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Geoffrey Arnold "Jeff" Beck (born 24 June 1944) is an English rock guitarist. He was one of the three noted guitarists — the others being Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page — to have played with The Yardbirds. He was ranked the 14th on Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".
Much of Beck's recorded output has been instrumental, and his releases have spanned genres ranging from blues-rock, heavy metal, jazz fusion and (currently) a blend of guitar-rock and electronica. Beck has earned wide critical praise and four Grammy Awards for Best Rock Instrumental Performance, and had two hit albums in the mid-1970s as a solo act. However, Beck has not been able to establish and maintain a broad following or the sustained commercial success of many of his collaborators and band mates.
Beck has been nominated for 2009 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and was promptly chosen for induction for the April 4, 2009 ceremony.
Beck is cited as saying that the first electric guitar player he
singled out as impressing him was Les Paul. Similarly Cliff Gallup,
lead guitarist with Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps was also an early
musical influence, followed by Chuck Berry and
Steve Cropper. Upon
leaving school he attended Wimbledon Art College, then he briefly worked
as a painter and decorator, a grounds man on a golf course and spray
painting cars. Beck's sister would also play an instrumental role in
introducing him to another teen hopeful named Jimmy Page.
Stories about Beck's volatile temper began to circulate early. His perfectionism, coupled with the faulty equipment often in use during the 1960s, led to many stories about his willingness to take out frustrations on his equipment, though not in the form of smashing a guitar. The 1966 movie Blow-up contains a scene where the Yardbirds perform "Stroll On", and Beck becomes so enraged by equipment problems that he smashes his guitar. However, this scene was staged for the movie, as it was a re-creation of an actual event that director Michelangelo Antonioni witnessed at a concert of The Who.. This was also spoofed in the movie This is Spinal Tap. In fact it is widely regarded that Nigel Tufnel from the film is based quite heavily on Beck.
His time with The Yardbirds was short, allowing Beck only one full album, "Yardbirds" a.k.a Roger the Engineer (1966); Beck left after 18 months, partly for health reasons. For a few months he shared the dual-lead guitar role with Jimmy Page, who had joined the Yardbirds as a bass player, but quickly moved to co-lead guitar, with Chris Dreja moving on bass.
While on the surface Beck seems to have departed the group because of his health, Page, who had been invited into the band for a second time in 1966 by Beck himself, tells a different story:
“ It was on that Dick Clark tour — there were a few incidents. One time in the dressing room I walked in and Beck had his guitar up over his head, about to bring it down on Keith Relf’s head, but instead smashed it on the floor ”
Jimmy Page recalled years later. “Relf looked at him with total astonishment and Beck said, ‘Why did you make me do that’ Fucking hell. Everyone said, ‘My goodness gracious, what a funny chap.’ We went back to the hotel and Beck showed me his tonsils, said he wasn’t feeling well and was going to see a doctor. He left for L.A., where we were headed anyway. When we got there, though, we realized that whatever doctor he was claiming to see must’ve had his office in the Whiskey. He was actually seeing his girlfriend, Mary Hughes, and had just used the doctor bit as an excuse to cut out on us.
The Yardbirds were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. Beck wise-cracked at the ceremony stating:
Jeff Beck Group
The group produced two albums, Truth (August, 1968) and Beck-Ola (June, 1969). Both albums are highly acclaimed. Truth, released five months before the first Led Zeppelin album, features a cover of "You Shook Me", a song first recorded by Willie Dixon which was also covered on the Led Zeppelin debut. It sold well (reaching #15 on the Billboard charts) and received great critical praise, Beck-Ola while well-received, was less successful both commercially and critically. Resentment, coupled with touring-related incidents, led the group to dissolve.
After the breakup, Beck decided to continue working with Stewart, and team up with bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice, the rhythm section of the Vanilla Fudge. This project was sidelined when Beck suffered head injuries in a car crash, and left the music scene for over a year. Rod Stewart left to team up with Ronnie Wood and the Small Faces; and Bogert and Appice formed Cactus instead.
When Beck regained his health, he reformed a band with entirely new members. The new ensemble — Bobby Tench on vocals and guitar, Max Middleton on piano and keyboards, Clive Chaman on bass and Cozy Powell on drums — although still known as the "Jeff Beck Group" featured a substantially different sound from the first lineup.
For the album Rough and Ready (1971), Beck wrote or co-wrote six of the album's seven tracks (the exception written by pianist Middleton). The album included elements of Soul, Rhythm and Blues and Jazz, foreshadowing the direction Beck's music would take later in the decade.
The follow-up, Jeff Beck Group, (1972) was recorded in Memphis, at the studio used by Booker T. & the M.G.'s; their guitarist, Steve Cropper, produced the album. The album, unsurprisingly, displayed a strong Soul influence. Five of the nine tracks were covers of American artists; one ("I Got To Have A Song") was the first of Beck's four covers of compositions written by Stevie Wonder.
Shortly after this release, Cactus broke up, leaving Bogert and
Appice available. Beck dissolved the band in order to achieve his
ambition to work with them, forming Beck, Bogert & Appice.
The resulting album, Blow by Blow (1975), displayed Beck's technical prowess in a jazz-rock format. The album reached #4 on the charts. It is Beck's most commercially successful release.
George Martin, produced Blow by Blow at AIR Studios. Beck was fastidious about over-dubs but never seemed to be happy with his solos. A few days after a recording, when he'd had time to digest his own performance, he would telephone Martin and say "I think I could do a better one on this track", and they would return to AIR to try again. Beck would play over and over until he was satisfied that he had performed his best. A couple of months went by and Martin received another phone call from Beck: "I want to do this solo again." Bemused, Martin replied: "I'm sorry, Jeff, but the record is in the shops!"
Wired, which followed a year later, paired Beck with drummer-composer Narada Michael Walden and keyboardist Jan Hammer. It is a more straightforward work of jazz-rock fusion (sounding similar to the work of his two collaborators). A live album with Hammer followed.
1980's There and Back, featured three compositions from Hammer and
five with keyboardist Tony Hymas.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Jeff Beck recorded sporadically (due
largely to a long battle with noise-induced tinnitus): There and Back
(1980, featuring Simon Phillips, Tony Hymas, Jan Hammer and Mo Foster),
Flash (1985, including performances with Rod Stewart and Jan Hammer),
Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop (1989, with Terry Bozzio and Tony Hymas), Crazy
Legs (1993), Who Else! (1999), and You Had It Coming (2001). He also
accompanied Paul Rodgers of Bad Company on the album Muddy Water Blues:
A Tribute to Muddy Waters in 1993. 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. The song "Plan B" from this release earned him his
fourth Grammy Award, again, for 'Best Rock Instrumental Performance'.
Jeff Beck continues to perform shows on a regular basis, including opening for B.B. King in the summer of 2003, backed by Terry Bozzio and Tony Hymas.
Beck's recent tours in 2005 and 2006 have included Jason Rebello on keyboards, Vinnie Colaiuta on drums and Pino Palladino on bass (replaced by Randy Hope-Taylor due to Palladino's prior commitment to The Who). An Official Bootleg USA'06 from the tour has been released through Beck's website.
Jeff Beck accompanied Kelly Clarkson as the guitarist for her cover
of Patty Griffin's song, "Up To The Mountain", during the 2007 Idol
Gives Back episode of American Idol, with both artists receiving a
standing ovation from the audience. The performance, recorded live, was
released for sale afterwards.
Beck has announced a tour of Japan in early 2009 through his website.
Tickets went on sale for an Australian tour in January 2009.
While Beck was not the first rock guitarist to experiment with
electronic distortion, he nonetheless 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. Jeff Beck is still highly influential with many modern
guitarists, who cite him as a major influence on their playing.