In January, 1969, Jimmy Page played a show at the Boston Tea Party with his then-recently formed band, Led Zeppelin — an evening he remembers vividly.
On Friday night, Page was at a much bigger venue, the Agganis Arena, where Berklee College of Music students performed songs from his arsenal of music as part of a weekend celebrating his life’s work. Saturday he’ll receive an honorary doctorate during the 2014 Berklee commencement ceremonies (one of four musicians bestowed with the degree), where he’ll also deliver the keynote address.
Page, a twice-inducted member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (The Yardbirds in 1992 and Led Zeppelin in 1995), was nothing but humble when asked about the celebratory weekend.
“Well it’s such an honor isn’t it? To be an honoree here?” Page said during an interview with Boston.com before the concert. “I’ve got to say, it’s such illustrious company. When you look at all the previous inductees, it’s just — wow — it’s amazing.”
True to his rock and roller spirit, Page, 70, planned to improvise a bit when giving his speech.
“I thought I ought to have something so I wrote a sort of sketch for it, but I think that’s going to change,” Page said. “I can’t imagine what the concert is going to be like tonight. I’ll probably be inspired to write some more to it. I hope it’s not too long.”
Page knows a thing or two about running long; that show back in 1969 ran three hours.
“It sticks out because at the time, the first time we came through with Led Zeppelin, I think we played three hours that night because we were just playing anything that anybody knew,” Page recalled. “It was quite early on. We only had one album at that time. They just wouldn’t let us go. We just played some numbers that we played again in the early part, but it was quite amazing.”
Led Zeppelin went on to become one of the world’s most iconic rock bands, shaping music for generations to come. After the band, including vocalist Robert Plant and bassist John Paul Jones, played the “Celebration Day” show at London’s O2 arena in 2007, Page began delving into the Zeppelin archives for a group of album reissues.
The project required him to listen to hundreds of hours of music and filled up his schedule, leaving little time for anything else, but he’s ready to get back to live gigs.
“There was no time for me to be doing any other sort of musical projects that involved me sort of playing live,” Page said of his time commitment to the reissues and the accompanying CDs. “It’s definitely time, I think to start — I won’t say dusting down the guitar, the guitar doesn’t need dusting down — but to get together with some musicians and to be seen playing, because that’s the important thing.”
Page declined to comment on which musicians he has hopes or plans to play with, but perhaps someday it will be one of the Berklee students who played his music tonight.
He had some advice for those 880 graduating music students, along with any artists out there like himself (he studied painting for a brief while at the Sutton College of Art before joining The Yardbirds).
“Developing your own character within music and with your own sort of creation and just believing in what you’re doing,” Page said. “If you can feel that it’s coming and you’ve got your music coming through, you’ve got to go through with your passion.”