Home' Rhythms Magazine : 2018 May-June Contents 14 Rhythms
With an instantly recognisable sound encompassing
distortion, feedback, sustain and rapid fire flurries, Jeff
Beck is acknowledged as one of the most influential
guitarists in rock history. Throughout his fifty plus
year career he has helped pioneer psychedelia, blues/
rock and heavy metal in addition to expanding the
boundaries of jazz/rock fusion.
One of only a few successful lead guitar players who doesn’t
sing, Beck has led or been part of a number of bands while
maintaining a solo career that has included collaborations with
various musicians and producers.
Born on June 24th 1944 in Surrey, England, Beck's musical
tuition began at eight when he was encouraged by his parents
to practise piano, violin and cello. As trad-jazz and skiffle began
its metamorphosis into rock and roll in the mid-'50s, the young
musician began his life-long affair with the electric guitar.
His epiphany took place when the 13-year-old saw The Girl Can't
Help It at his local movie theatre. Watching Cliff Gallup playing
lead guitar with Gene Vincent's Blue Caps as they belted out 'Be-
Bop-A-Lula' changed his life forever. At 15 he joined a local band
the Deltones whose repertoire consisted mostly of Shadows' hits
and, while still attending Wimbledon College of Art, played in a
succession of other groups including Screaming Lord Sutch and
the Savages who would later include Ritchie Blackmore.
By 1963, he'd discovered blues and R&B (Buddy Guy and Booker
T. & the MGs were big favourites) and was fascinated by Les
Paul's pioneering studio techniques like multi-tracking and the
use of various sonic effects. In another local band the Tridents,
19 year old Beck found the opportunity for the first time to reveal
his bag of musical tricks. Rare Tridents' recordings, (three are
included on the 1991 Box Set Beckology) reveal Beck's innovative
soundscapes. No other guitar player of this period, including
Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton, sounded quite like Beck.
In 1965, after leaving the Tridents, Beck took on the seemingly
impossible task of replacing Clapton in the Yardbirds.
Over the next 18 months Beck would redefine the Yardbirds'
energetic blues, R&B style. On the singles 'Heart Full Of Soul',
'I'm a Man" and 'Shapes of Things', and then with The Yardbirds
aka Roger The Engineer (1966) - a watershed album for mid-60's
British rock, Beck pushed the band into the psychedelic era with
a harder more exciting sound.
By the end of 1966, Beck had left the Yardbirds to begin a solo
career, recording a psychedelic nod to Ravel - the one-off 'Beck's
Bolero', with Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Nicky Hopkins and
Keith Moon, and two solo singles - 'Hi Ho Silver Lining' and
'Tallyman' that, despite his unremarkable voice, made the top
ten in the UK.
He then formed the Jeff Beck Group which briefly featured
former Shadow Jet Harris on bass, Ronnie Wood firstly on
rhythm guitar and later bass, drummer Aynsley Dunbar soon to
be replaced by Mickey Waller, and singer Rod Stewart.
Peter Grant a road manager at the time booked a short US tour
aware that the new concert and FM radio format developing
there could break a band without using the 'hit single' formula.
Playing second bill to the Grateful Dead at four shows at
Fillmore East, Beck and his group were embraced by fans and
critics with their reworking of blues based material. Grant
would soon become Led Zeppelin's manager and it’s surely no
coincidence that Beck's music would be influential in Jimmy
Page's direction for his new band.
Unlike their closest contemporaries - Hendrix, Cream, Zeppelin,
and the Who, Beck's band suffered from an almost total absence
of first class original material. Their live set consisted of wall-to-
And so it was that their debut album Truth, (1968), recorded in
two days, found them playing their live set in the studio.
Augmented by guests John Paul Jones on organ and pianist
Nicky Hopkins, the four piece Jeff Beck Group cut loose with a
re-arranged maximum volume cover of the Yardbirds' 'Shapes
Of Things' and Tim Rose's anti-war classic 'Morning Dew' with a
Scottish bagpiper drifting in and out. 'Let Me Love You' credited
to Beck and Stewart is 'borrowed' from Buddy Guy's blues
standard of almost the same title. Beck acknowledged two giants
of Chicago blues in songs by Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters'
'You Shook Me' (included the following year on Led Zeppelin's
first album), and Howlin' Wolf's' I Ain't Superstitious'. 'Rock
My Plimsoul' is a copy of B.B. King's 'Rock Me Baby', their long,
slow 'Blues De Luxe' credited again to Beck and Stewart closely
resembles King's 'Gambler's Blues' and for some unknown
reason is infiltrated with fake applause.
Almost forgot to mention these oddities - a Chet Atkins inspired
instrumental version of 'Greensleeves' with Beck on a Gibson
J-200 acoustic guitar, 'Ol' Man River' introduced in 1927 in the
Jerome Kern- Richard Rodgers Broadway hit Show Boat and
popularised by Paul Robeson one of Stewart's favourite singers,
and a reprise of 'Beck's Bolero'.
Truth is regarded as a seminal work of heavy metal because of
its use of blues towards a hard rock approach.
The Jeff Beck Group lasted only one more album - 1969's Beck-
Ola before breaking up.
Beck stopped regular use of a plectrum in the 1980s, producing
a wide variety of sounds by using his fingers, a vibrato bar and
His most recent album Loud Hailer was released in 2016.
JEFF BECK GROUP
Links Archive 2018 Mar-Apr July August 2018 Navigation Previous Page Next Page