Jeff Beck Tribute – A Guitarist and Musical Pioneer who Never Lost his Sense of Wonder

Jeff Beck Tribute – 24 June 1944 – 10 January 2023

This tribute video is dedicated to the family and friends of Jeff Beck. It is also dedicated to his fans of all ages from those lucky to have seen him in the early days, to those of us who discovered him later on and to new music fans hearing the news today and wanting to know more about what made Jeff Beck so special.

I talk about my journey into the world of Jeff Beck and talk about some of my favourite albums which feature his unforgettable guitar playing.

Phil Aston’s  Top 10 Jeff Beck Albums

1. You Had It Coming
2. Jeff
3. Who else
4. Emotion & Commotion
5. Guitar Shop
6. Wired
7. Flash
8. Blow By Blow
9. Loud Hailer
10. Truth

Joe Geesin Looks Back on Jeff Beck’s Career

On 20th January, guitarist Jeff Beck left us, and the world lost one of the greatest technicians, and most innovative and influential musicians of modern music. Regularly ranked alongside the likes of Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix, he never achieved the same success, but his reverence amongst fans and guitarists was unequalled. From the outset Beck has pushed boundaries, not just stylistically but technologically too, experimenting with chords, sounds, feedback, the tremolo, all on top of technical proficiency, there is no guitarist who hasn’t at some stage been in awe; Jeff’s refusal to stand still is stand still, no matter how good the groove, is probably what cost him the commercial success that his peers found.

Born Geoffrey Arnold Beck in Walling, Surrey (South West London, UK) in 1944, and took an early interest in the guitar, and was introduced to Jimmy Page by his sister, in his teens. He also sung in the church choice aged 10,

Beck’s recording career started with Screaming Lord Sutch in 1962, and a number of sessions followed, as well as work with The Tridents. There is also a Jimmy Page produced 1964 session where Beck worked with Ritchie Blackmore, who later recalled being blown away by Beck’s playing.
In 1965 Beck replaced Eric Clapton in The Yardbirds, a line-up that would later include Jimmy Page (initially on bass, later guitar) and this line-up lasted 20 months, recording one album (Roger The Engineer) and a number of singles, and with Beck, The Yardbirds recorded their most acclaimed material. Beck also recorded some solo material around this time, including Beck’s Bolero (featuring Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones) and the hit single Hi Ho Silver Lining (RAK label, produced by Mickie Most). Compared to The Yardbirds, it was a bit poppy, almost novelty, but a catchy song all the same.
Beck’s work in the Yardbirds saw him explore the controlled use of feedback that would influence so many.

Rumour has it that Pink Floyd had wanted Beck to replace Syd Barrett, but could never muster themselves to ask him.

Following his departure from The Yardbirds, Beck formed his own group and released the seminal Truth, featuring vocalist Rod Stewart, bassist Ronnie Wood, pianist Nicky Hopkins and drummer Micky Waller. The album, issued a few months before Zed Zeppelin 1, is often considered a template for Zeppelin but it has forever lived in the shadow of. If there’s an argument for heavy metal a year before Black Sabbath, Jeff Beck is as close as you’ll get.
The follow-up Beck Ola followed a similar fashion but fell a little flat by comparison.

The band toured America but internal combustion caused a split before the advertised Woodstock appearance, with Wood and Steward going off in a Faces / Small Faces direction. The proposed Beck, Bogart & Appice (Tim Bogart and Carmine Appice formerly of Vanilla Fudge) was put on hold following a serious car accident involving Beck, and by the time he recovered, Bogart and Appice had formed Cactus, so Jeff teamed up with drummer Cozy Powell to fly to the Motown studios to record an album of Motown covers.

As Cozy Powell once told me: “
It never got the test pressing stage. We went to Motown in Detroit with the idea of Jeff recording an album of all the Motown hits, basically as an instrumental album. He wanted to use a lot of the Motown session players. At that time I’d just joined him, 1969 I think, and his original idea was to find a drummer first. Found me, went down to the audition, got the job, next thing I know we’re going to Motown to do this album. We did ‘Reach out I’ll Be There’, ‘Losing You’, things like that. In the end we did about 7 or 8 tracks of which the backing tracks were done. Jeff plays rhythm guitar, he hadn’t actually put the lead on and for some reason he wasn’t happy with what he heard or with Micky Most or whatever. It never ever saw the light of day.”

During this period Jeff was offered the song Superstition, recorded by Stevie Wonder on his Talking Book album (an album Jeff appears on).

Then forming The Jeff Beck Group, the band featured Jeff, Cozy, vocalist Bobby Tench, bassist Clive Chaman and pianist Max Middleton. Two excelling but largely overlook albums (Rough’n’Ready and The Jeff Beck Group). The band played an excellent version of Wonder’s Superstition live, and can be heard on a number of bootlegs. Being a massive Cozy fan, these two albums were my intro to Jeff Beck.

The long awaited Beck, Bogart & Appice project happened, and one eponymous studio album in 1973, which featured Superstition, then a Japanese only double live album, and at least another live album’s worth of material recorded and never released. An excellent blues rock oriented power trio.
A project well worth checking out though. But typically, Jeff got itchy feet

The following year Beck spent a day jamming with The Rolling Stones, a kind of half hearted audition that never came to anything. In an interview many years later, Jeff remembered turning up and they had about 40 guitars laid out, and he thought “who are these for?”, thinking other people were also auditioning, but the band were expecting him to say yes, and that Jeff couldn’t imaging playing the same 3 chords for the rest of his life.

By this point Jeff had appeared on stage with David Bowie, and had started to delve into the realms of jazz fusion, recording with the band Upp and also Stanley Clarke.
The jazz fusion exploration was taken further with the 1975 album Blow By Blow (featuring keyboardist Max Middleton, and an uncredited Stevie Wonder), and suddenly Beck was a cover star. The album was a commercial success, and the track Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers a standout. The following year’s Wired followed suit, and introduced his work with Jan Hammer. The subsequent live album by Jeff Beck with The Jan Hammer Group (1977) is equally well worth searching out.

In 1979 Max Middleton wrote The Loner for Cozy Powell’s Over The Top album. The intention was to have Jeff play on it, but he was unavailable; the track was dedicated to him on the LP.

1980’s There And Back continued the jazz fusion mixed with rock, and featured Jan Jammer, Tony Hyams, Simon Phillips and Mo Foster.

During the 80s, Jeff’s interest in music waned somewhat, and his interest in cars took over. That said, he remained in demand as a session guitarist, working with Cozy Powell, Rod Stewart, Jon Bon Jovi, Mick Jagger, Diana Ross and Tina Turner throughout the decade. While remaining Classic Jeff yet without sticking out too much, he proved he could slot in anywhere seamlessly.

Jeff’s next solo album was 1985’s Flash, which featured some of his fastest and almost most metal guitar work, but the album’s let down was the use of programmed drum sound and pop-like production, which is probably the sole factor if Jeff (and many fans) not liking the album in hindsight. The album featured Rod Stewart and produced a hit single, there’s lots to love.

The move towards instrumental rock with 1989’s Guitar Shop, the title and cover a play on his passion for cars. A fantastic album that everyone should hear.

The 90s kicked off with an appearance in the film The Pope Must Die, alongside Robbie Coltrane. He contributed to the soundtrack and played the postman too. The soundtrack to the film Frankie’s House, and the rockabilly influenced album Crazy Legs followed.

The three albums that followed, Who Else (1999), You Had It Coming (2000), and Jeff (2003) mixed largely instrumental rock (occasional vocals), blues and jazz fusion with electronica and techno. Groundbraking to say the least. Not so much ignoring the rules as taking all the rules on just so he could break them. Classic Jeff. There’s work here that only a visionary could produce (and Gary Moore’s A Different Beat one of the very few albums to get close).

2010’s Emotion And Commotion saw Jeff work with a wide array of artists, including Imelda May, and also some of the young / next generation, including Joss Stone and Tal Wilkenfeld. Stylistically 2016’s Loud Hailer followed suit, an album I love but the sales were disappointing.
Then most recently, Jeff worked with Johnny Depp, released the 2022 album 18.

Jeff has released a number of acclaimed live sets, including one recorded at Ronnie Scott’s, won several Grammy Awards (even more nominations), and has played onstage with Pink Floyd’s Gilmour.

Regardless of the style(s) played, Beck had been for a long time the Go To guitarist for technique and innovation. And in addition to the already mentioned session and collaboration work, he has also worked with Roger Waters (Amused To Death), Paul Rogers, Imelda May, Roger Taylor, Kate Bush (The Red Shoes), ZZ Top, Chrissie Hynde, The Pretenders, Brian May (Another World), Paul Rogers, and more recently Morrisey and, in 2022, Ozzy Osbourne. So the chances are, realise it or not, you probably have some Jeff Beck in your collection. And if you don’t, Roger The Engineer, Truth, Rough’n’Ready, Blow By Blow, Guitar Shop and You Had It Coming are all damn fine places to start.

A few years ago, the documentary Still On The Run – The Story of Jeff Beck was broadcast on BBC4 and issued on DVD. This features rare private and live footage, interviews and more. I was lucky enough to attend the preview showing in London where I got to meet Jeff, and we discussed life in the countryside in East Sussex (close to where my parents live), and I told him I recognised many of the roads the driving footage was filmed on. During the viewing, I was sat next to David Gilmour.
Happy days.

I had met Jeff a couple of times, often on the train to or from London when I was visiting my family.

When Jeff died on 10th January 2023, the world has lost a genuine talent, an innovator, a true original.

Joe Geesin | Now Spinning Magazine

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