On February 18th Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck took to the stage at Madison Square Garden. The long-running rivalry between these two guitar idols has been legendary. The significance of their sharing a stage has brought full circle a battle that began more than 40 years ago when Beck replaced Clapton as the lead guitarist for The Yardbirds.
The website MSG has recorded, in 20 photographs, the historical performance by these two rock and roll icons. In Angela Cranford Photographs Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck at Madison Square Garden, our own Blogcritics photography expert FCEtier discusses the masterful artwork of photographer Angela Cranford.
The concert at Madison Square Garden, along with an unprecedented joint interview Beck and Clapton gave in the March 4, 2010 issue of Rolling Stone magazine, proves that both men have grown beyond the competitiveness that marked their younger days.
They have finally begun to show one another the respect they deserve as two of the most influential guitarists in the history of rock and roll. It's a credit to Clapton that he has been able to overcome his past rigidness and give Beck the credit he has long been due.
There is, once or twice during their Rolling Stone interview, a feeling of cloying, mutual genuflection; an ingratiating, ego-stroking that feels purely saccharine. Even as they poke one another in humorous fashion a few statements stand out. For instance, after being asked, Clapton admits that there are things Beck can play on a guitar that he can't. When Beck is asked if Clapton can do things on a guitar that he can't his response is "no." Both men laugh, but Clapton replies that "it really is true." Beck responds "No, bollocks" and takes his turn to compliment Clapton's playing. No bollocks, indeed.
The one thing woefully missing from this triumphant reunion story is a historical overview of these men, the musically incestuous, and often ugly, relationships between the original members of the British rock explosion and the rift that has now become a part of rock and roll lore.
In the Rolling Stone interview Clapton admits that he was "very disagreeable — intolerant" during the break-up with The Yardbirds. Over the years, mixed reports have accumulated of Clapton's battles with his contemporaries. Couple that with Beck's notoriously violent on-stage temper tantrums, and this reunion would seem unlikely at best. The fact that it happened at all can probably only be attributed to the passage of time and life's lessons hard learned.
Eric Clapton Vs Jeff Beck: The Rivalry Years
In the mid 1960s graffiti proclaiming 'Clapton is God' began springing up all over brick buildings of London. Eric Clapton had recently vacated his position as lead guitarist for The Yardbirds. He let it be known that he had no interest in being in a band that was veering away from hardcore blues into more experimental psychedelic and pop music. Clapton packed his guitar and joined John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. It was during this time that his phenomenal blues guitar playing began spawning a devoted group of followers. These followers would proclaim his holiness by word of mouth and, most famously, in paint across the dirty facade of London's Underground stations. By the time The Yardbirds' single "For Your Love" hit the charts Clapton was already long gone.
The Yardbirds, looking for a replacement, turned to friend and fellow musician Jimmy Page. Page, who was making a name for himself, and a good income as a studio musician, turned them down but directed them to Jeff Beck. It wouldn't take long for Beck to gain his own acclaim within The Yardbirds. He was a fearless innovator when it came to experimenting with new sounds. As The Yardbirds began to rack up hits, Jeff Beck was racking up fans, including worshipful writers from some of London's most influential music magazines. It was during this time that he developed the fuzz, feedback and distortion that would become his trademark, and his legacy.