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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jimmy Page and Neil Young

"When The Levee's Gonna Break" 
Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and Neil Young 
1995 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

With the announcement yesterday of next year's inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (major congratulations to inductee Graham Nash & The Hollies!!!), we thought it would be nice to rewind to one of the most epic post-ceremony jams of all time. 

If you have not seen this clip of Jimmy Page and Neil Young dueling on Led Zeppelin's "When The Levee's Gonna Break" you must really do so. A bit of history was made on the evening that Neil Young was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on January 13, 1995. After the induction ceremony, Young joined Led Zeppelin onstage for an all out guitar showdown with Jimmy Page. Performing a 10 minute "When The Levee's Gonna Break", Page and Young traded licks in what turned out to be a remarkable moment in TV rock. Even jaded guitar masters were slack jawed.

Robert Plant segues into the Buffalo Springfield classic "For What It's Worth" at one point (6:35). Not to be outdone, Robert Plant picked up a guitar and began to jam with the guitar greats and seemed to be having the time of his life hopping and twirling about.

Towards the end at about 7:30, after seemingly endless jamming and soloing between the two guitar legends, a clearly exhausted Jimmy Page drops his hands from his guitar as if to concede defeat by Young. At the conclusion of the song, Page and Plant hugged Young as they left the stage. Just before the camera cuts, one can see Page patting Neil's amplifier as if to say, "You've got a hell of a sound from your equipment."

Later in 1995, Neil Young wrote the song "Downtown" (on the "Mirror Ball" album) about that historic night in New York City. From the lyrics "Downtown":

    Jimi's playin' in the back room
    Led Zeppelin on stage
    There's a mirror ball twirlin'

    And a note from Page
    Like a water-washed diamond

    In a river of sin
    Goin' down like a whirlpool
    When you get sucked in
    Let's go downtown

In Jimmy McDonough's biography of Neil Young "Shakey", Neil said of Page's work: "I'm a hack compared to him. He can really play." No word yet on what Robert Plant and Jimmy Page thought of the night.

But McDonough continues in the biography "Shakey" to let Neil know of his displeasure with the pairing. From MOG: These Amps Go To 12 by Jonh Ingham:
[McDonough] couldn't understand why his hero should play with the group; from his writing he obviously thought they weren't worthy to share the stage. Which only shows the limitations of a fan. When your hero's nom-de-guitar is The Volume Dealer it would be more surprising if he didn't want to get on stage with guys he's probably studied for pointers since Page first surfaced in The Yardbirds.

Admittedly, when your hear an audio version of the meeting, it can be hard to discern just what's going on. But this video really lays it out. Neil makes all the noise while Page is happy to just crunch down on the riff and wring every last ounce of weight from it. The best bit for me is when Plant decides to join in and straps on another Les Paul and starts to create havoc with one note.

McDonough was most outraged that Plant started to sing the Buffalo Springfield song 'For What It's Worth', which all trufans know was a Stephen Stills song. I'm guessing that in the heat of the moment, '60s West Coast fan Plant wasn't thinking about who wrote what song. Or maybe he was just commenting on what was happening on stage."

Finally, on Led Zeppelin's 2004 Double DVD it is interesting to note Robert Plant's spontaneous incorporation of a few lines from Neil Young's 'Down by the River' and 'On the Way Home' during the epic song 'How Many More Times.'

led zeppelin & neil jimmy page & neil

jimmy page robert plant neil

Led Zeppelin & Neil Young at Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 1995

More on other musicians who have jammed with Neil Young.

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At 12/16/2009 12:34:00 PM, Anonymous Thos said...

Astonishing. Well found Thrasher!

At 12/16/2009 02:16:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for that. A great way to start any day.

At 12/16/2009 02:56:00 PM, Anonymous SONY said...

Never knew that the lyrics in MB Downtown were about that night.

At 12/16/2009 05:31:00 PM, Blogger Atom Smasher said...

Also, did you see among the non-musicians, David Geffen will be honored in the RnR HoF 2010?

At 12/16/2009 06:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice trip down memory lane Thrasher! What a night that must have been!
Would also like to say a massive congratulations to Graham Nash and the other past and present members of the Hollies for their induction, especially Tony Hicks who has survived to this day- a thoroughly recognition for this great British band.


At 12/16/2009 07:04:00 PM, Anonymous expecting2fly said...

Speakin' of the RnRHOF and Jimmy Page, I visited the HOF Museum in Cleveland over 10 years ago and I remember seeing in a portion of the museum with Neil items a short handwritten note from Jimmy Page to Neil Young; I believe something like a congratulatory note. Anyhow, another "note from Page..."


At 12/16/2009 09:18:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...


Yeah, I'm wonderin' what that note from page said?

At 12/17/2009 12:04:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neil dominates!!! PLANT got more licks in than PAGE!! THAT is just plain bizarre...


At 12/17/2009 01:07:00 PM, Anonymous set list thief said...

That's a great clip! At the end, Plant repeatedly waves at Neil that it's time to end the jam. Neil is so focused on the music he's oblivious to Plant and could have probably kept going another 10 minutes!

You know, watching Jimmy and Robert with him, Neil's not the best guitarist in the world, but he must be the most fun to play with.

At 12/17/2009 05:16:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

loved the clip and especially that bit at the end with the amplifier - awesome!

old sound man

At 12/17/2009 06:41:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it might get loud!

go to the cinema, guys!

At 12/18/2009 10:34:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thrasher, great clip, thanks for posting it! Sorry to be off topic, but after the frenetic activity over the past two years Neil has gone silent and can't for him to re-emerge ... in a year where he's cranked out over a dozen CDs and other things this is not a complaint, and its understandable that he needs some downtime... just a yearning for the never ending tour to announce some spring dates, and for some other new activity to take place.

At 12/18/2009 10:37:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

eh, not neil's best night. and plant really cheeses it up.

At 12/18/2009 03:51:00 PM, Anonymous jamie said...

Love Jimmy! I have been a Zeppelin fan forever and i just caught It Might Get Loud. It blew my mind. any true fan should not miss it.

At 2/04/2010 07:35:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lol. I think a surprising amount of the lead guitar work was actually Plant rather than Page or Young. Watch it again and look where their hands are on the guitar. You can clearly see Young and Page bashing chords. It's plant who is further up the neck pulling out those high whining bends.

At 3/10/2011 07:40:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

pretty boring in fact! Neil playing shitty solo and the zep without their drum bass line up are just nothing! Don't tell that piece of shit is "when the leavee breaks"...

At 1/08/2015 05:25:00 PM, Blogger liverust79 said...

Not really Neil's shining moment on guitar and he's had plenty. Page always the gentleman, he would likely not have cut lose and really let the notes fly, even if it was encouraged. Neil shines when there is a more clear melody, while Page would have actually created melodic parts soloing. It is likely they had to think hard about what Zep song Neil could play on short notice. Too bad they didn't play Like a Hurricane, with Plant singing and a solo in Am from Page and Neil.......Wow that would have rocked! In the end, everyone on stage belongs in simply the music hall of fame IMO.
They really had much to offer over the years.


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