April 4 is when this year's crop of inductees pop up in Cleveland to be honored. It could very well be a memorable and historic occasion if Jimmy Page turns out to honor his former Yardbirds bandmate, and if Eric Clapton shows up as well. It would be great to listen to the three of them jam on any old song.
The last time all three guitarists played together was on the ARMS tour in 1983. On several nights, they jammed on "Stairway to Heaven" and "Layla," to name a couple. Pairings of these guitarists existed on only a handful of occasions, the longest-running of which was between Beck and Page.
Those two were bandmates briefly in 1966 when they were both in the Yardbirds. Page initially joined the group on bass before switching to dual lead guitar with Beck. That lineup lasted under three months but did see the two guitarists playing side-by-side in the movie Blow-Up. They can also be heard on the songs "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago" and "Psycho Daisies," the latter with Page on bass.
After Beck stopped showing up to some Yardbirds gigs, he got himself fired by the band -- as he joked at his 1992 induction with the Yardbirds. But that didn't end Page's friendship with Beck. In 1967, Page guested on a Jeff Beck B-side called "Beck's Bolero." In 1969, Page and Beck shared some stages together in Miami and New York. Once Led Zeppelin had retired, Page's first onstage appearance was at a Jeff Beck concert.
Pictured alongside Page and Beck are, at left, Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi and, at right, Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler. Photo taken Nov. 5, 2007, by Ross Halfin, at the 2007 Classic Rock Awards.
In July 2007, Beck and Page were rumored to be in talks of rejoining the Yardbirds, whose only surviving participants from every era of the group between 1962 and 1968 had been using the band name since around the time of the 1992 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Beck and Page had even attended a Yardbirds show in 1996, reportedly playing air guitar from their seats. But they didn't end up rejoining the Yardbirds in 2007, and that September's announcement that Led Zeppelin was to reunite for a single concert at the end of the year made pretty much everybody forget about the earlier rumor.
Back to 2009: Beck and Clapton have announced their solo shows in Japan this coming March will converge with two one-off shows seeing them play together. They first jammed onstage together at the Secret Policeman's Ball for Amnesty International in 1981. Aside from the ARMS shows in 1983, the only other times they did this were at Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festivals in 2004 and 2007, and at a London gig of Beck's in November 2007.
As for Page and Clapton, they jammed on some demo-quality recordings in the early 1960s that have been released hundreds of times over, often with other musicians added to the recordings as an afterthought to make them sound more finished.
Clapton did not attend the Yardbirds' 1992 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He had better things to do, namely record a set of acoustic songs for a one-off TV appearance and an album he thought would never sell a single copy. That supposedly undesirable album of his was called Unplugged, and it sold 10 million copies over the next four years.
So we can go ahead and legitimately question Eric's taste in music based off of that little incident.
Which makes it fine to say Eric ought to reconsider not playing any Yardbirds material when he and Beck play their shows together in Japan. Beck tells Rolling Stone he doesn't think they'll be doing anything that old because of Clapton's tastes.
But Beck also says that he doesn't like reunions for the sake of making money. He says:
"Reformation of bands is never my idea of a good idea. Leave well enough alone, especially 35 years after it happened. It usually indicates there isn’t anything else happening in someone else’s career, otherwise you wouldn’t entertain it."Beck recently said he didn't like the idea of a Led Zeppelin reunion without Robert Plant, even though that really wasn't ever up for consideration.
Metallica's also being inducted this year, and we know guitarist Kirk Hammett's a Jimmy Page fan. So that's all the more reason for Page to show up in April! He can jam with one of his many admirers in Cleveland. Hammett was quoted in the October 2007 "Guitar Heroes" special issue of Q magazine on his appreciation for the live version of "Dazed and Confused" from The Song Remains the Same:
"I used to listen to it every day when I was learning how to play guitar. That's a total guitar wankathon. Jimmy Page cycles through so many moods and levels of intensity, then he breaks out the violin bow."