Page has gone on record to say that his time with The Yardbirds was productive and ultimately invaluable – the band gave him plenty of space to improvise, experiment and build a catalog of riffs and song ideas that would later come to life in one of the most successful rock bands of all time.
Some might wonder how Zeppelin was able to write so many classics, but it largely has its roots in Page’s time with the Yardbirds. Page knew what he wanted to do with Zeppelin – a mix of blues, hard rock and acoustic music with heavy choruses – and because he was prepared, that’s exactly what he got.
But getting back to the focus of this article, which is Page’s guitar work as a Yardbird, what were some of his highlights? What were his most imaginative guitar solos?
Page only recorded one album with The Yardbirds titled Little Games (1967). The 10-track LP is largely what you would expect from rock and roll of the time. What we like about the album is that it’s diverse, with a mix of blues-rock/rock and roll, psychedelia, acoustic instrumentals and more.
The 1992 expanded edition, Little Games Sessions & More included the original album as well as several singles, outtakes and alternate takes or mixes. Since Page didn’t have many conventional solos on the original LP, we’ll consider the additional songs fair game in this retrospective. But we’ll also look at some of the other best guitar moments.
Smile On Me
Approximating a straight up 12-bar blues, “Smile On Me” features a couple of extended solo sections.
We don’t think the solos are radically innovative or imaginative, certainly not by today’s standards. If you listen to it now, you may even say to yourself, “heard it before.”
But acts like The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream were just coming on the scene around the time of this album’s release, and in those days this style of soloing was still considered daring and exploratory. So, we can’t dish on it too much.
“White Summer” is an instrumental that puts Page’s acoustic guitar front and center.
This is a brilliant bit of guitar playing all its own even if it’s not a guitar solo. And, it seems to allude to what was to come with Zeppelin, with shades of “Over The Hills And Far Away”.
Drinking Muddy Water
An excellent blues-rock tune. The harp may well be the highlight of the track, but there’s some great slide guitar playing throughout as well.
No Excess Baggage
Although not complex by any means, we think “No Excess Baggage” is the catchiest tune on the album.
It also features an all-too-brief guitar solo, which is not standout by any means, but it does fit the tune nicely.
The fuzz-drenched outro solo on “Puzzles” is psychedelic and is certainly a product of its time. Though raw and unpolished, we happen to like it a lot.
Goodnight Sweet Josephine
The Beatles-esque “Goodnight Sweet Josephine” features a layer of guitars, from a 12-string acoustic to a dirty electric.
And, we think it has one of the best solos on the album, even if it is a little brief, with bluesy licks over a major sounding progression and plenty of bends.