Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page all famously rose to prominence as the jewel in The Yardbirds’ crown. All three used the band as a stepping stone, and their time together provided the platform on which to build in order to reach iconoclastic stature.
Ironically, neither were founding members of The Yardbirds, even though they are the first names that instinctively flood to mind when you think of the group. That said, being a former Yardbird doesn’t make you a member of the most exclusive club in the world, with the band enjoying more iterations over the years than Keith Richards has smoked cigarettes.
Clapton joined the group just five months after their formation, but it was never his band. Just two years on from that, he became creatively frustrated with The Yardbirds moving away from the blues, and he wanted no further part in the endeavour. He selected Page as his replacement, who had established a name for himself as London’s most in-demand session musician of the time. However, he refused to replace his friend and instead recommended Jeff Beck.
Beck only stayed with the group for a short time, but he slotted in seamlessly. For a short while, he and Page were even in the group together, with the future Led Zeppelin man joining on bass before filling in on lead guitar for Beck when he fell ill. In fact, the two men even shared lead guitar duties for a brief spell before Beck walked out on the group in late 1966 during a US tour. Following their split in 1968, Page formed Led Zeppelin, and the three Yardbirds alumni were three of the most revered guitarists around.
Given their bustling talents, you’d expect the three artists to have a competitive streak running through their bones. However, their bond built on a love of the blues outweighed any potential issues. Although they had been friends since the 1960s, it wasn’t until 1983 when they’d all perform together onstage.
With that in mind, the band hold with them a history of iconic performances and, of course, nobody knows The Royal Albert Hall better than Eric Clapton. He has played at the historic building over 200 times, and it is also where he made history by performing with Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page for the first time in aid of Action into Research for Multiple Sclerosis.
“We’ve never been rivals — it was only the press that ever made it seem so,” Clapton told Rolling Stone at the time about the concert. “This has been a ball. I realize that you’ve got to go out and play and tour, and not just purely rely on video to reach the masses. Because video’s not happening, really, to me. A live concert is still magic and always will be. I mean, there’s no substitute for the real thing.”
Together, they all performed solo sets before returning to the stage to perform a couple of Clapton numbers with a fire cracking rendition of ‘Layla’ tearing the roof off the Albert Hall. Seeing the mercurial talents unite and trade licks is a breathtaking sight that will raise a smile from even the most cold-hearted individual.
See the footage, below.