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On May 14, 1988, the Atlantic Records label held its 40th Anniversary Celebration by staging a non-stop concert lasting almost 13 hours[1] starting at noon and ending just shortly before 1am the following morning at Madison Square Garden, New York. The event was dubbed "It's Only Rock And Roll".

Only artists who had released material on the Atlantic label in the United States performed, spanning the company's forty-year existence. Lavern Baker and Ruth Brown were the longest tenured Atlantic acts to perform, while Debbie Gibson was the most recent.

Some Atlantic signings, who had either officially split up or not performed together for a number of years, re-formed especially to perform. These included The Rascals, Iron Butterfly, and the former members of Led Zeppelin. Other notable performers included Yes, Genesis, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer (representing Emerson, Lake & Palmer), Foreigner, Paul Rodgers, Bob Geldof, Booker T. Jones, Wilson Pickett, The Coasters, The Spinners, Peabo Bryson, The Blues Brothers (featuring Dan Aykroyd and Sam Moore), Roberta Flack, The Manhattan Transfer, Bee Gees, Ben E. King and Vanilla Fudge.[1]

Plans to close the performance with a greatest hits all-star jam were shelved.[2] Instead, the former members of Led Zeppelin were the last act. "No rehearsal and just shambling on," recalled guitarist Jimmy Page.[3]

The concert was broadcast live in the US on FM radio and HBO television; commentary for the latter being provided backstage by comedian Robert Townsend. HBO commenced its live broadcast a few hours into the event and interspersed footage of the concert that had been taped earlier by the network. In so doing, some of the artists' sets were edited or omitted. An edited version aired later that year on ABC hosted by Robert Hays. The audio was recorded by David Hewitt and Stanley Johnston on the Record Plant Black Truck.

Banners heralding the reunion of Led Zeppelin were displayed like tapestry by excited fans – but, to the fans' dismay, were taken down before HBO went with their live feed.

In the United Kingdom, the event was broadcast over four weeks by BBC Two, presented as hour-long episodes. Atlantic issued this production on video as Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary: It's Only Rock 'n' Roll. The release intercut concert footage with highlights of earlier performances, and older footage from the Atlantic archives.


Marv Albert

  • Introduction

The Coasters

  • "That Is Rock-N-Roll"
  • "Charlie Brown"

Phil Collins

Phil Collins

Lavern Baker

  • "Jim Dandy"
  • "Saved"

Roberta Flack


Laura Branigan

  • "Gloria"

Stephen Stills

Ben E. King

Roberta Flack

Roberta Flack and Peabo Bryson

Michael Douglas

Crosby, Stills & Nash

  • "Wooden Ships"
  • "Our House"
  • "Suite: Judy Blues Eyes"

Bee Gees

3 (as Emerson & Palmer with Robert Berry on bass)

  • "America (including Rondo, Tocata, Tank)"


Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray

The Rascals

Vanilla Fudge

Average White Band

  • "Pick Up the Pieces"

Ruth Brown

Lisa Bonet

Debbie Gibson

Phil Collins

Robert Plant

Bobby Darin

The Manhattan Transfer

The Spinners

Dan Aykroyd

The MG's

  • "Last Night"

Steve Cropper

Carla Thomas and the MG's

Steve Cropper

Paul Rodgers and the MG's

  • "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay"

Steve Cropper

Miki Howard and the MG's

Carla Thomas, Paul Shaffer and the MG's

Dan Aykroyd (as Elwood Blues), Sam Moore and the MG's

  • "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love"
  • "Soul Man"
  • "Been Lovin' You (That Little Bit Too Long)"

Dan Aykroyd (as Elwood Blues), Sam Moore, Phil Collins, and the MG's

  • "You Don't Know Like I Know"
  • "Knock on Wood"

Roberta Flack

Bob Geldof

  • "You Can't Be Too Strong"

Wilson Pickett and the MG's

Wilson Pickett, Dan Aykroyd (as Elwood Blues) and the MG's

  • "Land Of 1000 Dances"

Mike Green

Ahmet Ertegun


Paul Shaffer

Rufus Thomas

  • "Walking the Dog"

Robert Townsend, Phil Collins, and Ahmet Ertegun

Former members of Led Zeppelin (John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant) with Jason Bonham on drums

External linksEdit


  1. ^ a b Perry, Shawn (1999). "The Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary Bash". Vanilla Fudge. Archived from the original on 20 December 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-08.
  2. ^ Lewis, Dave and Pallett, Simon (1997) Led Zeppelin: The Concert File, London: Omnibus Press, p. 140.
  3. ^ Sandall, Robert (January 2008). "The Q interview". Q. No. 258. p. 42.