Jimmy Page On The Violin Bow: “Whatever Squeaks I Made Sort Of Intrigued Me”
Several rock guitarists have used a violin bow on their guitars, but none so famously as Jimmy Page. Page used a bow on Led Zeppelin’s “How Many More Times,” “In The Light” and most memorably, “Dazed And Confused.” (His bow-ing during the live version of that song from The Song Remains The Same is one of the highlights of the film.)
Page says that the origins of his guitar-bowing lie in his pre-Zeppelin, pre-Yardbirds days as a session musician. In this exclusive excerpt from the upcoming book, Light And Shade: Conversations With Jimmy Page, a collection of interviews with the six-string legend, he discusses getting turned on to the bow.
“When I was a session musician, I would often play with string sections. For the most part, the string players would keep to themselves, except for a guy who one day asked me if I ever thought of playing my guitar with a bow. I said I didn’t think it would work because the bridge of the guitar isn’t arched like it is on a violin or cello. But he insisted that I give it a try, and he gave me his bow. And whatever squeaks I made sort of intrigued me. I didn’t really start developing the technique for quite some time later, but he was the guy that turned me onto the idea.”
Page used the bow on a few Yardbirds songs: “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor” and “Glimpses” from their 1967 album, Little Games, and then on Led Zeppelin’s 1969 self-titled debut (the aforementioned “Dazed And Confused” and “How Many More Times”). But he wasn’t the first British rock guitarist to take the bow to his axe: a year earlier, Eddie Phillips of The Creation did it on their classic garage rock nugget, “Making Time” (see the video here, Phillips whips out the bow at 1:39).
“Bow-ing” didn’t end with Zeppelin: on their huge (and very Zep-eque) 1987 hit “Still Of The Night,” Whitesnake guitarist John Sykes bowed the strings. Other acts to use the bow since then include Radiohead, Sonic Youth and Fleet Foxes.
Light And Shade: Conversations With Jimmy Page, was compiled by Guitar World Editorial Director Brad Tolinski, from several interviews he’d done with Page over the years. The book will be available Oct. 23.
— Brian Ives, CBS Local