Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Four Live Yardbirds

There are those bands from the 60s that are well known (The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Who) even today’s Gen-X music lovers will appreciate; however, when you go deeper into some of the more seminal bands of the period, the hoi polloi tend to have forgotten these very foundational groups.

Although The Yardbirds had hit singles and included some of the top musicians of the era, many have forgotten their influence. The band is best known for their succession of three lead guitarists: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page.

Today, I feature four from four – when The Yardbirds were a quartet, but what a quartet. On vocals and harmonica, the late Keith Relf who was accidentally electrocuted at home in 1976 while playing his electric guitar which suffered from a bad ground. Relf’s musical partner Jim McCarty holds down the back beat. Chris Dreja, The Yardbird’s original rhythm guitarist, handling bass chores and Jimmy Page is on guitar.

Over, Under, Sideways, Down

How many songs do you know with four prepositions strung together? I remember during my oldies show at WWNR I featured an hour special that only contained hits whose titles ended in a preposition. I opened the show with this top 20 Yardbird's hit from 1966.

When the band began playing this tune, Jeff Beck was the lead guitarist and overdubbed the guitar parts. Later when Jimmy Page had joined the band to replace Paul Samwell-Smith who left touring for producing, songs like “Over, Under, Sideways, Down” needed twin lead guitars to approximate the recorded version. To accommodate this and other Yardbirds’ songs live in concert, Chris Dreja moved to bass and Jimmy Page was elevated to second lead guitar.

On “Live Yardbirds featuring Jimmy Page,” Keith Relf mentions (and I am paraphrasing) that they really didn’t know if they could pull this song off live without two guitarists, but lightning fingers Page was able to do it solo.

Shapes of Things

Another one of the singles recorded with Jeff Beck on guitar in 1966 and before Jimmy Page joined the band. The single version charted in 1966 at #11 in the US; however, in their native Britain, it peaked at # 3. The interesting thing I find about these videos is that Page is playing a Fender Telecaster – an instrument that I don’t ever remember him playing in Led Zeppelin.

 With his Dan Electro Double Cutaway model

Usually, he is depicted with a Gibson Les Paul, Gibson SG shaped 12/6 double neck, or a ’59 Dan Electro Double Cutaway (with the seal-shaped pick guard). If you look closely, it appears that the band is using Standel amps and cabinets; however, they are actually a German made amp - Echolette.

Dazed and Confused

Before Robert Plant sang a lick of Jake Holmes “Dazed and Confused” (which, by the way, they ripped off the songwriting and publishing rights). Like on the Zeppelin version of the song, Page uses a violin bow – and idea he got from concert violist David McCallum, Sr. who bowed a guitar on a TV special. McCallum’s son, David McCallum, Jr. is best known for his roles of Illya Kuryakin on the Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Dr. Donald Mallard (aka Ducky) on NCIS.

I’m A Man

Here’s one that features Relf at his best as The Yardbirds do the Bo Diddley classic “I’m A Man.” It really showcases how good a harp player Relf was. This was also a top 20 hit for The Yardbirds in the US in 1965. Page uses the bow on this one as well.


  1. Actually, Page DID use that same Telecaster in the early days of Led Zeppelin. It can be seen as late as their Danish TV performance from March, 1969. I image it was shortly after that that he switched to a Les Paul.

  2. Thanks Mike - I hadn't seen anything in Zep with him playing the Tele - I'll look for some early pics.