Monday, January 16, 2023

Jeff Beck: 1944-2023


It's been five days since the world has learned of the passing of Jeff Beck one day earlier, and tributes have been pouring in from the entire music industry. From former collaborators like Rod Stewart, Stevie Wonder or Jimmy Page, peers like Eric Clapton, John McLaughlin or Dave Davies, and musicians he's influenced like Slash, Adrian Belew or Chrissie Hynde. All of them highlighted his unique approach to the guitar, his awe-sinpiring touch, his instantly recognizable tone, his relentless creativity and his jaw-dropping technique. 

News outlets reported his high-profile sessions, and his mercurial nature, often recycling old stories about dropping off of tours or breaking up bands on a whim. We read about his passion for hot rods, his recent unlikely friendship with Johnny Depp and his marriage to one Sandra Cash. At this point, there isn't a lot more left to say. Best thing is to play the music. I, like a lot of his fans, have been doing just that for the past few days. But if you're only a passing admirer, or completely new to his music, where do you start?

A good jumping off point would be this huge playlist we published last Friday, which encompasses all of his eras and even delves into his session work. It is extremely long, but then again so was the man's career. It unfolds almost chronologically, so it's a great way to get a feel of his evolution.

I have been revisiting the following concert movies, which are all excellent. Watch them and marvel at how his hands produce those absolutely exquisite sounds.

The 2018 documentary The Jeff Beck Story: Still On The Run is also highly recommended to find out more about the man behind the music, and his career.

But really, his entire discography is worth immersing yourself into. Even Flash, which is widely considered to be his worst album (and for good reason), has some great moments. I guess when you're a fan, you can find redeeming qualities even in the worst atrocities.

I first saw him live nearly a quarter century ago. I had been waiting in line for several hours, as seats weren't assigned. I ended up sitting front row. One memory from that gig springs to mind: the G string on his guitar was wobbly and producing an unwanted buzzing sound. All of a sudden, Jeff's face got red with anger, and he grabbed all of his strings with his fist and just. Ripped. Them. Out. The relief on his face was a sight to behold.

I would see him seven more times after that, and he would always astound and surprise me with his playing and/or new musical direction. It's sad to think that last summer's gig with Johnny Depp will be the last. It's also sad to think that there will never be another one like him. Like Jimi, he has inspired countless phenomenal musicians but the mold is broken.

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