Jimmy Page remembers first dates as the New Yardbirds: ‘It was pretty radical’

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When Keith Relf and Jim McCarty decided to move toward folk around March of 1968, that left the Yardbirds without a leader, and without a direction. There were already-scheduled dates, however, so remaining members Chris Dreja and Jimmy Page set about rebuilding the lineup — but then Dreja bowed out, too.

The stage was set for the so-called New Yardbirds, a configuration that remained toward October of that year before officially — with the addition of Robert Plant, John Bonham and John Paul Jones in place — became Led Zeppelin.

“It was like a cloak of invisibility, really,” Page says of the New Yardbirds’ earliest moments, in a new talk with Cuepoint. “We had one rehearsal with the four members in my house, and we rehearsed what was going to be the new album to record, and also a set so we could go out there. There was a handful of Yardbirds dates in Scandinavia that were left over, once the band had dissolved, so it gave the opportunity to play this stuff in front of an audience and really be on it by the time we went in the studio.”

Some vestige of the Yardbirds name may have remained, but Page — as heard in the transformation of “Dazed and Confused” — was headed in a new direction now. Audiences, he admits now, were hardly ready for what hit them. “Not really, no,” he says. “It was pretty radical from anything else that they’d heard, that’s for sure. But it was meant to be. It was meant to scare the pants off of you!”

Led Zeppelin lasted until the death of Bonham in 1980, though there have been the occasional reunions in the years since. The Yardbirds, meanwhile, reformed around the core pair of McCarty and Dreja in the early 1990s. The current lineup includes original guitarist Top Topham, after Dreja’s retirement.

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