Sunday, February 22, 2009

Creationism

The Thieving Magpie guy claims that Jimmy stole his violin bow schtick from The Creation.

I'd never heard the Creation and assumed they were buried in Mod history. Not so! YouTube reviveth those who have otherwise passed on, and they have The Creation in living B&W, of course. First, the claims.

From Thieving Magpie:
Page was not the first guitarist to use a violin bow. He was a favorite session musician of famed producer, Shel Talmy. Talmy had used Page on session work for the Who and the Kinks among others. One of Talmy's pet projects was a band called the Creation. Eddie Phillips, lead guitarist of said group, had employed a violin bow on his guitar on two 1966 singles, "Painter Man" and "Making Time." It's worth musing over whether Page ever happened to see Phillips use the violin bow in the studio.
Talmy himself had no doubts about it. In the book, Unknown Legends of Rock 'n' Roll, he shared his views on Eddie Phillips and Jimmy Page with author Richie Unterberger. "He [Phillips] was one of the most innovative guitarists I've ever run across. Jimmy Page stole the bowing bit of the guitar from Eddie. Eddie was phenomenal," Talmy said.

(If you want to read a more balanced set of notes about Led Zeppelin's 'plagiarism' or borrowing, try the huge selection at zharth.net.)

Eddie Phillips, The Creation's guitarist, has no doubt how Page's violin bow technique was discovered. In Guitar Player Magazine, April 07 it stated:

When did you begin playing with a bow, and why?
That was around 1964, and it began with a desire to create sustained notes. I tried using a hacksaw with the blade replaced by a .046-gauge guitar string, but that didn’t work, so I tried out the bow. That didn’t work at first, either, until I realized that I had to rosin it!

Did Jimmy Page steal the idea from you?
Yes!
Jimmy Page feels differently.

Interview in Guitar Player, July 1977
g.p.:When was the first time you used the bow?
j.p.:The first time i recorded with it was with the Yardbirds. but the idea was put to me by a classical string player when i was doing studio work. One of us tried to bow
the guitar; then we tried it between us, and it worked. At that point i was just blowing it, but the other effects I've obviously come up with on my own - using wah-wah and echo. You have to put rosin on the bow, and the rosin sticks to the string and makes it vibrate.
In a 1986 Interview with Steven Rosen Jimmy Page said:
At times, the sounds you create with the bow and the wah-wah [his main effect
during the hewing sequences] and the Les Paul seem to be generated by a guitar
synthesizer.


JP: Yeah, that’s it. Except it’s immediately controllable like that [snaps fingers] with a wah-wah. Obviously it’s a hit-and-miss approach sometimes with the bow—it doesn’t always react if there’s humidity in the hall, which is a bit of a drag but you can keep rosining it [the bow]. Obviously, it’s not an arched neck like a violin or a cello, but sometimes you can come close to hitting a full chord with it. And that’s alright. But if it’s a humid atmosphere, it doesn’t. I’ve never spoken to a violinist about it actually; whether the humidity can affect the rosin to the bow to the strings. I’m sure it must, though.

The Les Paul lends itself better to the bowing than the Telecaster or a Stratocaster?

JP: It works on them all, really.

[Tim Marten interjects that it relates to the ‘Physical aspects of the curvature of the bridge.” To this end, Marten sawed the Les Paul bridge to create a more violinesque-type housing and raising the strings to allow for more accurate bowing.]

Yeah, he did that. And it was purely because it was so hit-and-miss. Sometimes it would be dead on and then you wouldn’t change a thing and it wouldn’t work. Last night [referring to The Firm's performance at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Florida] I didn’t think it came off at all. Not as well as it should have done. It’s almost like pulling at it and that’s alright but when the bow just goes right across the strings it doesn’t work. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t—but you’ve got to try it.
Jimmy Page Interview with David Fricke in Rolling Stone June 2008
What attracted you to the bow? It is the signature sound in "Dazed and
Confused."

It was proposed to me when I was doing studio work. One of the session violinists was the father of David McCallum, the actor in the TV show The Man From U.N.C.L.E. String players would keep to themselves, but this guy was quite friendly. He said to me one day — we'd just finished a session — "Have you ever tried bowing the guitar?" I said it wouldn't work. The strings aren't arched over the guitar, the way they are on a violin. He said, "Have a go." He gave me a bow. I tried it and realized there was something in it. I don't remember if I used it on any sessions, but I certainly used it the minute I was in the Yardbirds [notably on the 1967 single "Little Games"].
Anyway, here is The Creation playing Making Time in 1966, i.e. before the Yardbirds did Dazed and Confused. Violin bow ahoy at about 1.40. Isn't that guy perfect? He's like an ultra-Mod, outmods even Pete Townshend. His hair is so hip, you could wear it that way today.



But this song, Painter Man, is the clincher. Not only does this feature a violin bowed guitar, but it also has the guitarist guy whipping the singer with the horsehair. (1.50 Singer looks nonplussed.) This is obviously where Jimmy stole his whip thing from. And the lyrics are about a guy who went to art school to do fine art and ended up a mess - clearly inspiring Jimmy page to leave art and become a famous musician.

History is nice and simple.


Actually, his bowed guitar sounds great. Much more musical and integral than Jimmy's eerie effects.

Chris Welch, in Led Zeppelin: Dazed and Confused : The Stories Behind Every Song, reiterates the David McCallum story and adds:
In Page's hands, the bow became not only a symbol showmanship, but a magical device, creating extraordinary sounds never heard before. He used the technique with the Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin and his 1985 band The Firm.


**

3 comments:

Cathy said...

Oh, goodness, it's clearly the other way 'round (over under sideways down...) Page worked as a session musician between 1963 and 1966, which the period he says he began playing around with a bow. After first being approached in 1964, Page joined the Yardbirds in '66. He'd been using the bow for some time by then. Coincidence that The Creation (started in 1966) were Talmy's project and Talmy also worked with Page? I think not.

Page was in art school from 1962 - 1964, so the song "Painter Man" ('67) may actually have been about him.

ROFL at the singer being whipped.

PS - totally love your blog.

PPS - I escaped the deluge under the canopy at the '07 Greenman festival the same time you did. What a shame we didn't meet!

Cathy said...

Oh, one other thing - the Thieving Magpie (what an ironic name, since his entire claim to fame is his hatred of Page, rather than anything he's done on his own) - the Thieving Magpie says it himself, and I quote: "This was a gimmick [Page]had incorporated into his bag of tricks back in his studio days..." ie, prior to 1966.

Peromyscus said...

Hi Cathy! I can't tell if Eddie Philips' answer to the question about whether Page stole it off him has an exclamation mark because he was shouting or because he was laughing - it makes a big difference and it just doesn't come acrros in print. I don't see any reason to believe him over Page about it, and I don't really care that much! It's music, and music is all about everyone trying ideas and seeing what works best for them. The Thieving Magpie guy sees it all as a property issue instead of a making-fans-happy issue and that's a poor way to look at musicians in my opinion.

Nice to finally 'meet' you, Cathy. Maybe Plant will play with SS some time in the future and we'll be able to crowd the stage together again.

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