Led Zeppelin engineer says Jimmy Page performed “the best rock guitar solo ever” on “III”
When rock fans and critics rank the best guitar solos, they usually look to the more expensive tracks. You will see Jimi Hendrix there for “All Along the Watchtower”; David Gilmour’s solo “Comfortably Numb” will arrive shortly after. And Jimmy Page will be there for his work on “Stairway to Heaven”.
Page’s solo on Led Zeppelin’s most famous song is usually at the top of the list, in fact. When Guitar World ranked the 50 Best Guitar Projectors in 2009, there was “Stairway” at the top. A panel organized by Classic Rock magazine came to the same conclusion in 2016.
But Page doesn’t put “Stairway” at the top of its own list. “There are others that I prefer,” he told Classic Rock in ’16. “[But] if everyone says it’s my best solo then that’s great. Terry Manning, who designed Led Zeppelin III (1970), also believed that Page had better times than “Stairway”.
Before mixing the track with Page, Manning saw Zep’s guitar god deliver the solo on “Since I’ve Been Loving You”. Manning later didn’t just call it Page’s greatest solo; he called it the best rock solo ever recorded.
Led Zeppelin engineer called Jimmy Page’s “Since I’ve Been Loving You” solo the best of all time
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Although Manning made his debut when Page arrived in Memphis to complete Zep’s third album, the engineer continued to work for 50 years at the company. (It still is, actually.) In short, Manning has seen heavyweight guitarists come and go.
But for him, Page beat the pack with his solo “Since I Love You”. “It was done in one take, via a forgotten brand amplifier that belonged to any band that had previously recorded in the room,” Manning recalled in Led Zeppelin: The making of their legendary third album.
“No buttons, tones, sounds, etc. Really plug and play,” Manning said. “That’s how good Jimmy Page was.” When speaking with Barney Hoskyns about Zep’s hit fourth album, Manning called it “the best rock guitar solo of all time.”
But while Manning saw some magic in the studio that day, “Since I Love You” took a long way to complete. In fact, Page called it the most difficult track to record on Zep’s third album.
Page recalled how Led Zeppelin worked on “Since I Love You” before recording the solo
Manning saw Page do his “plug and play” act, but it was the culmination of several attempts to pull off “Since I Love You”. This may seem unusual for Zep fans who have grown accustomed to the band’s spirited take on the blues, which started making their debut in 1969.
“Playing the blues is actually the hardest thing you can do,” Page explained to Guitar World in 1993. “It’s very difficult to play something original.” Either way, Page got rid of it all and came up with something extraordinary for his solo.
Of course, it’s not just Page that shines on “Since I Love You”. Robert Plant delivers one of his best vocal performances on the track. And this is yet another showcase for Zep’s incomparable rhythm section. (John Bonham goes ballistic at several points.) But it’s definitely one of the many “Jimmy Page on Fire” moments.