Jimmy Page has said that, on reflection (36 years later), it was a bad idea to get Phil Collins to play drums with Led Zeppelin for the band’s reunion performance at the American side of Live Aid in 1985. Although it does seem a bit unfair to lay the whole car crash of a performance at Collins’ feet.
Speaking to The Times, Page says that it was “really not very clever” to draft in Collins to replace John Bonham, who had died five years earlier. “The drummer couldn’t get the beginning of [set opener] ‘Rock & Roll'”, he goes on, apparently referring to Collins. “So we were in real trouble with that”.
This is not the first time Page has blamed Collins’ for the quality of the band’s Live Aid performance, having previously accused him of “bashing away cluelessly and grinning” throughout the 20 minute set.
Collins was brought in partly because he had played on Robert Plant’s first two solo albums. He appeared with the band after jetting to the States on Concorde, having also played the simultaneous UK Live Aid show at Wembley Stadium earlier in the day, rocking up at Philadelphia’s JFK Stadium in time to get on stage with Led Zep.
Collins has admitted that his rehearsals for the set mainly consisted of listening to ‘Stairway To Heaven’ on the plane. So not the best preparation. Although he was not the only drummer on stage for the Led Zep Live Aid stint, with Chic’s Tony Thompson behind a second kit.
Speaking to Q in 2014, Collins said: “It was a disaster, really. Robert wasn’t match-fit with his voice and Jimmy was out of it, dribbling. It wasn’t my fault it was crap. If I could have walked off, I would have. But then we’d all be talking about why Phil Collins walked off Live Aid – so I just stuck it out”.
Plant later described the performance as “a fucking atrocity” all round. But for some reason, in Page’s head, it was definitely all Collins’ fault.
The good – or bad – news is that the whole show is available on YouTube, so you can make your own judgement. Although, you really have to ask yourself whether the accurate allocation of blame is important enough to sit through that performance. We could all just pretend it didn’t happen.
One good thing that did come of the whole thing, though, was that when Led Zeppelin came to play together in 2007, they all decided that it would be a good idea to rehearse first. After “two unfortunate incidents”, including Live Aid, Page says in The Times interview, they practiced super hard before the show at London’s O2 Arena.
“If we were going to stand up and be counted we needed to do a proper job”, he says. “I think it was a superb concert. There were moments when my hairs were standing on end when we were playing. Unfortunately it was just the one show. A lot more more could go wrong. I didn’t want to be the one making the mistake”.
Yeah, not like – ahem – that other time.