How did an obscure song that was languishing on YouTube for two years suddenly capture the interest of music journalists? Two words: Jimmy Page.
Here’s the scoop: on November 15, the guitar god shared via Twitter a cryptic message about legendary rapper Biggie Smalls, aka Notorious B.I.G., with a link to Page’s website, jimmypage.com. Visitors to Page’s website encountered a new song streaming: “Ramblize,” which is a mash-up of Notorious B.I.G.’s “Hypnotize” and Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On.” The song, which combines bits of Page’s acoustic guitar, Notorious B.I.G.’s rap, and some snatches of Robert Plant’s vocals, created an instant sensation, with publications such as Rolling Stone, Ultimate Classic Rock, and XXL writing fairly gushy articles about its emergence on Jimmypage.com. Rolling Stone asked, “Who knew Jimmy Page was a hip-hop head?”
But who actually made the mash-up and when is unclear. A version dated May 2011 appears on YouTube and was uploaded by YouTube user @theLionsRampant. In the comments field, one user remarked (November 17), “So jimmy page released this today as his own. The same exact thing. I love jimmy page he is my inspiration on guitar . . . but come on jimmy.”
Page didn’t exactly take credit for the song. He (or more likely someone on his staff presumably with his approval) simply uploaded it on his website (the song has been since moved to his Soundcloud site). And yet, he got the journalists buzzing as if he’d recorded a new track. How did that happen? Three reasons:
- First, Jimmy Page is, well, Jimmy Page. You or I uploading “Ramblize” on our websites is quite different than one of the most iconic rock stars in history sharing the song. When the famous Led Zeppelin guitarist speaks, the music cognoscenti listen. (Ironically, Led Zeppelin was critically maligned in its day.)
- But just as importantly, Jimmy Page maintains a relative cone of silence online. His digital persona is as reclusive and mysterious as he is reputed to be. Jimmypage.com is a gated site, requiring registration to unlock deeper content. His official Twitter account follows no one and has issued three tweets from November 1-21. (By contrast, Lady Gaga follows 135,000 people and has issued 111 tweets during the same period). Page maintains mystique, which is partially a byproduct of sharing little information about himself. So a single tweet from Jimmy Page’s account (even if he delegated the writing of the tweet to someone else) carries far more gravitas than would be the case if he overshared.
- Notorious B.I.G. is a legend as well. The rapper is credited with reinventing East Coast gangsta rap before being killed in a drive-by shooting in 1997. His music and death from a hail of bullets practically guaranteed he would join rapper Tupac Shakur to have a second career in death. A mash-up between Led Zeppelin and Vanilla Ice? Not so cool. But Notorious B.I.G. is a perfect alignment with the Led Zeppelin brand.
By carefully cultivating and protecting his image, Jimmy Page creates news even when there is no news.