Guitar legend Eric Clapton recently recalled the late Jeff Beck and his work back in the 1960s. In an interview with the Real Music Observer, Clapton looked back on the era and how, at that time, Beck was to become his successor in The Yardbirds.
As Eric said in the interview, he used the opportunity to see Beck play with his old band The Tridents. Although he didn’t specify the exact year when this happened, it was around the time when Beck was just getting ready to replace Clapton in The Yardbirds, which puts the event sometime in the early 1965. Recalling that occasion, Eric said (transcript via Rock Celebrities):
“He [Jeff Beck] was in a group called the Tridents, a very low-profile band. Strong and well-known in the area, but I snuck in and saw them, and I thought that if I changed my mind, I was not going to be able to go back because this guy had got what it takes. I thought he wouldn’t put up with that.”
“There were shenanigans for a very long, but I think that was probably why he brought Jimmy Page and just so they could have a good time because clearly, the band was going to go mainstream and get try to get big.”
As Clapton further explained, seeing a musician like Jeff Beck in the 1960s was something else. In fact, he mentioned that this was the first time that he saw anyone use an actual rig. So that makes Jeff not only an innovator in songwriting and playing his instrument, but also in the approach how to shape the tone for live shows. Clapton continued:
“So, what I heard when I saw him that night was it was the first time I saw anyone use pedals, effects, and a mini rack. His technique, even then… He refined it to, I mean, when I last saw him play in America last year, I was watching him on YouTube. We were doing gigs in Europe, and I was really getting down, and I was not well. I still had COVID when I was playing gigs.”
He also added:
“I go back to my room, and I find Jeff’s gig from the night before, and I watch that, and it would lift me up to where I could be able to work that night for my thing because it to me seemed like he’d moved on.”
“He’d constantly been moving up a notch all the time every year, and the refinement in his right hand and the independence between the fingers were so phenomenal. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Jeff Beck, who’s most famous for his solo career, is often credited for being one of the most influential guitar players of all time. No matter the genre or subgenre, you’ll find guitar players of all backgrounds citing him as inspiration.
On January 11, a statement was shared through Beck’s official social media channels that he passed away. The date of death was January 10. It read:
“On behalf of his family, it is with deep and profound sadness that we share the news of Jeff Beck’s passing. After suddenly contracting bacterial meningitis, he peacefully passed away yesterday. His family ask for privacy while they process this tremendous loss.”
In a video statement shared not long after Jeff’s passing, Queen guitarist Brian May paid tribute to his late friend and shared a few words on his music. During the video, May recalled Jeff’s piece that he considers to be “possibly the most beautiful bit of guitar music ever recorded.” He explained:
“If you wanna hear his depth of emotion and sound and phrasing and the way he could touch your soul, listen to ‘Where Were You’ off the ‘Guitar Shop’ album. Just Google ‘Where Were You Jeff Beck’ and sit down and listen to it for four minutes. It’s unbelievable.“
The piece is from Beck’s 1989 album, titled “Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop.” Apart from Beck, the album and the song also feature drum legend Terry Bozzio and keyboardist Tony Hymas. You can check it out below.
May also added:
“It’s possibly the most beautiful bit of guitar music ever recorded, probably alongside Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Little Wing.’ So sensitive, so beautiful, so incredibly creative and unlike anything you’ve ever heard anywhere else.“
“Yes, of course he had his influences too, but he brought an amazing voice to rock music which will never, ever be emulated, or equaled.”
“Jeff was completely and utterly unique, and the kind of musician who’s impossible to define. And I was absolutely in awe of him.”
May, also recalled his own piece titled “The Guv’nor” which was not only dedicated to but also featured Jeff. Released in 1998 for May’s solo album “Another World,” he said of it:
“He came over to my place here in the studio, played it with me, and we had a laugh. And he played some incredible stuff. Again, my jaw dropped.“
“I couldn’t really pick up a guitar when he was in the room, because he was so incredible, I just wanted to watch and listen. So he played on the track, and he was, like, ‘Oh, yeah, whatever.’”
“Jeff Beck is so unique, so influential on every guitarist I’ve ever met in my life. The loss is incalculable. It’s so sad not having him in the world anymore. I still can’t quite compute it in my head.”