Drug use and violence
Widely associated with the use of psychedelic drugs, particularly lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), Hendrix had never taken psychedelic drugs until the night he met Linda Keith, but had smoked cannabis. Amphetamines were also recorded as being used by Hendrix during tours. Friends and bandmates reported that Hendrix would sometimes become angry and violent when he drank too much alcohol. Though illicit drugs alone did not have seem to produce a significant negative effect on him, when he mixed them with alcohol, he would often become incendiary. Hendrix friend, Herbie Worthington, explains: “You wouldn’t expect somebody with that kind of love to be that violent … He just couldn’t drink … he simply turned into a bastard.”
A girlfriend of Hendrix’s, Carmen Borrero, required stitches after he hit her above her eye with a vodka bottle during a drunken, jealous rage. Drugs and alcohol played a role in Hendrix’s 1968 rampage that badly damaged a Stockholm hotel room, which led to him injuring his right hand and to his arrest and eventual fine. After the burglary of his Benedict Canyon, Califonia house, Hendrix, while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, punched friend Paul Caruso and accused him of the theft. Hendrix then chased Caruso away from the residence while throwing stones at him.
On May 3, 1969, while checking through Canadian customs at Toronto Pearson International Airport, authorities arrested Hendrix for drug possession after finding a small amount of heroin and hashish in his luggage. After being released on a CAN$10,000 cash bail the same day, only four hours before his show was to begin, the Experience performed at Maple Leaf Gardens that night. The courts required Hendrix to appear before a judge at a later date. Acquitted of the charges, in his trial defense Hendrix claimed that a fan slipped the drugs into his bag without his knowledge.
Early on September 18, 1970, Jimi Hendrix died in London. He had spent the latter part of the previous evening at a party and was picked up at close to 3:00 by girlfriend Monika Dannemann and driven to her flat at the Samarkand Hotel, 22 Lansdowne Crescent, Notting Hill. From autopsy data and statements by friends about the evening of September 17, it has been estimated that he died sometime after 3:00, possibly before 4:00, but also possibly as late as 11:30, though no estimate was made at the autopsy, or inquest.
Dannemann claimed in her original testimony that after they returned to her lodgings the evening before, Hendrix, unknown to her, had taken nine of her prescribed Vesparax sleeping pills. The normal medical dose was a half to one tablet as stated in the literature, but Hendrix was unfamiliar with this very strong Belgian brand. According to surgeon John Bannister, the doctor who initially attended to him, Hendrix had asphyxiated in his own vomit, mainly red wine which had filled his airways. Bannister’s statement was made in January 1992 to Harry Shapiro, co-author of Electric Gypsy, a book which also featured accusations of malpractice by Monika Dannemann in regards to Bannister’s not performing a tracheotomy on Hendrix. He appears to have been using the amount of wine in his system as a reason for not performing a tracheotomy. He was reprimanded for two counts of medical malpractice, and struck off the medical register on April 28, 1992 for fraud. No one else at the time, the other two doctors, the ambulance men, or the police mentioned wine. The only mention of wine was by Monika much earlier, in Electric Gypsy (which Bannister had read), and that Hendrix had drunk some wine with food earlier that evening and also by Harvey at his, again, much earlier party, which were both several hours prior to death. The autopsy found very little alcohol in his system. The autopsy never mentioned wine, only vomited matter.
Until her death, Dannemann publicly claimed that she had only discovered that her lover had been sick at 11:00 am, but he was breathing, though unconscious and unresponsive (The ambulance was called at 11:18 and arrived 11:27). She also stated that Hendrix was alive when placed in the back of the ambulance at approximately 11:30, and that she rode with him on the way to the hospital.
The ambulance crew later denied she was even there; additionally, Dannemann’s comments about the timing of some events that morning often differed in places, varying from interview to interview. Police and ambulance statements reveal that there was no one but Hendrix in the flat when they arrived at 11:27 am, and not only was he dead when they arrived on the scene, but was fully clothed and had been dead for some time.
Later, Dannemann claimed that former road managers Gerry Stickels and Eric Barrett had been present before the ambulance was called and had removed some of Hendrix’s possessions, including some of his most recent messages. Lyrics written by Hendrix, which were found in the apartment, led Eric Burdon to make a premature announcement on the BBC-TV program 24 Hours that he believed Hendrix had committed suicide. Burdon often claimed he had been telephoned by Dannemann after she discovered that Hendrix failed to wake up. In 1996, Dannemann committed suicide shortly after being found guilty of contempt of court for repeating a libel against Kathy Etchingham, who had been a girlfriend of Hendrix in the 1960s.
Hendrix’s body was returned to Seattle and he was interred in Greenwood Memorial Park, Renton, Washington. As the popularity of Hendrix and his music grew over the decades following his death, concerns began to mount over fans damaging the adjoining graves at Greenwood, and the growing, extended Hendrix family further prompted his father to create an expanded memorial site separate from other burial sites in the park. The memorial was announced in late 1999, but Al Hendrix’s deteriorating health led to delays and he died two months before its scheduled completion in 2002. Later that year, the remains of Jimi Hendrix, his father Al Hendrix, and grandmother Nora Rose Moore Hendrix were moved to the new site. The headstone contains a depiction of a Fender Stratocaster guitar, the instrument he was most famous for using —– although the guitar is shown right-side up, rather than the way Hendrix played it, upside down (left-handed).
The memorial is a granite dome supported by three pillars under which Jimi Hendrix and other family members are interred. Hendrix’s autograph is inscribed at the base of each pillar, while two stepped entrances and one ramped entrance provide access to the dome’s center where the original Stratocaster adorned headstone has been incorporated into a statue pedestal. A granite sundial complete with brass gnomon adjoins the dome, along with over 50 family plots that surround the central structure, half of which are currently adorned with raised granite headstones.
To date, the memorial remains incomplete: brass accents for the dome and a large brass statue of Hendrix were announced as being under construction in Italy, but since 2002 no information as to the status of the project has been revealed to the public. A memorial statue of Jimi playing a Stratocaster stands near the corner of Broadway and Pine Streets in Seattle.
In May 2006, the city of Seattle honored Hendrix with the renaming of a park near Seattle’s Colman School in the Central District.
Hendrix’s recordings were originally released in North America on Reprise Records (a division of Warner Communications) from 1967 until 1993 and were released internationally (outside of US and Canada) on Polydor Records. (Because it was recorded to settle a legal dispute, the Band of Gypsys album was released on Capitol Records in US and Canada.) British releases of all his albums up to and including The Cry Of Love were first issued on the independent label Track Records, which was originally created by the managers of the Who. The label was later absorbed by Polydor.
In 1994, the Hendrix family prevailed in its long standing legal attempt to gain control of Jimi’s music, and subsequently licensed the recordings to MCA Records (later Universal Music) through the family-run company Experience Hendrix. In August 2009, Experience Hendrix announced that it had entered a new licensing agreement with Sony Music Entertainment‘s Legacy Recordings division which would take effect in 2010.
Unfinished work and posthumous releases
Reports that Hendrix’s tapes for a concept album Black Gold had been stolen and lost from the London flat, are incorrect. Hendrix gave those tapes to Mitch Mitchell at the Isle of Wight Festival three weeks prior to his death. They are now in the possession of Experience Hendrix LLC.
Hendrix’s unfinished album was partly released as the 1971 title The Cry of Love. The album was well received and charted in several countries. However, the album’s producers, Mitchell and Kramer, would later complain that they were unable to make use of all the tracks they wanted. This was due to some tracks being used for 1971′s Rainbow Bridge and 1972′s War Heroes for contractual reasons.
Material from The Cry of Love was rereleased in 1997 as First Rays of the New Rising Sun, along with the rest of the tracks that Mitchell and Kramer wanted to include.
Many of Hendrix’s personal items, tapes, and many pages of lyrics and poems are now in the hands of private collectors and have attracted considerable sums at the occasional auctions. These materials surfaced after two employees, under the instructions of Mike Jeffery, removed items from Hendrix’s Greenwich Village apartment following his death.
In 2010, Legacy Recordings and Experience Hendrix LLC launched the 2010 Jimi Hendrix Catalog Project, starting with the release of Valleys of Neptune in March. Legacy has also released deluxe CD/DVD editions of the Hendrix albums Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold As Love, Electric Ladyland and First Rays of the New Rising Sun, as well as the 1968 compilation album Smash Hits.
As an adolescent during the 1950s, rock and roll artists such as Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Chuck Berry earned Hendrix’s interest. In 1968, he told Guitar Player magazine that electric blues artists including Muddy Waters, Elmore James and B.B. King influenced him during the beginning of his career, he also cited Eddie Cochran as an early influence. Of Muddy Waters, the first guitarist Hendrix became aware of, he said: “I heard one of his records when I was a little boy and it scared me to death because I heard all of these sounds.”
Band of Gypsys bassist, Billy Cox, stated that during their time serving in the US military, he and Hendrix listened to mostly southern blues artists such as Jimmy Reed, B.B. King and Albert King. According to Cox, “Albert King was a very, very powerful influence” on Hendrix. Howlin’ Wolf also influenced Hendrix, who performed Wolf’s “Killing Floor” as the opening number to the set of his US debut at the Monterey Pop Festival. Soul guitarist Curtis Mayfield also significantly influenced Hendrix.
In early 1967, when asked what he thought about the music of the Beatles, Hendrix replied: “Oh, yes. I think its good. They’re one group you can’t really put down because they’re just too much.” During the same interview, when asked if he had seen Pink Floyd Hendrix replied: “I’ve heard they have beautiful lights but they don’t sound like nothing.”
Hendrix was well known for his unique sense of fashion and wardrobe and his Dylan-esque (c. 1966) hairstyle. A set of hair curlers was one of the few possessions that Hendrix took with him to England in 1966. When his first advance check arrived, Hendrix immediately took to the streets of London in search of clothing at famous boutiques like I Was Lord Kitchener’s Valet and Granny Takes a Trip. Both specialized in vintage fashion. He bought at least two army dress uniform jackets including “his famous Crimean War-era Royal Hussars regimental coat” or pelisse, adorned with tasseled ropes. A group of policemen once ordered him to remove the other, a Royal Veterinary Corps dress jacket, saying it was an offense to the men who had worn it.
With their mutton-chop sideburns, droopy moustaches and flowing hair, English rock stars were effectively spoofing the Victorian officer class whose finery they donned. But a grinning, crazy-haired Hendrix in hussar’s jacket suggested something else entirely—a redskin brave showing off the spoils of a paleface scalp, perhaps, or a negro “buffalo soldier” fighting on the side of the anti-slavery Yankee forces in the US Civil War. ~ Neil Spencer, Editor, NME (1978-1985)
Many photographs of Hendrix show him wearing various scarves, rings, medallions, and brooches, and in the early days occasionally badges (pins or buttons) that professed his support for the hippie movement or his fascination with Bob Dylan. He initially wore a dark suit and plain silk shirts that progressively became “louder” and more psychedelically patterned. He later favored a bright blue velvet suit, then a bright red one, antique military dress jackets, a very broadly striped suit, psychedelically patterned silk jackets, various exotic waistcoats and brightly colored flared trousers. At Monterey, he wore a hand-painted silk jacket by Chris Jagger (Mick Jagger‘s brother) and a bright pink feather boa. In late 1967 he started to wear a wide-brimmed Western style hat (brand name “The Westerner”) It was adorned with a narrow purple band and various brooches, as shown in the original Jimi Plays Monterey film. This hat was stolen in 1968, and replaced later with another, crowned variously with a longer purple scarf, a star-like brooch in front and a set of silver bangles, sometimes with an angled feather, though he went hatless for protracted periods after this.
From late 1968 he began tying scarves to one leg and one arm, and in mid-1969 he gave up the hat for bandanas. He started wearing increasingly fantastic custom-made stage costume with long trailing sleeves, culminating in his African-styled “Fire Angel” outfit that he wore throughout most of his final “Cry Of Love” tour, until it began to come apart during the Isle of Wight concert. He appeared in this outfit only once more (in just the jacket) at the disastrous concert in Aarhus, Denmark. His only non-work-related vacation was a two-week trip to Morocco in July 1969 with friends Colette Mimram, Stella Benabou (the then-wife of producer Alan Douglas), and Deering Howe. Upon his return Hendrix decorated his Greenwich Village apartment with Moroccan objets d’art and fabrics. Mimram and Benabou created some of Hendrix’s most memorable later attire, the shortened blue kimono-style jacket that he wore in three TV appearances and the white fringed jacket, ornamented with blue glass beads, he wore at the Woodstock Festival.
Hendrix owned and used a variety of guitars during his career. However, his guitar of choice (and the instrument that became most associated with him), was the Fender Stratocaster. He started playing the model in 1966 and thereafter used it prevalently in his stage performances and recordings.
Hendrix bought many Stratocasters and gave some away as gifts. The original Fender Stratocaster Sunburst that Hendrix burnt at the Astoria in 1967, and that he kept as a souvenir, was given to Frank Zappa by a Hendrix roadie at the 1968 Miami Pop Festival. After Astoria, the guitar was restored, and Hendrix had burned it again onstage in Miami. Once in Frank Zappa’s hands, Zappa had it restored again and used it himself. As well as playing it, it was this guitar that Zappa chose to be photographed with for the cover of the January 1977 edition of Guitar Player.
“I had it hanging on the wall in my basement for years until last year when I gave it to Rex [Brogue] and said, ‘Put this sucker back together,’ because it was all tore up,” Zappa told journalist Steve Rosen in a feature interview inside the magazine. “The neck was cracked off, the body was all fired, and the pickups were blistered and bubbled. That’s the one that’s got the Barcus-Berry in the neck. A lot of people thought I had Hendrix’s guitar from Monterey, but it was from Miami; the one at Monterey was white and this one is sunburst.”
As the years passed, Zappa only remembered having it after his son, Dweezil Zappa, found it dismantled near his father’s studio in the early 1990s.
“It’s a very inspiring guitar,” Dweezil Zappa told BBC News, “because it has such a unique history, one that can never be recreated.” Subsequent to having it carefully restored by the late master guitar maker, Rex Brogue, Dweezil Zappa put the guitar up for auction in 2002.
The highest bid for the restored guitar was 300,000 pounds sterling, but Zappa changed his mind and kept the guitar.
Hendrix used right-handed guitars, turned upside down and restrung for left-hand playing. This had an important effect on his guitar sound: because of the slant of the Strat’s bridge pickup, his lowest string had a bright sound while his highest string had a mellow sound, the opposite of the Stratocaster’s intended design. Heavy use of the tremolo bar necessitated frequent tuning; Hendrix often asked the audience for a “minute to tune up”, as heard on many live bootlegs of his performances.
In addition to Stratocasters, Hendrix was also photographed playing Fender Jazzmasters, Duosonics, two different Gibson Flying Vs, a Gibson Les Paul, three Gibson SGs, a Gretsch Corvette he used at the 1967 Curtis Knight sessions and miming with a right-strung Fender Jaguar on the Top of the Pops TV show, as well as several other brands. Hendrix borrowed a Fender Telecaster from Noel Redding to record “Hey Joe” and “Purple Haze“, used a white Gibson SG Custom for his performances on The Dick Cavett Show in the summer of 1969, and the Isle of Wight film shows him playing his second Gibson Flying V. While Jimi had previously owned a Flying V that he had painted with a psychedelic design, the Flying V used at the Isle of Wight was a unique custom left-handed guitar with gold plated hardware, a bound fingerboard and “split-diamond” fret markers that were not found on other 1960s-era Flying Vs.
On December 4, 2006, one of Hendrix’s 1968 Fender Stratocaster guitars with a sunburst design was sold at a Christie’s auction for US$168,000.
Described as the first guitar Hendrix set fire to, another of his Stratocasters was sold at an auction for a record price in London two years later in 2008. Daniel Boucher, an American collector from Boston, paid 280,000 pounds sterling or $497,500 US Dollars for the guitar. This guitar was set aflame at the end of the Astoria concert in March 1967. Hendrix’s action “sent roadies rushing to put out the flames and left Hendrix needing treatment for minor burns.” Rescued by Hendrix’s press officer, Tony Garland, it was his nephew who came forward in 2007 and put the guitar up for auction. The guitar had been forgotten in Tony Garland’s parents’ garage for some forty years. In 2009, some experts in Hendrix’s guitars questioned whether the guitar Boucher bought was in fact an elaborate forgery.
Amplifiers and effects
Hendrix was a catalyst in the development of modern guitar effects pedals. His high volume and use of feedback required robust and powerful amplifiers. For the first few rehearsals he used Vox and Fender amplifiers. Sitting in with Cream, Hendrix played through a new range of high-powered guitar amps being made by London drummer turned audio engineer Jim Marshall, and they proved perfect for his needs. Along with the Stratocaster, the Marshall stack and amplifiers were crucial in shaping his heavily overdriven sound, enabling him to master the use of feedback as a musical effect, and he created a “definitive vocabulary for rock guitar”.
While his mainstays were the Arbiter Fuzz Face and a Vox wah-wah pedal, Hendrix experimented with guitar effects as well. He had a fruitful association with engineer Roger Mayer who later went on to make the Axis fuzz unit, the Octavia octave doubler and several other devices based on units Mayer had created or tweaked for Hendrix. The Japanese-made Uni-Vibe, designed to simulate the modulation effects of the rotating Leslie speaker, provided a rich phasing sound with a speed control pedal, and is heard on the Band of Gypsys track “Machine Gun”, which highlights use of the Uni-Vibe, Octavia and Fuzz Face.
The Hendrix sound combined high volume and high power, feedback manipulation, and a range of cutting-edge guitar effects. He was also known for his trick playing, which included playing with only his right (fretting) hand and using his teeth or playing behind his back and between his legs. Hendrix had large hands and characteristically used his thumb to fret bass notes, leaving his fingers free to play melodic lines on top. A clear demonstration of this thumb technique can be witnessed in the Woodstock video; during the song “Red House” there are closeups of Hendrix’s fretting hand.
Guitar rig and signal flow
A detailed gear diagram of Jimi Hendrix 1969 “Woodstock” Guitar Rig is well-documented Rig information was compiled from a 2012 interview with Jimi’s effect guru, Roger Mayer.
His Rock Hall biography states “Jimi Hendrix was arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music. Hendrix expanded the range and vocabulary of the electric guitar into areas no musician had ever ventured before. His boundless drive, technical ability and creative application of such effects as wah-wah and distortion forever transformed the sound of rock and roll.”
Instrumental in developing the previously undesirable technique of guitar amplifier feedback, Hendrix favored overdriven amplifiers with high volume, gain and treble. He helped to popularize use of the wah-wah pedal in mainstream rock, which he often used to deliver tonal exaggerations in his solos, particularly with high bends, complex guitar playing, and use of legato. He also pioneered experimentation with stereophonic phasing effects in rock music recordings.Rolling Stone comments: “Hendrix pioneered the use of the instrument as an electronic sound source. Players before him had experimented with feedback and distortion, but Hendrix turned those effects and others into a controlled, fluid vocabulary every bit as personal as the blues with which he began.”
Hendrix synthesized many styles in creating his musical voice and his guitar style was unique, later to be abundantly imitated by others. Despite his hectic touring schedule and notorious perfectionism, he was a prolific recording artist and left behind more than 300 unreleased recordings. Musically, Hendrix did much to further the development of the electric guitar’s repertoire, establishing it as a unique sonic source, rather than merely an amplified version of the acoustic guitar. Likewise, his feedback, wah-wah and fuzz-laden soloing moved guitar distortion well beyond mere novelty, incorporating other effects pedals and units specifically designed for him by his sound technician Roger Mayer (such as the Octavia and Uni-Vibe) with dramatic results.
He affected popular music with similar profundity; along with earlier bands such as the Who and Cream, he established a sonically heavy yet technically proficient bent to rock music as a whole, significantly furthering the development of hard rock and paving the way for heavy metal. He took blues to another level. His music has also had a great influence on funk and the development of funk rock especially through the guitarists Ernie Isley of the Isley Brothers and Eddie Hazel of Funkadelic, Prince, John Frusciante former member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jesse Johnson of the Time. His influence even extends to many hip hop artists, including Questlove, Chuck D of Public Enemy, Ice-T (who covered “Hey Joe” with his heavy metal band Body Count), El-P and Wyclef Jean. Miles Davis was also deeply impressed by Hendrix and compared his improvisational skills with those of saxophonist John Coltrane, and Davis would later want guitarists in his bands to emulate Hendrix. Hendrix’s guitar style also had significant influence upon ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons, fellow Texas guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughan, and later on Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett and Pearl Jam‘s Mike McCready, among others. Hendrix’s influence is also evident in the musical styles of many prominent bassists such as Stanley Clarke, Jaco Pastorius, Billy Sheehan,and Les Claypool.
His career and death grouped him with Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Brian Jones as one of the 27 Club, a group including iconic 1960s rock stars who suffered drug-related deaths at the age of 27 within a two year period, leaving legacies in death that have eclipsed the popularity and influence they experienced during their lifetimes.
- Electric church
Popularized by Hendrix, “Electric Church” was a quasi-spiritual belief that electric music brings out emotions and creative ideas in people, and encourages spirituality. On the Dick Cavett Show in 1969, Hendrix said that he designed his music so that it would be able to go “inside the soul of the person, and awaken some kind of thing inside, because there are so many sleeping people”. Promoting his third album Electric Ladyland, Jimi Hendrix said “the influence the psychedelics have on one is truly amazing, and I only wish more people appreciated this belief and genre”. When asked why he didn’t name the album “Electric Church” instead of “Electric Ladyland”, Hendrix said some ladies were “electric too”.Hendrix made numerous allusions to the concept in his music, most famously in the song “Red House“, in which he introduces his band by saying that he is about to present them all to the “Electric Church”.
Financial and legal
When Al Hendrix died of congestive heart failure in 2002, his will stipulated that Experience Hendrix, LLC was to exist as a trust designed to distribute profits to a list of Hendrix family beneficiaries. Upon his death, it was revealed that Al had signed a revision to his will which removed Hendrix’s brother Leon Hendrix as a beneficiary. A 2004 probate lawsuit merged Leon’s challenge to the will with charges from other Hendrix family beneficiaries that Janie Hendrix, Al’s adopted daughter, was improperly handling the company finances. The suit argued that Janie and a cousin of Jimi Hendrix (Robert Hendrix) paid themselves exorbitant salaries and covered their own mortgages and personal expenses from the company’s coffers while the beneficiaries went without payment and the Hendrix gravesite in Renton went uncompleted.
Janie and Robert’s defense was that the company was not yet profitable, and that their salary and benefits were justified given the work that they put into running the company. Leon charged that Janie bilked Al Hendrix, then old and frail, into signing the revised will, and sought to have the previous will reinstated. The defense argued that Al willingly removed Leon from his will because of Leon’s problems with alcohol and gambling. In early 2005, presiding judge Jeffrey Ramsdell handed down a ruling that left the final will intact, but replaced Janie and Robert’s role at the financial helm of Experience Hendrix with an independent trustee.
On October 5, 2011 the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case Golan v. Holder concerning the 1994 U.S. federal law that protected foreign copyrights. At stake in the outcome of this case is whether previously unprotected foreign works could be suddenly copyrighted and withdrawn from public domain. In a hypothetical argument Justice John Roberts asked “what about Jimi Hendrix?” and if Hendrix’s rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock violated copyright protection or was protected under public domain. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who defended the 1994 law, stated “maybe Jimi Hendrix could claim fair use“.
The Jimi Hendrix Foundation
In 1987, Leon Hendrix commissioned the James (Jimi) Marshall Hendrix Foundation. This foundation is based in Renton, Washington. Though run for some time by Jimi’s brother Leon Hendrix, in August 2006 Leon asked a childhood friend of Jimi Hendrix – James (Jimmy) Williams, to take control of the Foundation.
Hendrix performed in Sweden frequently throughout his career, and his only son James Daniel Sundquist was born there in 1969 to a Swede, Eva Sundquist, recognized as such by the Swedish courts and paid a settlement by Experience Hendrix LLC. Sundquist had sent Hendrix roses on each of his opening nights in Stockholm, and began – according to the Swedish courts – a sexual relationship from then until conceiving Daniel with him, after his third visit in January 1969. Hendrix also dedicated songs to the Swedish-based Vietnam deserters organization in 1969.
Recognition and awards
“We were off somewhere on the road, and I was brushing my teeth, thinking about it,” Hendrix said of the Melody Maker Pop Musician of the Year Award (1967). “I started to cry because it meant so much, and I ended up washing my face three times to get off this mess of tears and toothpaste.” The award was the first of many Hendrix won during his lifetime, but many more were given posthumously. Despite his influence on other major musicians, he did not receive a single Grammy Award in his lifetime — not even a nomination. Posthumously, he and the Jimi Hendrix Experience received a collective total of seven Grammy awards (see table below) including one Hendrix received for Lifetime Achievement.
Rolling Stone ranked his three non-posthumous studio albums, Are You Experienced (1967), Axis: Bold as Love (1967) and Electric Ladyland (1968) among the top 100 Greatest Albums of All Time. They ranked Hendrix number one on its list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all-time, and number six on their list of the 100 greatest artists of all time. Guitar World’s readers voted six of Hendrix’s solos among the top 100 Greatest Guitar Solos of All Time: “Purple Haze” (70), “The Star-Spangled Banner” (52), “Machine Gun” (32), “Little Wing” (18), “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” (11) and “All Along the Watchtower” (5). Rolling Stone placed seven of his recordings in their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time: “Purple Haze” (17), “All Along the Watchtower” (47) “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” (102), “Foxy Lady” (153), “Hey Joe” (201), “Little Wing” (366), and “The Wind Cries Mary” (379).
The recipient of several prestigious rock music awards during his lifetime and posthumously, the Jimi Hendrix Experience was inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. A star for Hendrix on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was dedicated on November 14, 1991, at 6627 Hollywood Boulevard. In 1999, readers of Rolling Stone and Guitar World ranked Hendrix among the most important musicians of the 20th century. In 2005, his debut album, Are You Experienced, was one of 50 recordings added that year to the United States National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress, “[to] be preserved for all time … [as] part of the nation’s audio legacy.” The English Heritage blue plaque that identifies his former residence at 23 Brook Street, London, was the first the organization ever granted to a pop star.
It was a direct result of Kathy Etchingham’s efforts, Hendrix’s former girlfriend who lived with him at the flat. She wrote to English Heritage first in 1992 and her request, along with all those received from other writers, was declined. She persisted and asked others to write. Finally the Committee gave its approval. There “had been talk of carrying it out in purple,” Sue Ashworth, one of the plaque makers remembers, but it was eventually done in the traditional blue.”We needed a guitar player to do this,” Pete Townshend said, at the plaque’s unveiling in September 1997. Noel Redding, and Kathy Etchingham, looked on with several other rock luminaries and hundreds of other people in the street. “And I’m so proud to be able to pull this bit of string [to unveil the plaque]. I have to tell you, I am so proud,” Townshend added.
- The Jimi Hendrix Experience
- Jimi Hendrix/Band of Gypsys
1970 Band of Gypsys [recorded live]
- Posthumous studio albums
Jimmy Herring is an American guitarist who is currently the lead guitarist in the band Widespread Panic. Herring is a founding member of Aquarium Rescue Unit and Jazz Is Dead. He has also played with The Allman Brothers Band, Project Z, Derek Trucks Band, and has enjoyed a long and successful tenure with Phil Lesh and Friends as well as The Dead.
Jimmy Herring was born on January 22, 1962, in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the son of a high school English teacher, and a North Carolina Superior Court judge. The youngest of three brothers, Herring attended Terry Sanford Senior High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Although he played saxophone in the high school band, he quickly became known for his prodigious talent on guitar, which he had begun playing at age 13. Herring had a Telecaster guitar with a Stratocaster neck, in the same style as one of his biggest influences at the time, Steve Morse of the Dixie Dregs. He played with various groups through high school and junior high. One of his first performances was in Horace Sisk Junior High School. He played in the talent show in the 8th grade. The band played “Walking The Dog“, and “Helter Skelter” by The Beatles. The first concert he went to was Alice Cooper. In high school he played with various fellow musicians, including bass players Corky Jones and Mike Logiovino, drummers Tom Pollock, John Sutton, and Bill Wiggs, guitarist Adam Ancherico, and keyboard players Steve Page and John Stonebraker. After high school he also formed the band Paradox with drummer John Sutton and bassist Mike Logiovino, which played local bars including the Cellar and Baby Blues. Paradox was a cover band that played mostly jazz fusion instrumentals, including songs by the Dixie Dregs, Al Di Meola and Chuck Mangione, and included a 3-piece horn section for which Herring did the arrangements.
After graduating high school, in 1980, Herring attended a summer session at the Berklee College of Music. In addition, Herring is a graduate of The Guitar Institute of Technology (GIT) in Hollywood, California. He has influenced many guitarists on the American jam band scene, known for his fluent improvisational talent and ability to play long and complex solos.
Herring was the original lead guitarist of the seminal jam band group Col. Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit. Formed in Atlanta in 1989, its alumni include Allman Brothers Band bassist Oteil Burbridge and future Leftover Salmon drummer Jeff Sipe.
Subsequently invited to participate on the H.O.R.D.E. tour with Aquarium Rescue Unit in 1992 and 1993, Herring was offered the lead guitar spot in The Allman Brothers Band after Dickey Betts was arrested after a show in Saratoga Springs, New York on July 30, 1993. Herring filled the open slot for one night but declined to take the position as a full-time gig.
Aquarium Rescue Unit would lose Bruce Hampton in 1994, who cited time pressures as his reason for leaving the band. Herring and other members would continue to tour as late as early 1997 until drummer Jeff Sipe departed for Leftover Salmon.
1998 and 1999 found Herring, with bassist Alphonso Johnson, Dixie Dregs (and former Widespread Panic) keyboardist T Lavitz and jazz drummer Billy Cobham touring as Jazz Is Dead. Jazz Is Dead released three albums; the material was fusion jazz-rock, largely instrumental-only cover interpretations of classic Grateful Dead songs. In addition, Herring guested on an album by The Derek Trucks Band, Out of the Madness.
The Allman Brothers Band (by then including ex-ARU member Oteil Burbridge on bass) again showed interest in 2000 and Herring played from May – October, 2000 on their summer tour before being offered the guitar spot in a new project put together by Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead; Phil Lesh and Friends. Until Herring joined the band, the lineup had fluctuated in a rotating cast of performers. However, after joining, the bandmates solidified into a lineup which remained largely constant for the next 5 years.
In 2002, Herring joined The Other Ones, a band which included four former members of the Grateful Dead — Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann. Herring continued to play with the group, now renamed The Dead, in 2003 and 2004.
In 2005, he also toured with the jazz, funk, and occasionally bluegrass-oriented band The Codetalkers, which featured Herring on guitar with his previous bandmate Col. Bruce Hampton on vocals, harmonica, and guitar. This band also allowed Herring to expand a musical friendship with Codetalkers’ front man Bobby Lee Rodgers, with whom Herring formed a new band in the spring of 2006 (tentatively dubbed Herring, Rodgers, and Sipe). 2005 also marked the release of the Lincoln Memorial disc from Project Z, of which Jimmy is a founding member. In January 2005, Herring appeared on the Jam Cruise 3 stage with several acts, including Colonel Les Claypool‘s Fearless Flying Frog Brigade.
Herring left Phil Lesh and Friends in November, 2005. On August 3, 2006, Widespread Panic announced Herring would be taking over the lead guitar spot in the band after the departure of George McConnell. Also in 2006, Herring and an almost complete original lineup of Aquarium Rescue Unit reunited as Col. Bruce Hampton and The Aquarium Rescue Unit featuring Oteil Burbridge, Jimmy Herring, Col. Bruce Hampton and Jeff Sipe with Bobby Lee Rodgers sitting in.
In 2008, Herring released Lifeboat, his first official solo album, on Abstract Logix. The material consists primarily of instrumental jazz-rock fusion, and features a rotating lineup of long-time Herring collaborators, including Oteil and brother Kofi Burbridge, Jeff Sipe, alto and soprano saxophonist Greg Osby, and others, including two songs featuring Derek Trucks. The album was met with generally positive reviews.
On February 7, 2009, Herring, along with Steve Gorman (The Black Crowes), guitarist Audley Freed (Jakob Dylan, ex-Crowes, Blue Floyd) and bassist-singer Nick Govrik, made their live debut of Trigger Hippy at the Cox Capitol Theater in Macon, Georgia.
Jimmy’s primary guitar is a modified American Standard Fender Stratocaster. It is equipped with two Lollar Imperial humbuckers. The fingerboard radius has been flattened out to 20″ and has Dunlop 6000 fret wire, which are the tallest and widest guitar frets manufactured today.
Herring also uses a 1969 Stratocaster as well as several other PRS guitars (including a hollowbody) and has played a 1970 Gibson SG given as a gift from Derek Trucks. Although he has long used effects sparingly, his 2005 Codetalkers rig saw him sport an Ernie Ball volume pedal and an H&K Tube Factor. He has expanded his effects pedals when playing Dead related music, and sported a TC Electronics M-One, and a Mutron with both The Dead and Phil Lesh and Friends.
With Widespread Panic
At the beginning of Jimmy’s tenure with Widespread Panic he was using his favorite guitar, a custom shop Stratocaster built by Gene Baker, equipped with two Seymour Duncan 59′ reissue humbuckers, with a 1973 Marshall superlead 100 watt amp accompanied by a 4×12 Marshall stereo and a 67′ blackface Fender Super Reverb as amplifiers. During the remainder of the fall 2006 tour Jimmy continued to use his custom shop Strat. At the beginning of fall 07′ Jimmy began using Fuchs Audio Technology Overdrive Supreme amplifiers. Into 2009 Herring continued to use Fuchs amps, but now used a Tripledrive Supreme 100 watt head, and occasionally an Overdrive Supreme 100 watt head. He uses a Tone Tubby 4×12 cab and two 2×12 Hard Truckers speaker cabs with alnico tone tubby speakers. He also uses a Fractal Audio Axe-Fx for effects, mainly reverb and delay sounds. In 2011 Jimmy continues to use Fuchs Audio Technology as his main amplifier. His main guitar is no longer the custom shop strat built by Genes Baker. Currently Jimmy’s go to guitar is a White Custom Shop Fender Stratocaster with Lollar humbuckers and a neck with a radius of 20″. he also uses a ’62 telecaster with Lollar pickups on a few songs.
- Subject To Change without Notice (August 21, 2012)
- Lifeboat (2008)
- Arkansas (1987)
- Col. Bruce Hampton & the Aquarium Rescue Unit (1992)
- Mirrors of Embarrassment (1993)
- Eepeee (1994)
- In a Perfect World (1994)
- The Calling (1997)
- Out of the Madness (1998)
- Blue Light Rain (1998)
- Laughing Water (1999)
- Great Sky River (2001)
- Croakin’ at Toad’s (2000)
- Project Z (2001)
- Lincoln Memorial (2005)
Herring, T Lavitz, Richie Hayward, Kenny Gradney
- Endangered Species (2001)
- There and Back Again (2002)
- Fusion for Miles (2005)
- Visions of an Inner Mounting Apocalypse (2005)
- The Benefit Concert, Volume 1 (2007)
Em 21 de Dezembro de 1978 nasce na cidade de São Paulo. Seu pai músico-guitarrista já batizou logo o menino como Jimmy Hendrix de Oliveira. Aos dois anos de idade Jim teve sua primeira guitarra que foi fabricada pelo pai. Aos 6 anos de idade o interesse pela guitarra já era nítido em Jim , o garoto já iniciava sua carreira musical. Começou a tocar na noite com 11 anos de idade, e durante 8 anos tocou em bandas de baile e também fazia shows em bares de toda espécie.
Jennifer Batten is an American guitarist who has worked as both a session musician and solo artist. She has released three studio albums: her 1992 debut, Above Below and Beyond, was produced by former Stevie Wonder guitarist Michael Sembello. In 1997, she released the worldbeat-influenced Jennifer Batten’s Tribal Rage: Momentum. Her third CD/DVD, Whatever, was released in Japan in September 2007 and worldwide on April 18, 2008.
She authored 2 music books; Hal Leonard’s “Two Hand Rock” and “The Transcribed Guitar Solos of Peter Sprague”
Batten has appeared on recordings such as Jeff Beck‘s Who Else! (1999) and You Had It Coming (2001), Michael Sembello’s Heavy Weather (1992), Bret Helm’s “Doc Tahri” and the debut of The Immigrants. Her music video appearances include Jeff Beck (Live in Japan) , Michael Jackson (Moonwalker-”Come Together”), Natalie Cole-”Wild Women Do”, Sara Hickman and Miguel Mateos‘s “Obsesión”.
Batten played lead and rhythm guitar on Michael Jackson’s Bad (1987–1989), Dangerous (1992–1993) and HIStory (1996–1997) world tours, as well as his 1993 Super Bowl half-time performance aired to 1.5 billion people in 80 nations. This was the largest television audience in history.
She joined British guitar legend Jeff Beck’s band for three years from 1999.
Between 1994 and 1999 Batten joined Dave Rodgers and Domino as featured guitarist on the eurobeat songs “Sun City”, “Music For the People”, “Fly” and “Woa Woa Woa.” Her writing and performing is uncredited in several other songs under the A-Beat C label. Her live Eurobeat appearances were limited to playing at the Tokyo Dome with Dave Rodgers and Queen of Hearts.
In 2010 she recorded a solo for the song “Bad Girls” for a Polish singer Doda.
In November 2011, Batten was featured on BBC Radio 4′s series “Joan Armatrading’s More Guitar Favourites”.
- 1990: Shortstop – Sara Hickman (Elektra)
- 1990: Girl’s Life – The Rainbow Girls (Red Distribution)
- 1990: Obsesion – Miguel Mateos (Song BMG)
- 1991: Small Town Girl – Cindy Cruse (Frontline Records)
- 1993: Guitar’s Practicing Musicians – various artists (Guitar Recordings)
- 1994: Sunlight Again – Carl Anderson (singer) (GRP Records)
- 1995: Earthtones – Thom Teresi (Rhombus)
- 1995: One Planet Under One Groove – The Immigrants (USG Records)
- 1995: Guitar Zeus – Carmine Appice (No Bull Records)
- 1997: Einstein was a Bullfighter – Doc Tahri (Sumething Else)
- 1999: Who Else! – Jeff Beck (Epic)
- 2001: You Had It Coming, Jeff Beck, (Epic)
- 2003: Lost Years – Michael Sembello (Frontiers Records)
- 2005: All Star Tribute to Cher (Cleopatra)
- 2005: Secondhand Smoke – A Tribute to Frank Marino (Wildmess Records)
- 2008: Clean – Dave Martone (Magna Carta)
- 2009: Unexpected Fate – Bulldozer (Scarlet)
- 2010: It’s Important – Dino Fiorenza (Fog Foundation)
- 2011: Glenn Eric – Glenn Eric Meganck (Beachfront)
- 2011: Japan Live 1999, Jeff Beck, (IMV Blueline)
- 2011: Embrace the Sun – Japan Benefit Album, (Lion Music)
Jeff Watson (born November 5, 1956 in Sacramento, California) is an American guitarist originally known as one of the founding members and lead guitarist of the band Night Ranger, in which he has played as co-guitarist with guitarist Brad Gillis. He has also released solo albums. In 2007, he left the band to pursue more challenging opportunities and Reb Beach replaced him on tour. Watson is now on tour with Dennis DeYoung.
With Night Ranger
1982 Dawn Patrol
1983 Midnight Madness
1985 Seven Wishes
1987 Big Life
1988 Man in Motion
1989 Greatest Hits
1990 Live in Japan
1998 “New York Time“
1999 Rock In Japan: Greatest Hits Live
2000 20th Century Masters: The Best of Night Ranger
2008 Hole in the Sun
With Mother’s Army
1993 Mother’s Army
1997 Planet Earth
1998 Fire on the Moon
1992 Lone Ranger
1993 Around the Sun
1989 Guitar’s Practicing Musicians – Compilation