The 2004 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony included a memorial performance to the then-recently-deceased George Harrison. An all-star line-up of musicians including Tom Petty and Steve Winwood performed the best Beatles' song ever, which was written by Harrison, who was objectively the best Beatle.
Then, about halfway through the 6-minute performance, Prince magically appears and rips one of the most face-melting guitar solo in rock n' roll history. And just when it can't get any more epic, Prince throws his guitar up in the air and it … never comes down. It just disappears. It's fucking incredible.
Joel Gallen, who directed and produced the original broadcast, recently revisited the footage and re-edited the sequence to give the world what we want: more Prince. As he explains:
17 years after this stunning performance by Prince, I finally had the chance to go in and re-edit it slightly – since there were several shots that were bothering me. I got rid of all the dissolves and made them all cuts, and added lots more close ups of Prince during his solo. I think it's better now.
Fortunately, Gallen preserved the disappearing guitar at the end. To this day, it seems that still no one knows what happened to that thing. Heartbreakers drummer Steve Ferrone reminisced on the performance in The New York Times in 2016, saying:
It was a hell of a guitar solo, and a hell of a show he actually put on for the band. When he fell back into the audience, everybody in the band freaked out, like, "Oh my God, he's falling off the stage!" And then that whole thing with the guitar going up in the air. I didn't even see who caught it. I just saw it go up, and I was astonished that it didn't come back down again. Everybody wonders where that guitar went, and I gotta tell you, I was on the stage, and I wonder where it went, too.
Maybe it was waiting for Prince up there in rock n' roll heaven all along.
Gallen shared this behind-the-scenes story with The Times then, too:
The Petty rehearsal was later that night. And at the time I'd asked him to come back, there was Prince; he'd shown up on the side of the stage with his guitar. He says hello to Tom and Jeff and the band. When we get to the middle solo, where Prince is supposed to do it, Jeff Lynne's guitar player just starts playing the solo. Note for note, like Clapton. And Prince just stops and lets him do it and plays the rhythm, strums along. And we get to the big end solo, and Prince again steps forward to go into the solo, and this guy starts playing that solo too! Prince doesn't say anything, just starts strumming, plays a few leads here and there, but for the most part, nothing memorable.
They finish, and I go up to Jeff and Tom, and I sort of huddle up with these guys, and I'm like: "This cannot be happening. I don't even know if we're going to get another rehearsal with him. [Prince]. But this guy cannot be playing the solos throughout the song." So I talk to Prince about it, I sort of pull him aside and had a private conversation with him, and he was like: "Look, let this guy do what he does, and I'll just step in at the end. For the end solo, forget the middle solo." And he goes, "Don't worry about it." And then he leaves. They never rehearsed it, really. Never really showed us what he was going to do, and he left, basically telling me, the producer of the show, not to worry. And the rest is history. It became one of the most satisfying musical moments in my history of watching and producing live music.