Jeff Beck – Music Master Goodbye

SKF NOTE: My earliest memory of Jeff Beck is when I was 14-years old. The British Invasion was underway, and one influential group, The Yardbirds, released their first two albums in the United States: “For Your Love” followed by “Having a Rave Up with the Yardbirds.” Guitarists Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page are all Yardbirds alumni.

I heard the recent sad news of Jeff Beck’s death and I searched my memory for the first time Jeff Beck’s playing really hit me. It was his unique fuzz box guitar playing riff and solo on “Heart Full of Soul.” I owned that album and sang that song in a garage band.

Three years later (1968) I have just set down my turntable stylus on Jeff Beck’s new “Truth” album. Having no idea what this album sounds like, I am sitting on my bed waiting for the first song, “Shapes of Things,” to begin. When it does, drummer Mick Waller, bassist Ron Wood, lead singer Rod Stewart, and Jeff Beck come bending and tumbling out of my stereo speakers; a true musical WTF? moment.

I loved the whole “Truth” album and played it many, many times. Mick Waller remains one of my favorite rock drummers. But those first seconds of hearing the first album track, “Shapes of Things,” were impressive.

When Beck entered the jazz fusion world, I was musically somewhere else. Beck’s 1975 “Blow by Blow” album caught my attention several years after it was released. In fact, Rod Stewart’s 1984 hit song, “Infatuation,” brought me back to Jeff Beck.

I have a clear, but partial, memory of driving a car on a sunny day, half listening to the radio, when the guitar solo on “Infatuation” grabbed my full attention. So much so that I made it a point to find out the guitarist’s name. It was Jeff Beck.

I knew Beck was one of those rare musicians who never stopped growing, who was inspired by, not intimidated by, musical experimentation. He was a master of rhythm, melody, harmony, and sound.

Beck’s 1999 album, “Who Else!,” is uneven, but brilliant in spots. And I give all musician’s points, lots of points, when they are music tightrope walkers. “Who Else!” has several WTF? moments. My favorite tracks are “Brush With the Blues,” and “What Mama Said,” mostly for its musical humor.

When Jeff Beck released “Emotion & Commotion” (2010) the album cover said to me, “Don’t even think about it. Buy this album.” I’ve always had that relationship with album covers.

And what a stunning album. The three tracks with string orchestration, “Elegy for Dunkirk,” “Corpus Christi Carol,” and “Over the Rainbow” — I can’t imagine future guitarists, at least, won’t be studying these tracks as the masterpieces they are. All three, on first listening, brought me to tears.

Other music and musicians have brought me to tears. But not often.

The last Jeff Beck album I bought was “Live at Ronnie Scott’s.” And I spotted and was considering buying “Live in Tokyo” just a few days before I learned online of Beck’s death.

From 1965 to 2023, 58 years of music, much of it great, and some of it classic. What a legacy.

About Scott K Fish

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