Imagine what sort of ticket price you might pay today for a concert starring three former guitarists with the Yardbirds among the following stellar line-up: Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood (with Clapton guesting), Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page (with Winwood guesting), additional musicans like Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, Kenney Jones, Andy Fairweather Low, Ray Cooper and more, and then an encore featuring all of them. That was what the audience at the Royal Albert Hall were treated to 31 years ago, on September 20, 1983, at Ronnie Lane’s all-star benefit show, the first for ARMS, the charity for Action Into Research For Multiple Sclerosis, which Lane himself was suffering.
Prince Charles and Princess Diana were among that audience at the Ronnie Lane Appeal For Arms, as it was billed. Highlights included Clapton’s ‘Cocaine,’ Winwood’s reprise of his Spencer Davis Group lead vocal on ‘Gimme Some Lovin’,’ with Eric; Beck’s performance of the pop hit he always said he hated, ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’ and Page’s ‘Stairway To Heaven’ instrumental, before the star-packed finale, and a touching appearance by Lane himself on ‘Goodnight Irene.’
It was a never-to-be-repeated bill, but while the show was intended as a one-off, it was such a success that there were further concerts in the US. Joe Cocker and Paul Rodgers were among the additions for those gigs, with Winwood unable to play. But Page, Clapton and Beck were all present to reprise their Yardbirds “reunion.”