Saturday, August 21, 2010

Jeff Beck 1964-66

The Yardbirds' Stroll On in Antonioni' Blow Up. Jeff Beck, velvet collar and cuffs.
Jeff Beck, 1967, in a very clean suit.
Ass backwards on a scooter, 1966.
Jeffery Beck was born June 24, 1944, in Wallington, Surrey, England, a fairly typical U.K suburban town. His first musical experiences were singing in a church choir, two years of piano lessons and a few lessons on upright bass from an uncle. In 1958, at age 14, he saw Buddy Holly and the Crickets live and became enthralled with rock'n'roll guitar. His sister was dating a neighborhood pal named Jimmy Page and together they began woodshedding. His first band was called The Nightshift, of whom little is remembered except it was with the Nightshift he was spotted by Paul Lucas, a bass player/vocalist who with his brother John on rhythm guitar and vocals and one Ray Cook on drums had a band called the Tridents. The Tridents lead guitarist Mickey Jopp was leaving the band and Beck was offered and accepted the job. Soon the Tridents had a weekly gig at Eel Pie Island, the scene of the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds earliest triumphs. The Tridents never landed a record deal, but they did cut a two song demo-- Trouble In Mind and Wandering Man Blues, the only other Tridents material that has surfaced is an incredible six minute rave up on Bo Diddley's Nursery Rhyme (Was the rest of the set recorded? If so where is that tape today?) recorded at Eel Pie Island. These early Tridents tapes show that Beck's unique style was nearly fully developed by 1964. Beck's first proper studio session was with Screaming Lord Sutch and the Savages, produced by Joe Meek, a group that both he and Page occasionally played with, the single-- Dracula's Daughter b/w Come Back Baby was typical of Sutch's early material, the a-side a goofy, horror-rock novelty in the Monster Mash vein, the b-side a killer guitar rocker. Beck's solo on Come Back Baby shows all the strengths he would later display a few years later in the Yardbirds in all its tasteless eminence. In late 1964 the Yardbirds' lead guitarist-- Eric "No Chin" Clapton left the band, refusing to play on their new single For Your Love, proclaiming it "pop trash", which in turn became quite a blessing for the Yardbirds who remembered the Tridents' guitarist from Eel Pie Island and immediately recruited him. With the Yardbirds, Beck would really make his mark on the world of rock'n'roll, his peak moments coming on side one of Having A Rave Up With The Yardbirds (especially Mister Your A Better Man Than I, Heart Full Of Soul, I'm A Man and Train Kept A Rollin'), the best parts of their third album Roger The Engineer aka Over Under Sideways Down (the U.S. title), a disc that my pal Tim Warren (Crypt Records) has denounced in print as "prog rock", but I beg to differ and think Rack My Mind, Jeff's Boogie (this is the version from the 45, different from the LP), and Nazz Are Blue (aka Dust My Broom) to be pretty fucking cool. Note, the mono and stereo versions of said LP have different guitar parts on many of the tunes.
Just for the hell of it, here's another version of Train Kept A Rollin' from a '66 BBC broadcast.
Unlike Clapton, who simply stole his riffs from American guitarists from Matt "Guitar" Murphy to J.J. Cale and everyone in between, Beck's playing rarely showed the obvious influence of other guitarists, rather, he sounded more like he was inspired by the sound of garbage trucks backing up or ducks being stepped on. He phrased more like a horn player, albeit a horn player having an attack of spastic hiccups.
In late 1966, bass player Paul Samuel-Smith left the Yardbirds (to find fortune producing Cat Stevens), rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja switched to bass and Beck's childhood pal and studio musician extraordinaire (that's Page on Donovan's Sunshine Superman) Jimmy Page was added on second guitar. Only three recordings were made with this line up, one single, which was perhaps the peak of U.K. psychedelia-- Happening Ten Years Time Ago along with it's flipside, the wonderfully trashy Psycho Daises (which Beck sang lead on), along with a re-write of Train Kept A Rollin' called Stroll On which appeared the soundtrack of the film Blow Up (although in the film Page is playing bass, on the recording he's playing guitar). These three tracks would be the last truly great recordings of the Yardbirds, at least until a live tape of the line up surfaces (a true holy grail, especially since the Velvet Underground's Waitin' For The Man was in their set list at the time. There is a live rendition of it, in rather dodgy sound quality, from the post-Beck era, but the fidielty is so bad it's hardly worth burning to MP3 to include here). By early '67 Beck, who was burned out from touring, was regularly blowing off gigs, and was finally asked to leave the Yardbirds. They would carry on for another year an a half as a four piece, recording the below par Little Games LP and a live album at New York's Anderson Theater which was quickly withdrawn from circulation. After a short retirement and a bad car wreck, Beck scored a hit in the UK with his first solo single-- Hi Ho Silver Lining b/w Beck's Bolero, and then put together the first version of the Jeff Beck Group with Rod Stewart, Ron Wood and Nicky Hopkins. Beck had switched from playing a Fender Esquire (an early version of the Telecaster) to a Gibson Les Paul, which seemed to change his style of playing, and helped indulge his tendencies to heavy-osity, and not in a necessarily good way, although I do have a soft spot in my heart for Truth and Beck-Ola albums, probably from hearing them so many times as a young teen, but they're no match for Stroll On. Beck later admitted without the creativity of the rest of the Yardbirds, especially Keith Relf and Jim McCarty, he felt lost. The rest of his career has been documented many times elsewhere and holds little interest for me personally. Although, for those who care, Beck, Bogart and Appice's Live In Japan album was one of Lester Bangs' all time favorites for its shear tastelessness (at that time Beck had added the musical colostomy bag, a plastic bag full of God knows what that had one end plugged into the guitar and the other a tube that the player blew into, most people remember it from Peter Frampton's Comes Alive, to his ostentatious musical arsenal). Me, while regarding the high spots of his post-Yardbirds career, I can say I admire his Gene Vincent tribute album, for his playing was truly impressive (you try playing Cliff Gallup's solos note for note), but if I want to hear those tunes, I'll play a Gene Vincent record.
One personal antidote. Around 1974 I was working for a concert promoter as a "security guard" (aka bouncer) at concerts around South Florida. Jeff Beck, then promoting his fuise-ack
album Wired, was playing at the 4,000 seat Miami Jai-Lai Fronton. I was working the backstage, dressing room door, and watched the show from the side of the stage. Without a doubt, the loudest thing I have ever heard in my life was Jeff Beck's monitors. When he hit the first note on his guitar I thought my head would cave in. Eventually the sound man turned off the house p.a. system, the monitors alone were loud enough to fill the hall ten times over. Looking into the audience it seemed like at least half the people in the front five rows had their fingers in their ears. I later noticed that when ever someone had to communicate with him backstage they either had to shout or make hand signals, I think he was almost completely deaf. I also think he may have sustained some brain damage in that car wreck.
I haven't followed Jeff Beck's career much since those days, although I did hear his rather dreadful rendition of the Beatles' A Day In The Life on the car radio recently. Lost indeed. These days, Jim McCarty and Chris Dreja still have a band called the Yardbirds that gigs around the U.K, perhaps Jeff should rejoin them.


Anonymous said...

Happenings Ten Years Time Ago is indeed a great song. I'd rather hear that than anything by Jimmy Page's other famous band.

The Hound said...

" Jimmy Page's other famous band."

I assume you mean Donovan and his backing group....

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a great post! I'd be interested too in your thoughts on Keith Relf.

Anonymous said...

very interesting. I liked

The Hound said...

" I'd be interested too in your thoughts on Keith Relf."

I've always loved Keith Relf, and think he was totally under rated, I mean who else could make Eric Clapton sound good (c.f. Somestack Lightnin')? I'd hate to have seen him on American Idol though ("'re a bit pitchy there blondie...."). Not so crazy about his post-Yardbirds bands though. Come to think of it, MCarty/Samuel-Smith/Dreja were a very under rated rhythm section also, especially Smith who was an amazing bass player in his day.

Anonymous said...

Jeff was fired from the Yardbirds in November 1966 for missing too many gigs and for almost smashing Keith Relf over the head with one of those Fender guitars.

Roger Clay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roger Clay said...

Great stuff on Jeff Beck ....Of the three original Yardbirds guitarists he still sounds great and continues to grow.
regarding your NoseNo post of a while ago....see some scrapbook stuff

best regards RC

Anonymous said...

Legend has it that Beck gave one of his Fender Esquires to a then young Tommy Keene who reportedly plays it to this day. Saw Jeff a few months back, still an awesome player, still has zero material to work with. Somebody please write him some SONGS.
Doug NJ

The Hound said...

"regarding your NoseNo post of a while ago....see some scrapbook stuff"

Thanks, that's a funny picture of me, the guy w/the beard, John "Jack Boy" Smead can be heard on Pebbles Vol. 9-- the Banshees' Project Blue (Dunwich), he played rhtyhm guitar. I think it's also on Sundazed Dunwich compilation.

Wilthomer said...

Beck also appears on an excellent track called "I'm Not Running Away" by a beat group called The Fitz & Startz that has a tasty solo by Beck. It's featured on the CD "Shapes Of Things:60's Groups & Sessions".

Skoolboy Jim said...

Beck should form a one-man-band and tour with Duster Bennett. Oh wait, I think Duster Bennett is dead. I can see why you and others might hate Clapton but I think his first solo record is decent. Not much else though, maybe some of the Mayall stuff.

Anonymous said...

The only Clapton performance that I ever liked was John Mayall's I'm your witchdoctor(produced by Jimmy Page)from 1965.

Anonymous said...

Beck only released two interesting songs after leaving the Yardbirds .Beck's Bolero(cut in May of 1966)released in 1967 and Rock My Plimsoul(45 version)also from 1967.

The Hound said...

"Beck only released two interesting songs after leaving the Yardbirds .Beck's Bolero(cut in May of 1966)released in 1967 and Rock My Plimsoul(45 version)also from 1967."

then again, there's the GTO's album he appears on...

Ed Ward said...

I was talking with Alexis Korner many years ago and made some comment about Jeff Beck spending a lot of money somewhere and wondering how smoeone who hadn't had a hit and wasn't selling albums could do that. Alexis cocked one eyebrow and intoned "Well, he's Beck's Banahnahs, isn't he?" I gawped. "In America," Alexis patiently explained, "you've got Chiquita. In Britain, it's Beck's."

I certainly wasn't about to contradict him, there any truth to this?

The Hound said...

" "In America," Alexis patiently explained, "you've got Chiquita. In Britain, it's Beck's." "

If so, it's the first I've heard of it. Perhaps he's somehow related to the German Beck family that owns the brewery. I know that he goes for extremely long periods of time without working, has few songwriting credits, and owns several extremely expensive sports cars. I always figured he had a rich girlfriend or wife. He can't make much terms of recording royalties, which never amount to much anyway. I do know Hi Ho Silver Lining was on a UK TV show as the theme music and also in at least one UK TV commercial, but even that would only amount to several hundred thousand dollars at best.
BTW, he wears a wig (as does his former bandmate Rod Stewart, Stewart for those who never noticed has a slight hunch back). Anyone out there know how Jeff Beck pays the bills?

Pedro said...

Couple of things I'd like to add.
The photos of Beck and the Yardbirds posted on here are fabulous! Please tell me where you found them, or if possible, post more similar. Great.
Page did play the white '59 Telecaster Beck gave him in the film, Blow Up. You can see this when they do the close up on him. There is the Telecaster headstock. Chris is playing the Epiphone Rivoli bass Samwell Smith left behind.
Also, Beck NEVER gave his Esquire to Tommy Keene. He gave it to Seymour Duncan for building him the Telecaster with two Humbuckers on it.
Finally, Beck has never had any "Family" money to speak of. He grew up very poor, and, when he was growing up, the big joke about the Beck family was that they didn't own a TV. Good thing, probably.
Anyway, am enjoying this blogsite and the photos.

Anonymous said...

Pedro, maybe the Esquire legend is some old story Keene told once and now is stuck with. Keene would have to be in his 50's for the timing on this to make any sense. Not doubting you at all, just quoting Keene here on getting the Esquire from Beck (was) "unbelievably cool but he must’ve had an endorsement." This from an old but still active Matador records site.

Anonymous said...

Jimmy Page's best work was as a session man playing on records by Them,Dave Berry, The Talismen and numerous other British beat/R&B groups.His two best Yardbirds records were Happenings Ten Years Time Ago(1966,co-lead with Beck)and Puzzles(1967 b-side with a blazing solo as the song fades out.)

Anonymous said...

Wow, never knew he wore a wig. At least it's not as bad as that fusion crap that he's been playing for the last umpteen years. The BBC Yardbirds CD RULES! Also reccomended is a book called Jeff's Book by Christopher Hjort and Doug Hinman. Great pics Hound as usual.

Anonymous said...

An interesting Beck appearance is on the 1968 song The Dog Presides by Paul Jones(ex-Manfred Mann).The song is a strange combination of trippy guitar,blues harmonica and dogs barking.The song features Jeff Beck on guitar, Paul McCartney on drums and Paul Samwell-Smith on Bass.

RJ said...

Regarding Beck being bonkers -- I heard Nile Rodgers give a talk in Seattle earlier this year and he had this long, crazy story about how eccentric Beck was. Hired Rodgers to produce him, can't figure what he wants to do, kept trashing hours of work done in studio, starting from scratch, repeat cycle...
Finally, Beck hands Rodgers a cassette tape and says jubilantly "THIS is what I should be doing." It was the soundtrack to Chariots of Fire.

Michael Simmons said...

When I logged on to The Hound Blog tonight, in my peripheral vision I saw:

Jeff Beck 19XX-XX

My heart stopped momentarily. It looked like the header for an obit.

I'm OK now.

The Hound said...

The Yardbirds on the BBC w/Beck can be found as .Flac files here:
You can use Amadeus or a similar program to change the flac files to mp3 or mp4a that is compatible w/Itunes.
"It looked like the header for an obit".

1966 might have been the year Beck's brain died.
"Beck also appears on an excellent track called "I'm Not Running Away" by a beat group called The Fitz & Startz that has a tasty solo by Beck. It's featured on the CD "Shapes Of Things:60's Groups & Sessions"."

I forgot about that CD, there's a few really grea obsure tracks on it. There's a simiar packageof Page's session work from the same label which includes the Primitives (not the Reed/Cale group) incredible You Said.

Has anyone ever heard a live tape of the late '66 Page /Beck line-up? It's hard to believe nobody bothered to tape 'em even once. Surley Page himself must be sitting on some tapes. I'd even love to hear what goes on in Psycho-Daises after the fade.

pedrosera1 said...

Many years ago I remember reading an interview with Jeff Beck, not sure but I think it was in Crawdaddy magazine, where he is asked about memorable Yardbirds shows and he mentions hearing a tape of the Beck/Page line-up show at The Fillmore in '66, said it was phenomenal. I'm sure both Beck and Page, as well as a few old time collectors have copies of this. Page is said to have an extensive archives of live recordings of many great British bands, including The Yardbirds. He used to tape Albert Lee a lot as well as Bert Jansch. With so much live stuff coming out years after the fact, hope we don't have to wait another 30 years to hear something like a great Beck/Page performance.

Anonymous said...

I had never heard the Tommy Keene story before...interesting. I am a huge fan, and have seen him many times, especially early on with Razz and his early solo band. Great guitarist, writer and performer.

Anonymous said...

for those who can't get enough of the "who's better-Beck or Clapton?" debate I recommend the clip of them playing "Further On Up the Road" from the early 80's. Beck bounces around like a dog marking his territory and SMOKES Slowhand (EC realizes it too).

And Hound I've been reading you a long time and need to know your connection to the guy from the "Project Blue" Banshees, one of the greatest garage 45's ever. Any stories?

The Hound said...

" Hound I've been reading you a long time and need to know your connection to the guy from the "Project Blue" Banshees, one of the greatest garage 45's ever. Any stories?"

John "Jack Boy" Smead who played guitar on in the Banshees was the super the building I lived in on E. 11th Street for 20 years (he got me the apt), I also worked for him running an afterhours joint called No Se No (19833-4), and we have been pals for years. Roscoe was his roomate for a few years. I wrote the Banshees story in Kicks magazine #3.

MJG196 said...

Ah, Jeff Beck. Probably the greatest Rock guitarist nobody knows about.

Viva said...

Hi there. Awesome blog!
Just one useless patriotic note: It's JAI-ALAI Fronton.

Robert Cazares said...

It never ceases to amaze me, the number of fascinating blogs I stumble on, like this page, focused on Jeff Beck.
And all the old soundboard and audience recordings that have turned up the last couple/few years (or more).

I just picked up the nine disc set of "The Old Grey Whistle Test" over at
No Jeff Beck, but some great old video footage you may find of interest.

Anyway, maybe someone here knows -

I've been looking for a recording of Jeff Beck at the Fillmore East on June 14, 1968.
He opened for the Dead.
The show was Grateful Dead/Jeff Beck Group/Seventh Sons.

A friend of mine was at the show and has always raved about Beck's performance and how they didn't want him to leave the stage.

I've been looking for this show literally for years now.
If anyone has a line on where I may find this it would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you

The Hound said...

"I've been looking for a recording of Jeff Beck at the Fillmore East on June 14, 1968.
He opened for the Dead.
The show was Grateful Dead/Jeff Beck Group/Seventh Sons."

Never saw that one but via Captain Crawl I've turned up excellent tapes of the JBG live at the Filmore West (late July '68), Newport Jazz Fest (summer '68) and that late group at Ruis Rock Fest in Paris, 69. Some of his best playing can be found on these three shows.

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