Look up musicianship in the dictionary, and chances are you’ll see a picture of Rush or Led Zeppelin. They shared similar DNA, which made each band become wildly revered for their artistry first and foremost. When the group’s first met, you’d expect a mammoth jam session to break out, but, in actual fact, that first encounter was in a beautifully mundane setting with no stage in sight.
Each member of Rush brought a different slice of mastery to the group, with late drummer Neil Pear cast as the mercurial creative drive behind much of Rush’s prog-rock glory. Geddy Lee chipped in with ample wizardry on the bass, and Alex Lifeson killed it on the six-string. Led Zeppelin, who relentlessly kicked down barriers at neck-break speed thanks to the culmination of talents on display from Jimmy Page, John Bonham and John-Paul Jones, led by the intense vocals of Robert Plant.
Unfortunately, when the two bands crossed paths, John Bonham had passed away and Led Zeppelin were no longer in their original incarnation. One would expect that the collision of two rock titans came backstage at a festival or a glitzy awards ceremony in Los Angeles, but you’d be wrong. Even with 1,000 guesses, most wouldn’t correctly pinpoint where Rush’s Geddy Lee and Robert Plant would first begin their friendship.
“I was on a bicycle trip with my wife in Morroco, and we ended up at this beautiful hotel in the Atlas mountains,” Geddy Lee recalled. “I was given the room key, my wife and I were in this room that only had… just two rooms, one on the right and one on the left, and I was checking in, turning the key to open my door, and I head the other door opening, and I turned around, and it was a guy that looked just like Robert Plant coming out of there.
“He looked at me, and I looked at him and we both kind of went ‘That’s weird. He went his way, I went my way, and I said, ‘that guy looked like so much like Robert Plant‘. And then we were on the dining room having dinner, and he came up to me, and he said: ‘What are you doing here?’. We chatted, and he’d be coming to this hotel for years.”
Lee then explained how the two built up a rapport, and Plant asked him to get the rest of the band to come along to the Page & Plant tour show in Toronto, where they would let their friendship pick off where it left off in Morocco.
“So we were sitting with Robert just talking about stuff, and Jimmy came in,” Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson remembered. “And I was like mental, nervous and I was so excited. I mean, he was my absolute hero growing up as a guitarist. I wanted so much to play like him and think like he thinks when he plays. So it was really, really exciting. We hung in their dressing room until like basically minutes. We walk actually downstairs with them to the stage”.
Although hundreds of bands would fall weak at the knees in Alex Lifeson’s company, that doesn’t mean he isn’t allowed his own fanboy moment. When he shared a room with Jimmy Page, Lifeson couldn’t help himself reverting to the Led Zeppelin superfan that he’s been since his formative years. Page has an aura that follows him wherever he goes and over the last 50 years, where he’s seldom been able to walk across the street without somebody losing their shit about breathing the same air as him.