Guitar Hero Jeff Beck Discusses His Career

Jeff Beck began playing guitars at a young age, going so far as to creating his own out of cigar boxes and other scraps. Eventually, his friend and fellow guitarist Jimmy Page suggested he take over for Eric Clapton after his departure from the band The Yardbirds, and Beck accepted. The band achieved much success, and this kicked off Beck’s professional career. He went on to form a number of bands, and play with some of the most legendary musicians in history. In this video, WatchMojo.com learns more about the life and career of guitar hero Jeff Beck from the man himself.
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The Life and Career of Guitarist Jeff Beck


Jeff Beck: “Something drives us to do this, and it was the lack of satisfaction of listening and just absorbing what was played on a record. I wanted to get on board and find out, and interpret what I heard, that’s really what it is.”


He is consistently ranked as one of the best and most influential guitarists of all time. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be taking a look at the life and career of Jeff Beck.

Early Life, Career and Influences


Born June 24th, 1944, Geoffrey Arnold Beck began singing and playing makeshift guitars at a young age. Beck showcased a unique ability to imitate a variety of guitar styles. When he began his career in the 1960s, he used this skill to his advantage.

Jeff Beck: “It’s hard to put a finger where my present style comes from. It’s just years of listening to people that I was really drawn to, you know from rockabilly to the 60s, Hendrix and even Ravi Shankar who twisted everything around for me with the bends. And I applied a lot of his, not direct lifts but the technique of bending the G string and forming melody by bending the string rather than playing the direct note. So a lot goes to Ravi Shankar for that. It’s also eastern influence, Arabic music. I don’t care about politics, but if the song sounds good I’ll play it and try to embroider what’s there and embellish it and try to make it my own. That’s really what it is.”


The Yardbirds


In 1965, his friend and fellow session guitarist Jimmy Page recommended Beck as a replacement for Eric Clapton in the band the Yardbirds. His time with the band was a successful one, and they had many Top 40 hits, including their cover of the track “I’m a Man.”

Jeff Beck Group


By 1967, Beck had formed the Jeff Beck Group, with members like vocalist Rod Stewart and bassist Ronnie Wood. By the time the band dissolved two years later, they had produced two critically and commercially successful albums, Truth and Beck-Ola.

Another incarnation of the group materialized in the early 1970s, though this band fell apart after two albums.

Jeff Beck: “You build up a camaraderie, and I think anyone will tell you that a band is better than pick-up players any day of the week. You become a soap opera, you become a family really, you share travel griefs, and misery and internet and all the rest of it. So that’s great to have that.”


Beck, Bogert and Appice


Beck joined up with bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice to form Beck, Bogert and Appice in 1972. Though they were technically brilliant, their one hit was a cover of Stevie Wonder’s track, “Superstition,” and they parted ways in 1974.

Solo Work


Jeff Beck’s first solo album, Blow by Blow, was released in March 1975. This record exhibited the guitarist’s mastery of the jazz-rock genre, and was his most commercially successful album. Beatles’ producer George Martin served as Beck’s producer and arranger on the record.

With Jan Hammer


After touring in support of the album, he returned to studio to record Wired in 1976. He was joined by keyboardist Jan Hammer, who was a key influence on the album’s sound. He was also instrumental on Beck’s next album, 1980’s There and Back.

Jeff Beck: “It’s funny how you look back, it’s like an old photo album where you think: oh sorry about the hair, or the trousers or whatever. The Jan stuff still holds up, head and shoulders. Because of Jan Hammer, and his European, just his ears are so incredible. I lost George Martin along the way in the quest to try to find a more aggressive spin on the type of music that I was influenced by, which was Mahavishnu orchestra and John McLaughlin and all those great players. What I wanted to do was join up with Jan and try to make a more acceptable version of that, really. That was very accessible. I was incapable of doing what John did, it was a watered down version. But I did have fun doing that, and it did give me a year of fun with Jan and his band.”


The 1980s


By the time the early 80s rolled around, Beck began performing in a number of benefit concerts, and even played with other former Yardbird, Eric Clapton and longtime friend Jimmy Page.

Collaborations


Throughout the 1990s and into the new millennium Beck continued to collaborate with other artists.

Jeff Beck: “Yeah that was one of those funny evenings where nothing happened and all of a sudden I was on fifteen other people’s albums, just by a couple of Jack Daniel’s and a promise. But Morrissey I’ve always found fascinating, and he’s a close friend of Chrissie Hynde, who I’m also very close to. And when you’re close like that things happen, and the next morning I was on my way to the studio. No other reason than I liked the guy, I didn’t have a clue about the song.”


Rock and Roll Hall of Fame


The Yardbirds were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, while Beck was inducted himself in 2009. April 2010 saw the release of his tenth studio album, Emotion and Commotion. The album mixes original tracks with covers, and features a number of collaborations.

A Perfectionist


His skill is unmatched, and because of this Beck has been rewarded throughout his career with a number of awards and honors. In the world of guitar heroes, Beck is known as a perfectionist, almost to a fault.

Jeff Beck: “It’s a form of musical Tourette’s, I think. It’s involuntary spasm. I think probably it’s a form of insanity, to be quite honest. I’m not going to hog the insanity thing: I think most people who play are quite nuts anyway. You become obsessed about sounds and positioning, notation and chords. We just get drawn into it. I try not to be boring, and that’s all it is. I make terrible mistakes, but when there’s a result, there’s a result. When there’s a great mistake I put it in there and then expand it.”


Because of his talent and his refusal to stagnate, Jeff Beck will no doubt go down in history as one of the greatest guitarists in the history of rock and roll.
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