My rating: 5 of 5 stars
First things first. Jeff Beck is my favorite guitarist. (Brian May is a close second.) I think he’s the best who’s ever lived, and that sentiment is shared by many, including many famous musicians. So I approached this book rather eagerly, hoping it would be a good read and that I’d learn a lot. And it did not disappoint.
Jeff Beck is one of the few musicians who can claim to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice: once for his years with the Yardbirds and once for his own solo career. I think that makes him pretty special. The thing that was special about the Yardbirds is they probably are the only group in history to launch the careers of three of the greatest guitar players ever: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. How Clapton and Page went on to glory while Beck toiled in relative obscurity has always been a mystery to me, but the author of this book reveals what happened. Basically, Jeff got bored every couple of years. After he left the Yardbirds, he formed his own “supergroup” with Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood and his first solo album, Truth, was a masterpiece. His follow up, Beck-Ola, was good, but not great. He then split the band up and started working on his true love — old hot rods. He basically split his time between cars and guitars the rest of his life. In the mid-70s, his classic Blow by Blow album came out to major critical acclaim. It was a jazz fusion album, which threw off his rock followers of previous years, but earned him new followers. His 1976 Wired album was also extra special. It’s one of my favorite albums of all time. I first heard it in 1981 in my cousin’s car. Beck teamed with Jan Hammer to do some truly special songs. Then he broke up his band again. Went out touring with Hammer’s band for awhile, but didn’t do anything for a few years, while Clapton and Page were raking in the dough. He came out with There and Back in 1980, which I think is a very good album and which did well in the US, but not his native UK, where he’s never done very well. This was more rock-oriented again, leaving fusion behind. He then fiddled around playing on other people’s albums for much of the ’80s, content to do nothing major himself. In the late ’90s, he was intrigued by techno, so incorporated elements of it into a new album, which did nothing, and then two more increasingly harder edged albums — Jeff and You Had It Coming, both of which I really like and both of which didn’t do very well. It seems like the public had forgotten him. Then he changed management. In 2007, he was contracted to play 5 straight nights at London’s infamous Ronnie Scott’s club, where attendees included Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Brian May, and John Bon Jovi. He teamed with my favorite bass player, the 21 year old prodigy Tal Wilkenfeld and their chemistry was obvious. They really played well together. Seeing the DVD of those shows brought me to purchase her solo album, and I haven’t been disappointed. The DVD of the Ronnie Scott’s performance sold over a million copies and he was back. He did a Les Paul tribute, which was also captured on disc and sold, I believe, quite well. In 2010, he released his first new album in some time, Emotion and Commotion, which had some female vocalists on it, like Imelda May and Joss Stone, both great singers. The album hit the charts at number 11 its first week out and it sold well. He went on tour, and I was fortunate enough to see him with my cousin at his show in Atlanta. It was amazing. He was 66 and could still play better than anyone. He’s still touring, although I don’t know how many more albums will be forthcoming. He’s won 8 Grammy awards, he’s met the Queen, he’s in the R&R HoF twice. What more could you want, right? He’s a legend, and this book was an enjoyable read and quite revealing about many things. If you’re a music fan, a blues or jazz fan, a fan of early metal, or a Jeff Beck fan, then this book is definitely for you. You won’t be disappointed.