Jeff Beck and Metallica: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Originally published in Guitar World, August 2009

Jeff Beck and Metallica are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and, in a historic reunion, perform at the ceremonies with former bandmates Jimmy Page and Jason Newsted.

On April 2, I flew into Cleveland with Jimmy Page to attend the 2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony. Jimmy was on hand to induct his longtime friend Jeff Beck, who, along with Metallica, was among the honorees. Considering how tough security is at airports these days, we were struck by the large number of people at the gate waiting to get stuff signed. First was a bored-looking kid with a black Les Paul copy around his neck. He had no idea who Jimmy was; he just needed to get it signed. It was like a war cry: “Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy!” Jimmy was truly pissed off.

We headed to the baggage hall, where even more people were pleading for his signature, many of them holding out white pickguards. (Hey, presto! You have a signed Jimmy Page guitar.) I walked up to a large group of them and said, “Look, he doesn’t want to do this. The more you hang around, the more you’ll piss him off.” I was ignored, so we headed to the hotel. It was quite embarrassing waiting for your bags and being hounded and followed like you’re the Pied Piper.

We got in and seemed to be the first there; Jeff Beck and Metallica were coming later in the evening. Marc Reiter from Q-Prime, JP’s management, took us out for a steak. Walking back to the hotel, we stopped at the Hard Rock, which has a Joe Walsh ’56 or ’57 Strat hanging up as you go in. Within five minutes we were surrounded. Time to go.

Jimmy Page, James Hetfield, Jeff Beck and Ronnie Wood

Up at dawn, as both of us were jet-lagged, we ran into a fresh-faced Ronnie Wood, who had just arrived from L.A., where he’s recording a solo album. The weather was foul, not that there appeared to be anything much to do downtown, so Jimmy arranged a tour of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Howard Kramer, who showed us around, really knows his stuff. The first thing was a display of [Quicksilver Messenger Service guitarist] John Cipollina’s guitar and equipment. Quite impressive; more interesting than, say, Jerry Garcia’s guitars. The Who exhibit was rather feeble: some of Keith Moon’s clothes and a nice drum head. It was all a bit of a mismatch of designs. Still, it beats an afternoon stranded in your room.

Page and Beck

At 5 p.m., Jimmy had a soundcheck with Jeff Beck, both playing “Beck’s Bolero,” with Jimmy using the Fender Shenandoah 12-string he used on the original recording.

That evening, Metallica hosted a party at the House of Blues for all of their friends from over the years. We went to get Joe Perry and his wife, Billy, and then went over. It was okay at first. In attendance were producer Bob Rock and various people I hadn’t seen since the dawn of man (or Metallica). Robert Trujillo asked me to get a photo of Jimmy and the band, which I lined up. Then pandemonium broke out, as everyone who had a camera phone thought it was a photo free-for-all. I asked them not to take pictures, and, of course, people started getting abusive. James Hetfield and Jimmy were talking, and I spent the whole time trying to stop people from going up and interrupting them. Apart from that, the party was fun.

Joe Perry, Page and Beck

The next day, April 4, as Jeff and Jimmy left the hotel for the show, Jeff told Jimmy he wanted to add “Immigrant Song” as an intro. They talked about F, A, B and E#, or something, then agreed.

Robert Trujillo, Jason Newsted and Flea

That morning Metallica were rehearsing. Jimmy went over and watched as Metallica, Jeff Beck, Joe Perry, Ronnie Wood, Flea and Jason Newsted jammed on “Train Kept A-Rollin’.” Jimmy listened for a couple of takes, then joined in. It was surprisingly together, considering Metallica have never played it before. Jason, Robert and Flea lined up for a photo, and then I got the whole lot to line up onstage—a guitar army! I got a photo of Jimmy and Ronnie outside in the cold, smoking, and then we retired to the hotel for the rest of the day. We couldn’t go out, as it turned into the Pied Piper scene again with more screams of “Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy!”

Page and Wood

Later, at the hall, I lined up Jimmy, Ronnie and Jeff, and bang!— I had five photographers trying to push me out of the way. It turned into a slanging match. I was told I’m an “asshole,” and one or two of them threatened me. I told them to fuck off. “We’re with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” they leaned in menacingly. “Fuck you” is all I could come out with. Peter Mackay (Jeff’s tour manager, and a fine human) stepped in. “Move!” he said to them. Then a woman from the event came at me: “These are our photographers and they can take anything they want!” “Not if he doesn’t want them to,” I said, and they tried to shoot while Jimmy, Joe Perry and Jeff ate.

Page, Wood and Lars Ulrich

Jeff opened his part of the show and then said, “A big chunk of Led Zeppelin—Jimmy Page,” and they blasted off, with Jeff doing Robert Plant’s vocals on his guitar. It was good, and if you don’t believe me, look on YouTube. The show was not bad, apart from the speeches: people thanking God, their children, their mum and dad…it goes on and on. The worst, most boring speech had to go to the two bores from the E Street Band: Max Weinberg (so full of himself) and another one who was so boring he was nondescript. They both read off an autocue for so long, it was longer than an Emerson, Lake and Palmer CD, and dull, and no one cared, except them. Bruce, please fire them soon…

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Jam

The speeches by Ronnie Wood, Jimmy and Jeff were short and to the point. Jeff said, “Thanks, I’ve been very naughty.” Metallica’s went on a bit, although I thought Lars’ speech was good, and James gave credit to Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy and a host of ignored bands, which was a cool thing to do. It was odd watching Metallica play “Sandman” without pyro. I got a great (and I truly mean it) line-up shot of them with Jason Newsted.

We left immediately at the end and went straight back to the hotel. Checking out, we saw Lars, who invited Jimmy out to go wild. Well, have a drink anyway…

We left at 1 a.m. I got a lift with JP back to New York. As we got to the small private airfield, there were three kids waiting in the cold holding pickguards to be signed. They couldn’t have been more than 10 years old, trying to guilt trip you into it. They couldn’t have any idea who Jimmy is. eBay is a sick thing. Who sends children out at one in the morning to get autographs?

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