There can’t be many fates worse than living next door to Jimmy Page in the 1970s. Try to imagine it; there you’d be, trying to cook a nice duck à l’orange for your family in your avocado-colored kitchen, when your walls start shaking because an occult-obsessed heroin addict in Nazi garb has started playing his own music as loudly as possible to impress a coterie of disturbingly young women. It doesn’t bear thinking about. Being Jimmy Page’s neighbor in the 1970s sounds like the worst thing imaginable.
Except, that is, for being Jimmy Page’s neighbor in 2019.
Now 75, Page has replaced the excesses of rock stardom with something far more nefarious: endless finicky griping to his local council’s planning committee about garden furniture.
Sir Harvey McGrath, a 67-year-old former insurance chairman, lives next door to Page in Holland Park, West London. For a while all was peachy, right up until the moment McGrath decided to erect a trellis in his backyard. Now, Jimmy Page is a tolerant man. When the filmmaker Kenneth Anger put the curse of King Midas on him over a dispute about an uncompleted movie soundtrack, for example, Page barely batted an eyelid. But a trellis is a different matter entirely. A trellis might gently brush up against his garden wall. A trellis is an act of war.
A trellis is an act of war.
“I urge the council to refuse the application as having the potential for harmful impact on living conditions,” Page wrote to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council in March, with his lawyers adding, “Our client’s property would be directly and adversely impacted”—by having a 19-inch cedar lattice placed relatively near it.
To make matters worse, Trellis-gate is taking place in the almost immediate aftermath of Page’s five-year planning battle with his other neighbor, the pop star Robbie Williams, who drew ire for having the temerity to want a swimming pool. Page eventually lost that battle, which was slugged out in public in an increasingly ridiculous manner. The feud began when Page lodged a complaint suggesting that excavation work on Williams’s property would damage his home. Then Page reportedly retaliated with his own building work, carried out by a firm that shared a name with one of Williams’s biggest hits—Millennium. Then Page got Williams slapped with a $3,600 fine because Williams’s builders were being too noisy, which caused Williams to accuse Page of spying on him, saying, “Jimmy has been sitting in his car outside our house.… It’s like a mental illness.” Williams subsequently apologized for the mental-illness remark.
Things came to a truly bizarre head in December, when an anonymous and possibly incorrect complaint accused Williams of “playing loud 70’s rock music on outside speakers when he views Jimmy Page outside his home.… There have also been some reports that Robbie Williams has dressed up to imitate iconic Led Zeppelin front man and lead singer Robert Plant by wearing a long hair wig and stuffing a pillow under his shirt.”
Robbie Williams drew ire for having the temerity to want a swimming pool.
Sir Harvey McGrath has yet to stretch to these means yet—so far he’s stuck with re-asserting that his trellis will remain one foot away from Page’s garden wall, as opposed to elaborately mocking the effect of the aging process on musical performances—but there is a tiny part of you that understands Page’s plight.
Jimmy Page has repeatedly referred to himself as the custodian of his home’s legacy, thanks in part to its extraordinary history. The final work of William Burges, one of the great Victorian architects, the Tower House is a 141-year-old Grade I–listed Gothic Revival mansion previously owned by Sir John Betjeman and the actor Richard Harris, who bought toys for the house to placate what he thought were the evil ghosts of children from an orphanage that had once existed on the site. Rooms are variously themed after love, time, and the sea, and the porch contains an elaborate mosaic of Burges’s favorite poodle. In short, it harbors a level of nuttiness that deserves to be preserved for future generations.
However, it’s difficult to argue that a trellis represents a grave threat to the future of the home, especially since Page’s primary argument was: “I use the area to listen to and scrutinize recordings, requiring my full concentration with no distracting noise and/or vibration from other sources.” A trellis is many things—shelter, ornamentation, some bits of wood nailed together—but it doesn’t exactly seem like a candidate for obliterating Jimmy Page’s ability to appreciate music.
And this might be why his complaint failed. On August 12, the Kensington and Chelsea council approved McGrath’s application. And now the matter rests. Unless someone across the street from Jimmy Page wants to subtly alter the color of his or her front door or anything, because then the gloves will really come off.
Stuart Heritage is a journalist and author living in Kent, U.K.