Jeff Beck's eclectic career may not have reached the heights of such British guitar-god contemporaries as Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and David Gilmour, but his guitar wizardry has always been second to none. When Page inducted Beck into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year, he commented on how Beck's playing had gotten so good over the years, that "he leaves us mere mortals...just wondering."
Beck's career took off in 1965 when he was asked to replace Eric Clapton in the Yardbirds. That stint lasted less than two years, and in 1968 he released his first solo album, the blues-rock masterpiece, Truth. Beck-Ola continued in the same vain the following year and both of these albums featured a young Rod Stewart on lead vocals, and Ron Wood on bass and guitar. Wood and Stewart would leave to join the Faces in 1970, and Beck would have to find himself a new band the following year.
I remember first getting turned on to Jeff Beck at an early age via his 1972 Jeff Beck Group album. Although not one of his best albums, it still had a couple of his best performances, including "Ice Cream Cakes", and "Going Down". It sure would have been nice to hear a few more songs from Beck's early pre-fusion years, but, incredulously, "Beck's Bolero" would be the only song performed from that amazing period. How cool would it have been to see Rod and Ronnie join Beck on stage to belt out a few of those old numbers.
Stewart actually surprised Beck onstage last week, and they performed "People Get Ready" and "I Ain't Superstitious" together. It was supposedly their first joint appearance in 25 years. Watch it here on YouTube.
It was Beck's two mid-70s jazz-fusion excursions, Blow By Blow, and Wired, that really cemented his place in the guitar-god hall of fame. If you even know what a guitar looks like, and have never experienced either of these albums, then do so now! It should be the law. The one time I saw Beck play live was back in 1995 when he opened for Santana, and I was blown away by the uniqueness and power of his guitar style.
Beck stopped using a pick years ago and now attacks the guitar strings only with his fingers. This allows him to effortlessly move between delicate jazzy passages and monstrous rock riffs at the drop of a dime. He is able to pick and work the volume knob and whammy bar simultaneously to create these amazing sounds that just should not be able to come from an electric guitar.