How Foo Fighters and Led Zeppelin combined for Dave Grohl's "greatest dream"

John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page onstage with Foo Fighters at Wembley in 2008
John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page onstage with Foo Fighters at Wembley in 2008 (Image credit: Foo Fighters/YouTube)

The tour that accompanied Foo Fighters' Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace album was a biggie: 131 dates spread out across across 20 gruelling months, a jaunt that vaulted around the globe from Finland to New Zealand via many points in-between.

Highlights? The sold-out night at New York's Madison Square Garden is right up there. A pair of shows at the stunning Red Rock's amphitheater in Colorado. But on a tour largely comprised of arena shows, it was two performances at London's 86,000 capacity Wembley Stadium in June 2008 that provided both a career landmark and a future DVD release. 

Dave Grohl understood what the booking meant. “If this all ended tomorrow, I really would be the happiest guy alive,” Grohl told Classic Rock a month before the shows. “I’d still be the same guy, sweating my balls off, jamming as hard as I possibly can in some studio somewhere, making music with my friends. But right now we’re enjoying every second. Holy fuck, dude! We’re headlining at Wembley fuckin’ Stadium! Who wouldn’t wanna do that?”

Special occasions lend themselves to cherished highlights, and the crowd attending the second show, on June 7, certainly got that. With Dave Grohl telling the crowd "we’ll be talking about tonight for the next 20 years of our lives” early in the set, something special was clearly on the cards, and the encore provided it: Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones joined the Foos on the Wembley stage for their first live appearance since Zeppelin's Celebration Day show the previous year.

With the late Taylor Hawkins on vocals, the musicians romped through Led Zeppelin's Rock And Roll, with Grohl bouncing around on his drum stool, clearly giddy with excitement. Grohl then took the mic for Ramble On, with everyone watching, – audience and crew, management and catering staff – looking unsurprisingly ecstatic.

“Wembley was, without a doubt, the highlight of our 14 years as a band,” Grohl told Classic Rock after the show. “We may as well have landed on fucking Mars. It’s kind of like reaching the top of Mount Everest, except instead of climbing there you just kinda wandered onto it, and said: ‘Fuck! We’re really high up here!’"

But how did this historic coupling come about? Well, it was all pretty much down to longtime Classic Rock photographer Ross Halfin, who was approached by Grohl six months earlier after a shoot at the legendary Sunset Marquis hotel in Los Angeles.

“Dave decided that he was going to stay behind and drink the hotel bar dry,” Halfin told Classic Rock's Peter Makowski. “Halfway through the evening he turned round to me and said: ‘Look, I know that the answer is probably going to be no, but we really want to make our show at Wembley Stadium special. Would you ask Jimmy if he would consider joining us on stage? It doesn’t have to be a Foo Fighters or Zeppelin song, we could even play Train Kept A Rollin’ by The Yardbirds – anything!’ 

“So I asked Jimmy, fully expecting him to say no," Halfin continued. "And he said: ‘Yeah, why not? But we’ll have to play something the audience know.’ I suggested Communication Breakdown, and Rock And Roll was his idea; Dave came up with Ramble On."

After initially planning to perform on both nights it was decided that the Led Zeppelin pair would only appear on the second night, to make it more special (much to the subsequent chagrin of anyone who bought a first night ticket, we imagine). There was a full production rehearsal the night before the first show (“It went really well,” said Page. “The band are great, really tight, and Dave is such a nice guy."), and then it was time for the first performance.

Page didn't attend. Instead, he went to see his old friends The Pretty Things play at the 350-capacity 100 Club in London. But he was back at Wembley on Saturday night, joining his old friend John Paul Jones and The Foos onstage, giving Hawkins and Grohl the chance to live out the most joyful of rock'n'roll fantasies. 

“There are no words to describe how important that was to me," said Grohl. "Sitting on a drum stool, looking out at Jimmy and John, and kicking into the intro of Rock And Roll… that single moment was my life’s greatest dream."

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.