YARDBIRDS BBC SESSIONS ARE THE ROOTS OF BECK, PAGE AND CLAPTON
Hot off the heels of Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page being cleared of plagiarism and guitarists Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton both releasing new albums (‘Loud Hailer’ and ‘I Still Do’, the former’s first in six years), the band that made a name for all three in the 60s release this comprehensive BBC live album that features some marvellous work from them all.
This month also sees the publication of BECK01, through Genesis Publications, a limited, numbered and signed book of photographs charting the history of Jeff Beck over five decades.
The Yardbirds were famed for helping kickstart the careers of the three aforementioned guitarists and while they were at the cutting edge of 60s pop, they had feet planted firmly in both British Invasion (alongside The Beatles, The Kinks and The Rolling Stones) and the British Blues Boom.
Formed in the early 60s and centred around the core of vocalist Keith Relf, guitarist/bassist Chris Dreja, bassist Paul Samwell-Smith and drummer Jim McCarty, they produced many hits including ‘Over Under Sideways Down’, ‘Heart Full Of Soul’ and ‘For Your Love’ with ‘Shapes Of Things’ covered by Jeff Beck, Led Zeppelin, Gary Moore, Nazareth and David Bowie. Then there’s ‘Still I’m Sad’, covered by Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow.
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The set here kicks off with ‘I Ain’t Got You’, a great number that the Yardbirds made their own, and ‘For Your Love’ one of many that you’ll recognise instantly. The first session, including a Keith Relf interview, was recorded for Top Gear on 22nd March 1965. This was just a few days before Clapton’s abrupt departure. His replacement, Jeff Beck, kit the ground running and tracks like ‘Still I’m Sad’ and the blues standard ‘Smokestack Lightning’ all get on-air live workouts.
Shows including Kinksize Live Pop Package and Saturday Club saw the Yardbirds at their best. Further interviews include band new year resolutions and bassist Paul Samwell-Smith talking about how some records feature a session bassist in his place, so that he could concentrate on production.
Moving into 1966 and fine versions of ‘Shapes Of Things’ and ‘Dust My Broom’ show off Jeff’s fines blues influenced guitar work. The latter track was an Elmore James cover. When asked about the singer, drummer Jim McCarty told me: “Elmore was a great singer I thought, and of course his slide playing was the greatest. ‘Dust My Broom’ was originally recorded in 1951."
Saturday Swings and Saturday Club are just two of the plethora of shows that featured live music and interviews and the vaults are plundered well.
That year would be tumultuous with Samwell-Smith leaving and guitarist Jimmy Page coming in on bass while rhythm guitarist Dreja would learn the bass. This wouldn’t last, and recordings were made with session bassist John Paul Jones (who would also on some early Jeff Beck solo work). Difficulties continued when Beck was sacked and the band spent more time touring than recording, but there’s still some excellent work here.
There are also omments on Jeff’s guitar, a Page interview, and a version or two of ‘Over Under Sideways Down’ that are well worth checking out.
The sound may be retro, but the roots of guitar god start here and that’s what a lot here boils down to.
As the band rolled through 1967, there was a reliance on the Beck era hits and extended blues workouts on stage rather than current work and as the band virtually split it was Jimmy Page keeping the revised line-up going that evolved, via The New Yardbirds to fulfil contractual obligations, into Led Zeppelin.
There’s a few covers here too, including Chuck Berry’s ‘Too Much Monkey Business’. When I spoke to drummer Jim McCarty, he said: "To me he was probably the closest to the old rock and roll I used to like at school. We steered clear of some tracks as The Rolling Stones did great versions; instead we covered ‘Too Much Monkey Business’. Apart from the fantastic rock lyrics, the Chuck Berry songs were great for our endless rave-ups!”
Jim McCarty – drums
Keith Relf – lead vocals, harmonica, guitar
Chris Dreja – rhythm guitar, bass
Paul Samwell-Smith – bass
Eric Clapton – lead guitar
Jeff Beck – lead guitar
Jimmy Page – lead guitar, bass
I Ain't Got You
Interview: Keith Relf talks about the band's background
For Your Love
I'm Not Talking (Tracks 1 - 4: Top Gear Recorded 22nd March, 1965, Broadcast 10th April, 1965)
I Wish You Would
Interview: Paul Samwell - Smith talks about the recordingand the USA tour
Heart Full Of Soul (Tracks 5 - 7: Saturday Club,Recorded 1st June 1965, Broadcast 5th June, 1965)
I Ain't Done Wrong
Heart Full Of Soul (Alternate version) (Tracks 8 - 9: Saturday Club, Recorded 21st June, 1965, Broadcast 26th June, 1965)
Too Much Monkey Business
Love Me Like I Love You
I'm A Man (Tracks 10 - 12: You Really Got Me (Kinksize Live Pop Package with The Kinks & other guests),Recorded 6th August, 1965, Broadcast 30th August, 1965 )
Evil Hearted You
Interview: Paul Samwell - Smith talks about the 'Still I'm Sad' single
Still I'm Sad
Hang On Sloopy (Tracks 13 - 16: Saturday Club, Recorded 27th September, 1965, Broadcast 2nd October, 1965)
Interview: The Yardbirds give their New Year's resolutions
You're A Better Man Than I
The Train Kept A - Rollin'
Smokestack Lightning (Edited version) (Tracks 17 - 21: This Must Be The Place, (with The Hollies, The Ivy League & other guests),Recorded 18th November, 1965, Broadcast 27th December, 1965
Shapes Of Things
Dust My Broom
You're A Better Man Than I (Tracks 1 - 3: Saturday Club, Recorded 28th February, 1966, Broadcast 5th March, 1966)
Baby, Scratch My Back
Interview: Keith Relf talks about his solo single
Over, Under, Sideways, Down
The Sun Is Shining (Edited version)
Interview: Keith Relf talks about their USA tour
Shapes Of Things (Alternate version)
The Sun Is Shining (Tracks 4 - 10: Saturday Swings, Recorded 6th May, 1966.Broadcast 21st May, 1966)
Over, Under, Sideways, Down (Original TV version)
Comment: Jeff Beck's guitar playing (Tracks 11 - 12: BBC1 'A Whole Scene Going', Broadcast 18th June,1966)
Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)
Drinking Muddy Water (Tracks 13 - 15: Saturday Club,Recorded 4th April, 1967, Broadcast 15th April, 1967)
Think About It
Interview: Jimmy Page talks about touring
Goodnight Sweet Josephine
My Baby (Tracks 16 - 19: Saturday Club, Recorded 15th March, 1968 ,Broadcast 16th March, 1968)