Jeff Beck, Guitar Legend, Has Passed Away At 78 – RIP Jeff Beck – Yardbirds, The Jeff Beck Group, ‘Blow By Blow’ – Such A Tremendous Loss

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*Image of Jeff Beck in 2014 above taken from the internet and likely copyrighted

I was in my home office trying to knock out a laborious task for my corporate masters when I took a break to look on-line to see if anything of note had happened today. To be honest, I wanted to check the news and to look at some rock n roll stuff. It was then that I saw the sad news that guitar legend Jeff Beck had passed away from meningitis. Then I read it was a hoax, then I read it was the truth, Beck had passed. Damn internet. It was then that my friend, drummer Blake, reached out with the news. It is with a heavy heart I type these words: Jeff Beck has passed at the young age of 78 years old from a sudden bought of meningitis. He was simply one of the greatest guitarists of all time. Rolling Stone magazine had him in the top 5 all time if that means anything to you. He ranks up there with Eddie Van Halen, Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix for me. He could bend the strings…

Obviously, I am a huge fan of Jeff Beck. He had a guitar tone that was instantly recognizable. As most people know, he was one of the “Big 3” guitarist who played in the seminal English, blues rock band The Yardbirds. The Yardbirds started with Clapton on lead guitar but he quit because of his “blues purism.” He thought the band was moving too far into “pop.” Jeff Beck then came in to replace him. Eventually Jimmy Page joined the band. Imagine that dual lead guitar line up – Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck! Eventually they fired Beck and kept Page. Jeff could be, uh, mercurial. After the blues purism of Clapton, Jeff Beck really opened up what the Yardbirds’ sound. If you listen to “Heart Full of Soul” you can hear the psychedelia entering the picture. I think that was the song they’d hired a sitar player to play on, but they didn’t like the sound so Jeff just played the riff it on guitar. There was little he couldn’t do with the instrument. Coincidentally Ozzy Osbourne was able to recruit both Jeff Beck and Clapton to play on his album Patient Number 9 and had actually reached out to Page to play on the record, but he declined. As Meatloaf sang, “Two out of three (Yardbirds’ guitarists) ain’t bad.” Beck plays on the title track (Review: Ozzy Osbourne’s New Song Patient Number 9 With Jeff Beck! On Guitar) of the album and one other song.

After leaving the Yardbirds Jeff formed his own band, The Jeff Beck Group. Guitarists were a huge draw and Beck was to be the focus of the band so they used his name to cash in on his Yardbirds fame. He recruited Ronnie Wood (later of the Faces and Rolling Stones) to play bass guitar and Rod Stewart as his lead vocalist. The theory was Jeff’s guitar would pull the guys into shows and good looking Rod Stewart would draw the women. Jimmy Page, who took Beck’s job in the Yardbirds stole that very blueprint for Led Zepplin with Robert Plant. I loved the Jeff Beck Group and posted on them years ago: Artist Lookback: The (Original) Jeff Beck Group: Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart & Ronnie Wood. They only hung together for 2 albums, Truth and Beckola before constant touring and treating Wood & Stewart like sidemen broke the band up. Ronnie Wood joined the Faces on his chosen instrument, guitar. Rod went solo but soon joined Woody in the Faces. The album Truth is one of the most influential albums in blues rock. It’s a stunning record. I could listen to their version of Howlin Wolf’s “I Ain’t Superstitious” and “Blues De Luxe” all day long. “Blues De Luxe” is on my “Rockers Playing the Blues” playlist. The Jeff Beck Group was supposed to play Woodstock but Jeff, who was fond of fast cars, was in a car accident and they couldn’t play. I still wonder to this day what would have happened if they’d made that iconic gig.

After the Yardbirds and the original Jeff Beck Group a lot of people may have lost track of Beck. He formed a couple of different bands and put out records. He carried on as the Jeff Beck Group with an all new line up he put together that included Cozy Powell on drums and Bobby Tench on vocals. Then in 1973 he formed Beck, Bogert, Appice with Tim Bogert on bass and Carmine Appice on drums. Carmine’s little brother Vinny played with the Dio fronted Black Sabbath on Mob Rules. Beck, Bogart, Appice did a version of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” on that record that inspired Stevie Ray Vaughn to cover it years later.

While that was already an incredible resume, in the middle 70s Beck decided to eschew working with a vocalist and put out two of the greatest guitar instrumental records ever. In 1975 he put out Blow By Blow which is another personal favorite. He covered the Beatles song “She’s A Woman.” He has a guitar solo titled “Constipated Duck” which may win the most preposterous song title award. He also covers Stevie Wonder’s “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” to wonderful effect. He worked with keyboardist Max Middleton who had been in the second incarnation of the Jeff Beck Group and it’s just a great LP. It almost feels like Jazz. He came back in 1976 with Wired, which I believe may be drummer Blake’s favorite. It was also produced by George Martin. They do a cover of Charles Mingus’ “Goodbye Porkpie Hat” which is worth the price of admission.

After those highlights I have to admit my knowledge of Jeff’s work is spotty. I remember hearing his version of “People Get Ready” with Rod Stewart and it’s a sublime track:

I know he also guested on Stewart’s LP Camouflage and joined the tour but quit only a few shows in. I know Rod and Jeff Beck talked about trying to record together again for years after that – up until just recently – but they couldn’t get it together. Rod wanted to do blues stuff and Jeff’s musical tastes couldn’t be confined to the blues. It was a missed opportunity if you ask me. Their relationship was a rocky one. As Jeff said when he inducted Rod into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, “Rod and I have a love-hate relationship. He loves me and I hate him.”

While I lost touch a bit with Jeff’s work over the years I know he did quite a few critically acclaimed records over the years like Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop and Who Else!. Drummer Blake turned me onto the video – that I recommend highly – Live At Ronnie Scott’s. If you watch the audience on that DVD you’ll spot all kinds of rock royalty there to listen to Jeff’s guitar wizardry. While I didn’t keep up as much with his solo work, he was a guest guitarist on so many other artist’s records: Mick Jagger, Ozzy, Paul Rodgers and Roger Waters just to name a few. His amazing guitar skills were much sought after.

Rock and roll in the 60s was built on the backs of guitar giants like Jeff Beck. Of the three Yardbirds guitarists, Jeff probably gets the least attention. His records – from the Yardbirds to the Jeff Beck Group to his solo stuff – should be on everyone’s turntable.

It may be a Wednesday night – and I avoid drinking on weeknights – but tonight I see a tumbler of the good stuff with Truth, Blow By Blow, Wired and Beckola on the stereo. “I’ve been drinkin’ again, thinkin of when you left me.” We’ve lost a true legend today, and way too soon. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, “The guy could play.”

RIP Jeff Beck, guitar legend, 24 June 1944 – 10 January 2023. It’s a sad day indeed. You will be missed.

Time is short folks. Cherish every day.

Cheers!

Rock N Reunions We’d Love To See But, Alas, Will Never Happen

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*Images taken from the internet and likely copyrighted

The dreaded Holidays are upon us. With Thanksgiving on the books, we can now officially shift our focus to Christmas. Actually once Halloween hit, the stores shifted their focus to Christmas so I guess we’re behind schedule? Ah, unchecked materialism’s high holy season. The Holidays seem interminable. I have long ago confessed my feelings about the Holiday season, Confessions of an Ex-Grinch: My Christmas Epiphany. I will say, meeting the Rock Chick aka Mrs. Claus has helped turn my Xmas attitude to a more positive place. I will also admit, I’m a huge fan of Thanksgiving. I show up, drink a bunch of wine, eat a bunch of turkey and sit drowsily in front of football games on television. I give thanks knowing not everybody can celebrate like that these days. Other than St. Patrick’s Day, where I go out and drink in the streets with the rabble, you can’t beat Thanksgiving.

The Holidays can be seen, through a gimlet eye, as a mini-family reunion of sorts. On Thanksgiving, we always head over to my parents’ house. I see my brother, an in-law or two, and my aunt and uncle. They’re all great people. It’s a nice, small, controlled group. We all had enough practice veering the conversation away from politics in the Bush era that there aren’t any screaming fits accompanied by thrown plates anymore. And in our defense, that only happened once and it wasn’t in the presence of my Sainted Mother, thank God. Invariably, this small gathering of relatives and occasional stragglers turns the conversation to reunions.

For as long as I can remember, my dad’s family has been having family reunions every August. I’ve never understood the need to get everybody together on an annual basis, but hey, it’s what they do. And then they talk about the reunion for the rest of the fucking year. It’s inescapable. When I was a kid, like 12, every year I was drug out to a little farm house on the outskirts of a small town in Southeastern Kansas that was filled with people. I was a shy kid and going to this reunion was like watching someone give a cat a bath…unpleasant doesn’t cover it. My parents procreated right out of the chute – I was born 9 months after the honeymoon. Nobody else had kids with that kind of alacrity. The family reunions consisted of adults – from their 30’s to their 90s – and children who were infants to kids maybe 5 or 6. And then there was me… I was right in the middle. Not adult enough to get drunk with these semi-strangers, not young enough to play with the kiddos. My brother, the old soul that he is, would sit with the 90 year olds and talk about the heat. For me, it was 12 hours of wandering around a large farmyard, or across the street to a strip-pit (created by coal mining) that was basically a small lake that we weren’t allowed to swim in. The strip-pit’s water glimmered in front of us like the window of a closed ice cream shop. Cool and wonderful in the August heat but you couldn’t get in. I had nothing to do out there.

This has naturally colored my opinion of reunions of any kind in a very negative way. It wasn’t until I discovered that many rock bands have reunions that I realized there could be positive reunions. I’ve never even attended a High School reunion. And believe me, there have been plenty of opportunities, I graduated a long time ago. I grew up in Kansas City, but on the Kansas side, then moved to the Missouri side as an “adult”… It’s like I moved to Paris. I never see any of those people, but I know they’re out there just over the state line. I went by my 10 year reunion only to meet a friend. I thought we’d slip away from the maddening crowd and get a beer only to find out my friend had gone sober on me which was bracing because the guy could really party back in the day. I ended up sitting in a hotel room surrounded – and I mean surrounded – by sleeping children. It’s not that I was upset about it, but when I was that young, children frightened me. I still demure when someone wants me to hold a baby… I fear I’ll break it. I figure I’ve stayed in touch with anybody I wanted to from high school and I don’t need to hit the reunion circuit to compare myself and how I’ve done with everybody else still standing.

The only reunions I’m down for involve rock and roll bands. I was so immersed in music as a teenager and young adult, it felt that these guys (and gals) I was reading about in liner notes and Rolling Stone were like friends of mine. I was emotionally invested in these bands and many of their members. I certainly feel that way about the Stones. I recently saw that the feuding Robinson brothers have reunited the Black Crowes for a tour next summer. I greet that as good news. Motley Crue caused a ruckus when they announced they’re taking back the “no more tours” contract they all signed to much fanfare and are going on tour next year. I say bravo! We need kick ass hard rock in our lives. Many people long for bands to reunite, get back together, record and tour… Wasn’t it Billy Joel who once sang, “Oh baby you got nothing to play on your stereo, “Why don’t the Beatles get back together.””

I have people all the time who say, usually in a bar, “I wish XYZ band would get back together. I never got to see them.” I personally prefer these old bands record a little something new… if the chemistry is there, fuck radio, record an LP. Motley Crue had three or four good, new tracks on ‘The Dirt’ soundtrack. Hell, yes! However, even though I enjoy a band reunion as much as the next rock n roll fan, and certainly much more than a family or high school reunion, I’m pragmatic about it. There are just some bands who are never gonna get back together. While I’d love to see anybody on this list reunite even just to tour, I fear it’s just not gonna happen. I’m here with a wake-up call for you rock n roll dreamers. If any of these bands are on your Rock Reunion Wish List, alas, I’m afraid you’re not gonna see them. I limited this list to bands who have all or at least a majority of their key members still alive… I don’t have the Beatles on here as its only Paul and Ringo now. As much as I love Ringo (Peace and Love), without John Lennon or George Harrison, it ain’t much of a reunion. If a band has all original members on this side of the dirt, one has to wonder why won’t they try and make it work again? Whether it’s egos, money or chemistry gone sour, these bands just aren’t going to stage that reunion.

  1. Led Zeppelin – Even Pete Townshend said recently, “Robert (Plant) would make a lot of people happy if he’d just agree to a reunion tour.” While true, I think Plant has refused to reunite with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones for a Zeppelin tour because he fears the massive expectations that come with it. I loved the 2012 Celebration Day concert/album…they’ve still got the fire. Jason Bonham, John’s son filled in admirably. Plant won’t even record with Alison Krauss because they had such wild success he can’t face those expectations. He’s never coming around on this.
  2. Pink Floyd – After years of slagging David Gilmour, Nick Mason and the late Rick Wright, Roger Waters has pursued a reunion with these guys like a teenage boy pursing a cheerleader on prom night. Gilmour has wisely refused save for a 1 off concert years ago. With Wright gone it’s likely too late. But lets face it – there’s no way Gilmour is going to forgive the hateful shit Waters has said over the years.
  3. Van Halen – Roth can’t sing anymore. Not that he ever really could. The last time I saw these guys Roth looked like he’d had a lobotomy. Dr Rock once described their live album as sounding like a “pet store burning down.” Eddie and Alex Van Halen have become the Howard Hugheses of rock n roll… who knows wtf those guys are doing. Eddie has even bagged on Michael Anthony, the only nice guy in the band. Hell, I don’t think the the VH brothers would even entertain working with Sammy again. Sad, indeed, sad.
  4. The Faces – Rod’s management has him focused on money, money, money. It’s a shame he Ronnie Wood, Kenny Jones and while still alive Ian McLagan couldn’t have worked it out. Even with Ian gone, I’d have rather heard a Faces record than this symphonic crap Rod just put out. It’s just too late. Ronnie Lane has been gone a long time too… maybe that’s why Rod refused… but my gut feel is his management was demanding the lion’s share of the money. Sigh.
  5. No Doubt – I saw these guys in concert with the Rock Chick and fell in love with this band. Great bass, drums and guitar… alas Gwen Stefani is more focused on building her own brand and cosmetic surgery to actually commit to her original band.
  6. R.E.M. – After recording two great, late period albums these guys called it quits with more of an exhausted sigh than a bang. They seem content to just release archival stuff,  and revisiting old albums and the accompanying bonus material. They all still get along and Bill Berry is still knocking around out there. It’s baffling but these guys seem done.
  7. Rush – The same story for R.E.M. could be told for Rush. The Prog-Rock giants did their last tour and that was it. I read that Neil Peart doesn’t even have a drum kit in his house anymore. Geddy has written a book and is doing a book tour… Alex Lifeson is likely loaded somewhere in Canada. They were great the last time I saw them but as the kids say, “they done.”
  8. Simon & Garfunkel – I’m not a huge fan of these guys, I actually prefer Simon on his own. But these guys were old friends… I hate too see this kind of animosity near the end.
  9. The White Stripes – Sure, I love Jack White on his own and with the Raconteurs (LP Review: The Raconteurs’ (Jack White) ‘Help Us Stranger’) but I miss that primal White Stripes’ sound, driven by Meg White’s drum… Come home Meg, all is forgiven. She’s the Greta Garbo of rock, she wants to be alone.
  10. CSNY – I don’t think anybody will talk to Crosby, let alone work with him. He’s even admitted what an asshole he is. When Young left his wife for Darryl Hannah, Crosby was vocally critical. Hint: Don’t bag on your friends squeeze if you ever wanna see them again… trust me on this one, I learned the hard way.
  11. Oasis – Despite Liam’s begging Noel will never work with him again. Liam actually questioned the paternity of Noel’s daughter. I have loved Liam’s two solo records but he’s a terribly unpleasant man… don’t ever air guitar in the front row at his show, he’s brutal.
  12. Jeff Beck & Rod Stewart – For odd reasons Rod turned his back on the Faces but has always been receptive to working with Beck. Jeff even showed up and played a 5 or 6 set encore at Rod’s last Hollywood Bowl show. I’d love to hear these guys tear into some blues, with or without Ronnie Wood on bass. Jeff Beck is just too much of a stubborn asshole to make something substantial happen.
  13. Fleetwood Mac and Lindsey Buckingham – Stevie Nicks is now the spiritual leader of this band. It would appear that her distaste for Buckingham has spelled his doom with this band. He also recently had surgery that may have damaged his vocal chords… I hope not. He’ll never work with Fleetwood Mac as long as Stevie is alive.
  14. Guns N Roses – I was delighted Axl finally reconciled with Slash and Duff. I get that Steven addled Adler doesn’t have the chops anymore but I’d sure like to see Izzy Stradlin back in this band. He was one of the key cogs in the songwriting and if they ever want to do a new album, they need him. From what I hear, the evil money is the reason they won’t let Izzy come back. They offered him a salary vs a full cut not the ‘Not In Our Lifetime’ tour.
  15. Red Hot Chili Peppers & John Frusciante – Come back John, we need you. They wouldn’t even have to fire Josh, they could morph into a 5 piece. I think Josh is a better rhythm player anyway and then Frusciante wouldn’t have to do so much heavy lifting. Never going to happen though. Frusciante, rock and roll’s Vincent Van Gogh is clearly never coming back and it appears the Peppers have moved on albeit in a less rocking direction.

Those are my top 15 bands I’d love to see reunite who, alas, will never get back together? Who are yours? Let me know in the comments section.

Cheers!