Hurray for Jeff “Nigel Tufnel” Beck

Heart Full of Soul – The Yardbirds
Over under Sideways Down – The Yardbirds
Stroll On – The Yardbirds

The Yardbirds of course at one time featured the incendiary guitar work of gods in waiting, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. God I hate when I hear that crap. Clapton might have done some brilliant live stuff for the band, but as far as their recorded output goes it’s all Jeff Beck and the triumvirate of guitar gods theory only serves to diminish his greatness with the band.

Stroll On, a reworking of Train Kept a Rolling, that the band did for Michelangelo Antonioni’s otherwise impenetrable movie classic Blow Up, is pretty much the only evidence of Page and Beck going head to head and it’s pretty damn out there impressive. Like Beck doppelganger Nigel Tufnel said “This one goes to eleven.”

Antonioni wanted The Who to do their smash the guitar act, but somehow wound up with The Yardbirds. Beck smashes his fake guitar at the end of the song, and tosses the fragments into the crowd. Disaffected London swinger David Hemmings desperately fights the crowd to claim the biggest piece and promptly walks out of the club and tosses it into the trash.

Here’s a personal story about the movie Blow Up and the kind of luck I have in life and with women in general. I watched it on video with my roommate Dave. After about 30 minutes, we get a knock on the door. It turns out to be two cute girls who have been paid to tuck Dave into bed for charity. They of course walk into our room right as Hemmings is rolling around in crate paper with two naked women. Dave immediately points out that it’s my movie choice and not his. Jesus, I’m not watching porn, isn’t this a film snob classic?

The exact same thing happened to me when at 14 I played Steve Martin’s Wild and Crazy Guy Album for my previously mentioned once favorite Aunt. My dad, not a huge fan of profanity, walked in just in time to hear the punch line – “That cat was the best fuck I ever had.” As you can expect like Dave my Aunt immediately said “Don’t look at me it’s his album.”

One more thing about Beck, I went to a guitar show in San Jose once. The featured attraction was the Fender guitar Jeff recorded all of his Yarbirds hits with. Imagine 500 guitar wonks creaming their pants over a guitar that had it not been Beck’s wouldn’t bring more than $200 dollars in trade from a reputable guitar dealer despite its late 50’s vintage. Beck had constructed this thing from maybe 3 different guitars. The strings hadn’t been changed in over 25 years. If I remember correctly, it had a Stratocaster neck and a Broadcaster body. Best of all, Beck wished he had a Stratocaster body so to replicate that model’s angled arm rest he had crudely sanded one off of the base of the Broadcaster’s body about as well as I sanded half of my high school Industrial Arts projects. OK, I admit it; I was drooling over it too.

A Day in the Life – Jeff Beck

He’s so talented. It constantly amazes me that all in all he’d be just as happy working on his cars and never recording another note again.

Superstition – Jeff Beck
‘Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers – Jeff Beck

Stevie: Hey, Jeff I really want to thank you for playing on my album. I wrote this cool song for you to record. I think it could really be a big hit for you.
Jeff: Cool Stevie, thanks man.

Two weeks later

Stevie: Hey, Jeff you know I realized that song I wrote for you could really be a big hit for me.
Jeff: Dude, that’s not cool.
Stevie: How about doing Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers instead?

That’s OK, Stevie’s Superstition is in another league from Beck’s. Whereas Lovers is the most beautiful thing Jeff ever recorded.

One Response to “Hurray for Jeff “Nigel Tufnel” Beck”

  1. I saw Jeff Beck on Sept. 12th ’06 in NYC. It was a really spiritual experience! He closed with “Over the Rainbow” and I swear if I didn’t tear up just a little… INCREDIBLE!!!!

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