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Jeff Beck

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Jeff Beck

Origin Wallington, Surrey, England
Years active 1962 to present
Genre(s) Blues, Rock, Heavy metal
Label(s) Epic

Geoffery Arnold "Jeff" Beck (born June 24, 1944 in Wallington, Surrey, England) is a rock guitarist who played in several influential bands in the 1960s and 1970s. He has maintained a sporadic solo career over the last 25 years. Despite never attaining the commercial visibility that some of his contemporaries did, Beck has gained widespread critical acclaim, especially in the guitar playing community. Not to be tied to one particular genre, he has experimented with blues rock, heavy metal, and jazz fusion. Most recently, he has absorbed the influence of techno, creating a groundbreaking blend of heavy guitar rock and electronica. He is constantly rated as one of the best players in guitar polls around the world.

History

Early career with The Yardbirds

Like many rock musicians in the early 1960s, he began his career working as a session guitarist. In 1965, following a gig with the Tridents, Beck was recruited to join the Yardbirds (after Eric Clapton had left the group for John Mayall's Bluesbreakers). It was during his tenure with The Yardbirds that they recorded most of their hits. In 1966, he shared the dual-lead guitar role with Jimmy Page. His time with The Yardbirds was short, allowing Beck only one full album, The Yardbirds (1966); Beck left after 18 months, partly for health reasons.

Beck's guitar-smashing antics can be seen in the 1966 film, Blowup.

Jeff Beck Group

The following year, Beck formed a new band, the Jeff Beck Group, which featured him on lead guitar, Rod Stewart on vocals, Ron Wood on bass, Nicky Hopkins on piano, and Mick Waller on drums. The group produced two albums, Truth in 1968 and Beck-Ola the following year. These two albums are highly acclaimed, and are considered by some to be the earliest precursors to heavy metal, predating the initial Led Zeppelin albums. Owing to friction within the band, Stewart and Wood left the group in 1969 to replace Steve Marriott in the Small Faces (this new lineup, joining Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagan, and Kenney Jones would shorten their name to just "the Faces").

Fusion

Beck went on to form a second iteration of the Jeff Beck Group, which featured Clive Chapman (bass), Max Middleton (keyboards), Cozy Powell (drums), and Bob Tench (vocals). This group took Beck in a new direction with increased levels of sophistication, entailing a varied melding of rock/pop with elements of R&B and jazz. They released two albums: "Rough And Ready" (1971, produced by Jeff Beck) and "The Jeff Beck Group" (1972, with this second album being produced by Steve Cropper). After this second Jeff Beck Group disbanded in 1972, Beck formed the power trio Beck, Bogert & Appice, with Carmine Appice on drums and Tim Bogert on bass. This group, too, failed to attract much critical attention and soon split up, although they did have a minor hit with a version of Stevie Wonder's Superstition (Beck later played lead guitar on Wonder's Talking Book album). In 1975, Beck did a solo, all-instrumental jazz fusion album entitled Blow by Blow which received unexpectedly positive critical reviews and substantial sales, reaching number 4 in the U.S. charts. It was followed up by a collaborative effort with former Mahavishnu Orchestra keyboardist Jan Hammer on the 1976 Wired album, which also received critical acclaim.

Later career

During the 1980s and 1990s, Jeff Beck recorded sporadically: There and Back (1980, considered his finest album and featuring Simon Phillips and Jan Hammer), Flash (1985, including performances with Rod Stewart and Jan Hammer), Guitar Shop (1989, with Terry Bozzio), Crazy Legs (1993), Who Else (1999), and You Had It Coming (2001). Jeff Beck won his third Grammy Award, this one for 'Best Rock Instrumental Performance' for the track Dirty Mind from You Had It Coming. The 2003 release of Jeff showed that the new electro-guitar style he used for the two earlier albums would continue to dominate. This style has been lauded by critics; Beck has skillfully fused an electronica influence with his blues/jazz past, with a sound mix which seems heavily influenced by the "brown" tone of subsequent guitarists like Van Halen and Joe Satriani. The song Plan B from this release earned him his fourth Grammy Award, again, for 'Best Rock Instrumental Performance'.

In the past few years, Jeff Beck has performed on Les Paul and Cyndi Lauper's new albums, and played guitar on Roger Waters' album Amused to Death. Beck also is featured on one track on Queen guitarist Brian May's last solo album, Another World. He also appears on ZZ Top's album XXX. Beck also made a cameo appearance in the movie Twins starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito.

Jeff Beck continues to perform shows on a regular basis, including opening for B.B. King in the summer of 2003.

Influence

Beck was one of the first electric guitarists in the 1960s to experiment with electronic distortion (most notably in The Yardbirds' 1966 album, The Yardbirds) and helped to redefine the sound and role of the electric guitar in rock music. Beck's work with The Yardbirds and The Jeff Beck Group's 1968 album Truth were seminal influences on heavy metal music, which emerged in full force in the early 1970s.

Technique and equipment

Unlike most guitarists, Jeff Beck does not rely heavily on electronic effects. He produces a wide variety of sounds by using only his thumbnail and the stock tremelo bar on his signature Fender Stratocaster. Along with Stratocasters Beck occasionally plays Fender Telecaster models as well. His amplifiers are primarily Fender and Marshalls.

Appears on

  • Stevie Wonder's Talking Book
  • Stanley Clarke's School Days
  • Imogen Heap's Speak For Yourself
  • Roger Waters' Amused to Death
  • Tina Turner's "Private Dancer" album
  • Jon Bon Jovi song "Blaze Of Glory"
  • Paul Rodgers song "Good Morning Little School Girl"
  • Stanley Clarke's 1975 Album Journey to Love.
  • John's Childrens single "Just What You Want - Just What You'll Get" b/w "But She's Mine" (rel. Feb 1967) as uncredited session musician.
  • Reunited with former Yardbirds bandmates in 1984 with the group Box Of Frogs
  • Donovan's "Goo Goo Barabajagal" (Love Is Hot)
  • Mick Jagger's "She's The Boss"
  • The Honeydrippers -- Volume One
  • Appears in the movie "Twins" with Danny Devito and Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • The soundtrack to the movie "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band featuring The Bee Gees and Peter Frampton (Beck was once quoted as saying that after he saw Peter Frampton use the guitar mouth tube (talk box), he gave it up.)
  • The 2003 Yardbirds' reunion album Birdland - on track "My Blind Life"
  • Many More

Trivia

  • While Beck and Jimmy Page played together in The Yardbirds, the trio of Beck, Page and Eric Clapton never played together in the group all at the same time. The three guitarists did play on stage together at the ARMS charity concerts in 1983 in honour of Ronnie Lane.
  • Beck's girlfriend Mary Hughes is name-checked in the Yardbirds song "Psycho Daisies".
  • Beck is a primary inspiration for the character Nigel Tufnel in the film This Is Spinal Tap. Tufnel's name is a parody of Eric Clapton, who was also a member of The Yardbirds.
  • Appears in the movie Blow Up with the Yardbirds.
  • Beck plays an instrumental version of Lennon/McCartney classic A Day in the Life on Sir George Martin's album In My Life(1998).
  • Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page have known each other from when Page was 11 years old.
  • Beck is a vegetarian
  • Stevie Wonder originally wrote "Superstition" for Jeff Beck. However, Stevie's Manager insisted that he record it before Beck did.
  • When not touring or recording, Jeff Beck almost never plays guitar. Instead, he spends most of his time working on his hot rods.
  • Jeff Beck was asked to "audition" for the Rolling Stones before Ron Wood took the job.
  • Jimi Hendrix considered Jeff Beck a close friend.
  • Jeff Beck did a co-headline tour with Stevie Ray Vaughan in 1989.
  • One of his greatest songs "Cause We've Ended as Lovers" was originally written by Stevie Wonder.
  • Was interested in playing lead guitar for Iron Butterfly when the group reformed in 1968 after a brief split. Before deciding upon Erik Brann, the band also considered Neil Young and Michael Monarch.
  • Also played Lady with John Mayall and Eric Clapton.

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