Jimmy Page has said that reuniting Led Zeppelin to perform at Live Aid on July 13, 1985 “was really not very clever”.
Speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival on October 13 to promote his 2020 book “Jimmy Page: The Anthology,” Page reportedly blamed Phil Collins, who played drums for the 1985 performance alongside Tony Thompson, as one reason why Led Zeppelin performed poorly.
Page said Led Zeppelin was “in real trouble” after a drummer struggled to learn the opening song, “Rock And Roll,” according to a report in The Times.
“The drummer couldn’t get the beginning of ‘Rock And Roll,” Page said during the festival, according to The Times, “so we were in real trouble with that.”
Page reportedly said that the 1985 reunion “was really not very clever.” He referred to the 1985 reunion as one of “two unfortunate incidents,” presumably including Led Zeppelin’s reunion on May 14, 1988 for Atlantic Records’ fortieth anniversary.
How Phil Collins remembers Live Aid
Collins has shared his views on the 1985 performance in his 2016 autobiography “Not Dead Yet” and in a 2017 interview with Classic Rock Magazine.
“Led Zeppelin won’t let the performance be included on the official Live Aid DVD. Because, of course, they were ashamed of it,” Collins wrote in his autobiography. “And I find that I am usually the one blamed for it. It couldn’t possibly be the holy Led Zep who were at fault. It was that geezer who came over on Concorde who wasn’t rehearsed. He was the culprit. That show-off.”
“We came off, and we got interviewed by MTV,” Collins told Classic Rock Magazine in 2017, “and Robert is a diamond, but when those guys get together a black cloud appears. Then Page says: ‘One drummer was halfway across the Atlantic and didn’t know the stuff.’ And I got pissed off. Maybe I didn’t know it as well as he’d like me to have done, but … I became the flagship, and it looked like I was showing off.”
“I had a word with Tony Thompson,” Collins also told the magazine, “‘cos I’ve played as two drummers a lot and it can be a train wreck – and I say: ‘Let’s stay out of each other’s way and play simple.'”
“Thompson, rest his soul, had rehearsed for a week, and I’m about to steal his thunder – the famous drummer’s arrived! – and he kind of did what he wanted to do. Robert wasn’t match-fit. And if I could have walked off, I would have done, ‘cos I wasn’t needed and I felt like a spare part.”
Writing in his autobiography, Collins accused Thompson of ignoring his advice. “Onstage I don’t take my eyes off Tony Thompson. I’m glued to him. I’m having to follow – he’s taking the heavy-handed lead and has opted to ignore all my advice.”
“Putting myself in his shoes, he’s probably thinking, ‘This is the beginning of a new career. John Bonham isn’t around any more. They’re gonna want someone. This could be the start of a Led Zeppelin reunion. And I don’t need this English fuck in my way.’
“I’m not judging him, God rest his soul. Thompson was a fantastic drummer. but it was very uncomfortable, and if I could have left that stage, I would have left, halfway through ‘Stairway …’ if not earlier.”
Jimmy Page on Led Zeppelin’s 2007 reunion
Page also told the literature festival that Led Zeppelin made sure to thoroughly rehearse before the band’s reunion show in London on December 10, 2007.
“If we were going to stand up and be counted we needed to do a proper job,” he reportedly said. “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.”
Page told the event that he had been particularly nervous for the 2007 reunion performance. “A lot more more could go wrong,” he said. “I didn’t want to be the one making the mistake.”
Page spoke at the event to promote his 2020 book “Jimmy Page: The Anthology.” Special editions of the book were sold at the festival that included an exclusive bookplate and tote bag.
Page was interviewed on stage by the Times chief rock and pop critic Will Hodgkinson. There was no audience Q&A.