When I was at school Led Zeppelin were popular. The softies liked groups like Duran Duran, Heaven 17 and Spandau Ballet and the heavies liked Led Zep, Rainbow, Saxon and Iron Maiden. In the quadrangle one dinner time I can remember some lads standing around a cassette player (the size of a suitcase) playing Stairway To Heaven over and over. It sounded ace. Later on I bought some Led Zeppelin albums and found that Jimmy Page was the guitarist. He’s still alive and here I am outside the Tower House in London where he lives part of his life.
Jimmy started as a studio session musician and by his mid twenties he was a member of the Yardbirds. Leaving them he founded Led Zeppelin. These days he’s considered to be one of the greatest guitarists; he’s number three in Rolling Stone magazine’s “Greatest Guitarists of All Time" (after Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton.) Those massive lucrative world tours must have made him millions. He lives here in when in London. It’s impressive from the outside but occasionally newspaper articles show the insides and it’s a portal to another time. It was designed by the self-styled “art architect” William Burges in the 13th-century French Gothic style. Though ugly he had lots of arty famous friends. Everything he loved went into Tower House because it was his home. Sadly he only lived here for three years before his death aged 53 (he died in his red bed in the Mermaid Room on the first floor.)
Much of the house’s contents were sold off in 1933 but Jimmy Page has done it justice but maintaining the fabric itself. There’s much to maintain - most horizontal and vertical surface are embellished or adorned. The idiosyncratic design, dense detail and overwhelming grandeur of the place means some visitors need to escape into back garden to gain some relief. Some walls in the hall need scaffolding and sugar-soaping by specialists. Jimmy first came to see this house in 1972 and though it was in dim evening light he said it “captured my heart”. He traded in a boathouse where he lived to buy this wondrous heap aged just 28.
Grade-one-listed houses like these must be fragile and unfortunately his neighbour is Robbie Williams who wants to put in a basement complex (despite his house having about 40 rooms.) I read said the council had agree the basement but it must be dug manually - no big diggers. Jimmy is so protective of the place that he doesn’t hold parties, has no television and only ever plays acoustic guitar. I think you'd be afraid to cough, cook a fried breakfast or put a cup of coffee down in such a marvellous place. Money buys young kisses doesn’t it and Jimmy lives here partly with his girlfriend (46 years younger) and partly in a mansion in the Berkshire countryside.
There were a few other geeks having around when I arrived. A workman was letting in a small truck and he looked across at us as if to say, "Lads, get an inflatable woman - or even a real one. What's wrong with you!?" This mansion is near Earls Court and I’d just been to Freddie Mercury’s former home which was also grand. The problem with central London is how tightly-packed it is. Jimmy is supposed to be worth £120 million so - if money allowed it - I’m sure he’d like to pick up this house and place it in a secluded green place behind big gates. I did a salute and left.