The Yardbirds to end the week. From sessions for the BBC recorded between February and May, 1966, presumably for the Saturday Club program at Radio 1.
This was The Yardbirds at their peak – the band boasting not one, but two legendary guitarists within their ranks – Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page sharing solos. You could call it a serious attack of talent, one that was not destined to last. Beck would leave in a year to pursue a solo career, forming The Jeff Beck Group and Jimmy Page staying on, until the band eventually broke up and was reformed, first as The New Yardbirds and then re-christened as Led Zeppelin.
I don’t really think you can get a complete picture of Led Zeppelin without going back and sampling The Yardbirds during their heyday. One was a natural progression to the other, but had there been no Yardbirds, it’s highly doubtful there would be a Led Zeppelin, or at least not one which would continue the evolution of Rock the way they did. But the Yardbirds were truly pioneering in the sense they shaped a new sound – brought about largely by Beck and Page. You could make a case for adding Eric Clapton in the mix, because he was one of the founding members. But his contribution was more of the straight-up Blues variety – and his leaving shortly after their debut single (For Your Love) was issued to join John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers would be a continuation of that path.
The 1966 phase of The Yardbirds will go down as a revolutionary period for Rock. In an already crowded field of bands changing the shape and direction of popular music, the sound emanating from them was unique – how unique? all you have to do is grab a copy of Roger The Engineer and a copy of Are You Experienced by The Jimi Hendrix Experience and you’ll hear a lot of similarities in temperament and approach – maybe Happenings Ten Years Time Ago juxtaposed with Purple Haze and it might become clearer.
I think, in the long stretch of things, The Yardbirds may not have gotten all the credit for the contributions they made – like I said, 1966 was a pivotal year for music – it was a crowded field, and everyone was testing limits. The Yardbirds were lynchpins.
Crank it up and see what you think.