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Thanks to Will Shade and Ugly Things magazine for permission to reprint these articles and reviews.......

THE YARDBIRDS’ PSYCHEDELIC SAGA: GLIMPSES FROM THE JIMMY PAGE ERA
BY WILL SHADE
PSYCHEDELIC SIGNPOSTS
By Will Shade
The driving force behind psychedelia was The Yardbirds. The following are significant mile markers on the highway to Lysergia.
The Yardbirds formed in 1963 with the express purpose of playing blues material. Original lead guitarist Top Topham didn’t see the end of the year, being replaced by one Eric Clapton. By late autumn, the band was already twisting its R & B roots. With the development of their trademark rave-ups, call-and-response segments and embryonic power chords, blues standards like “Smokestack Lightning” became an aural firestorm and took on a life of their own. Howlin’ Wolf, the song’s author, proclaimed The Yardbirds’ version to be the definitive one. A recorded example from a December 1963 gig is about six minutes long, yet that particular piece was often stretched to a half-hour jam during other performances. Extended improvisatory passages are a hallmark of psychedelia. Thus the foundation for this particular genre of music was being laid three years ahead of schedule.
The Yardbirds also contributed to the concept of a loud rhythm section. American rock n roll in the ‘50s had almost no bottom and many rockabilly bands didn’t even employ a drummer. Borrowing the idea of a powerful drum and bass combination from their blues idols, English bands exaggerated the concept until it resulted in a phenomenally loud rhythm section, which would be a vital element in hallucinogenic alchemy. The Yardbirds were pioneers in this area. Drummer Jim McCarty, along with bassist Paul Samwell-Smith and rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja, built a solid platform upon which their lead guitarist was able to catapult into the stratosphere.
February 1965 found the band in the studio, arranging a tune by budding songwriter Graham Gouldman. “For Your Love” was a melodic piece of pop, boasting a harpsichord-driven hook that gave the song an exotic flavor. Session keyboardist Brian Auger’s intro chords crashed and chimed, resulting in a menacing sound. Strangely for a band boasting Eric Clapton in its ranks, the only time he made an appearance on the tune was during the bridge.
Unsurprisingly, blues snob Clapton announced his resignation within a week of its recording. No matter. “For Your Love” was The Yardbirds first major chart success, reaching #3 in the U.K. and #6 in the U.S. This was one of the first significant uses of a harpsichord in pop music, paving the way for psychedelia. Subsequently, the harpsichord was to become a staple of said genre.
The Yardbirds approached London’s top session guitarist, Jimmy Page, with an invitation to join. Page turned the offer down, fearing it would jeopardize his friendship with the departing Clapton. Instead, he suggested a mercurial young guitarist, Jeff Beck.
In April 1965, The Yardbirds upped the ante. Another Graham Gouldman song, “Heart Full Of Soul,” found newcomer Jeff Beck sulking in the corner of Advision Studios. A hired sitar player struggled to lay down a decent intro passage for the song. The Yardbirds seem to have been the first rock group to use a sitar on a recording. The instrument would not feature in a Beatles song for at least six more months. Unfortunately, the sitar on “Heart Full Of Soul” sounded thin and weedy. This particular version would not be released until nearly twenty years later. The Yardbirds were almost ready to abandon the tune until the untested Beck stepped in and fired up his fuzz box. He conjured the appropriate Eastern sound from his Telecaster and his band-mates never looked at him quite the same way again. Peaking at #2 in the U.K. and #9 in the States, “Heart Full Of Soul” introduced Western pop audiences to Indian sounds.
By July 1965, Paul Samwell-Smith and Jim McCarty added to The Yardbirds’ tonal palette yet again with “Still I’m Sad.” The duo’s dirge-like composition centered around Gregorian chants treated with echo. Beck’s guitar was buried in the mix. Surprisingly for a band that’s reputation rests on its guitarists, The Yardbirds always experimented with other sounds and instruments. Be that as it may, the monk chants on “Still I’m Sad” were another brilliant innovation courtesy of the quintet.
January 1966 found The Yardbirds mastering the final version of their hallucinogenic manifesto, “Shapes Of Things.” Curiously, Dave Brubeck’s “Pick Up Sticks” initially inspired the Samwell-Smith –Relf – McCarty-penned tune. The Yardbirds song was a fuzz-tone masterpiece of feedback and sustain, culminating in a free-fall Jeff Beck solo that left a generation of aspiring guitarists with jaws agape. In addition, McCarty’s tommy gun drumming coupled with ominous lyrics propelled the song to #3 in Britain and #11 in America respectively.
Hit fast forward to April 1966. Russian modalities and Bill Haley’s “Rock Around The Clock” sparked The Yardbirds next single, an original entitled “Over, Under, Sideways, Down.” Beck teased a balalaika-like lick from his electric guitar, marrying it to a maddening chorus of Cossack cheers and a dreamy mantra of shimmering acoustic guitar. “Over, Under, Sideways, Down” was commercial surrealism come to life, climbing to #10 in the U.K. and #13 in the States. Paul Samwell-Smith was gone by June of that year. Session wizard Jimmy Page finally joined the band, initially playing bass until Dreja mastered the instrument.
With the addition of Jimmy Page on second guitar, The Yardbirds announced that psychedelia had arrived in all its splendor. Recording “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” in July 1966, the dual lead guitars of Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page hammered out a hypnotic riff that dissolved into air-raid sirens and transmissions from Venus. A disembodied voice cackled manically through the bridge as three guitars swirled and collided in a void of sonic light. Appropriately, Relf’s lyrics were written during an acid trip and dealt with the concept of reincarnation. Heady stuff for a pop song indeed. The song peaked at #30 in the U.S. Considered a disaster at the time it’s actually amazing something this revolutionary charted at all. Quite simply, “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” is the zenith of psychedelia. Jimi Hendrix acknowledged the song’s tremendous impact, quoting one of the lead lines in a later recording of his own. ‘nuff said.
ANCIENT PSYCHEDELIA’S SHAMAN
By Will Shade
One of the unsung heroes at ground zero of psychedelia is The Yardbirds first manager. Giorgio Gomelsky did more than just manage the band. He took the band under his wing and nurtured them musically, exposing them to influences that the blues-loving teenagers probably would have never heard otherwise. Further, Gomelsky’s production ideas set The Yardbirds apart from their contemporaries. Here Gomelsky explains the development of three songs that were pivotal in the launching of a new genre within rock n roll.
For Your Love:
The harpsichord came about because I had a friend who collected Wanda Landowska (perhaps the greatest ever harpsichordist) records and harpsichords. An amazing instrument, to say the least. When I heard the demo of "For Your Love," I thought the intro was tailor-made for that instrument. I was managing and producing Brian Auger at that time too, and I asked him to play on the session. As you probably know, he's a great musician and being a pianist/organist he picked up the harpsichord without too much trouble. The trouble however, was in tuning it up after it had been brought to the studio. It almost took us longer to do that than to record the whole song.
Heart Full Of Soul:
My dad, a doctor, had a great interest in eastern philosophies and many Indian friends who often visited our house and played their music, classical Indian ragas mostly. I must have been around 13-years-old when I first heard them. Being very interested in percussion (I later played drums in a jazz band!), I just loved those polyrhythmic phrases. Years later, in an Indian restaurant in London I heard quite a lot of Indian music. It wasn't very well known outside small circles of people interested in folk and ethnic music like myself. Again, when I heard Graham Gouldman's second song, I visualized sitar and tablas on the intro, so I hired two guys from the Indian restaurant for the session. Unfortunately western time signatures and bar-counting were very different from what they were used to and since we were recording "live" we couldn't get then to stop after the 4 bar intro, even after many tries! We only had a limited amount of time in the studio, so Jeff took an amp into the bathroom (here we go again) and after 20 minutes had worked out how to get a sitar-like sound on his guitar. I paid the Indians and politely dismissed them. They didn't miss out though, because Jimmy Page was visiting the session that day and when he heard the sitar, he freaked out. This is funny, but he decided he wanted to buy the sitar from them, which after some negotiations, he did for some 25 pounds, which was a lot of money then! I remember him at the end of the session, walking down the street with the sitar wrapped up in an old Indian carpet. The next day he showed it to Big Jim Sullivan (a great London session guitarist), who a few days later showed it to George Harrison.
Still I’m Sad:
Among other schools (many!) I went to in my youth, I spent some time in a Benedictine Monastery where the monks had a choir and were singing Gregorian chants every day and the students had to learn them. I mean, I was into boogie-woogie then ("devil's music" of course), but what can you do. Besides these chants were quite amazing. Years later, by accident of nature, while Keith (Relf), Sam (Paul Samwell-Smith) and I were "shaking our commas" (taking a leak) in the toilets of the Aylesbury Town Hall, in between sets during a tour, I started singing a cappella some bass voice parts from those Gregorian chants and bathrooms having good acoustics for vocals, it sounded pretty impressive! You know about singing in the shower, well this is singing while taking a piss! So on that occasion I started off some deep melodic lines and Keith's and Sam's ears pricked up instantly. From then on, every time we met in bathrooms we kept getting more and more into those improvised chants until, one day the song appeared . . . it was, guess, "Still I’m Sad"! Apart from slow blues numbers there was no cool repertoire for slow, "ballady" tempos and I thought it important to invent some so as to have a broader "dynamic" range in the performances. By the way, the bass voice on the recording belongs to yours truly!
Planetary Pop Music:
You have to know that before producing British R&B I was exposed to a lot of jazz, classical and ethnic music. I liked Middle Eastern, African and Caribbean music a lot too. My concept was that one day there would be a "planetary" popular music (they call it "world music" these days) and that The Yardbirds could distinguish themselves from other groups by exploring and promoting it. That's the story, morning glory.
Giorgio Gomelsky and The Yardbirds parted ways in 1966. Some of the creative spark went out of the band at this point as they fell into the hands of two successive managers who were not really interested in the music itself. Without Gomelsky’s artistic input, the band sometimes failed to attain a balance between dazzling innovation and pop success they had previously. Gomelsky went on to work with The Blossom Toes and Julie Driscoll among others. Recently, he was featured in Richie Unterberger’s marvelous book, Urban Spacemen And Wayfaring Strangers. Gomelsky himself is kicking around the idea of finally writing his own biography.
IMAGES IN SOUND
By Will Shade
"When The Yardbirds started getting high, that was the turning point.”– Rick Brown, The Misunderstood
Lift Off
Yardbirds – the name still elicits awe 33 years after the group’s demise.
Besides the similarly monikered Byrds, no other band embraced as many styles as did the English group. The Yardbirds mastered stone-cold blues, moody pop and jet-propelled rockabilly. They almost single-handedly pioneered psychedelia and its bastard stepchild, heavy metal. Further, an unreleased track from their last studio session affirms that they were on the cusp of inventing country-rock. Their influence on garage-rock subculture was equaled by few and surpassed by none.
Best known as the springboard for the Holy Trinity of Guitar– Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page all served stewardships in the group – The Yardbirds were actually a marvelous musical unit, albeit an unstable one in the personnel department.
The band’s history has been well documented in the past. Consequently, this article does not examine the group during Slowhand’s tenure or its Golden Age under Jeff Beck. However, the group’s kamikaze final flight with Jimmy Page at the controls usually gets short shrift. Over the past two years, unreleased Page-era studio tracks as well as a legendary live show have been issued, demanding a reassessment. This article attempts to do just that. So, climb into the way-back machine and hit rewind.
Beck & Page
Throughout 1966, The Yardbirds had experimented with painting in tonal colors. Exploiting Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page’s dual lead guitar abilities to their utmost, Keith Relf felt confident in describing the group’s music as “images in sound.” The Yardbirds made good on that boast, recording psychedelia’s siren song in July 1966. Unfortunately, “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” was to be the first and last single released by the Beck and Page lineup.
The song would peak at #30 in the American charts the following autumn. Along with The Byrds’ “Eight Miles High” and The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows,” The Yardbirds’ magnum opus issued a call to hallucinogenic mayhem that few could resist.
The 45’s non-U.S. flipside, “Psycho Daisies,” featured a rare vocal appearance by Jeff Beck. Basically a super-charged Eddie Cochran adaptation, the tune found Beck confessing his devotion to his Hollywood girlfriend, Mary Hughes.
Later in the year, a searing rewrite of “Train Kept A-Rollin’” appeared in the Swinging London movie, BLOW UP. Entitled “Stroll On,” the tune showcased the band in a nightclub scene with Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page on dual lead guitars. As Beck smashed his axe, Page smirked nefariously, his face wreathed with Beelzebub-like muttonchops.
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band was venturing into the same territory at the time with their two guitarists, Michael Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop. The American group’s magnificent EAST-WEST album found the duo swapping solos and forging raga rock in a slightly similar manner to The Yardbirds. However, Bloomfield and Bishop exchanged lead duties throughout the title song “East-West.” Bishop would solo as his band-mate provided rhythm guitar and vice versa.
Beck and Page, on the other hand, would play the same lead lines in tandem. In live situations, the duo spit out stereophonic clusters of synchronized notes on hits like “Over, Under, Sideways, Down.” The effect, to say the least, was devastating. Sadly, this potential was to remain untapped and largely unrecorded. The three aforementioned Yardbirds tunes are the only ones to showcase the star-crossed Beck and Page configuration in the studio. Jeff Beck’s initial enthusiasm at having Jimmy Page in the band slowly turned to insecurity. Beck was an emotional wildcard, playing a brilliant gig one night and then three disastrous shows in a row.
Page, on the other hand, had been Britain’s premier studio guitarist (playing on Kinks and Who sessions among many others). Honed in the hit-making factories of London, Page knew that one must deliver the goods upon demand if one was to be paid. Jimmy Page was never less than startlingly competent, if not quite reaching the stellar heights Beck could scale on occasion. Page’s professionalism and reliability exacerbated the already tenuous situation. Further, Beck felt that his territory was being encroached upon. He wanted to do all the guitar parts, apparently forgetting that he had been the one to offer Page an invitation to join the band in the first place.
Beck stopped showing up for gigs, leaving the band to soldier on as a four-piece. When he did actually bother to make an appearance, he was as apt to smash his axe as he was to play it. The Yardbirds had already played at least 150 shows in 1966 before even embarking upon their autumn American tour. The stress was becoming too much and things quickly came to a head. Jeff Beck’s behavior bordered on the bizarre. As an example, during a gig at The Comic Strip in Worcester, Massachusetts, Beck destroyed an amplifier out of frustration. One must keep in mind that the guitarist had just turned 22-years-old. The enormous pressure was too much to bear for a sensitive young man.
“It was on that Dick Clark tour – there were a few incidents. One time in the dressing room I walked in and Beck had his guitar up over his head, about to bring it down on Keith Relf’s head, but instead smashed it on the floor,” Jimmy Page recalled years later. “Relf looked at him with total astonishment and Beck said, ‘Why did you make me do that?’ Fucking hell. Everyone said ‘My goodness gracious, what a funny chap.’ We went back to the hotel and Beck showed me his tonsils, said he wasn’t feeling well and was going to see a doctor. He left for L.A. where we were headed anyway. When we got there, though, we realized that whatever doctor he was claiming to see must’ve had his office in the Whiskey. He was actually seeing his girlfriend, Mary Hughes, and had just used the doctor bit as an excuse to cut out on us.”
Obviously, things could not continue. To make a long story short, the band fired Jeff Beck. This left Page in an uncomfortable position. He was best of mates with Beck, yet after years spent laboring as a session musician he found himself relishing life with a functioning band. Beck pressed his friend to leave with him. Page opted to stay the course. With the abrupt dismissal of their wildcard guitarist in November 1966, five live Yardbirds were no more.
Then There Were Four
Jeff Beck was only the latest casualty in the ongoing rock n roll wars. The Yardbirds had lost Top Topham, Eric Clapton and Paul Samwell-Smith since 1963. Fortunately, Beck’s departure wasn’t quite as debilitating as it could have been. After all, the band had gotten used to carrying on as a quartet whenever the Moody One had stalked off during the ill-fated American tour.
However, only the most resilient of groups can lose four members in a three-year period and continue with a sense of cohesion. Once again, only a Byrds comparison is analogous. It’s downright stupefying that these two bands could suffer so many departures and boldly continue to map out uncharted territory. Compare their situations to The Beatles, who in sharp contrast were blessed with one producer and no personnel changes after issuing their first single, “Love Me Do.”
Obviously, with Jeff Beck’s exit musical elements changed within The Yardbirds. Whereas McCarty, Samwell-Smith and Beck had provided harmony vocals in the band’s classic lineup, only McCarty now filled the breach. He revealed himself to be a triple-threat: superb drummer, gifted songwriter and fine backup singer. In retrospect, it is interesting to note that even guitar-dominated bands of the time featured vocal harmonies, something sadly lacking in modern rock n roll.
Regardless, this stripped-down lineup also found Keith Relf stepping up. Over time, he began contributing rhythm guitar when the occasion warranted as well as his accustomed lead vocals and harmonica playing. Relf has been routinely criticized for his apparent shortcomings as a singer. One must take into account the fact that he suffered from debilitating asthma and had to use a bronchial inhaler in-between songs when they played live. He had suffered a collapsed lung in 1963 that had hospitalized him for six weeks. His flat and sinister tone suited The Yardbirds’ material perfectly however. A more gifted and authentic blues vocalist like an Eric Burdon or Van Morrison would have overwhelmed nefarious vehicles like “Shapes Of Things.” Finally, Keith Relf’s harmonica work reveals him to be a master of the instrument. Within the realm of ‘60s white blues, nobody is a more passionate harp player.
All these elements would rewire the group’s makeup over the coming months as they attempted to grapple with the new dynamics. The first order of business was fulfilling contractual obligations and getting in the studio.
With Beck gone, the band finished their scheduled fall tour of America. While in Detroit, The Yardbirds shared the bill with a new group out of New York, The Velvet Underground. A Lou Reed original, “I’m Waiting For The Man”, immediately captivated the Englishmen. The New Yorkers had not as yet released their debut album, THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO. Soon, The Yardbirds would be one of the first to purchase it.
Back in England, The Yardbirds entered the studio for the first time as a four-piece. Unfortunately, they had very little material to record. This should not have come as a surprise. Having recorded their classic ROGER THE ENGINEER album barely six months previously, the group had since embarked on another punishing schedule, playing at least 120 dates throughout the world. They were only able to snatch a one-day breather to record in their busy itinerary before embarking on another eight-day tour of the States.
On December 22, 1966, The Yardbirds entered Olympic Studios in London to lay down some tracks. The band tried to catch lightning in a bottle once more by doing another Graham Gouldman composition, “You Stole My Love.” This was to be their fourth cover of his material. They attempted to recreate the magic of the “For Your Love” sessions by bringing in ex-Yardbird Paul Samwell-Smith to produce said session. Things did not go smoothly. Samwell-Smith had already produced (Gouldman’s own band) The Mockingbirds’ version and did not realize that The Yardbirds intended to cover it. Samwell-Smith was not happy with the group’s choice of material and he was further annoyed that the musicians hadn’t even worked out an arrangement. Jimmy Page was actually teaching Dreja the necessary changes in the studio. Further, Samwell-Smith and Page clashed immediately. Fifteen takes were attempted, but the song never progressed to the point where Keith Relf laid down a vocal. A piano-drum duet, “L.S.D.” was also composed on the spot, but is only of interest to the completist. Paul Samwell-Smith was not amused with the proceedings. He finally had enough and stormed out of the studio. Needless to say, neither song came to fruition. The two tunes would finally be issued in 1992 on the LITTLE GAMES SESSIONS & MORE compilation.
The title of the latter song makes it apparent that hallucinogenic drugs were tightening their grip on certain members of The Yardbirds. Relf and McCarty had been experimenting with marijuana and acid for some time. Dreja and Page steered well clear of drugs. This division would have a profound effect on the band over the next 18 months.
And that was it for studio work in 1966. Once again, The Yardbirds were faced with a daunting number of worldwide gigs that would take them well into the New Year. 1966 alone had witnessed nearly 200 documented gigs. It was taking its toll. Band members were falling by the wayside like GIs on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
Brave New World
Surely 1967 would be a better year. For one thing, the group had a new manger, its third since 1963. Gone was the egotistical Simon Napier-Bell. Enter Peter Grant. Grant was a hard-nosed and fearless character who looked out for his charges. Under his direction, the band finally began making money, which surprised them to no end.
A January and February tour of the Pacific with Roy Orbison found the band settling comfortably into the four-piece format. Orbison was not impressed, however. Night after night, The Yardbirds delivered a blistering version of “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago.” It failed to move the elder statesman of rock n roll. Orbison regarded it as little more than an audio triage clinic. To put it bluntly, The Yardbirds were too loud and wild for his taste.
Jimmy Page also introduced a new element into the band’s sonic alchemy at this time. In his studio days, Page had experimented with using a violin bow on his guitar.
“I had used it before I joined The Yardbirds. It was suggested to me by a session violinist. I didn’t think it could be done at first – bowing a flat necked instrument – but I took his advice and got a bow and started having a go and I could see the possibilities in it,” he said.
Jimmy Page could only bow two strings at a time to produce a melody. When he ran the bow across all six strings, a strange whooping sound was produced. With Beck safely out of the way, Jimmy Page pulled this striking gimmick out of his bag of tricks. As well as providing new tonal textures, it was an effective visual device. It’s been asserted that Page actually got this idea from Eddie Phillips of The Creation. However, many guitar players from David Lindley to Syd Barrett appear to have used a violin bow at the time. Who came up with the idea in the first place doesn’t really matter. Obviously, Page was determined to evolve. After all, that’s what this particular group was famed for.
In March 1967, the band finally entered the studio for the first time in four months. However, things had changed dramatically. For one thing, they were given a producer they’d never worked with before: Mickie Most. Most was well respected in the recording industry, having guided lightweight entities like Herman’s Hermits to chart success. Page was well acquainted with Mickie Most, having provided guitar work at the aforementioned act’s sessions. The pairing of pop producer Mickie Most with iconoclastic visionaries like The Yardbirds was an ill-conceived decision to say the least.
Groundbreaking singles like “Shapes Of Things” and “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” were not to be the order of the day anymore. The #30 U.S. peak of their last single, “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago,” was considered a major disaster. The powers-that-be decreed that there would be No More Taking Chances. Self-penned material would be relegated to album tracks. Therefore, Most assigned the group a song to record for release as a single. The first order of business was to tackle a charming ditty called “Little Games.”
While the song did feature a cello arrangement by Most session-crony John Paul Jones and a nifty solo from Page, it was certainly not on par with the group’s earlier revolutionary singles. The 45’s flipside, “Puzzles,” was solid, but still not up to snuff. However, it did boast a sizzling solo courtesy of Jimmy Page.
In April, “Little Games” was released. It went over like the proverbial lead balloon, struggling to #51 in America. It didn’t even make an appearance on the British charts.
In the interim, Epic had released a greatest hits package in the States in March. Unsurprisingly in the Brave New World of 1967, the groundbreaking material on this album slaked American fans’ thirst for vintage volume. With gems like “Over, Under, Sideways, Down” and “Still I’m Sad” nestling against psychedelia’s crown jewel, “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago,” the LP climbed to #28 during a 37-week residency in the charts. Further, it was to become The Yardbirds best selling album during their existence.
Emboldened by this response, Most pushed on with recording a new Yardbirds album. Of course, he totally misread the signs. Instead of allowing them to return to their earlier innovative material, he still hoped to furnish them with a perfect pop vehicle.
Frantic touring was still the order of the day, however. The group entered the studio only when they could shoehorn the time into their demanding schedule. In April and May, the band bounced in and out of the studio to lay down tracks for what became their final studio album. Recording conditions were ridiculous. Page was still fuming about it years later and rightly so.
“It was so bloody rushed. Everything was done in one take because Mickie Most was basically interested in singles and didn’t believe it was worth the time to do the tracks right on the album. Stu [Ian Stewart] from the Rolling Stones played piano on those tracks, and when we finished the first take of the first track we were recording he said, ‘That’ll sound much better the second take.’ Mickie Most was sitting in the control booth, and all of a sudden he said, ‘Next!’ Stu couldn’t believe it,” Jimmy Page said.
Starting with the recording of the “Little Games” single, session players began making frequent appearances on The Yardbirds’ recording sessions, which makes no sense except from a ruthless economic point of view. Of course, the band was more than adept at playing whatever material was demanded, even if it was assigned and not to their liking. However, with their crushing responsibilities on the road, The Yardbirds were allotted very little studio time. When they were able to find time off to record, they would enter the studio only to find that Most’s session hacks had already laid down basic tracks. Often, only Page’s guitar and Relf’s vocals were needed to complete these recordings.
Unfortunately, Page’s production expertise from his session days wasn’t brought to bear at this time. It’s unsettling that Page’s uncanny ear would allow him to participate in some of the dubious fodder that was foisted on the band by Most. Perhaps Page was simply intimidated by the producer, whose reputation packed an enormous wallop. After all, it’s hard to argue with a man who steered countless singles to the top of the charts.
Further, it slowly became apparent that Samwell-Smith’s departure left a huge hole in the songwriting process. Beck had also been a major catalyst, although he didn’t write songs per se. Relf and McCarty still contributed material, but it was slowly beginning to veer towards a lighter feel than they’d previously exhibited. The newest member, Jimmy Page, was still in the embryonic stages of songwriting. Dreja was good for the odd riff or lyric when he could be coaxed out of his shell.
Although the sessions were nominally approached with the intent of recording an album, Mickie Most was always on the look out for 45s.
“‘No Excess Baggage’ was something Most suggested as a single, but we did it as an album session. There could’ve been a lot better stuff on the album,” Page declared. “I remember him saying to me once, about guitar solos, ‘They’re something you stick in the middle of the single where there isn’t any vocal.’ He didn’t share my view that a guitar solo, like the ones on the Ricky Nelson records, for instance, could be an uplifting experience.”
Obviously, The Yardbirds’ producer was totally clueless and unsympathetic to their true nature. Regardless, by May the album was in the can. In light of this arbitrary recording schedule (the lead track, the “Little Games” single, was recorded in early March and the last track during the first of May in-between numerous gigs), it’s striking that the album sounds as organic as it does. Highlights from the album include two blues rewrites, “Drinking Muddy Water” and “Smile On Me.” Fortunately, there was also original strong material sprinkled throughout the LP. Jimmy Page’s Middle Eastern showpiece, “White Summer” (inspired by Davey Graham), and the delirious violin bow extravaganza “Glimpses” illuminated the band’s psychedelic bent. Keith Relf’s elegiac “Only The Black Rose” showed the influence of English folk music. Said tune is one of the most underrated chestnuts in the band’s repertoire. The original “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor” was stark raving mod while “No Excess Baggage” was a bruising and effective cover. Less essential is the humorous jugband nick “Stealing, Stealing.” Downright dated and rickety is “Little Soldier Boy,” which no amount of rationalization will excuse.
The album didn’t quite meet commercial expectations. When it came out in America in July, it tanked at #80. Initially slated for an autumn release in Great Britain, the LP was eventually withheld from the group’s homeland altogether.
On The Road
Having gleaned their very name from Beat Generation bard Jack Kerouac’s writing, it’s poetically appropriate that The Yardbirds spent most of their time performing in new and exotic locales. While the band was irked with the recording situation in the studio, gigs were another matter. The Page-led group still pushed the envelope onstage. “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor” found Page using his violin bow on a Vox 12-string guitar.
“It continued developing with Jimmy,” Keith Relf said.
Actually, they were far more consistent than they had been with Jeff Beck. The Aquarian Age was upon them and the young men were excited. They racked their collective brain, experimenting with anything that would propel them into the unknown. As an example, they quickly embraced the new aural elements that rock n roll was exploring in live situations.
“All I remember with that is that we were the first group to use backing tapes. Y’know, bombs dropping and newsreels – musician’s concrete – as a backdrop to the music,” Page related.
This was sometimes augmented with visual elements, i.e. scenes from World War Two being projected behind them. The wildcard eclecticism of the Beck days was far from over. The group was still in the hands of a showboat guitarist who harbored audacious ideas and sartorial sense to boot. All of the members dressed in ruffles, silk, crushed velvet and suede. The effect was marvelous, crossbreeding the Edwardian look with pop-art aesthetics to create a psychedelic dandy image. The young men weren’t the only ones undergoing cosmetic adjustments. Jimmy Page’s Telecaster sported small silver discs, which reflected and refracted the stage lights, creating rainbow hues. It was a long way from the suit-and-tie days of the Crawdaddy.
Blues standards still figured in The Yardbirds’ set, although they were now drenched in Technicolor. Their old warhorse, “I’m A Man,” began to mutate as a result. Page took to caressing his guitar with a violin bow as Keith Relf recited impromptu poems.
Chris Dreja, in the meantime, had turned into a go-for-broke bass player. Whereas in the past his underrated guitar playing had allowed Clapton and Beck to snake in and out of his rhythm patterns, Dreja’s bass work simply surged and throbbed. While perhaps not as melodic as Samwell-Smith could be at times, Chris Dreja brought an energy and recklessness to the instrument that complimented Page’s playing perfectly.
Throughout the spring, The Yardbirds had played all over Europe. They recorded sessions for Swedish radio and the BBC as well as appearing on German and French television, all the while trying to cobble together the LITTLE GAMES album at De Lane Lea Studios in London!
“Sometimes we didn’t know whether we were coming or going,” Jim McCarty laughed ruefully.
Unfortunately, in June Mickie Most concocted another single with the aid of session musicians. There was very little Yardbirds participation at the sessions. This time the result was the dreadful “Ha Ha Said The Clown.” This song had just been a major hit for Manfred Mann. Most’s famed pop sensibilities were questionable on this one. What chance would The Yardbirds have of topping a single that had recently reached #3 in the British charts? Indeed. However, it never was issued in the U.K. Not that it did much better by being released in the States, where it rose no further than #45.
The band’s split personality was evident to listeners who bought the singles and also attended the shows. The band was also aware of the dual nature of their recording persona and their stage identity.
“You see, like towards the end in ’67 or ’68 we were playing the Fillmores. We were more into the psychedelics. That was the thing that was happening for us,” Relf said. “Whatever happened in the studios was the producer’s idea of what the band should be. What we were actually doing was getting off on sound and feedback – just letting it go.”
Magick & Mysticism
In the summer of 1967, The Yardbirds landed in the United States again. Many fans were unaware that Jeff Beck had left the group. Some were initially skeptical of the new guitarist. Jimmy Page didn’t disappoint the majority of them. The band was strong enough musically to bear up under the scrutiny of the press and fans.
Relf and McCarty continued to dabble in drugs. Often, they would room together and get high while listening to their favorite psychedelic albums.
Jimmy Page was sufficiently independent and had a strong ego, which allowed him to spend time by himself practicing guitar or checking out other musicians. Apocryphal stories also have him roaming dusty old stores, looking for grimories of black magick or artifacts that had belonged to the Great Beast, Aleister Crowley.
“We didn’t pay it much mind. Jimmy was very quiet about it. We were aware of his taste for, ah, perversions. De Sade and that lot. As for his interest in magick, that wasn’t unusual. After all, Keith and I were studying Eastern mysticism at the time,” Jim McCarty said.
Chris Dreja was the odd man out. He had formed the band with Relf and McCarty and had a strong sense of loyalty to them. Yet he was confused by their drug intake. Dreja immersed himself in photography to while away the off-hours. A rift was slowly developing that the members weren’t quite aware of, being unable to see the forest for the trees.
Sound And Silence
Towards the end of their summer tour in America, the group was slated to appear in New York City. They appeared on a local radio show and talked about plans for recording a new studio album (it never materialized). The band also mentioned that they would be performing a gig a few days later with The Youngbloods and Jake Holmes. On August 25, 1967 The Yardbirds played said show at The Village Theatre in Greenwich Village. Jim McCarty was immediately transfixed by their opening act, the acid-folk artist Jake Holmes. Holmes played acoustic guitar along with an electric guitarist Teddy Irwin and bass player Rick Randle. The trio delivered a devastating original song entitled “Dazed And Confused.” Featuring a dramatic descending bass line, the tune was rife with spooky caesuras and smeared with menacing washes of fuzz guitar. Years later, this author asked Jake Holmes if he remembered that particular gig.
“Yes. Yes, and that was the infamous moment in my life when ‘Dazed And Confused’ fell into the loving arms and hands of Jimmy Page,” he said.
Of course, Holmes was referring to the fact that Led Zeppelin eventually turned his song into a heavy metal monstrosity, giving him not credit for penning it. However, it was The Yardbirds who were the first to notice the tune’s potential. After all, the group had never been shy about taking another artist’s song and arranging it to their style. Jim McCarty sought out the LP it appeared on, THE ABOVE GROUND SOUND OF JAKE HOLMES, the very next day. A longtime Village resident, John Alusick has said that he witnessed Page buying it also. Regardless, McCarty is quick to point out where the song actually comes from.
“I went down to Greenwich Village and bought his (Jake Holmes’) album and we decided to do a version. We worked it out together with Jimmy contributing the guitar riffs in the middle,” he recalled.
Relf tinkered with Holmes’ original lyrics as Page added sonic elements to it. For one thing, the song was tailor-made for his violin bow. “Dazed And Confused” was obviously a keeper. Subsequently, it would change the course of rock n roll forever.
Madcap Ideas
Despite having a strange and exciting new song in their arsenal, it was business as usual in the studio. In September, Most once again coerced the band into doing a cloying pop tune by an outside songwriter, in this case Harry Nilsson’s “Ten Little Indians.” Once again, Dreja and McCarty’s participation appears to be non-existent. Anyway, the results were predictable.
“Our producer Mickie Most would always try and get us to record all these horrible songs. He would say ‘Oh, c’mon, just try it. If the song is bad, we won’t release it.’ And, of course, it would always get released! During one session, we were recording ‘Ten Little Indians,’ which was an extremely silly song that featured a truly awful brass arrangement. In fact, the whole track sounded terrible. In a desperate attempt to salvage it, I hit upon an idea. I said, ‘Look, turn the tape over and employ the echo for the brass on a spare track. Then turn it back over and we’ll get the echo preceding the signal.’ The result was very interesting – it made the track sound like it was going backwards,” Jimmy Page said.
No amount of studio tomfoolery was going to propel this turkey into the Top Ten. Indeed, it barely scraped to #96.
Returning to New York in November, The Yardbirds performed their version of “Dazed And Confused.” It was becoming a regular feature of their stage show. Audiences reacted enthusiastically, which was noted by all the band members, especially Jimmy Page.
Jake Holmes had no idea that the group was in town or that they had adapted his tune. He was to remain blissfully clueless as to what consequences his song had wrought until it showed up on Led Zeppelin’s debut album well over a year later.
Other madcap ideas buzzed around the moribund Yardbirds, like flies drawn to a carcass. One ridiculous concept was for the band to provide music for a ballet to be performed by Pan’s People in Paris in December. Thankfully, this never came off.
Think About It
January 1968 found The Yardbirds back in England. There was lot to think about. All their singles the previous year had failed dismally. Mickie Most willfully ignored the fact that the market had evolved into an album-oriented format (how does one miss the impact of SERGEANT PEPPER’S six months previous?). Fans were looking for more adventurous platters, not pop swill. Only the most ignorant could be unaware of what inroads Cream and Jimi Hendrix were making at the time. More significantly, these groups were breaking out of the beachhead that The Yardbirds themselves had established two years earlier. The Yardbirds still played that type of music live, but their studio material was different altogether. Could a band survive as two diametrically opposed entities?
“You see, the band was pretty schizoid through the changes of personnel. So, you got a pretty schizoid kind of sound. I mean the band can’t undergo those changes without bearing some sort of shock – without direction being sort of blurred,” Keith Relf said.
This schism continued to widen, not only between the band’s studio identity and live persona, but also within their very ranks. Relf and McCarty yearned to embrace a gentler type of music, which was in keeping with their drug-addled consciousness. Simon & Garfunkel’s style, in particular, appealed to the duo. Further, Relf was simply tired of competing with loud guitars after all these years. The two began dropping hints that they might leave the band. Jimmy Page, on the other hand, was fully turned on by the idea of volume. Chris Dreja was caught in the middle. While he owed personal loyalty to his longtime band-mates, he felt that Page’s guitar-heavy vein was the one to mine.
Funnily enough, it needn’t have been such a black-white choice. Page’s guitar playing was as informed by the acoustic work of Bert Jansch as it was by rockabilly icons Cliff Gallup and Paul Burlison. He was just at home eliciting Arabic tones on his ravishing showpiece “White Summer” as he was issuing a greasy hard-nosed solo on “Smile On Me.” He was more than willing to follow Relf and McCarty down whatever road they wished to strike out upon.
“I told them we’d be able to change within the group format; coming from a sessions background I was prepared to adjust to anything. I hated to break it up without even doing a proper first album,” Page said.
Relf and McCarty wanted out, though. The brand name “Yardbirds” was associated with loud, guitar dominated rock n roll. They were having none of it. Now, they just had to gear themselves up for the divorce.
Their final single summed up the situation the best. The ‘A’ side was a jaunty ode to a prostitute, “Goodnight Sweet Josephine.” The lyrics were a trifle risqué, but it was a pure pop confection. Relegated to the underside, however, was the true heir to “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago.” The flip was the majestic “Think About It.”
“The other element of the band, the essential element of the band, was surviving on the ‘B’ sides at that time,” Relf said.
Penned by McCarty, Page and Relf, the song opened with a ringing, hypnotic riff courtesy of the guitarist. Relf’s sinister lyrics resonated with any listener lucky enough to actually turn the 45 over. Even the biscuit-tin drumming added to the tune’s appeal. A wonderful howl from Keith Relf summoned the bridge where at last Jimmy Page fully came into his own on a Yardbirds studio piece. An incredible treated rhythm guitar track tolled underneath a flurry of notes that featured snatches of the solo that Page was using on “Dazed And Confused.” Backward percussion and a harmonica fade finished “Think About It” off in grand style. It was certainly a fitting Last Will And Testament. The single was the final official release by the group during their existence.
“I suppose that was the other side of The Yardbirds still trying – ‘Think About It,’” Relf remembered later.
Unfortunately, listeners were unaware of either “Goodnight Sweet Josephine” or its dynamic ‘B’ side. The song didn’t so much as dent the Top 100 in America and it wasn’t even issued in England. Sadly, “Think About It” was the right song at the right time. But after four successive singles featuring bubblegum, nobody was buying anymore.
On a brighter note, Most had been relived from production duties before the single came out. Manny Kellem had been appointed as The Yardbirds A&R man and producer by label head Clive David before the spring of 1968. Unfortunately, nobody seems to have noticed at the time that “Think About It” had been squandered.
This is the type of material that The Yardbirds still excelled at in live situations, though. And while fans might not have been buying the singles, they were still flocking to see the group perform. In particular, the underground scene in America had embraced them as psychedelic ambassadors. This would have shocked Eric Clapton, who only three years earlier dismissed his former bandmates as purveyors of pop and nothing more.
Although The Yardbirds boasted three of the greatest guitarists ever, it should be noted the group never indulged in gratuitous soloing. By ’68 it had become expected due to Cream’s influence for bands to engage in lengthy improvisations, whereas instrumentalists traded solos ad infinitum. While The Yardbirds were stretching out numbers (one must bear in mind they had been doing this as early as 1963 anyway), they never noodled a la The Grateful Dead. Rather, the instruments weaved a pattern of sonic threads, hues and textures, i.e. images in sound. Nobody ever soloed needlessly. These sonic segues were augmented by a stage show that sometimes included candles and incense censers.
At this point, Page’s Telecaster boasted an appropriately swirling and luminous paint job. He had taken his sartorial sense to its logical conclusion. He was resplendent in knee-length embroidered coats and silk shirts. Dreja, too, kept pace on the fashion front. Not so the other two. Keith Relf often sported a walrus mustache and looked quite slovenly in grungy leather jackets. McCarty also dispensed with any pretence to being a Beau Brummel, wearing faded football shirts. The schism within the band ran deeper than their taste in clothing.
Relf and McCarty were burned out. The Yardbirds were reaping dividends monetarily but the hippy duo felt artistically inhibited. Quite frankly, they’d had enough. Drugs were also draining their psyches. Somewhere along the line Jim McCarty had had a particularly bad acid trip, which plunged him into a long depression.
“It took me years to recover,” he said simply.
Footage of The Yardbirds during their last stage often reveals a tired McCarty, who sighs throughout the performance. Not that he ever contributed less than his fair share on drums. He was quite simply a young man worn to a frazzle by the demands of a hungry business. Drugs only exacerbated the exhausting situation.
On March 2, 1968, Relf and McCarty again expressed their desire to quit. Page and Dreja weren’t surprised, just disappointed. They persuaded the two to stay through the end of the upcoming American tour at least.
A week later, The Yardbirds made an appearance on a French television show, “Bouton Rouge.” They played three songs, “Train Kept A-Rollin’,” “Dazed And Confused” and “Goodnight Sweet Josephine.” The quartet might have been in its death throes, but the music was as spectacular as ever. Page, in particular, was a commanding presence as he wielded his violin bow, shining like a 1,000 suns in ruffles and assorted psychedelic threads.
Be that as it may, the end of the road was in sight. There was one last American tour, however.
Dazed And Confused
On March 30, 1968, a weary band stumbled into New York City. The Yardbirds were suffering from jetlag, having landed in America two days previously. They had spent the interim battling a springtime blizzard and playing gigs spread out over New York State.
Epic Records was aware of their forthcoming demise. Consequently, the record company was determined to squeeze one more album out of them. The group was shocked when they were told that their Anderson Theatre show at Second Avenue and Fourth Street was going to be recorded.
Regardless, the doughty band took the stage before an audience of devotees. The resultant show is where the crux of the Jimmy Page-era Yardbirds’ legend lies. The group stormed into a version of “Train Kept A-Rollin’” that bore little resemblance to its rockabilly forefather. Instead, Page used an electric cattle prod to whip the song through its paces as Relf’s harp bleated like a mad cow. Heavy metal was here for better or worse. They then surged into a hallucinatory version of “Mister, You’re A Better Man Than I,” complete with aural washes from a wah wah that dripped like quicksilver before erupting into a staggering “Heart Full Of Soul.” Next up was their reworking of Jake Holmes’ tune. It was an overwhelming showpiece and the very heart of their gigs now. Throughout the song, The Yardbirds experimented with liberal dashes of silence amid the sound, creating a disconcerting aural collage that left the audience aghast. “Dazed And Confused” glistened nightmare white, sweating sex and suicide. It was psychedelia at high tide. After delivering said tune, the group realized they couldn’t one-up themselves. Rather, they strutted their soul inclinations on a cover of “My Baby.” Jimmy Page once again showed off his mastery of the Crybaby pedal. The Yardbirds ran through the rest of their repertoire, featuring hit singles and selected material from the LITTLE GAMES album. Knowing that this tour was to be their last, the band appears to have enjoyed themselves for the first time in years. Just before “Shapes Of Things,” Relf gently chided Page, introducing him as the “grand sorcerer of the magick guitar.” Then, Jimmy Page hoisted his Danelectro and proceeded to better The Byrds’ “Renaissance Fair” by conjuring images of a Moroccan bazaar on “White Summer.” The Yardbirds ended the show with an extended take on “I’m A Man,” during which Page dropped to his knees and quoted the riff from “Over, Under, Sideways, Down.” The Yardbirds stayed in New York for a few days after the show, enjoying some well-deserved rest and relaxation. At some point, Epic played them tapes of the Anderson Theatre gig. The band was unhappy with the recording. Years later, Page complained in particular about the A & R man who ordered the recording of the gig, Manny Kellem. “He had one mike on the drums, which was unthinkable, and he miked the wrong cabinet for the guitar so that the fuzz-tone which gave it all the sustain wasn’t picked up,” Jimmy Page said. The band rejected the live tape in early April 1968, insisting that Epic couldn’t release said recording. It wasn’t the last they would hear of the show, though. More later. The record company played their last card, suggesting a studio session with Manny Kellem. The powers-that-be hoped that at least one more single could be released. Kellem was another strange choice as a producer, since his previous experience had been with easy listening-type material. The Yardbirds entered Columbia Studios in New York and laid down five tracks between April 3 and 5, 1968. While Kellem wasn’t an ideal match for the group, the results were a little more interesting than under Most’s direction. “Avron Knows” was a mod-styled rocker, reminiscent of The Small Faces in polyesterday shirts and chocolate trip trousers. The Yardbirds also laid down a nice take of a song that was a regular feature in their live repertoire, Garnet Mimms’ “My Baby.” They had just played this at the Anderson Theatre a few days previously. However, this was the first time the backing vocals were properly recorded. Both were crackerjack performances. Less essential was “Taking A Hold Of Me,” a riff-rocker that featured a guide vocal courtesy of Jim McCarty. Given more studio time, this tune might have developed into something interesting. Downright strange was “Spanish Blood,” a cowboy curio that found McCarty play-acting his way through a Spaghetti Western, reciting a poem to Jimmy Page’s Spanish guitar. The most significant song recorded at the sessions was an original number called “Knowing That I’m Losing You.” Once again, The Yardbirds were on the cutting edge of rock n roll. This wouldn’t be apparent at the time, though. The Byrds’ mythic album, SWEETHEART OF THE RODEO, has often been heralded as the origins of country-rock. The Yardbirds were breaking similar ground four months before said LP was even released. “Knowing That I’m Losing You” is meandering hippy country, smacking of Buffalo Springfield. Keith Relf’s high lonesome lyrics are matched by his yearning and heartbreaking vocal. Jimmy Page brought a down-home flavour to the proceedings with a steel guitar. Strangely, there seems to be a quote from “Crimson & Clover” in the song! Be that as it may, the tune is as remarkable as any that appeared on The Byrds’ legendary album. However, while listening to playbacks, none of the recordings were deemed to have chart potential. They were filed away and remained a vague rumour for three decades. These sessions will be discussed later. Unfortunately, the group’s most powerful song was not caught on tape at Columbia in New York City. “It’s been one of my greatest regrets that we never recorded ‘Dazed And Confused’ in the studio,” Dreja said. “It’s a brilliant epitaph actually. We were feeling very dazed and confused at that point!” Last Rave-up In L.A. After New York, the band plunged into a long tour of America. They trudged across the continent for two months. Finally, they arrived in California, where they played a last stand in Los Angeles at the famed Shrine on May 31 and June 1. D.C. Cole attended these two performances, smuggling a tape deck into the auditorium under his girlfriend’s maternity dress. The resultant recording became one of rock’s most treasured bootlegs, LAST RAVE-UP IN L.A. The Yardbirds’ performance is breathtaking, but unfortunately the sound itself is abysmal. Cole’s recollections of the event do shed significant light on some of the very last shows the group ever played, though. “The 1968 shows at the Shrine were amazing. Their music had developed to such a point that some of it was the most advanced rock n roll ever done. It was like electronic Stravinsky,” Cole remembered. This is especially significant, considering Cole had seen them on three separate occasions during the previous year. At that time, he had been disappointed in Page’s performance. “I was frustrated with the band in 1967. I’d been following them since their very first American tour. Obviously, Beck was incredible. Page was a let down on their first tour as a four-piece. He carried on valiantly without Beck, playing both lead and rhythm. But his tone was muddy, not like Beck’s sultry sound. On their last tour, Page had got it together and was stunning,” Cole said. At this point, the band could segue effortlessly from pop to blues to psychedelia to heavy metal. The volume of their live shows was simply overpowering. A listen to “I’m A Man” during the Los Angeles gig reveals a girl yelling at the pinnacle of the song “can’t they play it more quietly?” The Bo Diddley number had been with them since their Crawdaddy days in 1963. Of course, it was now a barely recognizable acid casualty. The Yardbirds’ song list in Los Angeles was very similar to the one they had played two months earlier in New York. However, there were a few additions to their repertoire that they didn’t perform at the Anderson show. The old whipping post, “Smokestack Lightning,” at this point was a surrealistic medley that would dissolve into a cover of “I’m Waiting For The Man.” The Velvet Underground song had shown up in the Yardbirds’ set at various times during the previous year. On their final tour, it had been transformed beyond recognition. The original was a perverse pop song that buzzed and shimmered with an antiseptic ether-glow. The Yardbirds pushed it into the Interstellar Delta, resulting in a post-apocalyptic homage to white noise, i.e. a rave-up that reeked of Stockhausian dissonance. The Brits’ thrashing cover certainly would have felt quite at home on The Velvet Underground’s sophomore album. “That’s another one we probably should have recorded in the studio,” Dreja said. This show also featured a harmonica workout by Keith Relf on “Bye Bye Bird.” This was a strange choice indeed, being a straight blues cover with Relf playing solo harp. D.C. Cole explained why this Sonny Boy Williamson song made a seemingly arbitrary appearance. “There was a reason for that interlude. Jimmy Page had broken some strings and his hand was bleeding,” Cole said. “He sat down on the edge of the stage, sobbing. Relf played harmonica until Page got it back together.” Emotions were obviously running high as the band reached the end of the road. Relf and McCarty were experiencing a sense of relief. Page, on the other hand, must have been frustrated beyond belief, knowing they were throwing away vast potential. In early June, The Yardbirds played their last American gigs at a speedway in Montgomery, Alabama. Soon, they returned to England and on July 7, 1968 played their final gig at Luton Technical College. It was officially over. Or so they thought. The fallout is still being felt three decades later. Phoenix From The Ashes Keith Relf and Jim McCarty indulged in their acoustic fantasies for a brief time as a duo called Together. Nothing came of it, so they formed an outfit called Renaissance, which attempted to marry rock to classical. This peculiarly English fascination with legitimising rock n roll by adding classical motifs also came to naught after an eponymous debut album. One listen to said LP and it’s obvious that Relf and McCarty were shell-shocked survivors of the rock n roll wars. Nothing else can explain their decision to pursue this type of music after the sheer audacity of their earlier work. Ironically, a few years later Relf was involved in a heavy metal band, Armageddon. Their one and only album features some of Relf’s best vocals and harmonica work. Sadly, he was electrocuted to death in his private recording studio in 1976. He was only 33-years-old. Jimmy Page and Chris Dreja had initially planned on continuing The Yardbirds. However, Dreja soon dropped out. John Paul Jones entered the picture on bass and vocalist Robert Plant and drummer John Bonham rounded out Page’s new quartet. Contrary to accepted myth, the band never called itself The New Yardbirds. The real Yardbirds had contractual obligations to fulfill in Scandinavia in September of 1968. Page’s new band (with Peter Grant still managing) made the trip instead. Advertisements bill them either as The Yardbirds or The Yardbirds With Jimmy Page. The only time the band was ever billed as The New Yardbirds was on one side of a Marquee flyer for their British debut in October 1968. The other side of the same announcement portrayed them as The Yardbirds, however. Within a few days, the group changed their name to Led Zeppelin. Page continued to derive mileage from his Yardbirds past, making a reputation for himself on the back of “Dazed And Confused.” In retrospect, it’s obvious that Jimmy Page made the right choice financially. However, a comparison of “Dazed And Confused” as played by his two bands is quite telling. The Yardbirds’ version is alternately delicate and threatening while Led Zeppelin’s is shrill and devoid of spontaneity as well as lacking significant tonal shading. The piece’s real author, Jake Holmes, shares that evaluation. He received a copy of The Yardbirds’ reading of his song in the spring of 2001. Previously he had been unaware that the band had even covered it. "The Yardbirds’ ‘Dazed And Confused’ is really good. I understand what ‘garage’ people see in all this craziness. I like their version much better than Led Zeppelin’s," Jake Holmes said. Jimmy Page was still delving into his bag of leftovers on Led Zeppelin’s third album. The band re-recorded one of the songs The Yardbirds had done in April of 1968, “Knowing That I’m Losing You.” Led Zeppelin called it “Tangerine.” The arrangements are almost identical. The song was attributed solely to Jimmy Page, with no mention being made of Keith Relf, who had written a significant chunk of the lyrics that appeared in Led Zeppelin’s version. “He (Keith Relf) should really be given a credit for that one,” Jim McCarty said, referring specifically to the second verse’s lyrics in “Knowing That I’m Losing You,” which appear intact as the first verse in “Tangerine.” The two versions both feature a steel guitar courtesy of Page. Once again, The Yardbirds’ version is superior. Relf’s vocals are heartbreaking and McCarty’s drums much lighter. Their take has a prominent Morricone touch and the massed vocals at the end take it to new heights. Led Zeppelin’s version simply pales in comparison. As for Chris Dreja, he quickly settled into life as a professional photographer. He basically abandoned music until hooking up with ex-Yardbirds Jim McCarty and Paul Samwell-Smith (who had spent the intervening years as a producer of Cat Stevens and Jethro Tull among others) in the ‘80s as Box Of Frogs. McCarty had stayed busy in the music scene through the ‘70s. His valiant struggle with drugs is documented in an autobiographical album released in 1994, OUT OF THE DARK. In 1992, The Yardbirds were inducted into The Rock n Roll Hall Of Fame. It was vindication of sorts for Jim McCarty and Chris Dreja, since neither of them had reaped the rewards or recognition that their former colleagues had. The duo reformed The Yardbirds in the mid-1990s. This latter day version of the band is logging as much travel time as the ’67 incarnation. That’s another story, though. Final Approach It’s slowly becoming apparent that the Yardbirds’ final years were far more artistically successful than has been generally conceded. Some of the ’67-’68 material matches up to anything the Beck-era produced. Witness especially “White Summer,” “Only The Black Rose,” “Glimpses,” “Think About It,” “Avron Knows,” “Knowing That I’m Losing You” and “Dazed And Confused.” These songs are all as innovative and dynamic as anything produced by the band in its previous incarnations. As for albums, LITTLE GAMES has always been in the shadow of its big brother, ROGER THE ENGINEER. The Page lineup’s studio album itself is aging surprisingly well. Some of ROGER THE ENGINEER’s blues retreads are badly dated unlike the blues rewrites on LITTLE GAMES. A back-to-back listen finds the two albums of similar quality. Unfortunately, of the six albums put out in the United States during the band’s existence, only two of them were recorded as actual albums. Of course, those are the two aforementioned LPs. Amazingly, the band was given less than a week’s time to record the fabled ROGER THE ENGINEER. Even then, there were significant obstacles to overcome. The band didn’t even have material composed, so they were forced to improvise on the spot, laying down basic tracks as Keith Relf wrote lyrics in the vocal booth! As for LITTLE GAMES, the haphazard circumstances surrounding its difficult delivery were examined in this article. The other four albums were ad hoc single compilations, live recordings and a greatest hits collection. Yet even with this erratic approach, The Yardbirds have garnered a posthumous reputation that any band would envy. In retrospect, it’s mind-boggling that a group could experience so many cataclysmic changes and still revolutionize music as The Yardbirds did. Swapping lead guitarists like socks and losing four members along with enduring three managers in the space of five years would have sunk any other band. In comparison, The Byrds were the epitome of stability compared to their feathered British cousins. Given a stable management situation and a producer with vision, it’s impossible to contemplate what might have been. However, that’s not the way it went down. As for this article, it’s a re-evaluation of the Page-era, not revisionism. “Ha Ha Said The Clown” is still a truly horrendous song. But let’s not forget that the Beck line-up was also capable of producing dreck like “My Girl Sloopy.” The critical reception given LITTLE GAMES upon its initial release was generally favorable. As the years went by, though, its stock fell. By the late 1980s, the Jimmy Page-era Yardbirds were regarded as having squandered a colossal amount of potential. The balance was redressed to a certain extent in 1992. A compilation was issued, joining that configuration’s album with unreleased studio recordings and the singles with their essential ‘B’ sides like “Think About It.” Entitled LITTLE GAMES SESSIONS & MORE, the Page line-up finally reclaimed some of what was due them in the first place. Unfortunately, a complete reassessment of this era rests in the hands of the one man who should care about it the most, Jimmy Page himself. How so? The story stretches back to April 1968. At that time, the group rejected the Anderson Theatre recordings. In 1971, Epic Records decided to sneak the show into the marketplace. The record company obviously hoped to ride on Jimmy Page’s long coattails, what with the massive success Led Zeppelin was experiencing. The New York City gig was issued as an album called LIVE YARDBIRDS! FEATURING JIMMY PAGE. “Dazed And Confused” was erroneously called “I’m Confused” on the release, a title the band never used. Jimmy Page had it suppressed immediately. “The Anderson Theatre show I didn’t think was too bad. Jimmy says Keith had a bad night. I think it was more a case of doing ‘Dazed And Confused’ pre-Zeppelin that made him withdraw it,” Jim McCarty said. Page was also rightfully incensed that crowd noises had been overdubbed on the performance. Instead of brooding silences throughout “Dazed And Confused,” a listener could now hear cocktail glasses clinking. In 1976, the album was released yet again. Once more, Page halted its release. The show has been available in different pirate configurations ever since. Its first official CD release occurred in the summer of 2000 when Mooreland Street Records issued a version. This particular CD also had an afternoon sound check of “Train Kept A-Rollin’” and “Dazed And Confused,” which were taken from an audience member’s recording. Critics instantly hailed the release as a major lost classic. Unfortunately, Jimmy Page had his lawyers issue a “cease and desist” order within weeks. Much has been made of why Page doesn’t want this album out. Funnily enough, he has said he thinks the group’s performance is substandard. Comparing said show to Led Zeppelin’s officially sanctioned mediocre live opus, THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME, begs the question: is he serious? In retrospect, Jim McCarty and Chris Dreja are quite content with the Anderson Theatre performance. Strangely, they insist the band played better gigs. If that’s true, one can’t begin to fathom what The Yardbirds sounded like on a good night. As it is, the performance in question is the best live show caught on tape in rock history. ‘nuff said. Jimmy Page ordered Epic to destroy the masters, parts and lacquers of the Anderson gig in 1977. Things get murky at this point. Files also show that all tapes were “returned to client” (whom the record company believed to be Jimmy Page, not The Yardbirds). Records are inconclusive as to whether this was actually done, though. As for the Columbia sessions recorded by the band in April 1968, that is also a complex story. Four of the songs were released on a compilation in the summer of 2000. Entitled CUMULAR LIMIT, the package of Jimmy Page-era material was issued by NMC. Fans were alternately elated and disappointed. The sessions had been a vague rumor for years. Once issued, copies of the album were snapped up quickly. The four songs satisfied expectations. Further, there was a version of “Dazed And Confused” (properly credited to Jake Holmes as arranged by The Yardbirds) from their appearance on French television in March 1968. As with all things Yardbirds, though, fans were left only half-satisfied. “Knowing That I’m Losing You” was nowhere to be found on CUMULAR LIMIT. Jim McCarty had hinted that it would be included on the compilation in an interview prior to the release. At the last minute, McCarty and Chris Dreja (who had participated in the project) instructed NMC not to include that particular song out of deference to Jimmy Page’s delicate sensibilities. Specifically, they didn’t want to upset their former guitarist by including a song he had made famous with Led Zeppelin. It made no difference. Page issued a legal challenge. The record company is no longer pressing copies of the album. McCarty, Dreja and Keith Relf’s widow, April, would like to see both albums re-released and have attempted to negotiate with The Yardbirds’ former guitarist, but to no avail. Issuing LIVE YARDBIRDS! FEATURING JIMMY PAGE along with all five songs from the last studio sessions would finally give the ’67-‘68 line-up its richly deserved desserts. Page has been unfairly blamed for the apparent shortcomings of the band’s recorded repertoire during his tenure. Let’s not forget that he shouldered the burden of playing sole guitar in a group that was designed for two guitarists. Ironically, Jimmy Page himself has contributed to his tenure’s lack of critical acclaim. By suppressing LIVE YARDBIRDS! FEATURING JIMMY PAGE and the songs from the final Columbia sessions (especially “Knowing That I’m Losing You”), he has kept some of the band’s finest work out of the hands of the public. It behooves Jimmy Page to . . . nay, it’s his responsibility to rehabilitate the reputation of his beloved Yardbirds. This is an open plea to him from fans all over the world to give his consent to releasing the material in dispute. In the meantime, what recordings do you need from the band’s final configuration? Try and track down LITTLE GAMES SESSIONS & MORE, LIVE YARDBIRDS! FEATURING JIMMY PAGE and CUMULAR LIMIT. Indeed, as far as albums go, LIVE YARDBIRDS! FEATURING JIMMY PAGE is the best platter the band ever recorded. Dynamically speaking, that is. While it’s a bit ragged in places, it still packs a potent punch that is matched by few albums in rock n roll history. Unfortunately, that album and CUMULAR LIMIT will be difficult to obtain at this point, what with the scarcity of said product due to legal scuffles. It will be well worth your time and efforts. That’s a promise. Happy hunting and Yardmerizing! All Chris Dreja, Jim McCarty, Jake Holmes and D.C. Cole quotes are from interviews conducted with the author. All Keith Relf quotes are from an interview conducted with William Stout. Stout bootlegged obscure Yardbirds material in the early ‘70s on a compilation called MORE GOLDEN EGGS. Relf agreed to sit for an interview, well aware of what Stout was doing. Consequently, Keith Relf was probably the first, if not the only, major rock star to participate in the packaging of a bootleg of his own material! Jimmy Page quotes are from interviews conducted by Dave Schulps and Nick Kent in the 1970s for various music magazines. HAPPENINGS TEN YEARS TIME AGO (The Yardbirds majestic final flight from ’66-’68) By Will Shade “Yardbirds I know so well it just plays in my head.” – Iggy Pop, on being asked by the author whether he’s been listening to enough Yardbirds. Will Shade: You ready? Jim McCarty: Yeah. I got your e-mail a few days ago. I thought it was funny, that quote with Iggy Pop. WS: I thought you would enjoy it. Let’s dive right in. Which albums by other groups were favorites among The Yardbirds during the ’66-’68 period? Which psychedelic albums in particular? JM: We’d take a sort of mobile record player around with us and play things, Keith and I. A couple of the things were The Mothers of Invention’s first two albums, FREAK OUT and WE’RE ONLY IN IT FOR THE MONEY. We used to like those because they were sort of silly. REVOLVER was another one. Also Keith and I quite liked that EAST-WEST by Paul Butterfield. Another thing was that Steve Miller thing, "Songs For Our Ancestors." You know, with all the tugboats on it. That was a good track. And then there was some of that psychedelic classical music like John Cage. Really weird stuff. Maybe Stockhausen. CD: We were listening to The Beatles for sure. We were still listening to the blues, Paul Butterfield and people like that. We were listening to what other British bands of the day were up to. You know, any of our contemporaries- The Beach Boys, Beatles again. As a band, we were listening to these other groups, but we working so much that we were introverted into our own world. Hendrix of course came roaring into the scene around then. He was very exciting and guitar-oriented like we were. He gave us impetus to continue down the road we had already been following. By that time we had Jimmy so it was getting a lot more strange from what we had been doing a few years earlier. We were aware of the music around us, but as I said we were very self-contained. We had our heads down, on our own trail. WS: Of course you have thirty years hindsight, but at the time were you really aware that things began to change musically? Meaning, it had been more beat oriented or R & B . . . JM: Definitely. I think we always wanted to get out of that heavy 12 bar format. Make it different while keeping the basis of that blues feel, but make it more interesting. That’s why we did the sort of things we did. Try to build up some excitement. When Jeff came into the band he was a lot more the way we wanted to go. Eric was very blues purist. At the time anyway. Jeff wasn’t like that. He had more variety about him. He played all sorts of weird sounds, electronic sounds that seemed to fit in. The first time we went to L.A. there were all these weird hippies appearing at our gigs. They thought we were all tripping on acid. But it was just our music. We hadn’t done drugs yet. We were really straight still. WS: The States really took to you. Of course, when you started off in Britain, you had a rabid fan base when you were playing at the Crawdaddy and the Marquee. But later on it seems like the English kind of ignored you, whereas you went over really well in America. JM: That’s true. It’s a bit strange. The British market seemed to revolve around the hit single. It was very frustrating. You had to be thinking of the next single all the time. It was like being in a small box. The things we liked to do, playing live, the Americans really appreciated, especially the innovative things we did on stage. CD: In retrospect, it’s a bit odd. I suppose it’s very much of an English thing. The English kind of love you before you’ve broken, as it were. I think the thing in America was we got put on some very long tours. The scope was greater. The kids were much more into the type of music we were making, the embryo garage thing. The English tend to forget you if you leave the shore for too long. WS: Which British groups from that era, particularly ’66, were good live acts? And did any of them influence you? JM: The Animals and The Who, I thought, were very good live. We played with The Beatles a few times. They were okay live, but they basically just played their songs and ran off stage. You couldn’t hear them at all because of the screaming. WS: How about American groups? JM: The Lovin’ Spoonful were very good live. And so was The Butterfield Blues Band. I saw them with Mike Bloomfield in ’66, around the EAST-WEST album. They were different than us, a little more blues purist, although the song "East-West" was similar to our psychedelic approach. They were very good live. We saw them down in one of the Sunset Strip clubs. Maybe The Trip. I saw them later when I was with Renaissance. They had a huge horn section and the feel was quite different. They were a very good band with Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop, though. WS: What do you think were some of the major differences between the British and American bands? JM: The British bands had a lot more stage presence. The American bands always seemed to be a bit more shy. We seemed to be a bit more sincere somehow. Not every band, of course. I didn’t see every band. But the American bands seemed to be a bit more lame. I don’t want to tread on your toes here (laughs). WS: Don’t worry. I prefer British rock n roll. JM: You know like Paul Revere & The Raiders and those kinds of bands. Of course, we had some lightweight stuff like Freddie & The Dreamers and some of that Merseybeat stuff. There just didn’t seem to be any kind of meaty American band at that time, except for Butterfield. And there were all those bands like The Electric Prunes and The Chain Reaction, who seemed to be doing what we were doing. When I hear these accounts of when we first came over with Beck and we were playing these gigs, people expected some kind of pop band and we were playing this freaky off-the-wall stuff that apparently blew people’s minds. It seems that we inspired a lot of people to try and play in our style. WS: Do you think any of the live recordings with Beck, like the BBC stuff and a few bootlegs, are actually representative of that line-up’s live sound? JM: The BBC took all the excitement out of it. That’s what they were famous for, really. There’s probably no live recordings with Jeff that come close. I think the singles we recorded in the States with Jeff, like "Mister, You’re A Better Man Than I," "Shapes Of Things" and "Train Kept A-Rolling," were closer to our potential. We never got a live recording as such. It was funny with Jeff. It was either hit or miss. If it was a good night, it would be great. But that might be only one out of five gigs. It wasn’t really uniform. WS: What live show stands out in retrospect? What did you think about playing with Beck and Page together? JM: There were a few shows that stood out as being really good. In the Beck-era we did a small residency on Sunset strip in Hollywood, a club called the Hullabaloo I believe. I remember a great atmosphere and playing really well! Another show that stands out was with Jeff and Jimmy at Cardiff on The Stones tour when the crowd just wouldn't stop screaming for an encore right before The Stones were due on! A show that happened like this was pretty rare with that line-up! WS: Do you remember hearing The Beatles song "Tomorrow Never Knows"? JM: Yeah, yeah. It was great. I remember hearing it in L.A. We did a gig over in Catalina Island. All these freaks came along and we played that album. We were at somebody’s house and we played that album. I thought it was great. WS: Were you experimenting with illicit substances at this point? JM: Yeah, it came in a little bit slowly. We probably had a smoke for that particular song! It would have fit, wouldn’t it? (laughs) It was a great track. It was a great album actually. WS: Did any of you play while tripping on acid? JM: I believe I did, but not very often! At the Fillmore we met up with Dr. Owsley who would give you handfuls of strange tablets that he had manufactured in his laboratory! WS: When was your first acid trip? Care to share the experience? JM: I’m afraid acid didn't do me much good. I had to duck out of a few gigs while suffering from the after-effects. WS: Chris, were you clean? CD: As far as I know, Jimmy Page and I were completely clean at the time. I hadn’t even drunk if I remember correctly. I didn’t drink, smoke or take drugs. WS: Did it bother you that Jim and Keith were doing drugs? CD: What can I say? Everybody around us was doing drugs. It was almost expected. I felt for Keith. He was never a healthy person. With the traveling and playing it affected one’s health, especially mental health. So I felt concern as a friend. And I suppose you can say it was another reason why the band was no longer cohesive. I think they were kind of under the illusion that drugs can give you. Not necessarily the reality. I can’t speak for Jimmy, but I seem to remember that he and I were straight and the other two weren’t. WS: Now, Keith and Jim spent a lot of time together. Were you hanging out with Jimmy or were you doing your own thing like taking photos? CD: I suppose I did retreat into that a great deal actually, Will, well spotted. I hung out with Jimmy to a degree traveling. I was always close to Jim. And at times I was close to Keith. But there was some diametrically opposed things going on. If you’re not doing drugs, it’s hard to hang out with people who are doing drugs. It’s not that you don’t want to be with them, but people who do drugs want to be with people who do drugs as well. I had my photography and other creative pursuits. And yes, I did immerse myself in that. WS: Where and/or when did The Velvet Underground’s "I’m Waiting For The Man" enter your set list? JM: We did a few gigs with them in Detroit. We played a big festival in Detroit for a few days and they played it, too. We heard it and thought, "This is quite a good song, isn’t it?" We probably did it because we were low on ideas and were looking around for material. We played it with the Jimmy line-up, but I think Jeff was still in the band when we played with The Velvet Underground (ed. note: Beck had already left the band). At some point we got their album. CD: I think that was in Detroit. We played with them there. I don’t think we did it with Jeff in the band, though. Why we did it? We did that very occasionally, when odd bits of material by other artists showed up in our set. That actually might have been Jimmy who wanted to do it. Good call on his part. WS: Are these apocryphal stories as recounted in the book UPTIGHT about Jeff Beck intimidating The Velvets with a pistol true? And about him shooting up Sun Studios? JM: Never heard that. Don’t know if Jeff had a pistol . . . I don’t know maybe he did! (laughs) And the Sun Studios story isn’t true. Going back to The Underground, though, I remember coming out of the hotel one day and there was Andy Warhol in the limo. And the guy who was sort of his tour manager said "do you want to come along with Andy to the gig?" So we sat there and Andy didn’t speak. "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago" had just been released. And the guy says, "Andy likes your new single." (laughs) It was weird! Andy was sitting right there and this guy was speaking for him, which was really strange. CD: I find that so bizarre. I don’t know where that comes from. Jeff with a firearm, that’s so ridiculous. He’s never been into guns. He’s into cars! That’s rubbish. As for Sun Studios, we were all over-powered with the legend of rock n roll. The idea of Jeff shooting up Sam Phillips’ studio is absolute nonsense. The Yardbirds weren’t a violent band in any shape or form. In fact, we avoided conflict most of the time. We got through nearly all of our gigs unscathed, even in the Deep South. We weren’t crazy looking if you look at photos from that time. But we must have been strange looking to America in the ’60s, especially in the South. Even in our own country, where there’s some pretty tough areas, I think there was only one time that we needed to get the local authorities to help assist us from a venue because of some aggravation. But we never really ran into much trouble. I remember one story about The Animals when they played in Montgomery, Alabama or someplace like that. They had a black road manager. They put him in a cupboard in a Holiday Inn, not even a proper suite. After the concert, everybody was hot and they went for a swim, including this guy. The next day they fumigated the pool, drained it and everything. But the only sort of controversy I can remember us experiencing is being refused entrance to Disney Land because our hair was too long! WS: And you guys are playing there in the year 2001! CD: A bit ironic, isn’t it? But we got along well with the American people. We had the ability to swing with it. We just wanted to play the music. There was the Vietnam War and other problems. People thought we were a bit freakish, but not really dangerous. We had to take those domestic flights and run the gamut of curiosity. We were something different than what they considered normal. We were insulted and ridiculed by the straight business type of American. But it didn’t lead to any major problems. We were in a bit of a bubble. We had each other. WS: When "Happenings" came out, it peaked at 30 in the States. JM: It was a bit of a disaster, wasn’t it? WS: In retrospect, for something that revolutionary to go Top 40 is pretty amazing. JM: Yeah, that’s true. WS: Did that knock the wind out of your sails? Prior to that, you’d been charting in the Top 20 at least. JM: Definitely. Suddenly, there was this calamity. We thought it was a decent song. WS: So did Hendrix. He used one its lead lines on a song of his later. JM: Oh, did he? He uses one of the guitars, does he? I knew he liked Jeff’s guitar playing. I always said it was a good song. It came in quite high and then it didn’t do anything. I suppose it was a bit of a blow. That was the start of the end of the beginning . . . or the beginning of the end! Then we started doing all those weird singles that were out of character. WS: "Happenings" definitely had John Paul Jones on bass? JM: Yes. WS: Which Yardbirds recordings are you most happy with in retrospect? How do you like "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago" and "Think About It"? JM: I always liked "Shapes Of Things" best, but "Happenings" is a great track. WS: Tell me about the songwriting process within the band during ’66-’68. JM: With "Happenings," Keith and I got the idea together, the tune and the chords and the words. Then Jimmy put that riff into it and then Jeff did that weird solo. So, we built up the arrangement all together. WS: The lyrics were you and Keith. Was that true most of the time? JM: Yeah, I guess so. "Shapes Of Things" was more Paul and Keith. I’d sort of put in my three pence. "Over, Under" was me and Keith. WS: What is "Happenings" about? JM: We were trying to do a song about reincarnation. It’s about people that we’d see that we knew from somewhere else before. I think it was a bit beyond the grasp of the regular public. (recites the lyrics) "Walking in the room I see/things that mean a lot to me. " WS: What influenced that? JM: Keith and I had always been interested in that sort of thing. We started out reading about flying saucers and then moved on to Atlantis and that sort of stuff. Reincarnation just seemed a normal thing to write about. WS: A bit too weighty for a pop song in ’66 perhaps. Or 2001 for that matter! JM: Yes. (laughs) WS: As Jeff left the band, you began to bring in more outside material. As far as the original stuff you were writing, how much was Jimmy contributing? For example, tell me about the songwriting for "Think About It." JM: That was similar to "Happenings." Jimmy was involved in it. I don’t remember who actually created the tune. The three of us might have done that together. "Tinker, Tailor" was something I did with Jimmy. Keith wasn’t really involved. "Glimpses" was a bit "Still I’m Sad"-ish. WS: Chris, what’s your take on the song-writing process around that time? CD: It was shame at the time with this new set-up, because the four-piece was quite a dynamic band, that we fell down on the songwriting. Being on the road so much affected us negatively. We had ideas that never came to fruition. And by that time Jim and Keith were on a different tact. WS: The acoustic thing. CD: Yes, I’m sure they would agree with that. Whereas Jimmy and I were more heavy. There was a bit of conflict that screwed the cohesiveness up a bit. We didn’t really get much opportunity to get in the studio anyway. WS: Of the opportunities you did have, what about “Think About It” for example. CD: Oh, that’s a great song. I like that a lot. That’s exactly the direction I wanted it to go. You know, the four-piece, the bass and guitar riffing together and the tightness. And that’s where I think it was going. I don’t think Jim and Keith were particularly into that thing. But certainly Jimmy and I were. It was getting too late by then, but yes that’s the direction it would have gone. WS: Speaking of which, where did you stand in relation to the music itself, not personal loyalties or that sort of thing. CD: It’s an interesting question. Obviously, Jim, Keith and I originated the band. We went back a long way. As a person I would like not to say that I was in anybody’s particular camp. But as a player, at the time, with the band and Jimmy it seemed a very natural route for the band to go in that format. Obviously, as a part of the rhythm section it helps to keep that cohesiveness going both onstage and off. But I would have to say when you feel something is right for the players you have, that’s what I thought was right. On the other hand, “Dazed And Confused” also had a delicacy in there as well. Our entire approach could have been handled in the same fashion. With the delicacy and eclecticism that The Yardbirds had always had. We had a natural ensemble with Jimmy that worked better in a heavier approach. Not that this would have precluded Jim and Keith’s more acoustic thing. But when something has a natural bend, you tend to go with it. I felt frustrated that we could have gone further. I got over it pretty quick. But there were moments I felt that we had something natural here and what a shame that we can’t at least take it to a point . . . we never took it to the full potential. WS: Once again, myth says that when you played live "Glimpses" would involve a light show and movies being projected behind the band. True? JM: We tried to get those things together, but we never got around to it. I remember that we had this incense burner, one of those metal things you carry around, that Keith would swing. And we’d have candles. We didn’t actually have a light show. Some of these gigs we played had light shows anyway. So we didn’t have to worry about carrying them around. WS: Did you notice a difference in the British and American light shows? JM: I can’t really remember. There was a club called UFO in London that had a light show. I remember going to the Fillmore to see the Airplane. It was the woman before Grace Slick (ed. note: Signe Anderson). I thought, "Oh, this is great." It was the first light show I’d ever seen. All this sort of moving things, dancing around, this great big blob and all these films going. WS: Speaking of the UFO, you saw Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd, right? JM: It was at Hammersmith Olympia. Hendrix was on as well. It was a bit of a flip out! I can’t remember. We were probably tripping out! (laughs) I actually bought the single "See Emily Play!" WS: What do you consider the band’s best psychedelic song? JM: It would have to be "Happenings." WS: Chris, what do you think were the best Yardbirds songs from that era? CD: By that time we had probably become, because it was a four-piece, a slightly heavier band than the preceding versions. We did quite a lot of different arrangements of material. But I would still say “Shapes Of Things” along with “Dazed And Confused” and “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago.” WS: I think your best bass playing is on “Dazed And Confused.” Speaking of which, how long did it take you to switch from rhythm guitar to bass. CD: About half an hour actually. (laughs) When Jeff left, we had commitments. I had to go on the bass straight away. But I loved the bass. All that energy. WS: What’s your favorite psychedelic song by another band? JM: "Tomorrow Never Knows" would have to be one of the greats, wouldn’t it? And some of that Donovan stuff. "Season Of The Witch" and "Sunshine Superman." It’s not outright psychedelic, but it’s kind of trippy. That whole album really. Jimmy’s guitar work (ed. note: Page played on many of Donovan’s sessions) on that album is really good. WS: How did your studio recordings differ from your live performance during the later years? Like on LAST RAVE-UP IN L.A., you were really stretching things out. Probably just to keep yourselves from getting bored. JM: I think we got to the point that we lost the creative impetus about a year before we split up. We were working so hard and we’d been doing it for so long, we didn’t really have the time and space to create good things. Listening to the stuff now, like CUMULAR LIMIT, it doesn’t sound too bad. But at the time it felt like it was throwaway material. We were trying too hard to get another "Shapes Of Things" or a hit. It’s a bit difficult to get good songs together. So, we’d go around to "Smokestack Lightning" again and think of a new way of doing it. WS: It seems like you were still pretty dynamic on stage, though. JM: Yes, we could be. We always really went for it. We always tried to create an excitement. WS: Chris, in a previous interview with me, you told me, and I quote, "Live as a four-piece, when Jimmy was playing guitar, I think those were some of our best shows.” CD: Yes, I still back that. I quite liked it as a four piece. It was a strong band as a four piece. It was moving in interesting directions. WS: It seems that it was a little more consistent live at least. CD: Yes. WS: Maybe you didn’t catch your potential in the studio, but you certainly could still storm on stage. CD: Live was great, I would agree with you. The studio was our problem at that time. Part of that was because we didn’t have Paul (Samwell-Smith) anymore. Paul was always a very cohesive factor in the studio. We weren’t really in control of our destiny in the studio, which was a great shame. The band should have come off the road and spent more time in the studio. Mickie (Most) was assigned to us. He was the designated hit maker and did produce some wonderful stuff. But he wasn’t right for us. It was the wrong marriage. WS: What drums were you using around this time, Jim? JM: I played Ludwig. Later I played a Premier. I got a concession. But I never thought the Premiers were as good as Ludwig. WS: You probably weren’t even miking the bass drum when you played live then, were you? JM: No. I don’t think we miked anything except for the voice. WS: What were you playing, Chris? CD: There were a lot of guitars, but usually a 335 (Gibson). With amplifiers it was a mixed bag, especially on those American tours. We did a sponsorship for a while with Jordan amps. Unfortunately, we had a bit of a problem with them. They were all transistor and we blew them up all the time. They were completely wrong for us. And then we got a deal with Fender. That was probably the best equipment we had. I remember me and Jimmy got invited to the Fender factory and literally chose what we wanted. They were really good. We had two each and we’d split them across the stage. WS: That was the Epiphone Rivoli bass you had once you switched over? CD: That bass went from Paul to Jimmy to me. Everybody’s blood was on it. I’m not sure what happened to it. When we quit some of the equipment got stuck with Zeppelin. But John Paul Jones played a (Fender) jazz bass. Don’t know where ours went to. WS: Besides a fuzz box, what else were Jeff and Jimmy using on their guitars? JM: Jeff would have used a sustain pedal on "Shapes." I’m not sure if he had a volume pedal. He would have used the volume knob on the guitar to swell the volume up and down with his little finger. WS: In the studio, Jimmy of course used an acoustic on "White Summer." But when you played it live, did he use a Danelectro on that? JM: Probably. He’d swap guitars because of that special tuning. WS: Yeah, D-A-D-G-A-D. JM: That’s the one. He wouldn’t tune his Telecaster down, so he’d swap guitars. WS: Do you remember the first time he brought the violin bow in to use on a guitar? What did you think? JM: Oh, dear. He didn’t do it with Jeff. But I can’t remember when he did start. It was a good idea because it was another sound. It wouldn’t have been with Jeff. Without Jeff he felt like he could do a bit more, have a bit more space to establish his identity. WS: In retrospect, how do you feel about the LITTLE GAMES album now? JM: It’s not as good as ROGER THE ENGINEER. Some of it’s quite good. It’s interesting in a weird way. Now and then I hear it and I say, "That’s actually quite good." It’s weird. A bit hodge-podge really. WS: Do you have any favorite cuts off it? JM: (starts laughing) "I Remember The Night." It came up during those sessions, though it wasn’t released until years later. Mickie Most said, "Oh, we don’t want to do a silly song." It was left off the album. It’s quite funny they put it on later. It’s got John Paul Jones on piano and Jimmy Page played on it as well. WS: I can’t imagine Zeppelin doing it! JM: (laughs) No! WS: Any others? JM: I think "Drinking Muddy Water" was a good song. I liked doing it live. WS: You’d do "Smile On Me" live, too, wouldn’t you? JM: Yeah, that was good. "Glimpses" was good live, too. We’d do that freaky violin bow and the incense. WS: Would that go over as well in Britain as in the States? JM: No, it wouldn’t have been quite the same. We played some freaky gigs in England, but that would have been in the cities. In the small towns they would have wanted to hear our hits. We’d have to be in the right sort of club to play the trippy arrangements. WS: What were some of your favorite places to play at that time? JM: The Marquee for sure. And the Roundhouse maybe. I can’t remember. They had light shows. I saw The Doors and The Airplane there. WS: Is the Anderson Theatre (ed. note: released as the star-crossed LIVE YARDBIRDS! FEATURING JIMMY PAGE) show fairly representative of the band at the time? JM: Pretty well, yeah. I don’t know if it’s the best show we did on that tour. But it’s good. The usual thing is that they made such a big thing out of recording the show that we got a little nervous and that seized it up a bit. Doesn’t sound too bad now. WS: Chris, how do you feel about the Anderson show? CD: Now as a historical piece, with the arrangements and the excitement, I think it’s a valid piece. At the time, you could argue that the recording could have been a lot better. But in retrospect, with the arrangements going on, it was a surprise when I heard it again recently. It’s very exciting. It’s very interesting. WS: ROGER gets the acclaim, but as far as dynamics go, LIVE YARDBIRDS! FEATURING JIMMY PAGE is my favorite album you guys did. CD: Is it? (surprised) WS: It’s a loud and brutal album. Very dark and moody. CD: I think you’re right really, Will. God knows what all the realities are behind that particular album, but it’s a wonderful piece of the band at the time and where we were taking things. Personally, as a piece of musical history it’s very important. You can feel the energy with the Anderson show. When I got my hands on the bass (laughs) there was so much energy. It’s ragged here and there, but hell, listen to Jimi Hendrix sometimes. It could have been a better performance and it could have been a worse performance. But in terms of innovativeness and sheer energy it was good. WS: What was your role in arranging and expanding the Jake Holmes song "Dazed and Confused" (ed. note: originally on Holmes' LP THE ABOVE GROUND SOUND OF JAKE HOLMES, 1967; the Yardbirds’ version is on the Anderson Theatre recording)? JM: We played with Jake Holmes in New York and I was struck by the atmosphere of "Dazed and Confused." I went down to Greenwich Village and bought his album and we decided to do a version. We worked it out together with Jimmy contributing the guitar riffs in the middle. Don’t you think he’s the riff-master? WS: Are you happy with the material on CUMULAR LIMIT, especially the songs from the last studio session? JM: The funny thing about that later stuff is it seems to get better. As time goes by it seems to sound better. At the time it sounded a bit lame compared to ROGER. It’s not as bad as we always thought. WS: Who were your biggest rivals in Britain at this time? JM: The Stones weren’t really rivals. They were too big. The Pretty Things, The Animals and The Moody Blues. WS: Would you try to blow any of these other bands off stage? JM: Yeah, we were very competitive. Oh, yeah and The Kinks. We toured with them in ’66. Dave Davies and Mick Avory got into a fight on stage. Dave kicked over Mick’s crash cymbal. And then he picked up the stand and bashed it over Dave’s head. Then Mick disappeared. Dave fell, his head was bleeding. They pulled the curtain. That was in Cardiff. They pulled the curtain and we had to go back on because The Kinks couldn’t play anymore. Mick Avory ran off. WS: What did you think of The Pretty Things at the time? What did you think of their album S.F. SORROW? JM: I liked The Pretty Things. I saw them play at the Albert Hall and once had a drink with Viv Prince. I’m afraid S.F. SORROW passed me by at the time, but I like it now. WS: Did you feel any competition with the American bands or were they too far behind you at that point? Ever see The Byrds? JM: I remember when they came over on their first tour. I thought they were just copying Bob Dylan and playing 12 strings. No great shakes for me. They made some nice records. WS: At the time, were you aware so many of these American bands were imitating you? JM: Oh, yeah. Often we’d play with these support bands in America and they’d play all our songs! (laughs) That was really frustrating. We’d have to go on and play the same songs. And all those records by bands like The Count V, all these garage bands, they sounded like us. WS: That must have been frustrating. The Count V’s "Psychotic Reaction" came out soon after "Happenings" . . . JM: And it was a big hit! (laughs) WS: And it was actually kind of retro, because it’s what you guys sounded like a year earlier! JM: I know! Really weird. I suppose it was quite nice, very flattering. All these bands were playing like us. WS: These support bands that opened for you, using your material, did you ever take the stage and show them who those songs really belonged to? JM: Yeah. We played with this German band not too long ago. They were these young guys and they had that 60s look. And they played "I Ain’t Done Wrong"! Just like the old days. Our opening band was playing our material! (laughs) WS: Speaking of young bands, there’s this great Swedish band right now that are influenced by you guys. They’re my favorite new band. They’re called The Strollers. They named themselves after your song, "Stroll On"! The more things change, the more they stay the same; you had bands like The Nazz naming themselves after your songs 35 years ago and here it is 2001 and it’s still happening. JM: Funny thing is I was in a band called The Strollers back in school! (laughs) WS: Was there really this Swinging London we’ve been led to believe after the fact? JM: Like in THE SPY THAT SHAGGED ME and that? (laughs) WS: Exactly. JM: I used to buy stuff in Granny Takes A Trip. It was better than Carnaby Street. Carnaby Street was a bit naff. Granny and Dandy were really good. Dandy had those jackets with the big collars. Sort of an Edwardian jacket. I remember going in there one time and The Beatles came walking in to pick up some jackets. They had just made SERGEANT PEPPER’S. We used to speak to them at this club called the Speakeasy. We’d all hang out, having a drink with Keith Moon and Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon. That was actually a bit psychedelic itself. But we’d stay at home and get stoned before going out around midnight. Then go out to the club and see a band or hang out with people from other bands. Or maybe try and pull a chick! (laughs) And come home at five or six in the morning. WS: Did you have any troubles pulling birds? Especially since you were a Yardbird! JM: I didn’t have much trouble, even though I was a bit modest about telling people I was in a band. I remember I was in Hollywood one time and I went to see a film. I had these really weird shoes on. I’d had them made in Camden Town. They were sort of Indian shoes. They were in this double color, leather two-tone. I was standing and waiting to get the tickets. And this guy came up to me and said "Wow, man. Those are cool shoes. You’re a cool dude. I bet you’re in a band like The Seeds." (laughs) And I said, "No, I’m in The Yardbirds." And he nearly fell down fainting! (laughs loud) I was a bit modest and a bit shy about all that. WS: Chris, tell me about the break-up and the subsequent role you had during Zeppelin’s formation. CD: Basically Jim and Keith left the band. They informed us during the American tour that that was it for them. In fact that was one of our best tours because you knew where you were going. Where you were going was ending the band, so it was a bit of a relief. It took the pressure off. We were able to relax and have a bit more fun. And it showed in our playing. By that time I had been through enough with everybody else that it was nice to be able to wake up and not rely upon anybody else, especially three or four other people who were not necessarily going in the same direction. I made the decision that I was going to move into photography, which had always been a passion of mine. I stayed friends with Jimmy and Peter Grant for some years. I wasn’t intending to carry on playing unless it was with The Yardbirds. But I think they wanted my opinion and wanted me to accompany them to see Bonham and Plant for their first audition. I didn’t have an intention to carry on playing, like I’ve said. I had by that time made the very conscious decision that I was going to wake up in the morning and whatever I did was going to be my own responsibility. WS: Please clear up the confusion over the name Yardbirds and whether Jimmy ended up with the rights to the name. CD: The reality of it was that Jim and Keith informed us they were going to leave The Yardbirds. There were some outstanding contracts to fulfill (ed. note: a Scandinavian tour in September, 1968). After coming back from that American tour there was going to be no more Yardbirds. Jimmy started putting together the players who became Zeppelin. Those dates were available. Jimmy had only been in the band for a year or so. I’d had enough. It seemed unreasonable to try to piece something together again, with all the changes we’d had, to continue as The Yardbirds. I do remember through my own lawyer just reminding Peter (Grant) that I had in no way given up moral rights to the name itself whether I was a photographer or a dentist or whatever. I certainly didn’t hand it over to Jimmy Page. On the other hand, I stayed friends with Jimmy and saw Led Zeppelin play several times. There is no acrimony on that score. I was just concerned at the time about them using the name The New Yardbirds. I thought that was wrong. I wasn’t going to give up any moral rights to my status and what the band was. And through my lawyer I informed them of that. It was nothing heavy, but it’s interesting that they became Led Zeppelin fairly quickly. (laughs) And whether that was coincidence, I don’t know. By this time I’d gone into photography and a completely new life. I had no intention to carry on as a musician after the death of The Yardbirds. But I was obviously concerned and I wasn’t going to hand it over to complete strangers. WS: As always, thanks for your time. I hope these questions were a little bit more interesting to you. JM: Thank you. CD: Thanks, Will. For more information on Jimmy Page’s tenure with The Yardbirds, please visit: http://www.furious.com/perfect/jimmypage.html For readers interested in purchasing Jorgen Angel’s Yardbirds photos, please visit: www.angel.dk Puncturing A Balloon: The Final Nail In A Myth By Will Shade For years, rock critics and fans believed that after the dissolution of The Yardbirds, Jimmy Page’s new group began life as The New Yardbirds. In interviews, Page and Robert Plant still refer to the latter name. However, this isn’t accurate by a long shot. The real Yardbirds were scheduled to gig throughout Scandinavia in the autumn of 1968. However, they broke up in July of said year. Page quickly put together a new unit to take advantage of the bookings. All ads from that tour bill the band as “The Yardbirds” or “The Yardbirds with Jimmy Page.” The group was never called “The New Yardbirds.” “We would not have contracted them under that name,” Uve Hahn said, who was in charge of booking bands at Gröna Lund in Stockholm at the time (he was still working there in the summer of 2001). Page’s counterfeit Yardbirds played that particular venue twice in the fall of 1968. Both times they were billed as “The Yardbirds.” A week after their first appearance in Stockholm, the unit journeyed to Knivsta, Sweden to play at Ängby Park on Saturday, September 14. Ugly Things readers are the first to ever glimpse the accompanying page of a guest book from the Knivsta show. Not only is the band obviously using the moniker “Yardbirds,” they are more than happy to affix their signatures next to the accompanying advertisement and newspaper story. The new unit was such an unknown entity that the writer mistakes Page’s bowing technique for actually playing a violin. Hyperbole comes into play when portraying Plant as a well-known figure in British blues circles when in actuality he was still a nobody. And of course, the journalist has absolutely no idea who the members in the group are as the last line makes apparent. Interestingly, the piece mentions that John Bonham had been playing with Tim Rose. In the early ‘60s, Rose had fronted a trio called Tim Rose & The Thorns. Jake Holmes had been a member of that particular band. Page and his new cohorts would soon make a name for themselves on the back of one of Holmes’ songs. As the story also reveals, the media was quite aware this wasn’t the actual Yardbirds. Local fans knew it, too. “I had seen The Yardbirds a year or two before,” Lennart Olsson of Uppsala said. “I was planning to see them in 1968, but then I heard it wasn’t the actual band. I didn’t bother to see the new group.” Indeed, records from Knivsta are quite telling. Ängby Park’s 1968 season had witnessed several famous bands. Bill Haley & His Comets drew the largest crowd with 2,567 visiting the outdoor park. Paul Jones had drawn an audience of 1,473 while 1,113 saw Traffic. Svensk pop sensation Tages brought out 1,304. Even with the locally popular Kenneth Staags dance band featuring crooner Hayati Kafe opening, Jimmy Page’s faux Yardbirds drew only 692 people for their chilly September performance. Further, the promoters paid their entertainers 11,646.75 kroner, but only made 8,972.54 from entrance fees. Luckily, after selling sausages and lotto tickets, Ängby Park was able to net a grand total of 2670.21 kroner. “The Yardbirds” would not be invited back the following season. An ignoble last gasp for a glorious name, eh? Regardless, Jimmy Page and Co. returned to England and soon changed their name to Led Zeppelin. The rest of that story is well documented and of little interest to Ugly Things readers. IMAGES IN SOUND

By Will Shade

"When The Yardbirds started getting high, that was the turning point."- Rick Brown, The Misunderstood


Lift Off

Yardbirds - the name still elicits awe 33 years after the group's demise.

Besides the similarly monikered Byrds, no other band embraced as many styles as did the English group. The Yardbirds mastered stone-cold blues, moody pop and jet-propelled rockabilly. They almost single-handedly pioneered psychedelia and its bastard stepchild, heavy metal. Further, an unreleased track from their last studio session affirms that they were on the cusp of inventing country-rock. Their influence on garage-rock subculture was equaled by few and surpassed by none.

Best known as the springboard for the Holy Trinity of Guitar- Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page all served stewardships in the group - The Yardbirds were actually a marvelous musical unit, albeit an unstable one in the personnel department.

The band's history has been well documented in the past. Consequently, this article does not examine the group during Slowhand's tenure or its Golden Age under Jeff Beck. However, the group's kamikaze final flight with Jimmy Page at the controls usually gets short shrift. Over the past two years, unreleased Page-era studio tracks as well as a legendary live show have been issued, demanding a reassessment. This article attempts to do just that. So, climb into the way-back machine and hit rewind.

Beck & Page

Throughout 1966, The Yardbirds had experimented with painting in tonal colors. Exploiting Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page's dual lead guitar abilities to their utmost, Keith Relf felt confident in describing the group's music as "images in sound." The Yardbirds made good on that boast, recording psychedelia's siren song in July 1966. Unfortunately, "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago" was to be the first and last single released by the Beck and Page lineup.

The song would peak at #30 in the American charts the following autumn. Along with The Byrds' "Eight Miles High" and The Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows," The Yardbirds' magnum opus issued a call to hallucinogenic mayhem that few could resist.

The 45's non-U.S. flipside, "Psycho Daisies," featured a rare vocal appearance by Jeff Beck. Basically a super-charged Eddie Cochran adaptation, the tune found Beck confessing his devotion to his Hollywood girlfriend, Mary Hughes.

Later in the year, a searing rewrite of "Train Kept A-Rollin'" appeared in the Swinging London movie, BLOW UP. Entitled "Stroll On," the tune showcased the band in a nightclub scene with Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page on dual lead guitars. As Beck smashed his axe, Page smirked nefariously, his face wreathed with Beelzebub-like muttonchops.

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band was venturing into the same territory at the time with their two guitarists, Michael Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop. The American group's magnificent EAST-WEST album found the duo swapping solos and forging raga rock in a slightly similar manner to The Yardbirds. However, Bloomfield and Bishop exchanged lead duties throughout the title song "East-West." Bishop would solo as his band-mate provided rhythm guitar and vice versa.

Beck and Page, on the other hand, would play the same lead lines in tandem. In live situations, the duo spit out stereophonic clusters of synchronized notes on hits like "Over, Under, Sideways, Down." The effect, to say the least, was devastating. Sadly, this potential was to remain untapped and largely unrecorded. The three aforementioned Yardbirds tunes are the only ones to showcase the star-crossed Beck and Page configuration in the studio. Jeff Beck's initial enthusiasm at having Jimmy Page in the band slowly turned to insecurity. Beck was an emotional wildcard, playing a brilliant gig one night and then three disastrous shows in a row.

Page, on the other hand, had been Britain's premier studio guitarist (playing on Kinks and Who sessions among many others). Honed in the hit-making factories of London, Page knew that one must deliver the goods upon demand if one was to be paid. Jimmy Page was never less than startlingly competent, if not quite reaching the stellar heights Beck could scale on occasion. Page's professionalism and reliability exacerbated the already tenuous situation. Further, Beck felt that his territory was being encroached upon. He wanted to do all the guitar parts, apparently forgetting that he had been the one to offer Page an invitation to join the band in the first place.

Beck stopped showing up for gigs, leaving the band to soldier on as a four-piece. When he did actually bother to make an appearance, he was as apt to smash his axe as he was to play it. The Yardbirds had already played at least 150 shows in 1966 before even embarking upon their autumn American tour. The stress was becoming too much and things quickly came to a head. Jeff Beck's behavior bordered on the bizarre. As an example, during a gig at The Comic Strip in Worcester, Massachusetts, Beck destroyed an amplifier out of frustration. One must keep in mind that the guitarist had just turned 22-years-old. The enormous pressure was too much to bear for a sensitive young man.

"It was on that Dick Clark tour - there were a few incidents. One time in the dressing room I walked in and Beck had his guitar up over his head, about to bring it down on Keith Relf's head, but instead smashed it on the floor," Jimmy Page recalled years later. "Relf looked at him with total astonishment and Beck said, `Why did you make me do that?' Fucking hell. Everyone said `My goodness gracious, what a funny chap.' We went back to the hotel and Beck showed me his tonsils, said he wasn't feeling well and was going to see a doctor. He left for L.A. where we were headed anyway. When we got there, though, we realized that whatever doctor he was claiming to see must've had his office in the Whiskey. He was actually seeing his girlfriend, Mary Hughes, and had just used the doctor bit as an excuse to cut out on us."

Obviously, things could not continue. To make a long story short, the band fired Jeff Beck. This left Page in an uncomfortable position. He was best of mates with Beck, yet after years spent laboring as a session musician he found himself relishing life with a functioning band. Beck pressed his friend to leave with him. Page opted to stay the course. With the abrupt dismissal of their wildcard guitarist in November 1966, five live Yardbirds were no more.

Then There Were Four

Jeff Beck was only the latest casualty in the ongoing rock n roll wars. The Yardbirds had lost Top Topham, Eric Clapton and Paul Samwell-Smith since 1963. Fortunately, Beck's departure wasn't quite as debilitating as it could have been. After all, the band had gotten used to carrying on as a quartet whenever the Moody One had stalked off during the ill-fated American tour.

However, only the most resilient of groups can lose four members in a three-year period and continue with a sense of cohesion. Once again, only a Byrds comparison is analogous. It's downright stupefying that these two bands could suffer so many departures and boldly continue to map out uncharted territory. Compare their situations to The Beatles, who in sharp contrast were blessed with one producer and no personnel changes after issuing their first single, "Love Me Do."

Obviously, with Jeff Beck's exit musical elements changed within The Yardbirds. Whereas McCarty, Samwell-Smith and Beck had provided harmony vocals in the band's classic lineup, only McCarty now filled the breach. He revealed himself to be a triple-threat: superb drummer, gifted songwriter and fine backup singer. In retrospect, it is interesting to note that even guitar-dominated bands of the time featured vocal harmonies, something sadly lacking in modern rock n roll.

Regardless, this stripped-down lineup also found Keith Relf stepping up. Over time, he began contributing rhythm guitar when the occasion warranted as well as his accustomed lead vocals and harmonica playing. Relf has been routinely criticized for his apparent shortcomings as a singer. One must take into account the fact that he suffered from debilitating asthma and had to use a bronchial inhaler in-between songs when they played live. He had suffered a collapsed lung in 1963 that had hospitalized him for six weeks. His flat and sinister tone suited The Yardbirds' material perfectly however. A more gifted and authentic blues vocalist like an Eric Burdon or Van Morrison would have overwhelmed nefarious vehicles like "Shapes Of Things." Finally, Keith Relf's harmonica work reveals him to be a master of the instrument. Within the realm of `60s white blues, nobody is a more passionate harp player.

All these elements would rewire the group's makeup over the coming months as they attempted to grapple with the new dynamics. The first order of business was fulfilling contractual obligations and getting in the studio.

With Beck gone, the band finished their scheduled fall tour of America. While in Detroit, The Yardbirds shared the bill with a new group out of New York, The Velvet Underground. A Lou Reed original, "I'm Waiting For The Man", immediately captivated the Englishmen. The New Yorkers had not as yet released their debut album, THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO. Soon, The Yardbirds would be one of the first to purchase it.

Back in England, The Yardbirds entered the studio for the first time as a four-piece. Unfortunately, they had very little material to record. This should not have come as a surprise. Having recorded their classic ROGER THE ENGINEER album barely six months previously, the group had since embarked on another punishing schedule, playing at least 120 dates throughout the world. They were only able to snatch a one-day breather to record in their busy itinerary before embarking on another eight-day tour of the States.

On December 22, 1966, The Yardbirds entered Olympic Studios in London to lay down some tracks. The band tried to catch lightning in a bottle once more by doing another Graham Gouldman composition, "You Stole My Love." This was to be their fourth cover of his material. They attempted to recreate the magic of the "For Your Love" sessions by bringing in ex-Yardbird Paul Samwell-Smith to produce said session. Things did not go smoothly. Samwell-Smith had already produced (Gouldman's own band) The Mockingbirds' version and did not realize that The Yardbirds intended to cover it. Samwell-Smith was not happy with the group's choice of material and he was further annoyed that the musicians hadn't even worked out an arrangement. Jimmy Page was actually teaching Dreja the necessary changes in the studio. Further, Samwell-Smith and Page clashed immediately. Fifteen takes were attempted, but the song never progressed to the point where Keith Relf laid down a vocal. A piano-drum duet, "L.S.D." was also composed on the spot, but is only of interest to the completist. Paul Samwell-Smith was not amused with the proceedings. He finally had enough and stormed out of the studio. Needless to say, neither song came to fruition. The two tunes would finally be issued in 1992 on the LITTLE GAMES SESSIONS & MORE compilation.

The title of the latter song makes it apparent that hallucinogenic drugs were tightening their grip on certain members of The Yardbirds. Relf and McCarty had been experimenting with marijuana and acid for some time. Dreja and Page steered well clear of drugs. This division would have a profound effect on the band over the next 18 months.

And that was it for studio work in 1966. Once again, The Yardbirds were faced with a daunting number of worldwide gigs that would take them well into the New Year. 1966 alone had witnessed nearly 200 documented gigs. It was taking its toll. Band members were falling by the wayside like GIs on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Brave New World

Surely 1967 would be a better year. For one thing, the group had a new manger, its third since 1963. Gone was the egotistical Simon Napier-Bell. Enter Peter Grant. Grant was a hard-nosed and fearless character who looked out for his charges. Under his direction, the band finally began making money, which surprised them to no end.

A January and February tour of the Pacific with Roy Orbison found the band settling comfortably into the four-piece format. Orbison was not impressed, however. Night after night, The Yardbirds delivered a blistering version of "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago." It failed to move the elder statesman of rock n roll. Orbison regarded it as little more than an audio triage clinic. To put it bluntly, The Yardbirds were too loud and wild for his taste.

Jimmy Page also introduced a new element into the band's sonic alchemy at this time. In his studio days, Page had experimented with using a violin bow on his guitar.

"I had used it before I joined The Yardbirds. It was suggested to me by a session violinist. I didn't think it could be done at first - bowing a flat necked instrument - but I took his advice and got a bow and started having a go and I could see the possibilities in it," he said.

Jimmy Page could only bow two strings at a time to produce a melody. When he ran the bow across all six strings, a strange whooping sound was produced. With Beck safely out of the way, Jimmy Page pulled this striking gimmick out of his bag of tricks. As well as providing new tonal textures, it was an effective visual device. It's been asserted that Page actually got this idea from Eddie Phillips of The Creation. However, many guitar players from David Lindley to Syd Barrett appear to have used a violin bow at the time. Who came up with the idea in the first place doesn't really matter. Obviously, Page was determined to evolve. After all, that's what this particular group was famed for.

In March 1967, the band finally entered the studio for the first time in four months. However, things had changed dramatically. For one thing, they were given a producer they'd never worked with before: Mickie Most. Most was well respected in the recording industry, having guided lightweight entities like Herman's Hermits to chart success. Page was well acquainted with Mickie Most, having provided guitar work at the aforementioned act's sessions. The pairing of pop producer Mickie Most with iconoclastic visionaries like The Yardbirds was an ill-conceived decision to say the least.

Groundbreaking singles like "Shapes Of Things" and "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago" were not to be the order of the day anymore. The #30 U.S. peak of their last single, "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago," was considered a major disaster. The powers-that-be decreed that there would be No More Taking Chances. Self-penned material would be relegated to album tracks. Therefore, Most assigned the group a song to record for release as a single. The first order of business was to tackle a charming ditty called "Little Games."

While the song did feature a cello arrangement by Most session-crony John Paul Jones and a nifty solo from Page, it was certainly not on par with the group's earlier revolutionary singles. The 45's flipside, "Puzzles," was solid, but still not up to snuff. However, it did boast a sizzling solo courtesy of Jimmy Page.

In April, "Little Games" was released. It went over like the proverbial lead balloon, struggling to #51 in America. It didn't even make an appearance on the British charts.

In the interim, Epic had released a greatest hits package in the States in March. Unsurprisingly in the Brave New World of 1967, the groundbreaking material on this album slaked American fans' thirst for vintage volume. With gems like "Over, Under, Sideways, Down" and "Still I'm Sad" nestling against psychedelia's crown jewel, "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago," the LP climbed to #28 during a 37-week residency in the charts. Further, it was to become The Yardbirds best selling album during their existence.

Emboldened by this response, Most pushed on with recording a new Yardbirds album. Of course, he totally misread the signs. Instead of allowing them to return to their earlier innovative material, he still hoped to furnish them with a perfect pop vehicle.

Frantic touring was still the order of the day, however. The group entered the studio only when they could shoehorn the time into their demanding schedule. In April and May, the band bounced in and out of the studio to lay down tracks for what became their final studio album. Recording conditions were ridiculous. Page was still fuming about it years later and rightly so.

"It was so bloody rushed. Everything was done in one take because Mickie Most was basically interested in singles and didn't believe it was worth the time to do the tracks right on the album. Stu [Ian Stewart] from the Rolling Stones played piano on those tracks, and when we finished the first take of the first track we were recording he said, `That'll sound much better the second take.' Mickie Most was sitting in the control booth, and all of a sudden he said, `Next!' Stu couldn't believe it," Jimmy Page said.

Starting with the recording of the "Little Games" single, session players began making frequent appearances on The Yardbirds' recording sessions, which makes no sense except from a ruthless economic point of view. Of course, the band was more than adept at playing whatever material was demanded, even if it was assigned and not to their liking. However, with their crushing responsibilities on the road, The Yardbirds were allotted very little studio time. When they were able to find time off to record, they would enter the studio only to find that Most's session hacks had already laid down basic tracks. Often, only Page's guitar and Relf's vocals were needed to complete these recordings.

Unfortunately, Page's production expertise from his session days wasn't brought to bear at this time. It's unsettling that Page's uncanny ear would allow him to participate in some of the dubious fodder that was foisted on the band by Most. Perhaps Page was simply intimidated by the producer, whose reputation packed an enormous wallop. After all, it's hard to argue with a man who steered countless singles to the top of the charts.

Further, it slowly became apparent that Samwell-Smith's departure left a huge hole in the songwriting process. Beck had also been a major catalyst, although he didn't write songs per se. Relf and McCarty still contributed material, but it was slowly beginning to veer towards a lighter feel than they'd previously exhibited. The newest member, Jimmy Page, was still in the embryonic stages of songwriting. Dreja was good for the odd riff or lyric when he could be coaxed out of his shell.

Although the sessions were nominally approached with the intent of recording an album, Mickie Most was always on the look out for 45s.

"`No Excess Baggage' was something Most suggested as a single, but we did it as an album session. There could've been a lot better stuff on the album," Page declared. "I remember him saying to me once, about guitar solos, `They're something you stick in the middle of the single where there isn't any vocal.' He didn't share my view that a guitar solo, like the ones on the Ricky Nelson records, for instance, could be an uplifting experience."

Obviously, The Yardbirds' producer was totally clueless and unsympathetic to their true nature. Regardless, by May the album was in the can. In light of this arbitrary recording schedule (the lead track, the "Little Games" single, was recorded in early March and the last track during the first of May in-between numerous gigs), it's striking that the album sounds as organic as it does. Highlights from the album include two blues rewrites, "Drinking Muddy Water" and "Smile On Me." Fortunately, there was also original strong material sprinkled throughout the LP. Jimmy Page's Middle Eastern showpiece, "White Summer" (inspired by Davey Graham), and the delirious violin bow extravaganza "Glimpses" illuminated the band's psychedelic bent. Keith Relf's elegiac "Only The Black Rose" showed the influence of English folk music. Said tune is one of the most underrated chestnuts in the band's repertoire. The original "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor" was stark raving mod while "No Excess Baggage" was a bruising and effective cover. Less essential is the humorous jugband nick "Stealing, Stealing." Downright dated and rickety is "Little Soldier Boy," which no amount of rationalization will excuse.

The album didn't quite meet commercial expectations. When it came out in America in July, it tanked at #80. Initially slated for an autumn release in Great Britain, the LP was eventually withheld from the group's homeland altogether.


An Interview with Chris Dreja and Jim McCarty

HAPPENINGS TEN YEARS TIME AGO
(The Yardbirds majestic final flight from '66-'68)

By Will Shade

"Yardbirds I know so well it just plays in my head." - Iggy Pop, on being asked by the author whether he's been listening to enough Yardbirds.

Will Shade: You ready?

Jim McCarty: Yeah. I got your e-mail a few days ago. I thought it was funny, that quote with Iggy Pop.

WS: I thought you would enjoy it. Let's dive right in. Which albums by other groups were favorites among The Yardbirds during the '66-'68 period? Which psychedelic albums in particular?

JM: We'd take a sort of mobile record player around with us and play things, Keith and I. A couple of the things were The Mothers of Invention's first two albums, FREAK OUT and WE'RE ONLY IN IT FOR THE MONEY. We used to like those because they were sort of silly. REVOLVER was another one. Also Keith and I quite liked that EAST-WEST by Paul Butterfield. Another thing was that Steve Miller thing, "Songs For Our Ancestors." You know, with all the tugboats on it. That was a good track. And then there was some of that psychedelic classical music like John Cage. Really weird stuff. Maybe Stockhausen.

CD: We were listening to The Beatles for sure. We were still listening to the blues, Paul Butterfield and people like that. We were listening to what other British bands of the day were up to. You know, any of our contemporaries- The Beach Boys, Beatles again. As a band, we were listening to these other groups, but we working so much that we were introverted into our own world. Hendrix of course came roaring into the scene around then. He was very exciting and guitar-oriented like we were. He gave us impetus to continue down the road we had already been following. By that time we had Jimmy so it was getting a lot more strange from what we had been doing a few years earlier. We were aware of the music around us, but as I said we were very self-contained. We had our heads down, on our own trail.

WS: Of course you have thirty years hindsight, but at the time were you really aware that things began to change musically? Meaning, it had been more beat oriented or R & B . . .

JM: Definitely. I think we always wanted to get out of that heavy 12 bar format. Make it different while keeping the basis of that blues feel, but make it more interesting. That's why we did the sort of things we did. Try to build up some excitement. When Jeff came into the band he was a lot more the way we wanted to go. Eric was very blues purist. At the time anyway. Jeff wasn't like that. He had more variety about him. He played all sorts of weird sounds, electronic sounds that seemed to fit in. The first time we went to L.A. there were all these weird hippies appearing at our gigs. They thought we were all tripping on acid. But it was just our music. We hadn't done drugs yet. We were really straight still.

WS: The States really took to you. Of course, when you started off in Britain, you had a rabid fan base when you were playing at the Crawdaddy and the Marquee. But later on it seems like the English kind of ignored you, whereas you went over really well in America.

JM: That's true. It's a bit strange. The British market seemed to revolve around the hit single. It was very frustrating. You had to be thinking of the next single all the time. It was like being in a small box. The things we liked to do, playing live, the Americans really appreciated, especially the innovative things we did on stage.

CD: In retrospect, it's a bit odd. I suppose it's very much of an English thing. The English kind of love you before you've broken, as it were. I think the thing in America was we got put on some very long tours. The scope was greater. The kids were much more into the type of music we were making, the embryo garage thing. The English tend to forget you if you leave the shore for too long.

WS: Which British groups from that era, particularly '66, were good live acts? And did any of them influence you?

JM: The Animals and The Who, I thought, were very good live. We played with The Beatles a few times. They were okay live, but they basically just played their songs and ran off stage. You couldn't hear them at all because of the screaming.

WS: How about American groups?

JM: The Lovin' Spoonful were very good live. And so was The Butterfield Blues Band. I saw them with Mike Bloomfield in '66, around the EAST-WEST album. They were different than us, a little more blues purist, although the song "East-West" was similar to our psychedelic approach. They were very good live. We saw them down in one of the Sunset Strip clubs. Maybe The Trip. I saw them later when I was with Renaissance. They had a huge horn section and the feel was quite different. They were a very good band with Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop, though.

WS: What do you think were some of the major differences between the British and American bands?

JM: The British bands had a lot more stage presence. The American bands always seemed to be a bit more shy. We seemed to be a bit more sincere somehow. Not every band, of course. I didn't see every band. But the American bands seemed to be a bit more lame. I don't want to tread on your toes here (laughs).

WS: Don't worry. I prefer British rock n roll.

JM: You know like Paul Revere & The Raiders and those kinds of bands. Of course, we had some lightweight stuff like Freddie & The Dreamers and some of that Merseybeat stuff. There just didn't seem to be any kind of meaty American band at that time, except for Butterfield. And there were all those bands like The Electric Prunes and The Chain Reaction, who seemed to be doing what we were doing. When I hear these accounts of when we first came over with Beck and we were playing these gigs, people expected some kind of pop band and we were playing this freaky off-the-wall stuff that apparently blew people's minds. It seems that we inspired a lot of people to try and play in our style.

WS: Do you think any of the live recordings with Beck, like the BBC stuff and a few bootlegs, are actually representative of that line-up's live sound?

JM: The BBC took all the excitement out of it. That's what they were famous for, really. There's probably no live recordings with Jeff that come close. I think the singles we recorded in the States with Jeff, like "Mister, You're A Better Man Than I," "Shapes Of Things" and "Train Kept A-Rolling," were closer to our potential. We never got a live recording as such. It was funny with Jeff. It was either hit or miss. If it was a good night, it would be great. But that might be only one out of five gigs. It wasn't really uniform.

WS: What live show stands out in retrospect? What did you think about playing with Beck and Page together?

JM: There were a few shows that stood out as being really good. In the Beck-era we did a small residency on Sunset strip in Hollywood, a club called the Hullabaloo I believe. I remember a great atmosphere and playing really well! Another show that stands out was with Jeff and Jimmy at Cardiff on The Stones tour when the crowd just wouldn't stop screaming for an encore right before The Stones were due on! A show that happened like this was pretty rare with that line-up!

WS: Do you remember hearing The Beatles song "Tomorrow Never Knows"?

JM: Yeah, yeah. It was great. I remember hearing it in L.A. We did a gig over in Catalina Island. All these freaks came along and we played that album. We were at somebody's house and we played that album. I thought it was great.

WS: Were you experimenting with illicit substances at this point?

JM: Yeah, it came in a little bit slowly. We probably had a smoke for that particular song! It would have fit, wouldn't it? (laughs) It was a great track. It was a great album actually.

WS: Did any of you play while tripping on acid?

JM: I believe I did, but not very often! At the Fillmore we met up with Dr. Owsley who would give you handfuls of strange tablets that he had manufactured in his laboratory!

WS: When was your first acid trip? Care to share the experience?

JM: I'm afraid acid didn't do me much good. I had to duck out of a few gigs while suffering from the after-effects.

WS: Chris, were you clean?

CD: As far as I know, Jimmy Page and I were completely clean at the time. I hadn't even drunk if I remember correctly. I didn't drink, smoke or take drugs.

WS: Did it bother you that Jim and Keith were doing drugs?

CD: What can I say? Everybody around us was doing drugs. It was almost expected. I felt for Keith. He was never a healthy person. With the traveling and playing it affected one's health, especially mental health. So I felt concern as a friend. And I suppose you can say it was another reason why the band was no longer cohesive. I think they were kind of under the illusion that drugs can give you. Not necessarily the reality. I can't speak for Jimmy, but I seem to remember that he and I were straight and the other two weren't.

WS: Now, Keith and Jim spent a lot of time together. Were you hanging out with Jimmy or were you doing your own thing like taking photos?

CD: I suppose I did retreat into that a great deal actually, Will, well spotted. I hung out with Jimmy to a degree traveling. I was always close to Jim. And at times I was close to Keith. But there was some diametrically opposed things going on. If you're not doing drugs, it's hard to hang out with people who are doing drugs. It's not that you don't want to be with them, but people who do drugs want to be with people who do drugs as well. I had my photography and other creative pursuits. And yes, I did immerse myself in that.

WS: Where and/or when did The Velvet Underground's "I'm Waiting For The Man" enter your set list?

JM: We did a few gigs with them in Detroit. We played a big festival in Detroit for a few days and they played it, too. We heard it and thought, "This is quite a good song, isn't it?" We probably did it because we were low on ideas and were looking around for material. We played it with the Jimmy line-up, but I think Jeff was still in the band when we played with The Velvet Underground (ed. note: Beck had already left the band). At some point we got their album.

CD: I think that was in Detroit. We played with them there. I don't think we did it with Jeff in the band, though. Why we did it? We did that very occasionally, when odd bits of material by other artists showed up in our set. That actually might have been Jimmy who wanted to do it. Good call on his part.

WS: Are these apocryphal stories as recounted in the book UPTIGHT about Jeff Beck intimidating The Velvets with a pistol true? And about him shooting up Sun Studios?

JM: Never heard that. Don't know if Jeff had a pistol . . . I don't know maybe he did! (laughs) And the Sun Studios story isn't true. Going back to The Underground, though, I remember coming out of the hotel one day and there was Andy Warhol in the limo. And the guy who was sort of his tour manager said "do you want to come along with Andy to the gig?" So we sat there and Andy didn't speak. "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago" had just been released. And the guy says, "Andy likes your new single." (laughs) It was weird! Andy was sitting right there and this guy was speaking for him, which was really strange.

CD: I find that so bizarre. I don't know where that comes from. Jeff with a firearm, that's so ridiculous. He's never been into guns. He's into cars! That's rubbish. As for Sun Studios, we were all over-powered with the legend of rock n roll. The idea of Jeff shooting up Sam Phillips' studio is absolute nonsense. The Yardbirds weren't a violent band in any shape or form. In fact, we avoided conflict most of the time. We got through nearly all of our gigs unscathed, even in the Deep South. We weren't crazy looking if you look at photos from that time. But we must have been strange looking to America in the '60s, especially in the South. Even in our own country, where there's some pretty tough areas, I think there was only one time that we needed to get the local authorities to help assist us from a venue because of some aggravation. But we never really ran into much trouble. I remember one story about The Animals when they played in Montgomery, Alabama or someplace like that. They had a black road manager. They put him in a cupboard in a Holiday Inn, not even a proper suite. After the concert, everybody was hot and they went for a swim, including this guy. The next day they fumigated the pool, drained it and everything. But the only sort of controversy I can remember us experiencing is being refused entrance to Disney Land because our hair was too long!

For the entire interview, buy the new issue of UGLY THINGS at www.ugly-things.com



CD reviews by Will Shade

THE YARDBIRDS - Five Live Yardbirds (Fuel 2000, CD) > >
Ah, time for a vocabulary lesson. Can you say  "transcendent"? I thought you could. Now, use it in a sentence like "the newest version of `Five Live  Yardbirds' is a transcendent experience." Very good.  Is that statement true? Indeed it is, my most  blueswailing, yardmerizing fans. The original  release  of "Five Live Yardbirds" is coupled with six songs  from a Craw Daddy gig four months earlier as well as  the excruciatingly rare demo version of "I Wish You  Would." Bonus tracks aside, this release merits you  purchasing it immediately, gentle reader.  The tunes from the December '63 Craw Daddy gig are  nascent rave-ups. Of particular interest is the live  take on Billy Boy Arnold's "I Wish You Would." Ah,  and  then there's the nearly 7-minute aural orgasm that  masquerades as "Smokestack Lightning." Howlin' Wolf  himself said that The Yardbirds' take on "Smokestack  Lightning" was the definitive one. And that included  his original. The Wolf don't lie. Listening to both  versions on this disc brings The Yardbirds legend to  life.  Then it's on to the demo version of "I Wish You  Would." While not essential, it is a fascinating  glimpse into the evolution of both the song and the  band.  Finally, we come to "Five Live Yardbirds" itself.  Eric Clapton is tentative on some of the songs. His  tone is brittle and it would take a Les Paul and  Marshall on the "Beano" album for him to find his  true  sound. Relf carries the show. Clapton does sparkle  on  "Here `Tis," which cuts Bo Diddley's original to the  quick.  While Clapton was the guitar player at the time, it  sure as shit was Keith Relf's band. While the band  appears hesitant at times, Relf is never less than  fervor personified, attacking the songs. Nobody, and  I  mean nobody, in Britain blew harp like the  one-lunged,  asthmatic Relf. In his hands, the gig crackles with  sweaty novenas and fever shows. Fuck Clapton. To  stand  an oft-used phrase on its head, Keith Relf is God.  This is his band and his testament.  To give the rhythm section their due, Paul  Samwell-Smith and Jim McCarty anchor the proceedings  to the ground, especially when Relf and Clapton  threaten to lift the roof off the Marquee.  Psychedelia  starts here, gentle reader. Last, but by certainly  no  means least, Chris Dreja reveals himself to be one  of  the greatest rhythm guitar players to ever tread the  boards.  "Five Live Yardbirds" was the quintet's first LP  release. Historically speaking, how daring was it  for  a band to issue a live show as their debut album?  "Five Live Yardbirds" thunders. These youngsters  rewrite blues standards in their image, walking away  with the deeds in the process. It simply shreds The  Rolling Stones' "Got Live If You Want It" (recorded  two years later). Hell, it also demolishes their  "Get  Yer Yas Yas Out."  This wouldn't be a Yardbirds story, though, without  some glaring problems. Depending upon which version  of this particular release you eventually purchase, you  will get slightly different versions of the Marquee  gig. The liner notes were written by Yardbirds  historian, Greg Russo. Russo attempted to supply the  record company with a source tape that is the  correct  speed (most versions of "Five Live Yardbirds" are  sped  up) as well as containing the correct in-between  song  banter that has been edited numerous times  throughout  the year. This didn't happen. Russo assured me that  the new pressings will have the proper in-between  song  banter as well as the show itself at correct speed.  So, once again, collectors will have a field day.  And  oh yeah, Russo was displeased that the booklet got  the  Marquee date wrong. It should read March 20, 1964  instead of March 3.  Does it matter? Not really. It's still an exciting  show. And a vital purchase.
Will Shade

THE YARDBIRDS - Little Games (EMI, CD) >
Wow. Simply wow. A Yardbirds release that finally  enlightens the novice while pleasing the completist.  Of course, "Little Games" has been released and  re-released a myriad of times. But this time,  Jupiter  and Mars line up…  This reissue renders all earlier versions redundant  (`92's "Little Games Sessions & More" is still  essential for the completist). Why? Well, for  starters  the remastering is stunning. Some will complain that  they prefer the original mixes of certain songs  ("Tinker, Tailor" anyone?), but that's nitpicking.  The songs now simply shine. Take "Only The Black Rose"  as  an example. Nothing wrong with the original mix, but  the tune now glimmers with an ethereal air what with  Page's delicate acoustic work shading Relf's fragile  vocals and lyrics.  Another nice touch is the inclusion of the stereo  take of "Drinking Muddy Water," which has a  different  guitar solo than the mono version (that take can be  heard on the "Little Games Sessions & More"  release).  The original album and single bonus tracks that  comprise the A's and B's in conjunction with the  remastering would make this more than enough reason  for a neophyte to purchase it. But we're not done  yet. How about some stellar BBC sessions? For those of  you  who have always bitched about the tinny production  on  their final B-side, "Think About It," stick a sock  in  it. The BBC take will satiate you once and for all.  Further, the radio take on "Little Games" is an  altogether different animal than the album or single  release. Page's guitar is chunkier than my mom's beef  stew. And just as tasty.  For those who say Page isn't a patch on Beck, well,  that's a tad too subjective to argue. Listen to  Page's  deft picking on the BBC version of "White Summer"  (with a passage unheard on other versions) and get  back to me. If you're still unconvinced, cue up  "Dazed  And Confused." Yeah, the sound is murky, but that  might enhance the inherent spookiness of the tune.  Fidelity issue aside, this is the best take on said  tune yet heard. `nuff said. Both songs see their  first  official appearance on this release. Enough reason  to  buy said CD alone.  The Page Era is finally reaping the kudos it  deserved  all along. This release shores up The Yardbirds'  claim  to be on of the Three Best Bands Ever. Now if the  final studio sessions and Anderson Theater show  (released as "Cumular Limit" and "Live Yardbirds!  Featuring Jimmy Page" respectively; both have run  into  legal hassles) are re-released, The Yardbirds will  take their proper place in the Pantheon of Greats -  just shy of The Beatles and the Stones.  By the way, "Little Soldier Boy" still sucks.
Will Shade

order the new issue of UGLY THINGS from www.ugly-things.com




To: Jim McCarty; Chris Dreja > Subject: "Ugly Things" reviews > > > Jim and Chris, for the next issue of "Ugly > Things"... > out this spring. Will > > THE YARDBIRDS - Five Live Yardbirds (Fuel 2000, CD) > > Ah, time for a vocabulary lesson. Can you say > "transcendent"? I thought you could. Now, use it in > a > sentence like "the newest version of `Five Live > Yardbirds' is a transcendent experience." Very good. > Is that statement true? Indeed it is, my most > blueswailing, yardmerizing fans. The original > release > of "Five Live Yardbirds" is coupled with six songs > from a Craw Daddy gig four months earlier as well as > the excruciatingly rare demo version of "I Wish You > Would." Bonus tracks aside, this release merits you > purchasing it immediately, gentle reader. > The tunes from the December '63 Craw Daddy gig are > nascent rave-ups. Of particular interest is the live > take on Billy Boy Arnold's "I Wish You Would." Ah, > and > then there's the nearly 7-minute aural orgasm that > masquerades as "Smokestack Lightning." Howlin' Wolf > himself said that The Yardbirds' take on "Smokestack > Lightning" was the definitive one. And that included > his original. The Wolf don't lie. Listening to both > versions on this disc brings The Yardbirds legend to > life. > Then it's on to the demo version of "I Wish You > Would." While not essential, it is a fascinating > glimpse into the evolution of both the song and the > band. > Finally, we come to "Five Live Yardbirds" itself. > Eric Clapton is tentative on some of the songs. His > tone is brittle and it would take a Les Paul and > Marshall on the "Beano" album for him to find his > true > sound. Relf carries the show. Clapton does sparkle > on > "Here `Tis," which cuts Bo Diddley's original to the > quick. > While Clapton was the guitar player at the time, it > sure as shit was Keith Relf's band. While the band > appears hesitant at times, Relf is never less than > fervor personified, attacking the songs. Nobody, and > I > mean nobody, in Britain blew harp like the > one-lunged, > asthmatic Relf. In his hands, the gig crackles with > sweaty novenas and fever shows. Fuck Clapton. To > stand > an oft-used phrase on its head, Keith Relf is God. > This is his band and his testament. > To give the rhythm section their due, Paul > Samwell-Smith and Jim McCarty anchor the proceedings > to the ground, especially when Relf and Clapton > threaten to lift the roof off the Marquee. > Psychedelia > starts here, gentle reader. Last, but by certainly > no > means least, Chris Dreja reveals himself to be one > of > the greatest rhythm guitar players to ever tread the > boards. > "Five Live Yardbirds" was the quintet's first LP > release. Historically speaking, how daring was it > for > a band to issue a live show as their debut album? > "Five Live Yardbirds" thunders. These youngsters > rewrite blues standards in their image, walking away > with the deeds in the process. It simply shreds The > Rolling Stones' "Got Live If You Want It" (recorded > two years later). Hell, it also demolishes their > "Get > Yer Yas Yas Out." > This wouldn't be a Yardbirds story, though, without > some glaring problems. Depending upon which version > of > this particular release you eventually purchase, you > will get slightly different versions of the Marquee > gig. The liner notes were written by Yardbirds > historian, Greg Russo. Russo attempted to supply the > record company with a source tape that is the > correct > speed (most versions of "Five Live Yardbirds" are > sped > up) as well as containing the correct in-between > song > banter that has been edited numerous times > throughout > the year. This didn't happen. Russo assured me that > the new pressings will have the proper in-between > song > banter as well as the show itself at correct speed. > So, once again, collectors will have a field day. > And > oh yeah, Russo was displeased that the booklet got > the > Marquee date wrong. It should read March 20, 1964 > instead of March 3. > Does it matter? Not really. It's still an exciting > show. And a vital purchase. Will Shade > > > THE YARDBIRDS - Little Games (EMI, CD) > > Wow. Simply wow. A Yardbirds release that finally > enlightens the novice while pleasing the completist. > Of course, "Little Games" has been released and > re-released a myriad of times. But this time, > Jupiter > and Mars line up… > This reissue renders all earlier versions redundant > (`92's "Little Games Sessions & More" is still > essential for the completist). Why? Well, for > starters > the remastering is stunning. Some will complain that > they prefer the original mixes of certain songs > ("Tinker, Tailor" anyone?), but that's nitpicking. > The > songs now simply shine. Take "Only The Black Rose" > as > an example. Nothing wrong with the original mix, but > the tune now glimmers with an ethereal air what with > Page's delicate acoustic work shading Relf's fragile > vocals and lyrics. > Another nice touch is the inclusion of the stereo > take of "Drinking Muddy Water," which has a > different > guitar solo than the mono version (that take can be > heard on the "Little Games Sessions & More" > release). > The original album and single bonus tracks that > comprise the A's and B's in conjunction with the > remastering would make this more than enough reason > for a neophyte to purchase it. But we're not done > yet. > > How about some stellar BBC sessions? For those of > you > who have always bitched about the tinny production > on > their final B-side, "Think About It," stick a sock > in > it. The BBC take will satiate you once and for all. > Further, the radio take on "Little Games" is an > altogether different animal than the album or single > release. Page's guitar is chunkier than my mom's > beef > stew. And just as tasty. > For those who say Page isn't a patch on Beck, well, > that's a tad too subjective to argue. Listen to > Page's > deft picking on the BBC version of "White Summer" > (with a passage unheard on other versions) and get > back to me. If you're still unconvinced, cue up > "Dazed > And Confused." Yeah, the sound is murky, but that > might enhance the inherent spookiness of the tune. > Fidelity issue aside, this is the best take on said > tune yet heard. `nuff said. Both songs see their > first > official appearance on this release. Enough reason > to > buy said CD alone. > The Page Era is finally reaping the kudos it > deserved > all along. This release shores up The Yardbirds' > claim > to be on of the Three Best Bands Ever. Now if the > final studio sessions and Anderson Theater show > (released as "Cumular Limit" and "Live Yardbirds! > Featuring Jimmy Page" respectively; both have run > into > legal hassles) are re-released, The Yardbirds will > take their proper place in the Pan