Noisy but chart-friendly ‘60s psychedelic pop-rockers The Yardbirds sound embarrassingly tame by 2012 standards, but at the time their experimental forays into feedback, fuzz tone, distortion and a plethora of other then-radical guitar effects marked them out as the bold innovators of the pre-Hendrix era. They also churned out three of the most famous guitarists in rock and roll history, which isn’t exactly a bad record of achievement. Jimmy Page went on to pioneer the crunchy proto-metal of Led Zeppelin, the most influential band of the 1970s, Eric Clapton sprung from the ‘Birds to Cream to solo success with his wholesome blues-rock, while Jeff Beck, the strangest and the best, was nowhere near as successful as either but by far the most interesting.
Decades later, this video technically features all three – filmed during Beck’s five night residency at London’s swanky Ronnie Scott’s jazz club during late 2007, it shows him tempting Clapton on stage to cover ‘You Need Love’ by their mutual idol Muddy Waters, statesman of the blues. Page is in the audience, the irony being that this is the number he, Robert Plant and co so blatantly ripped off for Zeppelin’s much-hummed ‘Whole Lotta Love’.
Witness the well-heeled clientele jerking along as Beck’s strangulated whammy-bar abuse is married to Clapton’s bluesman growl and singing bends. Both in their mid-60s, it’s less dynamic than it once might’ve been – and, unavoidably, Jeff Beck resembles Jon Pertwee in a Mystic Meg wig, while Clapton looks like he’s just come in from creosoting the shed on a Bank Holiday Monday – but it’s got a grizzled veteran-earthiness that more than makes up for it.