Maybe 60 years is not enough.
One night in New York
We take the ‘C’ train down to the garden. It’s always buzzy in Manhattan. But when we get off the train, our hearts are racing faster. Our eyes are a little wider. The air is sharper.
We find our way to the end of the subway platform and climb the steel-plated stairs.
Clapton is playing tonight. Big night. The place is sold-out. It’s a Clapton crowd, but we’re not there for Clapton. We’re there for the opening act.
I was raised in London in the 60s, haunted the clubs, saw every incarnation of the Yardbirds, Clapton to Page to Beck. Three years of three guitar gods in and out. Those other guys were okay, but to me, it was always about Beck.
Hard to say why. I mean hard to put in words. I know why. There was this aura around Jeff Beck. Does that sound weird to you?
Did you ever see the man play? Because if you did, you know exactly what I mean. And if you didn’t, well, you missed something.
We’re climbing the subway stairs in New York, and I’m thinking back to London. I’m thinking back to nights at places like the Marquee and Tiles. Theaters like the Hammersmith Odeon. The Yardbirds were one of those bands wrapped in magic.
I could go on about the Yardbirds. Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Jeff Beck, all of whom ranked in the top five of Rolling Stone magazine’s list of 100 greatest guitarists. What can you say about a band that rolled through a list like that in 36-months while dropping a series of hits?
The Virtuoso ‘Birds
The ‘Birds were Mod Pop is the way I remember them. Too soft for Clapton, who passed the pick to Page. Too pop for Page as well, I guess. Beck joined the band, and they sounded better than ever. Beck was the guy who just took the sound for what it was and made it work, made it bite.
There are all these shades in the Yardbirds. They started out blues-based (hello, Eric) but by the end of the run they morphed into a proto-Prog-psychedelic-punk-fusion band. Beck was in the middle of all that.