Los Bastardos Reunidos
Tales of True Adventure for Rugged Men Not Unlike Yourself
Jeff Beck at 78.
Somehow I don’t know much Beck. I listened to the For Your Love episode of our Bastard-sanctioned podcast. I know, technically not Beck, but it was a fun place to start, and educational. Someone’s lifting bass from Dave Brubeck!
Also For Your Love sounds like it could be a Zombies song.
Here’s my take on JB. He was an important, innovative, and influential guitarist mainly for his work in the Yardbirds and the first iteration of the Jeff Beck Group. Along with Clapton, Page and Hendrix, he set the parameters that put a choke hold on rock guitar playing that lasted until the punks came in with baseball bats. Through most of the 70’s, no guitarist who didn’t play like one of them was taken seriously. Anyway, in the Yardbirds, Beck came up with some catchy riffs that made some songs sound better than they were (here and here) blistering guitar solos (here) and “rave-ups” (here).
A bit later he teamed up with Rod Stewart and Ron Wood (on bass) as the Jeff Beck Group, which imploded by the time their second album came out. Their first, Truth, was influential. It predated the release of Led Zeppelin I and had enough similarities that many accused Page and LZ of ripping him off (which turned out to be constant claim against Zep, sometimes fairly, sometimes not). If you look at the whole picture, I don’t think it’s a fair accusation. Page and Beck were friends from way back, they played together in the Yardbirds, they knew and influenced each other. They simply developed along similar lines. They both saw that heavy blues was the next big thing, and they were right. Anyway, if you listen to live Yardbirds stuff during their last year or so with just Page on guitar, you can hear him pushing things into heavier LZ territory (here, especially the solo at 1:00) independently of Beck.
The best song on Truth was probably this one. Some think the JBG would have been the next big thing instead of LZ if it hadn’t been for a crippling clash of egos between Beck and Rod Stewart. Nonsense. LZI is the better album. Page was a better writer, or more creative thief, however you want to see it.
Which leads us to why you don’t know much Beck. He wasn’t a writer. All his albums contain stunning and innovative guitar playing. He kept developing as a guitarist throughout his life. But most of us want to hear more than great guitar playing. As a result, his music hasn’t had any staying power.
As an example of how good he was technically, here’s his take on Mingus’s Goodbye Pork Pie Hat. You can’t deny that’s technically great guitar playing. But good as his playing is, when I want to hear that tune I seek out the original, never Beck’s.
But give the man his due. He was essential to the transformation of r&b into rock.
Thanks for filling in some blanks for me. If you had told me that “I Ain’t Superstitious” was early Len Zeflin, I would’ve believed you. Even the singing.
And it turns out I knew a couple of Yardbirds songs even though I didn’t KNOW I knew them.
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