January 20, 2022
I had some initial reservations about ordering a collector edition of a book authored by someone considered by many to be the greatest electric guitarist ever. Since I don’t consider myself a musician by any stretch of the imagination, I hesitated to order the signed edition—the only one available at the time.
I struggled to convince myself that these limited editions were intended for professional players or for people somehow associated with the music business. On top of that, I’ve never met Jeff Beck and have only attended one of his concerts—the 2010 World Tour Concert—in Atlanta, Georgia.
Nevertheless, I’ve been listening to JB since “Heart Full of Soul” with The Yardbirds and I’ve been buying his albums, and more recently DVD and Blu-ray discs, ever since. Lastly, would any casual listener take the time to write something like this? I didn’t think so…I consider myself a true fan.
I became aware of the Genesis BECK011 book through an enclosed insert advertisement in the Jeff Beck Live at the Hollywood Bowl Blu-ray/CD digipak. The advertisement immediately got my attention, so I followed the URL www.JeffBeckBook.com printed on the insert to check it out. As I instantly discovered, only Collector Editions were available for £345 which converted to $500 discounts and shipping applied.
Needless to say, $500 USD is a lot of money to pay for the book, any book. However, for this edition you get the following as described on the Genesis Publications website:
Collector: 1650 copies
Signed by: Jeff Beck
Contributors: John McLaughlin
Paper: Heavyweight 200gsm archival grade matt art paper
Binding: Quarter bound in Italian leather and pressed aluminium (that’s aluminum to all U.S. and Canadian readers)
Box: Buckram case
The book is large and substantial, worthy of the limited-edition collector designation. I have signed copy number 1580.
As far as content goes, the book is a collection of images reproduced from photos, documents, negatives, and other memorabilia. Reference notes are included for each image and at least one image appears on nearly every page. Jeff’s writing is interspersed throughout the book. Some readers who have been following JB for any length of time may recognize some photos, but most were previously unseen according to the Loud Hailer insert that somehow found its way into my Jeff Beck Live at the Hollywood Bowl Blu-ray/CD digipak.
The subject matter consists of guitars, music, and hotrods. What else? Speaking of guitars, I learned from the book that Jeff played a Fender Esquire with The Yardbirds not a Telecaster as I previously believed (p. 46). The one element that distinguishes an Esquire from a Telecaster is that the Esquire only has a single pick-up whereas the Telecaster has two according to a post on Strat-Talk.com. Another way to easily distinguish the two is to check the imprint on the headstock.
Aloof, reclusive, melancholy, and moody are words that many would use to describe Jeff Beck the man. Consider the dark black and white photo used on the case insert of 2018’s Still on the Run – The Jeff Beck Story Blu-ray disc. The insert is dark, a mostly black background with dark red text intended to reflect Jeff’s personality which is in stark contrast to the image that is portrayed in the Beck01 book that was published some two years earlier. I guess JB is still on the run from mediocrity, conformity, and dare I say it, “the establishment.”
All true artists have their own idiosyncrasies which naturally enhance their creative abilities.
Jeff writes, “I didn’t mix well and close friendships didn’t appeal.” during his early years (p. 68). In addition, he also sang in a choir and attended art school (p. 36). These are not things non-conformists would be involved in, so I believe he adopted the image of a rebellious rock ‘n’ roller in order to have a sense of acceptance being it was in fashion at the time.
Not surprisingly then, in many of the photos taken from his Yardbirds era, Jeff sometimes projects an attitude of contempt either done deliberately, as a result of experience or both.
I’m frequently annoyed when reading commentaries by so-called music industry experts about how Jeff has mismanaged his career, how his music is inaccessible, and how he lacks having any hit records. The following is a quote from an allmusic.com JB biography. I challenge anyone who has read the Beck01 book to defend the AllMusic writer’s assessment.
While he was as innovative as Jimmy Page, as tasteful as Eric Clapton, and nearly as visionary as Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck never achieved the same commercial success as any of those contemporaries, primarily because of the haphazard way he approached his career. After Rod Stewart left the Jeff Beck Group in 1971, Beck never worked with a charismatic lead singer who could have helped sell his music to a wide audience. Furthermore, he was simply too idiosyncratic, moving from heavy metal to jazz fusion within a blink of an eye. As his career progressed, he became more fascinated by automobiles than guitars, releasing only one album during the course of the ’90s. All the while, Beck retained the respect of fellow guitarists, who found his reclusiveness all the more alluring.Jeff Beck Biography, Songs, & Albums | AllMusic
Sometimes individuality and independence can be confused with rebelliousness especially when it goes against the grain and defies conventional wisdom. For Jeff, “Music and driving provided freedom.” freedom from the usual concerns of life (p. 12). I don’t think it would be much of a stretch to say that Jeff is against mandates especially those that have a direct impact on his obsessions. He writes that “If it hadn’t been for the upswell of people objecting to the loss of their personal rights, I think that all custom rods would have been outlawed.” (p. 118). He goes on to say, albeit somewhat fatalistically, that “It feels like I’m facing death every single day I go on, and I’m also facing death every time I drive one of my cars.” (p. 28).
Jeff can be very humble, even self-deprecating, while at the same time being a little cocky all the while without sounding arrogant or insincere:
“Playing in front of an audience is total lunacy. Walking out in front of everyone is just terrifying, and yet I have to do it.” (p. 28).
“Guitarists steal from one another, but I don’t care because they’ll never be able to copy me anyway.” (p. 65).
In telling the story of his second stolen Fender Strat that was given to him by John McLaughlin, Jeff’s determinism shines through when he states, “I was clearly not meant to have that guitar.” (p. 200).
In the “Over the Rainbow” chapter of the book, Jeff waxes nostalgic over Tiny Naylor’s, one of his favorite drive-in carhop restaurants he used to frequent while in LA where he used to order grilled cheese sandwiches (p. 106). I wonder if he would ever order a bowl of tomato soup to go with his grilled cheese in order to make it a true American classic. I tend to get nostalgic myself over White Castle—but they’re still around.
Anyone who scans through the book’s table of contents will probably assume the “Got the Feeling” chapter is about a Jeff Beck Group instantiation, but they would be wrong because the chapter is about building hot rods. Jeff writes that he gets enormous satisfaction out of his time in the workshop building his cars (p. 158). Since the Beck01 book’s cover is made of aluminum and styled after a car’s license plate you have to wonder if Jeff Beck is a guitarist who likes building cars or a car aficionado who is also a guitarist.
Jeff derives satisfaction out of building cars and playing music because both activities are creative endeavors. In a similar way, the difference between software development and software testing is in the creative aspect of building something. But being good at something doesn’t necessarily mean you like doing it.
Besides, how can you not like a guy who spent most of his money at one time to buy a Corvette (p. 210)? I can empathize since I tried to buy a 1973 Corvette from a dealer in Presque Isle, Maine while still serving in the USAF. I wasn’t able to take delivery because I was unable to get insurance at the time.
The author concludes the book with the following quote in typical Jeff Beck style, “This book is dedicated to all those great musicians who have wasted a portion their lives playing with me!” (p. 312).
After some deliberation, I’ve decided to devote this section to chronicling my experience as a fan of Jeff Beck’s music. In addition, I’ll proceed to describe which songs from which albums I liked and those which I didn’t like as much minus the technical jargon that has already been provided by others. (For a perfect example of the musical jargon I’m referring to see the liner notes to Surfing with The Alien written by Matt Resnicoff.) Besides, what more can be added to what Jeff has already described in his book, “That’s all music is, a series of noises coming out of instruments. Music is a universal language that we all share.” (p. 35).
The song “For Your Love” with Eric Clapton introduced me to The Yardbirds but it was the song “Heart Full of Soul” with Jeff Beck that made me an instant fan. Many years ago, I purchased The Yardbirds – Train Kept A-Rollin’ (The Complete Giorgio Gomelsky Productions) box set on CD. The song “For Your Love” is the first track on Disc 3 of the box set followed by six tracks with Eric Clapton. The sixth Clapton song is “Sweet Music (Take 4)” followed by the Beck song “I’m Not Talking” and difference in sound between the Clapton and Beck songs was like the difference between the rumble of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and the totally overwhelming and engulfing sounds of a Space Shuttle launch. Many have said that when you witness a launch in person you not only see and hear the launch, but you also “feel” it—and that’s really the whole idea, isn’t it?
When The Yardbirds released their Little Games LP in 1967, I was excited about the chance to hear the latest Jeff Beck guitar work but alas, Jimmy Page had replaced Jeff on lead guitar. We didn’t have the Internet in those days, so it wasn’t as easy to keep up on things, nevertheless, the album was a disappointment. So, the group that helped me get through my high school years had gone bubblegum—well…not quite as far as Grand Funk would go with their Phoenix album in 1972.
Jeff writes in Beck01 about the pressure artists feel, Yardbirds included, to achieve commercial success with the statement, “We were revered in the UK, but because we weren’t as big as the Beatles, we were ridiculed in the States.” (p. 100). It was no surprise then that The Yardbirds only received one vote for the Bound Brook High School Class of ‘68’s favorite music group opinion poll—Frankie Vali and The Four Seasons earned that honor.
In 1968, Jeff released Truth, an album with his newly formed Jeff Beck Group featuring Rod Stewart on vocals. The first track on the record was a Yardbirds number, “Shapes of Things.” I purchased the LP and after placing it on my turntable, lowering the tone arm to the record’s surface then when the needle hit the grooves, I thought there was something wrong with the record since the guitar parts seemed muted compared to the sound that I was used to hearing from The Yardbirds. As a result, “Beck’s Bolero” became my favorite track from that album.
Beck-Ola was the follow up album to Truth with Rod Stewart on vocals. Of the two Elvis Presley covers, I think “All Shook Up” was by far the better of the two. I thought “Jailhouse Rock” was somewhat awkward. “Plynth (Water Down the Drain)” was my favorite track from that album.
Both Jeff Beck Group albums, Rough and Ready and Jeff Beck Group are pretty much a group with a lead guitarist as opposed to a lead guitarist playing with a group. Generally, both albums feature a very subdued JB—unlike who we are used to today. On the Rough and Ready album, the song “New Ways / Train Train” is the best track while the songs “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You” and “Definitely Maybe” from the Jeff Beck Group album are pure Jeff Beck. And then there’s Beck, Bogert & Appice…
I remember seeing Vanilla Fudge play “Shotgun” on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1969 and was blown away with the wah-wah pedal guitar intro, Tim Bogert’s vocals, and the organ solo. Later when I heard that Jeff Beck was forming a group with Bogert and Appice, I was expecting a hard rock powerhouse along the lines of pre-bubblegum Grand Funk Railroad. However, with the exception of the songs “Black Cat Moan” and “I’m so Proud” that album was weak in my opinion and not because of any individual member’s musicianship but because of the song selections.
Then the period beginning in 1975 until around the time of the Beckology release turned out to be my backslidden years in that I left Jeff Beck for other guitarists and other bands. I just wasn’t into the jazz-rock fusion thing that Jeff was into at the time. My wilderness wanderings had taken me to Pink Floyd, The Moody Blues, Kenny Wayne Shepard, Clapton, Zeppelin, Robert Cray, Robert Plant, U2, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Steve Vai, and Joe Satriani among others. However, like the parable of the prodigal son, this wayward fan returned only after re-experiencing a sample of what attracted him to JB’s playing in the first place, namely, “Cat House” from the movie soundtrack album Frankie’s House, and “Manic Depression” with Seal from the Jimi Hendrix tribute album Stone Free. Jeff’s playing on these two songs encouraged me to buy the Beckology CD boxset.
Looking back now, I think it was Jeff’s version of “Manic Depression” with Seal that really brought me back. During the first two minutes and forty-two seconds of the song, Jeff appears to be properly channeling Hendrix, maybe sped up a bit. But then the song changes tempo, similar to “Shape of Things,” thereby allowing Jeff ample room to do what all his fans have come to expect, virtuosity combined with an appropriate measure of “lunacy” that’s just incredible—like no other. Yes, I may have backslidden for a season, but I was certainly no apostate.
Now if Jeff Beck’s style of playing on “Blow By Blow” and “Wired” can get ahead of my ears’ ability to absorb, then I can imagine how far Jeff’s style got ahead of any casual listeners with his techno, electronica, Eastern, rock fusion trilogy: Who Else!, You Had It Coming, and Jeff. Most of the tracks on those albums consist of driving rhythms thereby creating a groove as a base for Jeff’s aggressive improvisations. Instead of being simply traditional songs with a memorable melody line, many of the tracks on Jeff’s album trilogy I would describe as groundbreaking elaborate soundscapes—all the while you know it’s him. That being said, Jeff can also get very melodic, almost whimsical at times on songs like “Angel (Footsteps),” “Suspension,” and “Bulgaria.” The bottom line is Jeff Beck’s music is strong meat, only for those that can handle it.
If Jeff Beck ever intended to put out a leftist political propaganda record, I believe he has achieved a modicum of success with Loud Hailer. The Beatles had “The White Album” and Grand Funk had their “Red Album,” now Jeff can say he has his “Green” album—content not color. Well, then again, maybe he doesn’t really buy all that Green movement nonsense but instead he is deliberately trying to put one over on us, who knows?
I bought the album on vinyl as soon as it became available and I’m sorry to say that on first listen, I was somewhat disappointed. Then I remembered I had the same reaction when I first listened to Truth but after multiple plays the album got better, that is, instead of just listening, I actually started to hear what was going on, ditto for Loud Hailer.
Nevertheless, I take issue with the message being projected by some of the song lyrics. For example, “Live in The Dark” is either an allegory for a color-blind society, an indictment of the fossil fuel industry, or both. Another song, “Thugs Club” attempts to throw shade on Fox News with the following lyrics:
And Melissa and Sean who work for the Foxes.Thugs Club lyrics – JEFF BECK (oldielyrics.com)
Your presentation’s crass
And your opinions aren’t facts.
When you dumb down the news
You dumb down the future
Then you can just tell us what you want
And us ‘dumb dumbs’ will believe ya.
The “Melissa and Sean who work for the Foxes” is a direct reference to Melissa Francis and Sean Hannity who, of course, work for Fox News. I wonder what Beck, Vandenberg, and Bones think of Tucker and Laura? Just for the record, I think unbiased people base their opinions on facts not truth. Okay, so now let’s unpack an example from recent events here in the U.S. as follows:
Every mainstream (CNN, MSNBC, etc.) news outlet labels the January 6, 2021 breach of the Capital Building in Washington, D.C. as an insurrection and compares the event to the American Civil War and the Confederacy. Now every video clip I’ve seen from that day shows many in the mob who entered the Capital carrying the American flag. Why would insurrectionists identify with the flag of the government they want to overthrow? Did the Confederacy fly the Flag of the Union over Richmond, VA? On the other hand, the real insurrectionists in Seattle, who took over a large section of the city by declaring a CHOP (Capitol Hill Occupied Protest) zone in the summer of 2020 did not display any American flags and were never accused of being insurrectionists.
Coincidentally, or ironically, the closing tag line for Steve Hilton’s Fox News show The Next Revolution is “The next revolution will be televised” which is eerily similar to the title of the first song on Loud Hailer which is “The Revolution Will Be Televised.” Steve may have been influenced by the song title in question since he was a British citizen at the time and his show on Fox News didn’t start for nearly a year after the release of Loud Hailer. I guess you could say that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” and “sometimes actions can have unintended consequences.”
The last song on the record, “Shrine” sums up the humanistic philosophy being promoted by the entire album. The lyricists were obviously influenced by the writings of the British poet William Ernest Henley who wrote the poem Invictus. A line from the song declares the following:
Got faith in the good thingsShrine lyrics – JEFF BECK (oldielyrics.com)
That good humans can do…
The problem with that line, and the entire song for that matter, is who decides what is good? What makes one person’s understanding of good, better than someone else’s?
Even though I have some obvious political differences with Jeff, I think we share a few things in common. One thing is that we both don’t like to over overplay anything. In the “Shapes of Things” chapter, Jeff writes that “There was a risk of overdoing it, because anything good you want over and over. But we didn’t want people getting bored…” (p. 42). I feel the same way about playing your favorite CDs and records over and over again until you get too tired of them. This is the problem with many hit radio stations, they keep playing the same songs over and over again to death. I don’t often play my CDs and records because when I do play them, I want them to sound fresh.
Jeff remarked about the classic song length of “…about 2 minutes and 40 seconds” (p. 94). While I had put that ideal length at “2:42.”2
According to Jeff, “No one saw the value of guitars in the Fifties.” (p. 236). I expressed a similar sentiment in my “Jeff Beck 2010 World Tour” writeup: “After all it wasn’t until the 50s and 60s that the Fender and Gibson electrics started taking off. People wanted to hear this new instrument and the Rock ‘n’ Rollers were the ones making the music.”3
On writing about his Guitar Shop album, Jeff states, “That album was too far ahead of its time.” but for me it was just the right time since I purchased the CD soon after listening to the Beckology box set (p. 14).
PS I believe Connie De Nave is responsible for the phrase “a chicken chasing a steam roller” to describe Jeff’s unique sound on her liner notes for The Yardbirds Having a Rave Up album.
Beck, Jeff, BECK01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll, (Genesis Publications Ltd, Guildford, England, 2016). ↩
Gerard Sczepura, “Jeff Beck 2010 World Tour Concert,” Theological Ruminations, August 28, 2011, https://gerardsczepura.com/myblog/jeff-beck-2010-world-tour-concert/. ↩