Wednesday, November 5, 2014, was one of those days I have dreamed about ever since I was 14 years old, when Led Zeppelin became my favorite band: meeting Jimmy Page.
When Page’s 500 page photographic autobiography book came out on October 14, I went to the Barnes & Noble Union Square location to purchase it, knowing that Page would be there for a book signing in a few weeks. The man behind the Information counter told me the book had not arrived yet, but that they were expecting 1,000 people for the signing, so the shipment might be delayed for that reason. So I just ordered it on Amazon. When the book arrived two days later I sat down and poured over it, finishing the entire book in three hours. Incredible photos, most of which I’d never seen before, underscored by sparse, pinpoint word descriptions. Two favorites are Page with Brian Jones, in 1966, and Page, in British recording studio, playing the violin bow on his guitar, with a huge picture of Duke Ellington on my wall. My father’s biggest hero and mine, in the same photo.
Still thinking there would be 1,000 people at the event, I left home around 7am, to get on line for the wrist band, which would be handed out at 10am, when the store opened. They were giving wrist bands only if you purchased a book ($52 at B&N, while $37 at Amazon). No problem. When I heard he’d be signing up to two books, but you could only purchase one at the store, I figured I’d go home and get the second one. However, we were told Page would only be handling 250 people. Fortunately, I was number 170 on the line, so I was locked in. Heart beat surged.
My brother Damian planned to spend some time with me, taking photos, when the event began at 7pm, so we arranged to meet beforehand. However, they didn’t let him upstairs, as the fourth floor was closed off for the event, so he spent time reading books in B&N. Not a bad way to pass the time.
As I sat in the room, I got nervous. What will I say, what will I do, how will I deal with my favorite living hero? The line was going at a snail’s pace, as I chatted with those close to me, the same people I’d spent 3.5 hours waiting on line earlier that day. (To pass the time, I graded more than 25 Atlas Shrugged essays for this year’s contest.) When that was done I started socializing. Everyone was nice.
We sat in the 15th row from the stage. When Page came in applause greeted him. He said a few words, and then they proceeded with the book signing. An hour later, still sitting, but with heart increasing its pace, there were three more rows of people in front of us, waiting for signatures. Then we were told that he’d only sign one book, instead of two. Bummer. That meant I’d have only half the time I anticipated. Better get right to the point and not waste any time. There were so many other restrictions that it almost took the joy out of the event. Not quite.
Then came our row. There were parents and a teenage son together, in front of me, and I asked the boy to take some photos, as the best angle for photos took place after coming came off the stage area.
Finally, it was my turn. There were around seven or eight people on stage with Page, but he was the only one sitting. Not actually signing, but stamping his famous ZOSO symbol into each book. That was fine as far as I was concerned. I just want to shake his hand. They took my book as I walked up. Page and I shook hands, smiling at each other.
I showed him my Led Zeppelin 1977 tour t-shirt and said I had attended four of those shows at Madison Square Garden. He smiled in return and said, “You’re one of the lucky ones.” I replied, “absolutely!”
Then, as he stamped the book, I merely said “Thank you for all the great music through the years.” He looked up at me and stuck his hand out again, for me to shake it.
Over and out. The guys standing to his right handed me my book. Best 30 second encounter of my life.
The boy who took the photos got some decent ones, and some bad ones. (I promised to hold his heavy blue bag in exchange for him taking photos.) The best ones are included.
Next, I went down to see Damian, we had some tea together, and I lost my voice explaining what I’d just experienced. Damian took some more photos of me in the store—the same store I’d been to so many times, and often bringing out-of-towners—and didn’t want to leave. Thanks Dame!
Next was the tough part, as I described all the other things I wanted to say, including my Rockline call in, where I got to ask him and Robert Plant about my favorite Zeppelin song, In My Time of Dying. Too little, too late.
While waiting on line some people discussed the Page interview at the 92nd St. Y from a few nights earlier. I didn’t want to splurge for the $150 cost, but found the link to the excellent interview afterwards.
Before we left the store I felt in my jacket pocket and pulled out the baseball card of me, which I had signed for Page. (I figured if I couldn’t get his autograph, at least I’d give him mine. Plus, the back of the card mentions how much I enjoy listening to the music of Led Zeppelin.) However, the bodyguards at the table would likely have tossed me from the line if I tried to give him something.
I could give the proverbial, “Now I can die” expression, but tomorrow I’ll be at a filmed interview with Geddy Lee of Rush, with only 50 audience members. This will be another thrill. What a week! Now, if I could only meet Neil Peart…
Whole Lotta Love,