Geoffrey Arnold "Jeff" Beck
Beck was born 24th June 1944 to Arnold and Ethel Beck in Wallington, England. At ten year old Beck sang in a church choir. As a teenager he learned to play a borrowed guitar and then made several attempts to build his own instrument. His first attempt was by gluing and bolting together (forgetting the washers so that the bolt head sank into the wood) a selection of cigar boxes for the body and an unsanded fence-upright for a neck.
The strings were aircraft control line wires, both single and double stranded were used depending on the effect he wanted to achieve.
The frets, however, were a different matter. In an unknowing portent for the future use of fretless guitar, the frets were simply painted on. Another attempt at a home-build was when he studiously cut a body from a very thick piece of wood.
When fabricating the neck he attempted to use memorized measurements.
Unfortunately the measurements he had remembered were those of a bass guitar. He described the result as "The scale was so bad that it was only playable with a capo at the fifth fret...", he went on to say, "I was interested in the electric guitar even before I knew the difference between electric and acoustic.
The electric guitar seemed to be a totally fascinating plank of wood with knobs and switches on it. I just had to have one."
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 groundsman 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.
Like many rock musicians in the early 1960s, he began his career working as a session guitarist.
In 1965, Eric Clapton left the Yardbirds for John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, and Beck was recruited to replace him on the recommendation of Jimmy Page, who had been their initial choice.
It was during his tenure with the Yardbirds that they recorded most of their hits.
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.
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, 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:
The Jeff Beck Group
The following year, after recording the one-off song "Beck's Bolero" (with Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Nicky Hopkins, and Keith Moon) and having two solo vocals hit singles in the UK ("Hi Ho Silver Lining" and "Tallyman"),
Beck formed a new band called The Jeff Beck Group, which featured him on lead guitar, Rod Stewart on vocals, Ronnie Wood on bass, Nicky Hopkins on piano, and Micky Waller on drums.
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 — Bob 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 long-awaited lineup worked together for less than two years and released only one US album Beck, Bogert & Appice.
While critics acknowledged the band's instrumental prowess, the album was not well received, except for its cover of Wonder's "Superstition".
Beck left the group during recording sessions for the second album. (A double-album (Beck, Bogert & Appice Live in Japan) was eventually released in Japan.)
In October 1974, Beck began recording instrumentals at AIR studios backed by pianist Max Middleton (from the second Jeff Beck Group), bassist Phil Chenn, and drummer Richard Bailey, with George Martin producing and providing string arrangements.
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.
In 1981 he made a series of historic, joint live appearances with his Yardbirds predecessor Eric Clapton at the Amnesty International The Secret Policeman's Other Ball benefit shows.
He appeared with Clapton on "Crossroads", "Further On Up The Road", and his own arrangement of Stevie Wonder's "Cause We've Ended As Lovers".
Beck also featured prominently in the all-star band finale performance of "I Shall Be Released" with Clapton, Sting, Phil Collins, Donovan and Bob Geldof. Beck's contributions were seen and heard in the resulting album and film, both of which achieved worldwide success in 1982.
Another benefit show called the ARMS Concert for Multiple Sclerosis featured a jam with Jeff, Eric and Jimmy Page performing "Tulsa Time", and "Layla".
This is the only time all of the 1963-1968 Yardbirds lead guitarists appeared on stage together.
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'.
In the past few years, Jeff Beck has performed on new albums by Roger Waters, Les Paul and Cyndi Lauper.
Beck also is featured on one track on Queen guitarist Brian May's album Another World.
He also appears on ZZ Top's album XXX. Beck 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, backed by Terry Bozzio and Tony Hymas.
Beck's most 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 site.
Jeff Beck also 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, receiving a standing ovation from the audience.
Beck was featured at Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival in 2004 and 2007.
In Feb 2010 Jeff Beck joined Eric Clapton one stage once again at the London O2 Arena for a 2 night sell out show. Joss Stone featured on a new recording of Beck's where they collaborated together on.