Jeff Beck Was Doing ’Forbidden’ Things on Guitar, Explains Steve Hackett

Steve Hackett, former Genesis member, and an all-around guitar legend, reflected on how Jeff Beck’s work left a huge impact on him, particularly focusing on some of the “forbidden” aspects of the late musician’s approach.

It’s no secret that Jeff Beck was an innovator, especially with his vibrato bar use on Fender Stratocasters. In some cases, it even sounded as if he was using a slide, which only confirms the incredible control he had over his performance.

As Hackett pointed out during a recent chat with the Now Spinning Magazine, Jeff’s playing was outright “naughty” in the sense that what he did was something that was considered prohibited among guitar players back in the day.

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“I was affected quite profoundly by the death of Jeff Beck, who I am such a huge fan of,” Steve reflected. Going more into Jeff’s works, he then added (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“And I noticed on one of the things they put up on YouTube that he’d always considered himself to be ‘naughty,’ which is a word that you would use for a child. But if there’s a naughtiness in it, he was constructively always doing these things that guitars were forbidden from doing, or no one had tried it out.”

And the former Genesis guitarist admits that he always had Jeff Beck on mind while using a tremolo bridge in his own music. He continued:

“So I understand the use of the word and, and as I was playing — as ever — I was thinking, ‘Is this a tone that he would have liked? Would he have approved this use of a tremolo arm?’ Because obviously, he was the king of tremolo arms.”

Apart from the vibrato arm use, Jeff also utilized other parts of his guitar as expressive tools for his music. Hackett explained:

“And in terms of someone tonally and totally in control of his instrument — or so it seemed to the rest of us — that use of clean-one-minute, distorted-the-next whammy bar — not the volume pedal, but the volume pot on the guitar — quite a juggling act, all of that.”

He concluded by offering:

“So, yeah, I felt I was paying homage, if not channeling, and thinking, ‘I hope this is worthy of what he has shown us that guitars can do.'”

Cause We've Ended As Lovers - Jeff Beck -

Needless to say, Steve Hackett is far from being the only guitar player to be impacted by Jeff Beck. What he did on his instruments was all in the function of expressive qualities, which is why even the covered songs that he did sounded exactly like Jeff Beck and no one else. Although written by Stevie Wonder, “Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers” is remembered as Beck’s song.

His passing in early 2023 was a huge loss for the music world, with countless artists paying respect to Jeff and his work. But one musician who had a closer connection with him was his bassist Tal Wilkenfeld. Although in her early 20s when she joined Beck’s band, Tal impressed all musicians, including the legendary guitarist.

In fact, he even allowed her to play a solo in “Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers” during the legendary 2007 performance at the Crossroads festival. The bassist recently reflected on that, saying:

“Yeah, I wasn’t nervous. I think that you can get an adrenaline rush before a stage, which is natural, but I think as soon as you bring fear to a bandstand, you’re limiting yourself. You’re walling yourself off from everyone else.”

Jeff Beck & Tal Wilkenfeld - Cause We've Ended As Lovers - Crossroads Guitar Festival 2007 (HD)

Asked more about this fear of performing, she replied:

“You must be afraid of making a mistake, and therefore, you’re coming at it as a perfectionist, and you can’t come at music that way, or it’s not going to be as expansive and vulnerable and true. So no, I was excited and passionate and having the best time.”

“And also the fact that he gave me this solo, the context of this performance is that this was a guitar festival. It’s one of the biggest guitar festivals in the world because it’s Eric Clapton’s festival, and there’s 400 guitarists that are all playing solos all night.”

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“And we were towards the end of the night, and I could tell Jeff got a kick out of, ‘I’m not going to solo on one of my most well-known songs,’ ‘Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers.'”

“Well, Stevie Wonder wrote it, but people know Jeff for that song and his solo on it. It’s like, ‘I’m going to give it to my bass player.’ And he did.”

“The fact that he’s bowing, he didn’t have to do that. It just shows what a generous musician he is, and that’s evident in his playing across the board. He is a generous, loving, open musician.”

Jeff Beck - Behind The Veil

“He’s not there for himself. He’s there for the music. And he thought, ‘Well, this would be the perfect musical thing to do.'”

Photos: Takahiro Kyono (Jeff Beck in Yokohama 2014), Clender (Steve Hackett – Parker Playhouse – 13662640565)

Author

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.