When Jimmy Page and the Beach Boys Played to a Crowd of 1 Million People

If you’re looking for the golden age of Jimmy Page guitar work, you’d probably start with the late Yardbirds era and follow the thread through Presence (1976), the last great Led Zeppelin album. But Page didn’t quit in 1980, when the Zep was grounded following John Bonham’s death.

Dig into Page’s ’80s work and you find him working on soundtracks for two Death Wish sequels and forming new groups with other industry brand-names. Besides The Firm (with Paul Rodgers on vocals), Page worked with the bassist and drummer of Yes in a short-lived band called XYZ.

In ’84, Page reunited (on separate projects) with former Zep bandmates Robert Plant and John Paul Jones. Page was no stranger to this sort of bouncing around. In his pre-Yardbirds days, the guitar great once played on Rod Stewart’s debut single and Petula Clark’s “Downtown” on the same day.

Page also returned to the stage in that period. After ’83 A.R.M.S. concerts alongside Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton, Page toured with The Firm across Zep’s old stomping grounds (i.e., America) into May ’85. That summer, Page kept at it. At one huge gig, he played with The Beach Boys in front of 1 million people.

Jimmy Page and The Beach Boys played to 1 million in Philadelphia on July 4, 1985

Jimmy Page and the Beach Boys
Jimmy Page joined Carl Wilson and the Beach Boys in concert in Philadelphia, 4 July 1985. | Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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Philadelphia has hosted some massive July 4 celebrations over the years. The 1976 bicentennial brought some 2 million visitors to the City of Brotherly Love, and the ’85 festivities were no slouch, either. On both occasions, The Beach Boys performed live.

The ’85 event was especially noteworthy because the band brought in Page as a guest guitarist. They didn’t skimp on space for Page, either. On “Lucille,” the band stayed out of Page’s way as he took an extended solo. Page looks like he’s having a blast as he shreds in the surviving video.

That day, the crowd numbered over 1 million, according to multiple reports. It wasn’t ’76, but it was still a massive crowd for any concert. In 2019, Page looked back on the day in an Instagram post, calling it “a memorable day.”

“It was an honour to meet Brian and Carl Wilson and play with The Beach Boys on this historic day,” Page wrote. “I became quite friendly with Beach Boy musician Bruce Johnston.”

Page and The Beach Boys played another huge show that night in Washington, D.C.

Jimmy Page playing with the Beach Boys in 1985
Jimmy PAGE and THE BEACH BOYS play in Washington, D.C., 4 July 1985. | Ebet Roberts/Getty Images

Since it was July 4, The Beach Boys were really spreading the patriotic love around. After the Philly show, Page and other guest performers hopped on a train to Washington, D.C. Page again rocked out on “Lucille” and “Surfin’ USA,” while Joan Jett jammed with the band on “Barbara Ann.”

They weren’t the only celebrities in the traveling party, though. “Mr T was also on that trip,” Page recalled on social media of that day. Indeed, the A-Team star and personality played with The Beach Boys on at least one track in their sets. The D.C. show had another 550,000 in attendance, UPI reported.

So what was Page doing there? Though he’d only recently wrapped up his tour with The Firm, he was more likely there getting ready for his reunion with Plant and Jones at Live Aid (July 13, 1985). Of course, that show didn’t turn out as well for the surviving members of Led Zeppelin.