Jimmy Page Tells the Mystical Story of His ’59 Telecaster in Animated Short
The Mystical Journey of Jimmy Page’s 59 Telecaster shows the root Led Zeppelin's musical alchemy.
Jimmy Page brought a special magic to Led Zeppelin. Or so it’s been charged. Page studied the works of Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn founder Aleister Crowley as well as sacred geometry and the Sacred Book of Abramelin. But the biggest magic wand the former session man wielded was the mystical Telecaster guitar, vintage: 1959. In the tradition of blues legend Robert Johnson, this 1959 Fender Telecaster was given to him by Jeff Beck, who passed it on as he passed on his gig with The Yardbirds. Beck delivered the guitar in a Blue Corvette Stingray. Page practiced backwards masking, and Fender is paying it forward in the Jimmy Page Mirror Telecaster.
Modeled after the famous guitar Page plucked, strummed and bowed, Fender dropped the guitar as part of the Led Zeppelin 50th anniversary celebration. To further celebrate the mirrored Telecaster. Jeremy Taylor, Vice President of Fender Global Brand Creative, brought in Nexus Studios for the short animated film The Mystical Journey of Jimmy Page’s ‘59 Telecaster. The film is narrated by Page.
Nexus Studios’ Directors Smith and Foulkes, and their team of animators, shaped the film around Page’s “own testimony.” “Through animation, we struck an authentic balance between brand marketing and product storytelling to create a unique visual experience to launch the Mirror Telecaster,” Taylor said in a statement. The film captures “a pivotal moment in the history of rock music,” according to the press statement. “A seamlessly fluid psychedelic musical journey, the film charts the famous guitar’s significance in Jimmy’s development as a visionary artist.”
You can watch the short promotional film here:
Few guitars are as important to the history of music culture as the “Dragon” Telecaster Page played for Led Zeppelin I, which came out on January 12, 1969. “The story of the instrument is the whole journey of it – from Jeff having it, to passing it on to me with such good spirit,” Page said in a statement. “It’s a lot of love in that gesture and the journey of it through The Yardbirds and how it was used on the first Led Zeppelin album…the journey all the way through here today. Now, it’s been restored back to its true beauty and we’ve actually been able to sort of clone it.”
When Page first got the guitar, it was undecorated in its factory White Blonde finish. The animators visually convey the atmosphere and energy behind Page’s personalization of the Telecaster. “I got to the point where I wanted to consecrate this guitar and really make it my own,” Page said in an interview at the Fender factory in Corona Calif. “In The Yardbirds, I was having to build my own identity within that group. I tried applying mirrors to it so you could use it in an optical way with the lights and shine the mirrors on people while you were playing.”
Page added eight round mirrors to the body of the guitar to give it a kinetic element In February 1967. “In the `60s, you’d see mirrors appearing in fashion,” he added. “You know…especially in women’s clothes, on jackets and skirts. And you’d see it appearing in artwork and in displays and things.”
By mid-1967, Page who had art school training, removed the mirrors, stripped the guitar down to bare wood, and repainted it with the iconic “Dragon” design. Page partially painted over the stripped 1959 Telecaster with darts and curls of green, orange, yellow, blue and red in a pattern that formed something of a swirling, psychedelic dragon. It was featured on the Anderson Theatre show “Yardbirds 68.”
The Dragon Telecaster was Page’s main axe to grind Led Zeppelin into a band, which they became in October 1968, getting their name from Keith Moon from The Who, who believed that’s how the New Yardbirds would go down. Page played it on stage and in the studio until 1969.
When Page came back from a tour in 1969, he found a friend stripped the body and painted over the dragon design. The paint job compromised the wiring, leaving only the neck pickup working. Page salvaged the neck and put it on his brown string bender Tele, and has since re-stripped and restored the body in full.
Fender released a second short film, telling the story of the transformation, which you can watch here:
“Jimmy actually invited us to his house in London to spec the guitar out,” said Fender Custom Shop Master Builder Paul Waller, who Page worked closely with during Fender’s reissue process to makes sure every detail was accurately recreated. “More than a year later, we’ve managed to bring this guitar and the evolution of Jimmy’s career back to life. As the guitar evolved, so did Jimmy’s career. As the Dragon is born, he moves in and Led Zeppelin is born as well. It’s a pivotal moment for the guitar and music.”
Fender Musical Instruments Corporation released details on the four Artist Signature guitars modeled after Page’s famous 1959 Fender Telecaster. “Jimmy Page visited the Fender Custom Shop late last year to personally work on each of these guitars with Paul Waller,” said Mike Lewis, VP of Product Development for Fender Custom Shop. “It was incredible to see his shared passion for these guitars in action, as he touched each and every one. This is what the Fender Custom Shop is all about – building dreams for our artists, as well as collectors and guitar players everywhere.”
Two models will be produced in the Fender Custom Shop – dubbed the “Limited Edition Jimmy Page Telecaster Set”; the set will be available at select authorized showcase dealers globally, beginning March 2019. Additionally, two models will be made on Fender’s production lines, and released in Spring/Summer 2019.
Details from the manufacturer for the guitar geek. Among the four Artist Signature models will be two highly collectible, limited edition Fender Custom Shop versions masterbuilt by Fender Custom Shop Master Builder veteran Paul Waller – one with mirrors and the other with the painted dragon. For $25,000, the set will be available for local authorized showcase dealers to purchase and then sell together or separately to consumers. Beginning March 2019, only 50 units of each Fender Custom Shop model will be made available; they include Page’s personal touches, such as a handwritten signature on the headstock of the mirror model, as well as hand-painted flourishes on the guitar body’s dragon artwork and personally-signed Certificates of Authenticity for both models.
In addition to the Fender Custom Shop models, Fender will roll out both mirror and painted versions from its production lines in Spring and Summer 2019, respectively. Priced from $1,399.99-$2,499.99. These will not be hand-signed or hand-painted by the artist, although Page did advise Fender first-hand on creation of the design to make sure the guitars were true-to-spec of the original Telecaster.
In addition to personal touches from Page, the Fender Custom Shop models feature an off-center-seam, two-piece ash body; a pair of Fender Custom Shop Hand-Wound ‘58 single-coil pickups; a tinted maple “Oval C” neck matching the profile of Page’s original instrument; Clear and White Vinyl pickguards on the “Dragon” and mirror models, respectively.; ‘59 top-load Tele® bridge; 7.25”-radius rosewood fingerboard matching the specs of the era, right down to the 21 vintage-sized frets. The “Dragon” model includes a custom hardshell flight case, white seatbelt-style strap, super-long white leather strap, red coiled cable, violin bow, rosin, Herco® guitar picks and Page-signed Certificate of Authenticity. The mirror model includes a vintage-style tweed hardshell case, black coiled cable, Ace “Stained Glass” fabric strap, Herco guitar picks and Page-signed Certificate of Authenticity.
Unlike the “exact” Fender Custom Shop reproductions, the production models include: a custom “Oval C”-shaped maple neck; ’50s Tele two-piece body; top-loader bridge for through-body or top-load stringing; custom single-coil pickups; lacquer finish; vintage tweed case with eight round mirrors (a tribute to the custom treatment Jimmy applied to the guitar); black coil cable; satin lacquer finish over a reproduction of Jimmy Page’s iconic artwork; a deluxe black case and red coil cable.
All Jimmy Page models will be available throughout 2019 and will be available at local dealers.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.