The Heart of Markness Podcast: Episode 2 – The ARMS Tour: Clapton, Beck, & Page

Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck

arms tour jimmy page jeff beck eric clapton
Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, and Jeff Beck. ARMS Tour USA 1983

Steve Winwood, Joe Cocker, Paul Rodgers, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, Ronnie Wood, Kenney Jones… Jesus Christ, everybody

Links from the show

This is San Francisco 12/2/83. San Fran 12/2/83 is a nice set by Jimmy. He is hit or miss on this tour, often within the same set. Remember, he may not be using heroin anymore, but he was in no way sober. This is the show from which the Goodnight Irene heard in the podcast is taken. You should watch the whole thing. It’s a shit ton of talent on one stage, and no one is being a prick.

WATCH THIS ONE. It’s not Jimmy’s best, but it’s not that bad. This show also has a killer Goodnight Irene at the end, with Jimmy, Jeff, and Eric trading solos and it’s GREAT! Watch it or the monsters will eat you. You also get incoherent Joe Cocker gibberish at the end.

This is the intro to the officially released London gig. Watch it. It shows how sweet Ronnie Lane was, and how all these huge stars really worked together to help hime. It’s nice.
The first part of the London gig. Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood. Drink coffee first.

Find the rest yourself. I’m an old man.

Ronnie Lane:

Ronnie Lane was the bass player for the Small Faces (itchycoo park) and later (when they were no longer small) The Faces. The Faces were a good time, drunken rock and roll band that had Rod Stewart as its singer, and Ronnie Wood as their guitarist, both fresh from Jeff Beck’s band. Remember when the Black Crowes first came out, with Jealous Again? They were a clone of the Faces. The Ron Wood went off to become a Rolling Stone, and Rod Stewart went off to be a disco fuckhead. Ronnie Wood ended up living in a trailer on Pete Townshend’s property, having never ‘made it big’. He recorded an album with Pete, in 1977, called Rough Mix that is absolutely wonderful. Not only is a great album, it’s a great album featuring not just Pete Townshend and Ronnie Lane, but Eric Clapton, Charlie Watts, John Entwistle, Ian Stewart, and a bunch more. It’s a great album that was just never promoted by the record company. It also is one of the best sounding analog recordings I’ve ever heard.  Totally listen to it.  Do it.

During the recording of Rough Mix Ronnie Lane was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. His ability to play was hampered, and his already not great life got worse. He must have been a great guy, because holy shit a million huge stars came out to help him.

In 1983

One Of The Best ARMS Gigs in Great Video

The early 1980’s was a dark time for the rock gods of the 70’s. Led Zeppelin had broken up, Jeff Beck was a footnote, and Eric Clapton had turned so mellow he was like the James Taylor of guitar. Everyone had peaked and was hitting 40. The first generation of rock gods were all total has beens by the time they hit 40. This generation risked obscurity as well.

In 1983 a bunch of British rock gods gathered together to perform a series of benefit concerts, in support of Ronnie Lane. Ronnie was the bass player for the Small Faces, and then the Faces. He was a beloved musician and friend (he lived rent free on Pete Townshend’s estate), who had contracted MS and needed some help.

The bands that were represented were the cream of British rock royalty. Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones, Ronnie Wood (from the Faces and the Stones) showed up in New York City for some songs, too. Eric Clapton from Cream, Jeff Beck from the Yardbirds and as his own bad self (also former bandmate of Ronnie Wood), Joe Cocker and his awesome keyboard player, Chris Stainton. Holy shit a lot of people. Oh yeah, The Who! Kenny Jones from The Who (and also the Faces with Ronnies Lane and Wood). Fernando Saunders on bass (Lou Reed and Jeff Beck’s bassist)… so many goods. And Paul Rodgers from Free and Bad Company. Lots of folk who all got together to help a friend.

Jimmy Page had been out of the spotlight since the death of John Bonham, and dissolution of Led Zeppelin. He was a physical and mental wreck. Drug addiction was at an almost terminal level, and the deep depression of Bonzo’s death just made everything worse. Aside from a few minor projects, or even just jams, Page was a hermit.

The word on this is that Eric Clapton was tapped to approach Jimmy and tell him to get his shit together, heroin-wise. Clapton had just himself finished rehab, and everyone else in the band(s) pretty much had their shit together (although I think Charlie Watts got in to heroin at roughly this time), except for Jimmy. So, a pep talk, some positive reinforcement, and a trip to the states, got Jimmy off the heroin. Alas he still drank like a fish and did hella blow.

Still, credit where credit is due. The ARMS tour got Jimmy to come back as a performer again. Having worked with Paul Rodgers on the US Tour for ARMS, Jimmy formed the FIRM. The Firm sucked. Yes it did. Yes it did.



21 thoughts on “The Heart of Markness Podcast: Episode 2 – The ARMS Tour: Clapton, Beck, & Page”

  1. Great podcast. Very interesting subject. I didn’t know about this event, and I didn’t realize how some of these musicians started to cross pollinate after as well, the beginnings of new creative directions. Very well done Mark. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you for the support! Yeah, this was a real watershed moment. After this everyone kind of made peace with the 80’s and thrived. Clapton became huge, Jeff Beck played on everything from Rod Stewart’s stuff (again), to Tina Turner, Box of Frogs (Yardbirds reunion project), even Jon Bon Jovi’s solo material (Blaze of Glory)… and that’s just off the top of my head. Jimmy Page played on One Hit To The Body (rolling stones single), Stephen Stills’ album Right By You, Box of Frogs, created the Firm, and jammed with Yes, and recorded a full album with Roy Harper… all in 1984/85. Good times. 🙂

  2. I saw the ARMS show in NYC and while it had some bumpy moments, it was thrilling and heartwarming to see these guys support Ronnie, and it was wonderful to see Jimmy again. I remember when he was playing the instrumental “Stairway,” at one point the entire audience just stood up at the same time, because he started really going for it. People were in tears, they were just so happy to see him up there on stage again.

    1. It must have been amazingly powerful to witness firsthand. I was but a lad (15 I believe), and there was no way my folks would let me go from New Hampshire to New York for a concert. Bummer.

      Thank you so much for your comment, Tracy, and I hope you enjoyed the podcast, and will check out the next one. I think it’s going to be on the XYZ project.

  3. I was at two of the SF shows. I knew history was being made. The thing that sticks out most to me in all these years was how the crowd reacted to Mr. James P. Page. You have to remember that Led Zeppelin was at the absolute top of their popularity when Bonzo died and so their huge fan base was starved for a live performance. Again, remember this was even before MTV although it existed had much to offer for Zep fans and of course the internet did not exist let alone YouTube. The most you could hope for was a rerun of song remains the same or talk to a bootleg record collector who knew a guy who swears he knows another guy who claimed to have seen grainy vcr footage of the last half of the 1977 Seattle kingdome show. So when jp took the stage after Clapton and Beck he noodled around with some of his Deathwish 2 solo material and some outsider songs etc. and everyone politely cheered from their (post Who stampede in Cincinnati) asssigned seats. But then…. Jim pulls out the Gibson SG 1275. The big gun. He hits the first three notes of stairway to heaven and the whole place erupts. People go diving out of their seats to rush the stage. I was already pretty close so I got to get right up to the front of the stage. You could see Jimmy responding to the energy and come to life for the blistering finally. A truly defining moment in the history of classic rock.

    1. Thanks, David! God, remember when all we had were those horrible record convention/Goldmine high generation VHS tapes? I’m glad you got to see this tour in San Fran. Jimmy, out of everyone, seems to draw more from the adulation of the crowd. I think that’s how he could still create magic even when completely out of it. Of course, it was hit or miss, but when it hit… no one could touch him.

      I hope you stick around and keep listening. Thank you very much for your comment. I love hearing stories from people who were there.

  4. Hey Mark! Glad I stumbled on you site/podcast. I am a huge Zeppelin fan and was at the Oakland Day on the Green disaster in 77 as well as Arms concert in 83 in San Francisco. Lots of memories! Also just dug up Copenhagen and took a fresh listen there and I agree it rocks! Anyway keep up the good work on my favorite topic! More Zeppelin please!

    1. Hey, John! Thank you for the kind words! I absolutely love doing the podcast, and feedback like this keeps me going. I hope you keep listening.

  5. Good topic. I saw this show on a poor VHS cassette but was still happy having done so. Will check the vids now with enthusiasm. Keep going, will follow.

    1. Thank you very much! It’s easy to keep doing this when I know people listen, and appreciate it. Thanks for the comment!

  6. I was 17 years old when the Arms concert hit NY. I was so hugely into Zep growing up then Beck and Clapton that there was no way I was missing the MSG show. 50 now and it’s still one of the highlights of my life seeing my 3 first gtr heroes together on the same night. I was probably most thrilled to see Beck cause by then I was playing gtr and trying to learn his There and back album. Clapton was excellent of course and when he played Lay Down Sally I was in heaven cause that was actually the tune that got me into him. Beck was phenomenal. Phew..him with Fernando Saunders, Jan Hammer etc simply blew my mind. I loved his fusion stuff and he busted out a bunch of great tunes from There and Back along with Freeway Jam. He’s not the best singer so Hi Ho silver mountain was ok but still sweet seeing it. The excitement at the Garden and energy as Jimmy Page came out was intense. You can feel it in the air. The whole Garden went nuts when Page walked out. He was very hit and miss at the show. But, it was such a thrill seeing him that it didn’t matter. Instrumental Stairway had the place going crazy. That is still such a great memory. And when everyone jammed at the end..phew..all 3 guitar gods trading solos..was such a trip..especially for me at 17. So much legendary talent on one stage that night was concert heaven. I think Ronnie Wood and Bill Wyman only played on 1 or 2 songs from what I remember. Joe Cocker was also a thrill to see along with all the other supporting musicians. One thing I have to disagree with is your comment about The Firm. I saw them twice at MSG and those were 2 incredible concerts. I don’t know..I thought the music was great. Paul Rodgers along with..Tony Thompson and damn I’m forgetting the other guy’s name..but they had a bunch of great tunes and the response at the Garden from the crowd was extremely fired up. Radioactive was a decent tune but they had a bunch more that sounded incredible Live. In fact, since Zep looks like it’ll never happen I always wished they’d reform The Firm. Jimmy should be out there playing. I’d really love to see him and Jonesy do something together since Plant refuses to play with them. Makes no sense to me since he does alot of Zep stuff in concert. He did at least 10 Zep tunes when I saw him 2 years ago. His band is awesome and he sounds great singin Zeppelin so why not do something that would bring so much joy to the world!s Anyhow, thanks for the trip down memory lane. Concerts like The Arms shows rarely if ever happen these days. That was truly a once in a lifetime moment. I think you should give a listen to a Firm concert before dismissing them..but I understand if it’s not your cup of tea. I’d rather see Page with them out there playing rather than having him just keep fixing up old Zep album’s and live shows imho.

    1. Thanks, Mike! I love hearing personal stories from fellow fans. Don’t think I didn’t give the Firm a chance. I bought both albums the day they were released, I saw them in concert on both tours, I own/owned multiple live shows. They just don’t do it for me.
      I’m so jealous that you got to go to to an ARMS show. I wish I had. That’s so cool. However, I was planning on having my ‘hatred’ for The Firm be a hallmark of my podcast, but now perhaps I won’t. I don’t want to alienate anyone, and I realize that one’s taste in music is very personal.
      Thanks for commenting, sharing, and I hope you continue to listen.

      1. Thanks Mark. I definitely love reliving shows from back in the day. I’ve seen so many great shows over the years but the Arms show will always stand out as one of my all time faves! Everyone certainly does have their preferences in music. I don’t wanna stop you from doing a podcast on your hatred of The Firm lol…I guess I can understand as it didn’t compare to Zeppelin. I do have 2 friends who also have great memories of The Firm but we all like what we like. I’m more apt to read your posts than listen to podcasts anyhow so please feel free if you wanna do that one. I rarely listen to any podcasts so it’s nothing against yours. Will I get email updates when you post new articles and stuff? Don’t think I’ve gotten any since signing up. I do appreciate your sentiment. And thanks for bringing me back to such a great time. I feel lucky to have been there. MSG was like my 2nd home when I first started going to concerts. I’m not sure how many I saw before the Arms show but I know there were a bunch cause my 1st show was Queen at MSG when I was 13 for The Game tour. 2nd was Van Halen..Fair Warning tour. After that I can’t be sure which was next unless I bust out and search through all my old ticket stubs. I know The Kinks were an early one as was Foreigner, Styx, and a few more I can’t remember at the moment. Thanks again

        1. Ironically I saw the Firm at the same venue as the ARMS concerts- the Cow Palace. You may argue that the Firm was the quintessential sell out, even their name was an inside joke nod to the corporateness of their “reason d’etre.” But once Jimmy Page, Paul Rogers and Chris Slade walk out on stage they were all business and gave it their best. I was was not disappointed and I gotta say the place was wall to wall women that night.

          1. Same here. I saw them twice at MSG. I thought they kicked ass live. Don’t forget the bassist. .Tony Thompson I believe? Super funky and solid. All exceptional musicians.

  7. Tony Franklin was who played bass for The Firm , great player , and he’s still around . I saw the ARMS show in Dallas and will never forget the roar when Jimmy came out , it was exactly as everybody has described , especially when his double-neck Gibson was brought out for Stairway . It was an amazing night . I’m glad I came across this blog , it brought back some good memories .

    1. Hi Jon,

      Thanks for taking the time to share your memories of Dallas 1983 and the ARMS show. There’s a lot of emotion involved with music, and with Jimmy Page particularly.

      I’m glad you like the blog and the podcast, and I hope you hang around and share more.

  8. Hi Mark

    Great podcasts, and an interesting angle to start at what I guess you could call Jimmy’s wilderness years, but then they do offer lots of ‘what-ifs’ and ‘might have been’ moments and indeed they certainly haven’t been raked over ad-infinitum unlike the Zep years.

    I really like the version of Midnight Moonlight here; although slightly rough and ready it benefits from Simon Phillip’s drumming. It’s a shame they couldn’t recruit him into The Firm instead of Chris Slade who, lets face it, is pretty pedestrian at best and seems to ground both Firm albums to a plodding pace.

    Keep up the good work


    1. Thanks, Ross! When I was a starry-eyed young Jimmy fan, the latter day’s (’78 onward) held much mystery for me. There wasn’t (back in the ’80s) a lot o info about that time, until of course the Firm came about. Agreed on Chris Slade’s drumming. A more dynamic drummer might have given the Firm some more zap. Ultimately I think the clash of personalities with Page and Rodgers just doomed them.
      Thank’s for listening and I hope you stick around for the next one. Jimmy in 1984. He did a whole bunch of stuff, in addition to the Firm, that year.

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