Why Phil Collins Can't Stand Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page

They're two of the most respected musicians of the last fifty years, but that doesn't necessarily mean that Phil Collins and Jimmy Page see eye to eye, or even get along. Their disagreement stems from the moment that should be looked back on fondly – Led Zeppelin's reunion at Live Aid in Philadelphia — but is now remembered by Far Out magazine as a "car crash."

Be it a lack of preparedness, miscommunication, or just a poor fit, the Zeppelin reunion which was meant to be one of the centerpiece performances at the two-city mega-concert at London's Wembley Stadium and Philadelphia's JFK Stadium fell well short of expectations. According to History, also on the bill were the likes of Joan Baez, Elton John, Madonna, the Beach Boys, Tom Petty, Sting, and a set from Queen, which has since been regarded as one of the best live performances in history, per Spin.

The event was to raise money to fight famine in eastern Africa and raised $127 million for the cause, but the event's overwhelming success did little to quell the tension between Page and Collins.

Led Zeppelin called on Phil Collins for help at Live Aid

One of the most anticipated moments of Live AId was an appearance by the surviving members of Led Zeppelin. Guitarist Jimmy Page, vocalist Robert Plant, and bass player John Paul Jones had called it quits after the death of the band's legendary drummer John Bonham in 1980, per NME. So, when the band was announced as a part of the Live Aid lineup, they would need a drummer. According to Far Out, Zeppelin hired Tony Thompson, drummer for the R&B-funk outfit, Chic. However, one percussionist to flesh out wasn't enough, so they called in Phil Collins.

Collins played in London with Sting earlier in the day, then hopped aboard the high-speed Concorde to join Led Zeppelin in Philadelphia. This left Collins almost no time to rehearse the three songs he was supposed to play with the band, Collins was reportedly not even aware of what band he was going to be playing with, thinking that he would be joining only Plant and Page because he had performed on some of Plant's solo records. He only realized later that it was a Zeppelin reunion.

The Reunion fell apart

Having to make a trans-Atlantic trip to join Zeppelin left Phil Collins practically no time to prepare. According to Far Out, Collins said himself, that a major part of his preparation was listening to "Stairway To Heaven" — one of three songs in the band's setlist along with "Rock And Roll" and "Whole Lotta Love," per NME — while on the plane. Collins got about two hours to rehearse but even that didn't go well. Plant warned Collins upon his arrival that Page was in a bad mood, and when Collins had trouble playing "Stairway to Heaven" which frustrated Page more.

Collins was concerned that having two drummers would complicate the performance. "I had a word with Tony Thompson," Collins said. "'Cause I've played as two drummers a lot and it can be a train wreck — and I say: 'Let's stay out of each other's way and play simple.'"

The show wound up going off the rails, and since every music fan in attendance and watching the concert on TV knew what Led Zeppelin was supposed to sound like, that meant that all of the criticism was directed at Collins. Even some from Jimmy Page.

Phil Collins became the scapegoat for the ill-conceived reunion

Jimmy Page would later say that Zeppelin had made a mistake in bringing Phil Collins onstage with them. He told The Times (via NME), "The drummer couldn't get the beginning of 'Rock And Roll', so we were in real trouble with that." The experience left such an impression that Led Zeppelin did not reunite again for another three decades, doing so in 2007 for a show at The O2 Arena in London.

Collins didn't exactly have a positive experience either, though according to NME, he pointed the finger at Robert Plant for being ill-prepared to hit the high notes required for a lot of the band's material. "Robert wasn't match-fit. And if I could have walked off, I would have done, 'cause I wasn't needed and I felt like a spare part."

However, Collins has admitted that Page was partially correct when he told MTV that "One drummer was halfway across the Atlantic and didn't know the stuff ... Maybe I didn't know it as well as he'd like me to have done, but ... I became the flagship, and it looked like I was showing off," Collins said according to Far Out.