THE YARDBIRDS

how clap­ton, page & beck cre­ated the blue­print for bri­tish rock

Classic Rock - - Front Page - Words: Mick Wall

atur­day night in New York: March 30, 1968 – the sum­mer of hate al­most upon us. Five nights later Martin Luther King Jr. will be shot and killed in Mem­phis. Two months later Bobby Kennedy will be sim­i­larly as­sas­si­nated. By the end of the year Richard Mil­hous Nixon will be elected 37th Pres­i­dent of the United States.

The Bea­tles’ Hey Jude may be the big­gest-sell­ing sin­gle of the year, but it’s the record’s B-side, Revo­lu­tion, that speaks loud­est to the gen­er­a­tion of long­hairs and acid trip­pers lin­ing up out­side the An­der­son Theatre on 66 Sec­ond Av­enue on this cold spring night, here to see The Yardbirds – Bri­tain’s groovi­est band. Or what’s left of them. Three dates into their eighth US tour in four years, al­though gui­tarist Jimmy Page and bassist Chris Dreja don’t know it yet, this will be the last tour the band ever do.

“We lost en­thu­si­asm for it,” drum­mer and co-founder Jim McCarty says now. “We just didn’t have the en­ergy for it. If we’d had a long break and sat down and had a rest and taken time to think of new songs, it might have been an idea. But ev­ery­thing back then was based on working, play­ing ev­ery night.” He sighs. “They thought if you had six months off no one would recog­nise you any more.”

Nev­er­the­less, it seemed a strange time to call a halt to what had been one of the most in­ven­tive, fa­mous and in­flu­en­tial bands of the Swinging Six­ties. The world may have been go­ing to hell – aka Viet­nam’s Mekong Delta – but rock mu­sic was fast ap­proach­ing its apoth­e­o­sis. When se­ri­ous mu­sic fans weren’t out on a Mag­i­cal Mys­tery Tour in chase of an un­der-dressed Mrs Robin­son, they were trip­ping in a White Room lis­ten­ing to Janis scream­ing for them to take an­other Piece Of My Heart, or lean­ing over wide-eyed at in­no­cent passers-by telling them Hello, I Love You, while all the while two rid­ers were ap­proach­ing…

The Yardbirds – fa­mous for proto-psych hits like For Your Love, Shapes Of Things and Over, Up­wards, Side­ways, Down – had also been home to the three best gui­tarists in Eng­land: Eric Clap­ton, Jeff Beck and, now, Jimmy Page. Had ap­peared in sem­i­nal art-house flicks like An­to­nio’s Blow-Up. Were wor­shipped by up-and-com­ers like David Bowie, Rod Stew­art, Steven Tyler, Alice Cooper, Lemmy, Gary Moore, Alex Life­son… The Yardbirds were walk­ing, talk­ing his­tory – even by 1968.

But in­stead of stick­ing around for the trans­for­ma­tion into al­bum artists that would trans­form con­tem­po­raries such as The Who, The Kinks, Cream and the Stones into global su­per­stars in the late-60s, The Yardbirds were about to throw in the towel. Why?

The trou­ble, says McCarty, was: “We were des­per­ate. We didn’t want to do an­other Yardbirds tour.”

He and singer Keith Relf had been talk­ing pri­vately about split­ting for months.

“We wanted a change – to do some other kinds of songs, some dif­fer­ent mu­sic. Some­thing re­fresh­ing. Af­ter play­ing that heavy stuff night af­ter night, in the end it wasn’t go­ing any­where… But they wanted to carry on.”

‘They’ were Dreja and Page. And yes they bloody well did want to carry on.

Or Jimmy Page did, any­way.

t was a real slid­ing doors mo­ment that night at the An­der­son Theatre. You only have to lis­ten to the live record­ing of the show – now im­mor­talised for the first time of­fi­cially on the just-re­leased Yardbirds ’68 al­bum (pro­duced and dig­i­tally re­mas­tered by Page, and now avail­able on var­i­ous for­mats through his of­fi­cial web­site) – to grasp what might have been had McCarty and Relf not wanted out so badly.

It’s not over­stat­ing the case to de­scribe this as proto-Led Zep­pelin. And no shame in won­der­ing what this band would have achieved had Page not left just three months later to find a new singer and rhythm sec­tion to play with – in what was orig­i­nally an­nounced at the time as be­ing The Yardbirds Fea­tur­ing Jimmy Page, then just weeks later the New Yardbirds. Then, even more sud­denly, spook­ily, a whole new other thing – sup­pos­edly – called Led Zep­pelin.

In fact, lis­ten­ing to the live ’68 al­bum, ‘the New Yardbirds’ re­ally would have been a more ac­cu­rate de­scrip­tion of the out­fit Page pulled to­gether in the months that fol­lowed that An­der­son Theatre show. Be­cause, it’s all right there in New York in March

‘The Yardbirds had al­ways been fan­tas­ti­cally flash, in­scrutably cool, fab­u­lously out of reach.’

1968. Not just the sonic tem­plates of Train Kept A-Rolling, Dazed And Con­fused and White Sum­mer

– but also in the whole smart-arse, ‘don’t try this at home, we are your over­lords’ vibe.

The Yardbirds had al­ways been fan­tas­ti­cally flash, in­scrutably cool, fab­u­lously out of reach. Their early shows were self-de­scribed as ‘rave-ups’ – wild, hair-down, knick­ers-off par­ties for the wil­fully far out, the fash­ion­ably fuck you. They weren’t dirty rock­ers, but they were pho­tographed rid­ing Har­leys. They weren’t pon­cey mods but they dressed to the nines, part King’s Road, part Haight-Ash­bury.

“You couldn’t touch them,” Lemmy would tell me years later. “Es­pe­cially the line-up with Jeff Beck in it. It was the same feel­ing I got when I later saw the MC5 – they just at­tacked you, went for the jugu­lar. When Page joined it be­came a bit more ex­per­i­men­tal but it was still the same sort of vibe – very dar­ing. I al­ways liked that.”

In­deed the mu­si­cal jour­ney The Yardbirds un­der­took in their short but ad­ven­ture-filled five years to­gether went through so many twists and turns that their ca­reer seemed to nut­shell the melt­ing-pot at­mos­phere of the 60s as clearly as did that of The Bea­tles and the Rolling Stones.

They formed in May 1963 around the cre­ative nu­cleus of 20-year-olds Keith Relf (blond, singer, har­mon­ica player, lyric writer and screamy-teen pin-up), and Paul Samwell-Smith (dark-haired bassist, gui­tarist, key­board player, vo­cal­ist, per­cus­sion­ist, pro­ducer and all-round lead­ing light). As mem­bers of the Metropoli­tan Blues Quar­tet they had played on the same jazz-blues cir­cuit as the Stones. Be­fore team­ing up with 20-year-old Jim McCarty (drum­mer, vo­cal­ist, gui­tarist) and two other school­boy pals –18-year-old Chris Dreja (gui­tar, bass, key­boards) and 15-year-old An­thony ‘Top’ Topham – the band’s first lead gui­tarist.

Tak­ing their name from sem­i­nal jazz-junkie dead-leg­end Char­lie ‘Yard­bird’ Parker, the started out play­ing cov­ers: Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Wa­ters, Bo Did­dley, El­more James – strictly high-qual­ity un­der­ground purist R&B.

Which is how they hooked up with Eric Clap­ton, an 18-year-old blues dis­ci­ple who’d re­cently been in The Roost­ers, a short-lived R&B band. When Top bailed to get a proper job, Clap­ton took his place.

By then The Yardbirds had re­placed the Stones as the house band at the Craw­daddy Club in Rich­mond, and owner Gior­gio Gomel­sky had be­come their man­ager. Gomel­sky was a typ­i­cal 60s mover-and-shaker, ran clubs, wrote songs, made films, pro­duced records… What­ever you needed, Gior­gio could get it. Fast.

For the next 18 months

The Yardbirds toured as the back­ing band for Sonny Boy Wil­liamson II. Gior­gio had the fore­sight to record some of the shows, and re­leased them two years later, at the height of Yardbirds-ma­nia, as the al­bum Sonny Boy Wil­liamson And The Yardbirds. In the mean­time he landed the band a deal in their own right with EMI.

Not that the al­bum sold. In fact noth­ing The Yardbirds did sold dur­ing the early Clap­ton days. And cer­tainly not their de­but al­bum, Five Live Yardbirds, an R&B purist’s de­light re­leased into the com­mer­cial abyss at the end of 1964.

En­ter Gior­gio with an even bet­ter idea: a song so ob­vi­ously a hit-in-wait­ing that its pub­lisher, Ron­nie Beck of Feld­man’s, was on his way to try to con­vince The Bea­tles to record it when Gior­gio stepped in and grabbed it first.

Writ­ten by 19-year-old fu­ture 10cc star Gra­ham Gould­man, For Your Love was both the mak­ing of The Yardbirds and the break­ing of Eric Clap­ton, who called it “pop crap”. Led off by Brian Auger on harp­si­chord, the record­ing was made by Relf and McCarty along with ses­sion mu­si­cians on bass and bon­gos, and Samwell-Smith in the con­trol room ‘di­rect­ing’.

Clap­ton and Dreja were called in only for the freak-out mid-sec­tion. But even that was too much for Eric, and he bailed straight af­ter­wards to join John May­all’s Blues­break­ers. In an age of art for art’s sake, hit singles for fuck sake, blues-pre­cious Clap­ton just didn’t fit in. Not even when the sin­gle hit the Top 10 in both Bri­tain and Amer­ica.

His re­place­ment, a 21-year-old mav­er­ick called Jeff Beck, would be no pushover ei­ther. “I didn’t like them when I first met them,” Beck said. “They didn’t say hi or any­thing. They were pissed off that Eric had left; they had thought that the whole Yardbirds sound had gone.”

Un­like Clap­ton, though, Beck craved the spot­light in a way that would shame a fire­fly. “I wanted peo­ple to look at me, know what I was do­ing,” he would say. “I’m not one of those guys who wants to fade into the back­ground on stage.”

There was never any dan­ger of that as the next 12 months found Beck lead­ing The Yardbirds through hit af­ter hit, each more rule-bend­ing than the last.

his, though, had sprung from an­other slid­ing-doors mo­ment in the ca­reer of The Yardbirds. For Beck had not been the band’s first choice as Clap­ton’s re­place­ment. That had been Jimmy Page, at the time the most ac­com­plished and ver­sa­tile gui­tarist in Bri­tain, with hard-won ex­pe­ri­ence and mu­si­cal nous far su­pe­rior to that of ei­ther Clap­ton or Beck.

But Page turned them down. Not be­cause he was a blues purist or had a prob­lem with the idea of per­form­ing hits, but be­cause he was out of their league. By 1964, Page had al­ready played as a ses­sion gui­tarist on dozens of UK chart hits for

dozens of artists in­clud­ing Shirley Bassey (Goldfin­ger), the Nashville Teens (To­bacco Road), Dave Berry (The Cry­ing Game) and Them (Baby, Please Don’t Go), and count­less oth­ers for The Kinks, The Who, Her­man’s Her­mits, Lulu, on and on, for years to come. Hey, when you’ve played on mega-hits, who cares about one-hit won­ders like The Yardbirds?

But Page did know some­one who might care: his friend and fel­low gui­tarist Jeff Beck. Beck was one of those cats on the fringes, partly by choice. A bril­liant soloist, he was an in­di­vid­u­al­ist, and his stints in var­i­ous R&B bands of the pe­riod – The Night­shift, The Rum­ble, The Tri­dents – were built for speed not com­fort.

Beck was “sit­ting around do­ing noth­ing” when one day at Page’s house, Jimmy played him Five Live Yardbirds, then asked what he thought. Jeff thought he needed a gig. And with Jimmy of­fer­ing to rec­om­mend him, he was in the stu­dio three weeks later record­ing the next Yardbirds sin­gle, an­other Gra­ham Gould­man song – and ob­vi­ous hit-in-the­mak­ing – Heart Full Of Soul.

For the next cou­ple of years The Yardbirds, with Beck on lead gui­tar, were at the peak of their pow­ers, com­mer­cially, ar­tis­ti­cally, pop- and rock-tas­ti­cally. They had a string of ma­jor hit singles in Bri­tain and Amer­ica – all Gould­man­writ­ten or blues cov­ers, un­til they came to their sev­enth sin­gle, Shapes Of Things, cred­ited to McCarty, Relf and Samwell-Smith. It reached No.3 in the UK in March 1966 and soon af­ter that the Top 10 in the US.

With its march­ing-army-of-ro­bots rhythm, its feed­back-laden gui­tar solo, its tang of the Asi­atic, Shapes Of Things was the most ex­otic­sound­ing sin­gle of the year. So much so that mu­sic his­to­ri­ans now cite it as pos­si­bly the first truly psy­che­delic record.

But Beck did not share in the writ­ing cred­its, and this ap­peared to only in­crease his al­ready chafed re­la­tion­ship with the rest of the band.

“He was al­ways a lovely guy, Jeff,” says McCarty, “and I used to re­ally like him. But when it came to play­ing he was dif­fer­ent. You never re­ally knew what was go­ing to hap­pen. You never re­ally knew what sort of mood he was go­ing to be in. And that de­pended a lot on what sort of sound he got on stage. If he got a good sound on stage he’d be quite happy and it would be a happy gig. But the re­verse was that he’d get very an­gry.”

To the point where it would sab­o­tage shows? “It could do. He could kick an amp off stage or kick an amp over or he could walk off. He usu­ally did the whole gig. He didn’t dis­ap­pear. But he walked off one time on one TV show we were do­ing. He didn’t like the mix of his gui­tar, it was too quiet. And we were just mim­ing.”

It was Samwell-Smith, though, who was the first to leave, af­ter they played a drunken gig at the an­nual May Ball at Queens Col­lege in Ox­ford, which turned into a near­brawl be­tween Relf and some of the stu­dents. Out­raged, Smith stormed off, he said, never to re­turn. (Al­though he was back as pro­ducer shortly af­ter.)

With a new al­bum, Yardbirds, aka Roger The En­gi­neer, out to pro­mote, and pan­ick­ing about how they were go­ing to con­tinue their nev­erend­ing tour­ing sched­ule, Jimmy Page, who was there, half-jok­ingly said: “I’ll do it.” Then hap­pily ‘al­lowed’ the oth­ers to talk him into it. In fact Page, by then suf­fo­cat­ing on the ses­sion scene, had watched with in­creas­ing envy the suc­cess of The Yardbirds with his old pal Beck as their ca­reer took off around the world. It wasn’t about the money – he still earned more in a week than most bands like The Yardbirds did in a month – it was the thought of mak­ing his own mu­sic, for once.

“I want to con­trib­ute a great deal more to The Yardbirds than just stand­ing there look­ing glum,’’ Page told the NME at the time. “I was dry­ing up as a gui­tarist. I was play­ing a lot of rhythm gui­tar on ses­sions, which is very dull. It left me no time to prac­tise. Most of the mu­si­cians I know think I have done the right thing in join­ing The Yardbirds.”

Three nights later, Page made his de­but with The Yardbirds – on bass – at the Mar­quee in Lon­don. His first record­ing with them was at the Mar­quee stu­dios the fol­low­ing day for a Yard­ley Great Shakes ad­vert (‘It’s so creamy/Thick and dreamy’) that was based on their cur­rent UK hit Over Un­der Side­ways Down. That was fol­lowed with 24 more Bri­tish dates in such salu­bri­ous lo­cales as the Co-Op Ball­room in Gravesend and the Pav­il­ion Arts Cen­tre in Bux­ton.

Then, on Fri­day Au­gust 5, 1966, Page played his first show in

“You couldn’t touch them. Es­pe­cially the line-up with Jeff Beck in it. They just at­tacked you, went for the jugu­lar.” Lemmy

Amer­ica with the band, at the Min­neapo­lis Au­di­to­rium. By now Chris Dreja had been moved over on to the bass, mak­ing way for Page to take over gui­tar, form­ing with Beck what would be the first ‘twin-solo’ gui­tar line-up in Bri­tish rock. It should have made The Yardbirds the most in­cen­di­ary group on the planet – not just weighty like Cream, or lad­dish like the Stones, and cer­tainly more nail-bit­ing than The Bea­tles, who would re­tire from tour­ing just three weeks later.

“It def­i­nitely gave the band a kick up the arse,” says Chris Dreja now, who also says he wasn’t put out when Page took his place as gui­tarist. “Not at all. No, no. I’m a man who knows his own lim­i­ta­tions,” he says. Then jok­ingly sug­gests that Page wasn’t moved up from bass to gui­tar be­cause he was the bet­ter gui­tarist, but be­cause Page was such a bad bass player. “As a bass player he was rub­bish. Too many bloody notes, mate!”

Hav­ing been the ‘other gui­tarist’ to Clap­ton, Beck and Page, who did he rate as the best?

“I en­joyed play­ing with all of them. They all came with such in­di­vid­ual char­ac­ter­is­tics. Eric was a blues man. With Jeff you never knew what he was com­ing up with. He was a bloody ge­nius, wasn’t he? But I loved to play with Jimmy. He was full of en­ergy. Go go go! And I liked that. He was very pos­i­tive. Still is to­day. He’s a won­der­ful man.”

‘The Yardbirds’ Hap­pen­ings Ten Years Time Ago was more than sim­ple pop psychedelia. This was ground-zero 70s rock.’

Dreja and Page rev­elled in life on the road in Amer­ica – “Amer­i­cans bands and mu­si­cians were so cre­ative, such re­ally great peo­ple to get to know,” says Dreja. “So many stories… be­ing in a base­ment with Janis Jo­plin drink­ing South­ern Com­fort, things like that… All the won­der­ful peo­ple you met on the road, you be­came al­most like one big fam­ily.”

Keith Relf, how­ever, was feel­ing the slog. Dis­il­lu­sioned, dis­grun­tled and of­ten drunk, Relf would later claim that the best days of The Yardbirds had been when Eric was still in it; be­fore For Your Love – and in its wake the ar­rival of Jeff. “The hap­pi­est times were play­ing Lon­don clubs like the Mar­quee and the Craw­daddy Club,” he said in 1974. “With Eric it was a blues band.” Af­ter that, “it be­came a com­mer­cial band. We started tour­ing the States, do­ing Dick Clark tours, play­ing onenighters and that kind of thing.”

But at least Relf kept go­ing. Beck now sud­denly de­cided he wanted to stop com­pletely.

“It was be­ing on the road that got to Jeff,” claimed Relf. “He didn’t want to go out any more. We stayed in Hol­ly­wood for a bit… it’s a bit of a painful pe­riod to go over. It was dur­ing a Dick Clark tour, all right, which is heavy enough any­way. We had a few days off and Jeff fell in love with Hol­ly­wood. We went out on the road, and by the sec­ond day Jeff had had enough. So he flew back to Hol­ly­wood. And hence­forth the fi­nal stage of The Yardbirds.”

To be more ac­cu­rate, Beck had fallen in love with a Hol­ly­wood ac­tress called Mary Hughes. “It was over Mary that he left The Yardbirds,” Relf ad­mit­ted with a shrug. A 22-year-old blonde beauty who had been ‘dis­cov­ered’ on the beach in Mal­ibu, Hughes had starred in a hand­ful of ‘bikini’ movies like Mus­cle Beach Party (1964) and drive-in B-reels like Fire­ball (1966). She would also star along­side Elvis Pres­ley in Thun­der Al­ley (1967). None of these were Os­car-ma­te­rial. But Mary’s looks were pure plat­inum, and Beck fell for her hard. (So hard he wrote a song for her, Psy­cho Daisies, and sang the lead when it was a Yardbirds B-side.)

Re­fus­ing to leave LA, Beck stayed be­hind with Hughes while the rest of the band sol­diered on as a four-piece. A press re­lease was is­sued ex­plain­ing that Beck was “ill”. In an oblique ref­er­ence to that in­ci­dent in an early-70s in­ter­view with Rolling Stone, Beck ex­plained: “I re­ally wanted Jim Page on lead gui­tar with me be­cause I knew it would sound sen­sa­tional. We had fun. I re­mem­ber do­ing some re­ally nice jobs with Page. It lasted about four or five months, then I had this throat thing come on, in­flamed ton­sils, and what with in­flamed brain, in­flamed ton­sils and an in­flamed cock and ev­ery­thing else…”

eck re­turned to the band for a Septem­ber ’66 tour in Bri­tain open­ing for the Stones, but the writ­ing was on the wall. His fi­nal bow with them came with his now leg­endary ap­pear­ance with the band in the 1967 film BlowUp. Ital­ian pro­ducer Michelan­gelo An­to­nioni had tried un­suc­cess­fully to get The Who for the scene, then the more psy­che­delic To­mor­row – al­though how their gui­tarist, fu­ture Yes star Steve Howe would have han­dled the gui­tar-smash­ing seg­ment in the film is any­body’s guess.

Al­though both McCarty and Dreja chuckle heartily now over their ap­pear­ance in what is now re­mem­bered as one of the late 60s’ most pre­pos­ter­ous and self-con­sciously im­pen­e­tra­ble ‘un­der­ground films’, watch­ing them plough through Stroll On in the film to­day is in­struc­tive of the way The Yardbirds with Beck and Page in it re­ally were. Beck: solemn, threat­en­ing; Page: smi­ley, cool, noooo prob­lem.

Beck of course hated be­ing the one to “do a Town­shend”, as he put it, in the film and smash his gui­tar. “I didn’t mind play­ing a very wild num­ber with lots of vi­o­lence in it, lots of chords smash­ing away, but I didn’t ac­tu­ally want to de­stroy the gui­tar. What a cheat: the first part shows me play­ing a Les Paul, and in the sec­ond part I’m smash­ing up a cheap old thity-five-dol­lar Ja­panese model.”

Go to YouTube though and find one of their real live shows to­gether and the over­whelm­ing im­pres­sion is of a band al­most trip­ping over its own as­ton­ish­ing power. Not the mu­si­cian­ship, but those two huge per­son­al­i­ties.

McCarty laughs. “I know! It was like the group was burst­ing out. It could hardly be con­tained. It was a very good com­bi­na­tion with them both. I asked Jimmy the other day, ac­tu­ally: ‘Did you en­joy it with Jeff? ‘He said: ‘Oh yes, yeah!’ But ac­tu­ally it was a bit much some­times.”

Dreja agrees. “Yeah, a lot of the time it was fan­tas­tic, and a lot of the time they’d be play­ing against each other. It was a bit of a ca­coph­ony some­times. They were quite com­pet­i­tive. Jeff would in­evitably suf­fer, be­cause he was more in­se­cure. But now and then it would work and it would be fan­tas­tic.”

McCarty re­calls the Beck­Page axis at its best one night out­gun­ning the Stones: “I re­mem­ber when we were on a tour with the Stones. We had a fan­tas­tic evening and the au­di­ence was de­lighted. And that was quite em­bar­rass­ing for the Stones.”

Sadly, the only real record­ings this line-up of The Yardbirds got to make were the afore­men­tioned Stroll On, their barely veiled ‘re­work­ing’ of Tiny Brad­shaw’s Train Kept A-Rollin (ba­si­cally a slightly dif­fer­ent lyric writ­ten by Relf), done specif­i­cally for the Blow-Up sound­track al­bum, and one other that clearly sign­posted ex­actly where Jimmy Page in­tended to go next in his ca­reer – with or with­out The Yardbirds. It was called Hap­pen­ings Ten Years Time Ago and it was a mon­u­men­tal piece of work. Re­leased as a sin­gle in October 1966, months be­fore first al­bums by Cream, Jimi Hen­drix and Pink Floyd, at a time when The Bea­tles were top­ping the charts with Yel­low Sub­ma­rine, this was more than sim­ple pop psychedelia. This was ground-zero 70s rock.

Hyp­not­i­cally in­ter­weav­ing East­ern-in­flu­enced gui­tars, weapons-grade rhythms (with not Dreja on bass, but a top ses­sion pal of Jimmy’s called John Paul Jones), ghostly vo­cals singing of time-travel, trip­ping on déjà vu and oc­cult mean­ing, whis­pered back­ing vo­cals (‘Pop group are ya? Why you all got long hair?’). If you’re look­ing for the real rock roots of Led Zep­pelin and ev­ery other out-there band that came hel­ter-skel­ter in their wake, this is the de­fin­i­tive place to start. And yet as a sin­gle it flopped: tip­toe­ing to No.30 in Amer­ica, and brush­ing shoul­ders only briefly with the Top 40 in the UK – this de­spite an ap­pear­ance on Top Of The Pops, taped on October 19.

“I thought it could have been com­mer­cial,” says Jim McCarty. “But we sort of thought, well, we’ll go no-holds-barred on that, re­ally. Try and do some­thing a bit dif­fer­ent. Which is what we’d al­ways done.”

There is, how­ever, one other sig­nif­i­cant record­ing Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page had made to­gether that sum­mer of ’66. Be­fore be­ing of­fered the chance to join The Yardbirds, Page had been working to­wards putting his own band to­gether. His ini­tial idea was to lure Small Faces singer/gui­tarist Steve Mar­riott into a new out­fit, or pos­si­bly Spencer Davis Group pro­tégé Steve Win­wood on vo­cals and key­boards, along with what Page now calls a “su­per-hooli­gan” rhythm sec­tion nicked from The Who: Keith Moon on drums and John En­twistle on bass.

That had been in May, when Page had over­seen the ses­sion at Lon­don’s

IBC stu­dios that would pro­duce the track Beck’s Bolero – Jeff Beck’s gui­tar-en­flamed ver­sion of Ravel’s Bolero orig­i­nally in­tended to be his first solo sin­gle, and that Page would later in­sist he ar­ranged, played on and pro­duced.

“Jeff was play­ing and I was sort of in the [con­trol booth]. And even though he said he wrote it, I wrote it. I’m play­ing all the elec­tric and twelve-string, but it was sup­posed to be a solo record for him. The slide bits are his, and I’m just ba­si­cally play­ing.”

That, how­ever, is some­thing that Beck flatly re­futes. “No, [Jimmy] didn’t write that song. We sat down in his front room once, a lit­tle, tiny, pokey room, and he was sit­ting on the arm of a chair and he started play­ing that Ravel rhythm. He had a twelve-string and it sounded so full, re­ally fat and heavy. I just played the melody. And I went home and worked out [the up-tempo sec­tion].”

In the end it hardly mat­tered. Pro­ducer Mickie Most – the Si­mon Cow­ell of his day; hits first, noth­ing else sec­ond – who would over­see Beck’s later solo ca­reer, would even­tu­ally re­lease it only as the B-side of Beck’s sin­gle Hi Ho Sil­ver Lin­ing. Still, the gui­tarists con­tin­ued to ar­gue over who did what. The only thing they did later agree on is that line-up that played on Beck’s Bolero could have been the “orig­i­nal” Led Zep­pelin.

“As a bass player Jimmy Page was rub­bish. Too many bloody notes, mate!” Chris Dreja

Look­ing glum, but the fu­ture’s bright: (l-r) Keith Relf, Chris Dreja, Eric Clap­ton, Jim McCarty, Paul Samwell-smith.

“I want to con­trib­ute a great deal more to The Yardbirds than just stand­ing

there look­ing glum.”

Jimmy Page

The man who would be God: Eric Clap­ton (right) with The Yardbirds in 1964.

Early days with Clap­ton’s re­place­ment Jeff Beck (front).

Yardbirds man­ager Gior­gio Gomel­ski,

April 1965.

The Yardbirds on pop TV show Ready Steady Go! in June 1965: (l-r) Dreja, McCarty, Beck, Relf, Samwell-Smith.

The Yardbirds in ’66: (clock­wise from top left) Page, Dreja, Beck, Relf, McCarty.

Keith Relf, 1965.

Page and Beck with

The Yardbirds on Ready Steady Go! in 1966. “Check out this lick…” Beck en­ter­tains a cou­ple of Yar­birds fans when the band play the Na­tional Jazz And Blues Fes­ti­val in Rich­mond, 1965.

Chris Dreja, 1966.

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