Long before Jimmy Page played guitar in Led Zeppelin and the Yardbirds, he was a session guitarist and producer. In 1961, when he was still a teenager, he made his first venture into production: a 12-song demo for Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds, recorded in London. Now, Page is issuing the collection of songs, titled The Beginning …, for the first time via his website with an April 30th release date, and one of the tracks, "Money," is streaming here.
With "Money," Farlowe and his band take the rhythm & blues classic, first recorded by Barrett Strong and later by the Beatles, and juxtapose it with big, rumbling drums and a surf-guitar line, which starts off in the vein of the Ventures but drifts into rockabilly territory by the time it gets to the solo. Farlowe – who later found success with an ornate cover of the Rolling Stones' "Out of Time," which went Number One in the U.K. and also featured Page – soulfully howls the song's lyrics, wringing pain from every word.
"Chris Farlowe's version of 'Money' is shamanic," Page tells Rolling Stone.
"When I first heard 'Money' by Barrett Strong I just flipped out, for to me it's one of the greatest records ever recorded and has been recorded by many of the great artists, including the Beatles," Farlowe says. "With the great help and vision of Jimmy Page, I was the first English artist to record it. I am very proud of it as well of all the others on my new 1961 album, The Beginning."
Page first met Farlowe at a Thunderbirds gig and approached the band afterward to tell them how taken he was by Farlowe's singing and guitarist Bobby Taylor's playing. He then suggested that he produce a recording by the group. Once in the studio, Farlowe and the Thunderbirds laid down instrumentals and covers of songs by Ray Charles, Carl Perkins and others.
"The album contains some of the great R&B numbers and a few obscure tracks but it is a cracking record and, as it was recorded in 1961, it is somewhat historical as well," Farlowe says.
Page points out in the disc's liner notes that it's a snapshot of London rock from a time before the Beatles were recording and before Chicago blues captivated a generation of guitarists. When he looks back on the recording now, he tells Rolling Stone, it's evident to him that Farlowe, who would later sing on Page's Death Wish II soundtrack and Outrider solo album, had a talent that was one of a kind.
"Chris Farlowe took his talent through his musical career with sheer class and a unique persona to continue to build his reputation as an outstanding talent lauded by his contemporaries, so now pay heed to the beginning of a legend," Page says.
The album is available for preorder. It's available on vinyl and CD in standard and deluxe configurations; the latter features both Farlowe's and Page's autographs.