Top 10 Jeff Beck Songs
Like his Yardbirds bandmate Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck has had a long, varied career playing the roles of sideman, band member and group leader. Unlike Clapton, Beck usually recorded more than one album with his various projects. His best work typically can be found under his own name. Once he left the Yardbirds, Beck, and his guitar, remained the star of the show, even when he recruited pals like Keith Moon, Rod Stewart and Ron Wood to play on his records. In addition to featuring some of the greatest fretwork ever recorded, our list of the Top 10 Jeff Beck Songs stars some of rock’s biggest and most important names.
‘I Can’t Give Back the Love I Feel for You’
Beck recorded his fourth album in Memphis with producer Steve Cropper, the great session guitarist who played on so many of the terrific R&B singles that came out on Stax Records in the ’60s. The LP, ‘Jeff Beck Group,’ is one of Beck’s most soulful, and this instrumental cover of a song penned by Ashford & Simpson is a sweet highlight.
Following 1973’s disastrous supergroup Beck, Bogart & Appice, Beck returned with the first album released under his own name (the Jeff Beck Group dissolved after their 1972 LP). The all-instrumental record was made in London with Beatles producer George Martin, who brought along the band’s ‘She’s a Woman’ for Beck to try. He nailed it.
Memphis musician Don Nix — who played sax in the Mar-Keys with ‘Jeff Beck Group’ producer Steve Cropper — wrote ‘Going Down’ in the late ’60s. Since then, everyone from bluesman Freddie King to the Who and Led Zeppelin to Pearl Jam has played it. Beck’s version features a tame vocal by his singer Bobby Tench, but the searing guitar solo soars.
‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’
Beck followed up 1975’s ‘Blow by Blow’ (see No. 9 on our list of the Top 10 Jeff Beck Songs) with another record produced, at least partially, by George Martin. But unlike its predecessor, ‘Wired’ is more of a jazz-fusion outing than a bluesy-jam excursion. The highlight is Charles Mingus’ jazz standard, one of Beck’s most subtle and impassioned recordings.
‘Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers’
Along with its cover of the Beatles’ ‘She’s a Woman’ (see No. 9 on our list of the Top 10 Jeff Beck Songs), Beck’s 1975 album also included a pair of cuts penned by Stevie Wonder. The best is this moody, brooding ballad that builds over nearly six minutes to one of the guitarist’s most lyrical and celebrated solos. ‘Blow by Blow’ reached No. 4, Beck’s all-time best.
Beck and Jimmy Page played on only a handful of Yardbirds songs together. This was the first, a Top 30 hit with a chugging guitar riff. ‘Happenings Ten Years Time Ago’ is also notable for featuring one of Beck’s few vocals on record. He’s the voice behind the mumbled spoken section that carries on during the fuzzy guitar solo.
‘Freeway Jam’ is one of Beck’s most popular songs, and for good reason: The solo he fires off is one of his very best. The song was written by Max Middleton, the keyboardist Beck worked with in the Jeff Beck Group as well as on his first two solo albums, ‘Blow by Blow’ and ‘Wired.’ It’s a grand instrumental showcase for the LP’s core quartet.
‘Heart Full of Soul’
The Yardbirds’ second Top 10 hit (their first, ‘For Your Love,’ was released a few months before and featured Eric Clapton on guitar) marks one of Beck’s early career highlights. He not only mimics a sitar during the familiar riff that rings throughout the song, he also busts out one of the first distortion-heavy solos ever recorded.
‘I Ain’t Superstitious’
Willie Dixon’s classic was originally recorded by legendary bluesman Howlin’ Wolf in 1961. But it’s Beck version with the Jeff Beck Group — including Rod Stewart on vocals and Ron Wood on bass — that stings the hardest. Everyone plays to win, especially Stewart, who delivers one of his best-ever performances. But no doubt about it — the song belongs to Beck, whose piercing guitar stabs at every single line.
First of all, there’s the band playing on Beck’s first solo single, which was recorded while he was still in the Yardbirds: Keith Moon on drums, John Paul Jones on bass and Jimmy Page, who wrote the song, on 12-string guitar. Then there’s the song itself, a three-minute, three-part instrumental based on Ravel’s classical-music piece that’s loaded with guitar effects: slides, dual solos, distortion and a hyper-drive ending that barely catches its breath before swinging back to its original inspiration. Guitar heroism begins right here.