Jimmy Page: His 5 Most Epic Riffs

Assessing the cream of the Led Zeppelin guitarist’s guitar oeuvre

Jimmy Page poster (Image: Reddit)

Few things in life are more difficult than picking just five guitar riffs to highlight from one of the true architects of the hard rock riff in Mr. Jimmy Page.

In honor of the Led Zeppelin guitarist’s 79th birthday this week, Rock & Roll Globe has put together a short list of our favorite riffs he’s developed since the former session musician joined The Yardbirds in 1967.

Now surely one must understand the subjective nature of this piece and recognize our stance that this list is not meant to be definitive. It is just the opinion of one fan who, after a careful listen, made a decision based upon the riffs with the most impact on the heart.

If you vehemently disagree with these picks, please feel free to comment down below. Thank you.

Dazed and Confused (1967)

Originally written in 1967 by American singer-songwriter Jake Holmes as a folk-rock screed against a bad romance, “Dazed and Confused” experienced a transformation of massive proportion once it fell into the hands of Jimmy Page. He first performed the tune during his brief stint in The Yardbirds on a rendition that stuck close to the original with only a glimpse of the shape of things to come. It wasn’t until Led Zeppelin’s 1968 eponymous debut did the song truly take flight, with new lyrics doubling down on Holmes’s lament and structured by a lumbering, foreboding guitar riff that no doubt helped plant a seed for the evolution of doom metal in the years to come. Zep would go on to perform “Dazed” more than 400 times in concert, stretching the tune to over a half-hour thanks to Page’s innovative jams that worked off the singularity of its ominous chord progression. 

 

VIDEO: Led Zeppelin “Dazed and Confused” live at Royal Albert Hall 1970

 

Whole Lotta Love (1969)

Until Donna Summer melted your speaker wires with “I Need Love,” the closest thing many of us experienced to a sonic orgasm was hearing Robert Plant’s hooting and hollering on “Whole.” But what anchors these amplified pangs of lust is one of Page’s most recognizable Zep riffs in the group’s catalog. A variation of a Willie Dixon tune called “You Need Love,” Page came up with the chord progression in the summer of 1968, on his houseboat on the River Thames at Pangbourne, Berkshire, England, performing it in the key of E major in a compound 32-bar form. It would go on to become one of the guitarist’s most lauded licks, landing on countless “Greatest Guitar Tracks” type listicles such as this one since it was released on Led Zeppelin II in 1969. Baby, I’m not foolin’.

 

VIDEO: Led Zeppelin “Whole Lotta Love”

 

The Wanton Song (1975)

For many fans, Zep’s 1975 double opus Physical Graffiti is considered the band’s greatest work–a menagerie of  English folk, Eastern music, prog rhythms and country vibes. But what really made it so essential for Ledheads are the crushing hard rock cuts scattered across its four sides. But “The Wanton Song” remains singular amongst the pack because it was written specifically around the riff Page came up with during the 1974 Headley Grange sessions from where much of the Physical material sprang. It also serves as a big favorite for both Plant and Page based on both its simplicity and power. “As far as I’m concerned, the riff in Led Zeppelin’s ‘The Wanton Song,’ for example, is the chorus,” Page told Guitar World in their February 2006 issue. “It could go on for a half an hour and I would be completely riveted and satisfied. It’s so powerful and concise that it never gets boring.”

 

AUDIO: Led Zeppelin “The Wanton Song”

 

Who’s To Blame (1982)

The lead track off Page’s severely slept-on soundtrack to Death Wish II kicks off with a song that sounds like the full realization of the direction he was going in fusing guitars and synths on In Through The Out Door into one meaty, beaty riff. And with legendary British belter Chris Farlowe on lead vocals, “Who’s To Blame” captures a glimpse of how Jimmy’s mid-80s could have sounded if he chose to record with this particular studio lineup–which also featured original Alan Parsons Project bassist David Paton and Fairport Convention’s Dave Mattacks on drums–instead of The Firm. 

 

AUDIO: Jimmy Page “Who’s To Blame”

 

Wasting My Time (1988)

The lead single and opening track from Page’s only proper solo album Outrider, “Wasting My Time” roared into 1988 with a ferocity on par with his most visceral riffs in Led Zeppelin. Featuring former Firm mate Tony Franklin on bass, Jason Bonham on drums and lead vocals by the late John Miles, the song’s primal nature was clearly a warning shot to those in the glam metal community trying to cop Zep’s moves for their own flamboyant purposes. “Outrider’s all right,” the guitarist told Uncut in 2009. “It’s demo-like compared with those overproduced albums that came out at the time. It didn’t do very well—doesn’t matter—but I did tour. I was playing music on that tour going right back to The Yardbirds. Jason [Bonham] was the drummer on that tour.”

 

VIDEO: Jimmy Page “Wasting My Time”

 

 

 

 

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Ron Hart

Ron Hart is the Editor-in-Chief of Rock and Roll Globe. Reach him on Twitter @MisterTribune.

3 thoughts on “Jimmy Page: His 5 Most Epic Riffs

  • January 14, 2023 at 7:15 pm
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    “Since I’ve been loving you”. Master guitar riff. There’s so many great one’s 😅

    Reply
  • January 17, 2023 at 8:44 pm
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    For me the riffs he played on the live version of Since I’ve Been Loving You along with Stairway, No Quarter, Whole Lotta Love, and The Ocean on The Song Remains the Same documentary film/album beat the studio versions all to hell and are at the top of my list. Pretty hard to exclude his slide play on When the Levee Breaks or the lead part on Hearbreaker.

    Reply
  • January 18, 2023 at 3:18 pm
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    I think people forget about a album Mr page done with Roy Harper called what ever happened to jugula there are some amazing riffs on that album that totally out weigh wasting my time,but don’t get me wrong outrider is amazing,most people wouldn’t even of herd the page/Harper album ul be lucky to be even able to buy it,

    Reply

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