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Jimmy Page Before Led Zeppelin: 20 Great Sixties Session Songs

Delve into the guitar great’s sideman career with this comprehensive playlist, featuring the Stones, Bowie, Donovan and many more

In the late 1960s and throughout the Seventies, Jimmy Page helped shape and define the future of rock & roll with his work in the Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin. However, in the years prior, he’d already made an immeasurable impact on the sound of popular music by way of the hundreds and perhaps even thousands of recording sessions he sat in on as an anonymous face in the many studios that dotted London at the time.

Whether it was jamming on a rock track with the Kinks, the Rolling Stones or the Who, playing the blues with Otis Spann, or providing the backbone to pop hits by Marianne Faithfull and Shirley Bassey, Page was a true Renaissance man who had little trouble handling any style that came his way. And while the full scale of Page’s session discography may never really be known, there are more than enough compelling examples to prove the significance of the future icon’s early work. Here are 20 tracks that every Page enthusiast needs to know.

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DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 10 : Guitarist Jimmy Page of the rock band "The Yardbirds" poses for a portrait before their show at Green's Pavilion in Lakeview Park on August 10, 1966 in Manitou Beach, MI. (Photo by Wilson Lindsay/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Wilson Lindsay/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Vashti Bunyan, “Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind” (1965)

Originally written by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger for the duo Dick and Dee Dee in 1964, the song made its way to Vashti Bunyan the following year after the Stones recorded their own version, which they decided to keep locked up in the vaults. Bunyan's take was produced by Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham and overseen by Page, who at that point was acting as an in-house producer for Oldham's Immediate Records label. Much like Bunyan's 1970 debut album, Just Another Diamond Day, the song didn't do much on the charts and only got its due much later as part of her 2007 compilation of the same name.

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DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 10 : Guitarist Jimmy Page of the rock band "The Yardbirds" poses for a portrait before their show at Green's Pavilion in Lakeview Park on August 10, 1966 in Manitou Beach, MI. (Photo by Wilson Lindsay/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Wilson Lindsay/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Nico, “The Last Mile” (1965)

Years before German-born singer Nico ever ran into Andy Warhol and joined up with the Velvet Underground, she was just another model-actress struggling to jumpstart a career in music. After running into Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones in 1965, she was handed off to Andrew Loog Oldham, who agreed to sign her to a short-term deal with Immediate Records. Oldham teamed her with in-house producer Page, who co-wrote this song with Oldham to serve as the B-side to single "The Last Mile." Featuring Page's acoustic guitar alone, the song is truly arresting, a generous preview of the sounds and styles that would mark both artists' music in the years to come.

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DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 10 : Guitarist Jimmy Page of the rock band "The Yardbirds" poses for a portrait before their show at Green's Pavilion in Lakeview Park on August 10, 1966 in Manitou Beach, MI. (Photo by Wilson Lindsay/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Wilson Lindsay/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

The Who, “Bald Headed Woman” (1965)

Page actually played on both this song and its more popular A-side, "I Can't Explain," but as he revealed in an interview with David Fricke back in 2012 about the latter track, "I don't know, really, why I was brought in. I'm playing the riff, in the background — behind Pete Townshend. I didn't need to be there. You can barely hear me. But it was magical to be in the control room." Page's contributions are much more prevalent on "Bald Headed Woman," where he lays down a distinctive lead line that intertwines with Daltrey's wailing harmonica on the back half of the song.

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DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 10 : Guitarist Jimmy Page of the rock band "The Yardbirds" poses for a portrait before their show at Green's Pavilion in Lakeview Park on August 10, 1966 in Manitou Beach, MI. (Photo by Wilson Lindsay/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Wilson Lindsay/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

The Manish Boys, “I Pity the Fool” (1965)

The Manish Boys might have just been another forgotten British Invasion band that never fully made it off the blocks if not for the fact David Bowie was a member of the group while he was still going by his given name, Davie Jones. Recorded by the Boys on January 15, 1965, "I Pity the Fool" — a standard-issue white-boy-blues take on the original, written and performed by Bobby Bland four years earlier — was released two months later to veritable crickets. The real highlight of the track remains Page's high-pitched, messy solo thrown in the middle.

The effort wasn't all for naught, however. According to Bowie himself, it was during this session that Page gifted him with the riff that he would use for his song "The Supermen" off his 1970 album, The Man Who Sold the World.

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DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 10 : Guitarist Jimmy Page of the rock band "The Yardbirds" poses for a portrait before their show at Green's Pavilion in Lakeview Park on August 10, 1966 in Manitou Beach, MI. (Photo by Wilson Lindsay/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Wilson Lindsay/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Marianne Faithfull, “In My Time of Sorrow” (1965)

One of the rare pre-Zeppelin tracks where Page received a writing credit, "In My Time of Sorrow" was penned by the guitarist alongside his then-girlfriend and "What the World Needs Now" singer Jackie DeShannon and was written specifically for Faithfull for inclusion on her 1965 self-titled studio LP. It's a pretty run-of-the-mill pop track, most remarkable for the jaunty harpsichord accents and Faithfull's own vocal warble. After helping to record the track, Page would back the singer during a short tour of Europe.

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DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 10 : Guitarist Jimmy Page of the rock band "The Yardbirds" poses for a portrait before their show at Green's Pavilion in Lakeview Park on August 10, 1966 in Manitou Beach, MI. (Photo by Wilson Lindsay/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Wilson Lindsay/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Donovan, “Sunshine Superman” (1966)

Along with his future Led Zeppelin bandmate John Paul Jones, Page booked quite a number of sessions with acclaimed Scottish singer-songwriter Donovan in the latter half of the Sixties. In addition to this number, Page is reported to have worked with him on the songs "Hurdy Gurdy Man," Teen Angel" and "The Trip." "Sunshine Superman" is a trippy bit of psychedelia that was inspired by the superhero of the title — originally released as a single in July, 1966, the track would lay the groundwork for an LP of the same name released the following month. In 2011, Page would reunite with Donovan to perform the song, along with "Mellow Yellow," at one of the singer's gigs at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

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DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 10 : Guitarist Jimmy Page of the rock band "The Yardbirds" poses for a portrait before their show at Green's Pavilion in Lakeview Park on August 10, 1966 in Manitou Beach, MI. (Photo by Wilson Lindsay/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Wilson Lindsay/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

The Fleur De Lys, “Circles” (1966)

Page's history with the Fleur De Lys — another one of Andrew Loog Oldham's Immediate Records signings — began with the single "Moondreams" in 1965. He hooked up with the band again the next year to produce and play on this cover of a Pete Townshend–penned Who track that had been mired in legal hell after a lawsuit from that group's producer Shel Talmy forced the band to pull it from their single for "Substitute." The Fleur De Lys version is much more energized and disorienting than the original and finds Page adding his signature blend of six-string mania and menace to the Technicolor arrangement.

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DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 10 : Guitarist Jimmy Page of the rock band "The Yardbirds" poses for a portrait before their show at Green's Pavilion in Lakeview Park on August 10, 1966 in Manitou Beach, MI. (Photo by Wilson Lindsay/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Wilson Lindsay/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Jeff Beck, “Beck’s Bolero” (1967)

As he was preparing to get to work on his first solo single after leaving the Yardbirds in 1966, Jeff Beck decided to reach out to his old bandmate and childhood friend Jimmy Page to lend a hand by producing the session and putting together a band to back him in the studio. Page put out the call and enlisted John Paul Jones to play bass and the Who's Keith Moon to play drums while he would play a 12-string electric rhythm, allowing Beck to take the lead.

The song, based on the rhythm of French composer Maurice Ravel's orchestral piece Boléro, was recorded at IBC Studios in London on May 16, 1966, but wouldn't be released for another 10 months, as the B-side to "Hi Ho Silver Lining." The four players involved were so enthusiastic about the results that day, however, that talk started up about forming a real band out of the project. Moon had one of the lines of the century when he quipped that the project would "go over like a lead balloon." Thus, the seeds of what would become Led Zeppelin were sown in Page's mind.

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DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 10 : Guitarist Jimmy Page of the rock band "The Yardbirds" poses for a portrait before their show at Green's Pavilion in Lakeview Park on August 10, 1966 in Manitou Beach, MI. (Photo by Wilson Lindsay/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Wilson Lindsay/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Johnny Hallyday, “A Tout Casser” (1968)

Touted early on in his career as the "French Elvis," by 1968, Hallyday was one of the biggest names in Europe. He would go on to log two back-to-back Number One albums in his home country that year, and two more the next. The fourth track on his album Jeune Homme, "A Tout Casser" (or "Breaking Everything" in English) is a full-on wailing psychedelic breakdown that fits in comfortably with what Page had only just been trying to do with the Yardbirds before they melted down. It's a stunning number replete with panned sounds, backwards echo and wah-inflected guitar licks, all signature elements that the guitarist would employ to great effect in the years to come.

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DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 10 : Guitarist Jimmy Page of the rock band "The Yardbirds" poses for a portrait before their show at Green's Pavilion in Lakeview Park on August 10, 1966 in Manitou Beach, MI. (Photo by Wilson Lindsay/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Wilson Lindsay/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Joe Cocker, “With a Little Help From My Friends” (1968)

With a little bit of downtime between the fall of the Yardbirds and the rise of Led Zeppelin in 1968, Page decided to re-enter the studio to help out British blues wailer Joe Cocker with his debut solo album, With a Little Help From My Friends. But while the guitarist ultimately contributed parts to five different songs on that record, it's the titular Beatles cover that really stands out. Right from the outset, Page makes his presence known with a vibrato-tinted howl from his electric guitar and proceeds to match Cocker's inimitable snarl moment for moment throughout the song. It was yet another Number One hit for Page, and the first of two for Cocker.

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DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 10 : Guitarist Jimmy Page of the rock band "The Yardbirds" poses for a portrait before their show at Green's Pavilion in Lakeview Park on August 10, 1966 in Manitou Beach, MI. (Photo by Wilson Lindsay/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Wilson Lindsay/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

P.J. Proby, “Jim’s Blues” (1969)

This track is notable not just for the inclusion of Jimmy Page, but for featuring the entire lineup of Led Zeppelin before they even recorded their first album. John Paul Jones had been enlisted to arrange and play on Proby's Three Week Hero album months before he joined up with Page, Robert Plant and John Bonham to form the New Yardbirds. When the date came up for this session, rather than blow it off, he apparently decided instead to ask his new bandmates if they wouldn't mind lending a hand, a request to which they readily agreed. This wasn't exactly Page's first go-around with P.J. Proby, either: The guitarist had worked with him years before on his 1964 Top 10 hit "Hold Me."

Unlike many of the sessions that Page sat in on during his early career, this one comes the closest to approximating the sound that would come to define most of his work with Led Zeppelin. With Plant's added harmonica part, and the slow, bluesy tempo and feel, the track actually bears a striking resemblance to Zeppelin's cover of the Muddy Waters classic "You Shook Me." (It should also be pointed out that the Jim named in the song's title isn't Page, but rather Proby himself, who was born James Marcus Smith.)

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