Picture from documentary “It Might Get Loud” by Davis Guggenheim featuring Jack White, Jimmy Page, and The Edge
Story and Photos by Tom Wallace
On June 19th in Westwood on the Westside of Los Angeles, the LA Film Festival got underway starting with the highly anticipated documentary by “Inconvenient Truth” director Davis Guggenheim, called “It Might Get Loud.” Featuring the history of the electric guitar, the story weaves through legends that have used the guitar as their voice in very different ways, featuring Jimmy Page (from Led Zeppelin), The Edge (from U2), and Jack White (from The White Stripes, Raconteurs, and Dead Weather).
The best part of most film fests is that you often get to meet the directors for a Q&A post movie, but in this case, we lucked out because 2 of the 3 legends featured, Jimmy Page and Jack White, were on hand with Davis Guggenheim for the Q&A. (Unfortunately, The Edge was in Spain in final rehearsals for the kick-off of U2’s summer tour.) We couldn’t have asked for better luck, other than the fact that our seats were 3 rows away (meaning we could hear when both guitar heros laughed and commented on various scenes), and Al Gore was rumored to be somewhere in the audience nearby (along with many top LA musicians).
Jack White, Jimmy Page, director Davis Guggenheim, and Producers at Q&A session after the film premiere at LA Film Fest
The documentary is going to be one of the hottest movies to see in the near future and thanks to Sony Classic Pictures, it’s already been picked up for international distribution. It starts out with Jack White in his “Raconteurs” hat, tie, vest, and coat with his son on the front porch of their haunting, old farmhouse in Tennessee, cows in the background mooing, and Jack making himself a guitar using a piece of wood, metal string, coke bottle, and a pickup. Right off the bat he shows that you can always build your own guitar, and make your own noise.
The film moves right into the 3 guitar legends meeting for the first time (and coming in from 3 different entrances, according to Guggenheim) into an LA studio to talk about their different takes on the guitar, what attracted them to it, leading into several impromptu jams live and unrehearsed. The editing moves quickly back and forth to show each musician in their various incarnations as guitarists and songwriters as they developed their careers, backed with amazing old footage.
For example, we get to view never-before seen clips of the stone house Headley Grange where Led Zeppelin 4’s “Stairway to Heaven” was recorded and grainy footage of Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham taking a break and dancing in the yard. The movie takes you to Jimmy Page talking about what it was like recording in the stairwell of that house, which produced the new sound achieved on that album and inspired others to have higher-spaces in recording studios, especially around drums, to create the same effect.
Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin answering questions about how he felt being in a documentary with The Edge and Jack White
It also goes through parts of Dublin with The Edge as he traces the various bombings at the time of his youth that inspired his band to create the album “War,” plus the very first place U2 played for free for their friends, and the school room where they practiced. He even points out the old wall where Larry Mullen had placed an ad for a guitar player for a band he wanted to form. The movie then goes through old shots of south Detroit, a mostly Hispanic neighborhood and the location where Jack White, the youngest of 10 kids, grew up, worked for an upholsterer and (formed a band named the same), where he played drums in his tiny 7-by-7-foot room before moving into piano and guitar.
Each talked about how they found their first guitar and what it meant to them, and how the instrument had become their voice in so many ways. How Jack White moved back to old guitars and bare bones sounds, taking inspiration from the blues; how Jimmy Page, a former studio musician moved from one scene to another and was inspired by Link Wray’s “Rumble” until he found his voice in The Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin; and how The Edge figured out his sound via various electronics and modern equipment, providing an entirely new guitar sound (“that sounds like two guitars with one slightly behind the other”) which made U2 so unique.
Jack White at Q&A session after the film premiere
“It Might Get Loud” is an important film in many ways because it shows the impact that these musicians and the guitar (and music) have on youth culture and the huge impact each had in their time and how they are all so still relevant today. With the advent of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and other music-based video games, a movie like this may spur even more guitar-based music, because one thing they all had in common was the idea that more can be squeezed out of the instrument.
The movie ends back in the LA studio with all three picking up their favorite guitars and jamming together on a variety of songs -each with their own individual style and sound and yet somehow, inherently, creating corresponding grooves that all fit perfectly together.
Jimmy Page and Jack White discussing “It Might Get Loud” documentary at Q&A after premiere at LA Film Fest