Credit: Alamy

Watch Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Joe Cocker cover The Beatles back in 1983

There’s no doubt that if you wanted a better version of The Beatles’ song ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ then the only man to turn to is Joe Cocker. Arguably delivering the definitive version of the track, Cocker made a career from the soulful cover and by 1983 it had become his trademark. It meant that when he was offered the chance to perform alongside Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, there was only one song which was going to be played — the Fab Four classic.

The event happened a few years after Small Faces and Faces bassist Ronnie Lane learned he had multiple sclerosis and was born out of his determination to raise both awareness and funds to fight the illness on a larger scale. It was quite the breakthrough as Lane managed to gather up the great and the good of the seventies and present those who bought a ticket with a triumvirate of perhaps Britain’s finest guitar players. Add on to that Joe Cocker’s smooth and buttery vocals performance and you have a winning situation.

The concert was held at London’s Royal Albert Hall on September 20th in 1983 and was titled A.R.M.S., otherwise known as Action into Research for Multiple Sclerosis, and is widely considered a hit. The incredible acts aforementioned all performed a solo set with Steve Winwood, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts all performing too—but the real joy came when they shared the stage together. The three guitar players played two of the trio’s best-known songs, Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway To Heaven’ and the Derek & The Dominoes song ‘Layla’.

The performance was interesting not only because the icons of the instrument performing together but because there was a commonly held belief that they all disliked each other, especially Page and Clapton. “We’ve never been rivals — it was only the press that ever made it seem so,” Clapton told Rolling Stone in 1983. “This has been a ball. I realise 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.”

It was the first time Jimmy Page began to take the stage again and concentrate on his music after the death of his bandmate John Bonham had rocked him so badly. “That’s when I realised that, unlike Jeff or Eric, I didn’t have a solo career,” he told Rolling Stone in 2012. “The Death Wish II soundtrack [1982] was the only new music I had then. Apart from that, I had Zeppelin stuff. There was no point in getting someone else to sing ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ I just did it instrumentally.”

Page eventually turned his head back to the idea of performing and writing music. He even put on some of his own US A.R.M.S. shows, which also included Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. It was a testament to the power of the show and the songs on display and their ability to turn Page’s attention back on music.

For our money, we’d say that the best performance of the night came from this brilliant cover of The Beatles. The song which became the anthem of Woodstock, the track which unified an entire generation in hope, is the perfect anthem for not only this performance but the poignant message it was trying to deliver.

Subscribe to our newsletter
Delivering curated content