Jeff Beck is without any shadow of a doubt one of our favourite players here at Rare Star Guitars so we were delighted when journalist  Martin Power’s Jeff Beck biography arrived: “Hot Wired Guitar: The Life and Career of Jeff Beck” – we will be sinking our teeth into the book over the coming weeks – so watch this space.

Jeff Beck’s Early Life

This book about Jeff Beck starts off by setting the scene in the early years of Jeff’s life following the end of the first world war. All this is rather perfunctory but obviously necessary in a biography: Martin Power has done his research and we learn that whilst Jeff’s parents weren’t dirt poor and living below the breadline his youth wasn’t exactly one of opulence and wealth either – his life  and circumstances were fairly ordinary. It’s a well researched and informatively written book that moves quickly into Jeff’s adolescence, his love affair with cars, his unplayable homemade guitars and his early work with the Tridents.

The Surrey Delta – Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page & Stones

Martin Power paints a great picture of the Surrey Delta scene in the early sixites – a scene clearly fuelled by the soaring career of upstarts The Rolling Stones. By the time we get to Clapton’s exit from the Yardbirds and Jeff’s tenure the narrative really picks up the pace. Clapton is already deified as a god of the guitar and it is Beck’s cannonisation to step into Eric’s holy shoes.  Beck gets the Yardbirds gig through his friendship with Jimmy Page – already a successful session musician and things start to become really interesting.
The portrait we gain of Beck is of a highly individual and experimental young guitarist with a truckload of attitude; moody, uncompromising, over worked, undervalued, prone to bouts of illness, introspective and under pressure in the Yardbirds to come up with the mustard – which of course he does.

Yardbirds

Power has taken the time to interview former Yardbirds members and the result is an amazing and illuminating portrait of the band and an insight into the scene. The story of The Yarbirds inclusion over the legendary Art rock equipment smashers The Who in Antonioni’s cult film Blow Up is almost unbelievable. Frustrated with poor equipment Beck really took to destroying his amps and turning his mood into performance art.

 

Snatching Victory from the Jaws of Defeat

Even back in 1965 Beck’s musical contribution to The Yardbirds is perhaps the most exciting of the holy trilogy (with Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page); yet throughout this biography an unmistakable humility, perhaps even surprise at his achievements and successes seems omnipresent. Beck finally walks out of the Yardbirds in the middle of a nightmare tour but from out of the frying pan and straight into the fire Beck finds himself at the mercy of a management tangle and eventually playing second fiddle to the ‘stolen thunder’ of Jimmy Page’s Led Zeppelin.

 

 

Mickie Most, Peter Grant, Led Zeppelin

Power delivers a vivid account of the intricacies and rumours surrounding the post-Yarbirds scene: the New Yarbirds \ Led Zeppellin, the Small Faces and finally the Jeff Beck group. While “Hi Ho Silver Lining” made its way up the charts, the first gig  for JBG is a complete disaster, the remaining tour dates are cancelled – and, Melody Maker magazine give them a hammering. Finally a glowing New York Times review gives the band a much needed lift and they find themselves at the Filmore supporting The Grateful Dead and later  Sly and the Family Stone and Moby Grape. The `Jeff Beck Group group goes on to deliver some absolutely stellar rock that has often been cited as the blueprint for “heavy metal” . Four days at Abbey Road deliver the album “Truth” – one of the greatest L.P.’s of the late sixties.

Beck, Floyd and the Stones

With Beck management refusing to acknowledge Rod Stewart as vocal frontman Beck is forced by his management to release rather strange  material such as “Love is Blue” and “Tallyman”.  With some questionable accounting practices at hand and dogged by quarrelling in 1968 both Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood are gone. Beck it seems is to be persistently plagued with bad luck, bad timing and somehow a propensity for being the outsider.  By the time Stevie Wonder retracts “Superstition” it is all too clear that Jeff Beck’s path to greatness has been, and perhaps always will be, fraught with difficulty, frustration and unbelievably tortuous twists despite his immeasurable talent and guitar genius.

Iconoclast

Atypically Beck turns down offers from Pink Floyd and the Stones, narrowly misses David Bowie, misses the power trio epoch with Bogart and Appice, and suffers from a lack of strong songwriting material. True to his iconoclasm even the acclaimed and landmark albums “Blow by Blow” (produced by George Martin) and “Wired” posed the problem of mass appeal for Jeff Beck.

Jeff Beck “Hot Wired Guitar”

Power’s book really delivers the missing detail and obscure facts that make any biography a genuinely interesting document. He has scoured the music press to piece together an illuminating and highly readable biography. Whilst the information regarding Beck is anecdotal – and Beck himself only appears courtesy of quotation – if you like Jeff Beck’s unmistakeable music and style then Hot Wired Guitar is as definitive a portrait of Beck and his career as yet available.