Happy Birthday, Mr. Beck!

Image: (c) Mandy Hall

Image: (c) Mandy Hall

submitted by Gene Howington

Today is Jeff Beck’s 70th birthday! As a guitarist, it is hard to underestimate the influence Jeff Beck has had on me and hordes of other string benders. Versatile in genre, he is always a pleasure to listen to because it often seems less like playing than an intimate dialog between him and his instrument.  Happy Birthday, Jeff!  Many happy returns.

In celebration, one of my favorites, the ethereal oh so slightly atonal “Suspension” from 2001’s You Had It Coming.

“A Day In The House” from 1998’s Guitar Shop.

“Beck’s Bolero” from 1968’s Truth. Rare b-side single version with backward guitar ending. Other notable musicians on this track are Jimmy Page (12 string rhythm), John Paul Jones (bass), Keith Moon (drums) and Nicky Hopkins (piano).


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15 Responses to Happy Birthday, Mr. Beck!

  1. Amazing Grace is one of his most requested and played tunes. However, Jeff Beck takes it to places John Newton could never have imagined.

  2. Excellent choice, Chuck.

  3. Gene,
    A couple more great guitarists have put their unique stamp on the tune as well. I have a boxed set of Roy Buchanan’s CDs. I first saw him on Austin City Limits and was blown away. He died in jail, supposedly a suicide, but there are a lot of unanswered questions.

    Lai may be the best guitarist in the world without a recording contract. He is a Laotian refugee who learned to play in a refugee camp. The American Army Captain in charge played the guitar and had several electric guitars. He taught Lai to play. It wasn’t long before the student surpassed his teacher. It wasn’t until recently that he began to show his face in his videos. He still has family in Laos. Usually he plays wearing a hoodie covering his face.

  4. Roy is a guitarists guitarist. A much higher percentage of players know him than in the general populace, which is a shame. He’s one of those guys that I think would have been huge if he’d just had the right management.

  5. Gene,
    The same can be said of Leo Kottke. He still performs and is on Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor quite a bit. He is in his 60s now, and can’t do the things he did forty years ago. I read that he has some arthritis setting in. Leo still plays Vaseline Machine Gun occasionally, but it is not at a level to match his performance on PBS back when he was about 26 years old. Note the little grin at 0:44 on the video. He knows he has just smoked about 99.5% of the guitarists in the world. Somebody described Leo Kottke’s playing style as “relentless.”

  6. 😀
    Relentless is about right. And a 12-string? I’ve heard more than one guitarist say words to the effect “it’s a lot less like playing than hard work.”

  7. Mike Spindell says:

    Back in my Rock N’ Roll days Jeff Beck’s name was all around and he would often play NYC. The alternate radio DJ’s would talk about him, but I never really checked him out. Then a few years ago he was featured on the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame show and I watched him play. Like so many things in a busy life you find that you’ve missed something you should have been tuned into. He is a great, great guitar player ranking with the best. If my memory is correct he played together with Clapton and I felt he was Eric’s equal, if not better. So much great music, so little time to hear it. Thanks Gene.

  8. Gene,
    Here is more 12-string relentlessness. The Last Steam Engine Train and Stealing. I wonder how many guitarists could play these tunes like he could? The 12-string alone narrows the field considerably.

  9. Bob, Esq. says:

    Jeff Beck & Eric Clapton at Ronnie Scots

    Little Brown Bird

  10. Never heard that one, Bob.

    That was fantastic. Both on their A game. I first saw Clapton on the Backless tour and he was kinda phoning it in because he’d just kicked. However, Muddy Waters was his opening act and Muddy came out for Clapton’s encore. Eric suddenly stopped phoning it in. Great show. Last tour I think Muddy Waters ever did.

  11. Anonymouly Yours says:

    Excellent, choice.

  12. Bob, Esq. says:

    Backless?? I was 12 years old when that came out. I first saw Clapton during the Money & Cigarettes tour in 1983; the first rock concert at Jones Beach. Later that year I got to see him, Beck and Page at the ARMS concert at Madison Square Garden on 12/8/83.

    What did you think of Beck on Amused to Death?

  13. Bob,

    I had been watching my uncles and other bands play small venues for years, but that was the first concert concert that I ever attended. We are about the same age. My dad took me. Second show was ZZ Top.

    And I must confess, I’ve never seen Amused to Death although I’m familiar with the premise. Didn’t know Beck was ever on it.

  14. Thinking about it, we are the same age.

  15. Within a year anyway.

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