Happy Late Birthday, Mr. Page

When I was about 11 years old, I took a trip up to see my family in Indiana. It was my first time ever going on a plane by myself, without adults, I mean. I was going to meet my cousins up there, hang out for a bit, and my grandparents would swing by on their way back from D.C. to take me home.

I had all the eleven-year-old essentials. Gameboy: check. Fruit by the Foot: check. Sony Diskman: check. I was ready to go.

I really couldn’t tell you much about the trip to Indiana. It was the first time I killed a mammal, I do remember that. My cousins lived across from the town cemetery and it was there job to keep the gophers from digging into the ground and getting to the bodies, so they had some pretty…creative ways of taking care of the issue.

It was also my first time going on a trip on my own. It was the first time I felt independent. Not that I was, not at all. I was 11 for chrissakes. But still. I was alone on a plane and I felt like a bad ass.

But there was one thing about that trip I will remember for the rest of my life: it was the first time I remember truly listening to Led Zeppelin.

We stopped at the Walmart in Warsaw to get some snacks for the trip back and my grandparents said ‘Reed, why don’t you go over and pick out some CDs to listen to on the way back.” They handed me $30 and I went over to start searching through the stacks of plastic jewels. I grabbed Queen’s Gretest Hits, a CCR album (can’t remember which), and Led Zeppelin’s Early Days / Later Days double-disk greatest hits. I had no idea that what I was about to listen to would change my life forever.

After getting in the car and unwrapping my new gift, I popped open the Zeppelin CD and slipped it into my Diskman. I had to make sure to be extra careful, because the CDs wouldn’t always stay in place. You know how you’d hear that ‘click’ noise when you’d finally get the hole in the CD around the holder in the middle? It stopped making that noise, I guess because it lost a part – probably because I used it too much. I can’t tell you how many CDs I ruined from not making sure they were all the way down in the player. Ah…problems today’s generation will never understand.

I got it after a second, closed the lid, and hit the play button. The track counter blinked as I waited for some sort of auditory stimulation. Then it happened; those two chords at the beginning of ‘Good Times, Bad Times.’ The snare drum popping on top of them, giving them an extra bit of distortion. Then a break – a lone high hat clicking by itself, looking for companionship.

I had my volume up too loud, way too loud. Loud enough that my grandparents turned to look at me when the song began. But I didn’t care. I was enchanted.

The high hat grew quicker as the guitar and snare came back to play. Finally a cowbell joined the mix for one final show of power, all before John Bonham led the way for Robert Plant and his shrill vocals.

That 13 seconds changed my life. It made me realize three things:

  1. I had a new favorite band.
  2. This ‘Jimmy Page’ fellow was the greatest guitar player of all time.
  3. One day, I would play guitar like that.

16 years later, all three of those things still hold true. Led Zeppelin is still my favorite band. Jimmy Page is still my favorite guitarist. And every time I pick up a guitar, I hope that I’ll magically be able to play as good as him.

Page turned 74 on January 9, so let’s all get out our favorite Zeppelin album and give it a spin. Cheers.

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