Jimmy Page, Steve Miller Watch Don Felder Perform ‘Hotel California’

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Jimmy Page, Steve Miller and Don Felder at the Met Museum’s Play it Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll, April 1, 2019 (Photo: © Greg Brodsky; used with permission)

It’s not every day that such rock icons as Jimmy Page, Steve Miller and Don Felder are humbled about their place in the classic rock pantheon. But such was the case on April 1, 2019, when the classic rock stars appeared at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to help usher in the first major exhibition in an art museum dedicated entirely to the iconic instruments of rock and roll.

The exhibit—Play it Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll—which ran from April 8 through October 1, was a must-see for any serious classic rock fan, with more than 130 instruments played by such artists as Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Paul McCartney, Joni Mitchell, Prince, Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr (one of his Beatles drum kits), Eddie Van Halen, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Who, and dozens of others.

The Who stage set-up (Photo via The Met Museum; used with permission)

And, of course, legendary guitars from Misters Page, Miller and Felder, as well as Talking Heads’ Tina Weymouth, who also attended.

At the event, Felder, born Sept. 21, 1947, performed his iconic guitar solo from Eagles’ “Hotel California.” Knowing he would be under the gaze of his fellow icons, he admitted: “I’ve played for hundreds of thousands of people and I’ve never been so nervous as I am now.” (Watch it below.)

[The Met Museum announced that the exhibition had already topped 500,000 attendees.]

Rick Nielsen’s Custom Five-Neck (Photo: © Greg Brodsky; used with permission)

Visitors were able to get close to many of rock’s most celebrated instruments—most are housed in plexiglass fixtures—as Prince’s 1993 “Love Symbol” electric guitar, Rick Nielsen’s 1981 custom five-neck, and John Entwistle’s eight-string custom Explorer bass guitar.

Some of the other jaw-dropping highlights: Bruce Springsteen’s modified Fender, composed of a Telecaster body and an Esquire neck, his primary instrument in countless live performances and recordings dating from 1972. It’s the one slung over his back on the Born to Run album cover.

Keith Richards’ “Micawber” Fender electric Telecaster, given to him for his birthday in 1970 by Eric Clapton; “Keef” first used it to record the Stones’ Exile on Main Street.

Eddie Van Halen’s “Frankenstein” (Photo: © Greg Brodsky; used with permission)

Eddie Van Halen’s legendary composite guitar, “Frankenstein,” so named because he pieced it together from modified factory seconds and mismatched odd-lot parts.

Each of the press event’s VIPs spoke reverentially about the occasion. Page spoke about “the phenomenon of electric guitar music” and shared how the “rockabilly of Elvis Presley changed my life. This day, today, is something I never would have dreamed of my whole life.”

Miller mused: “You’re probably wondering what’s ‘The Joker’ doing [here]? This is an exhibit only The Met could bring together.” He was quite taken with the exhibition: “All these people… you feel their presence… all these great artists. It’s really powerful. I’m really moved.” He pledged to donate his 1961 Les Paul, given to him decades ago by Leslie West, to the museum’s education department.

Related: Later that year, Miller performed to an intimate gathering at the Met

Watch Felder perform the “Hotel California” guitar solo at the event, to the appreciation of fellow icons Page and Miller

Here’s a photo we took of Page, at left, looking on while Felder performed.

(Photo: © Greg Brodsky; used with permission)

Max Hollein, Director of The Met, said: “Play It Loud celebrates a formative chapter in 20th-century art and culture, and the extraordinary objects featured in this presentation convey the innovation, experimentation, passion, and rebellion at the heart of rock and roll. The exhibition allows us to appreciate the artistry of the instruments as well as their powerful role in the creation and expression of rock’s legendary sound and identity.”

Organized thematically, “Play It Loud” explores how musicians embraced and advanced emerging technologies; the phenomenon of the “Guitar Gods”; the crafting of a visual identity through the use of instruments; and the destruction of instruments in some live performances, one of rock’s most defining gestures. The exhibition also included Jimi Hendrix’s electric guitar “Love Drops,” originally decorated by him, and Eric Clapton’s “Blackie.”

Jimmy Page, in his dragon-embroidered costume, 1975 (Photo: Kate Simon via The Met Museum; used with permission)

Additional highlights: Chuck Berry’s electric guitar ES-350T (1957), which was his primary guitar from 1957 until about 1963 and was used to record “Johnny B. Goode”; Keith Emerson’s keyboard rig, consisting of the customized Moog Modular Synthesizer, electric tone-wheel organ, and rotary speakers; a reconstructed performance rig from Eddie Van Halen as it appeared onstage in 1978; Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Number One” composite stratocaster, which was his main instrument throughout his career; and Page’s dragon-embroidered costume (Los Angeles, 1975)—the elaborately hand-embroidered suit took over a year to complete and Page wore it during Led Zeppelin’s live performances from 1975 to 1977.

The exhibition was organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. (It traveled to the HoF’s museum in Cleveland, later that year.)

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  1. baybluesman
    #1 baybluesman 23 September, 2021, 01:10

    I won’t even get into the internal politics/drama of the Eagles, but suffice to say Don Felder is an excellent guitarist, and often overlooked (It was his 12-string that set the stage on the Hotel California title track).

    I saw Don Felder perform live about 3 years ago, and, as of then, was still playing exquisitely.

    He reportedly had a young Tom Petty as a student, while teaching guitar lessons in their mutual hometown of Gainesville, FL.

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  2. Bob Sled
    #2 Bob Sled 23 September, 2021, 11:52

    Don Felder is a great & tasteful guitar player but should leave the lead vocals to someone else; no wonder he & Frey/Henley butted heads about singing leads on Eagles tunes.

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