I can`t resist the temptation of doing another Jeff Beck article. I don`t know if the Beck fans are more literate than other fans, but I always get a spike on my statistics for the blog when printing something about him. I just can`t resist those spikes – they are very addictive!
Jeff is quite the character – it is not very often that you see an artist being so critical of his own work – at the time not even released. I bet the record company were “happy” about that! 😉
Rob Mackie talks to the much misunderstood man – Jeff Beck
Shy guitarist, 10 years in pop combos, seeks funky musicians resident in England, and with non-inflatable egos, but…
DALEKS NEED NOT APPLY!
The cosmic full-stop having finally been added to the two commas in Beck, Bogert, Appice, our Jeff has been adopting an even lower profile than usual. Recognising Jeff among the milling throng attempting to get close to the bar during the interval at the recent Billy Cobham/Average White Band concert, your alert fact-finding reporter inquired: “Er, what are you doing these days, Jeff?” He was greeted with the Great British Shrug, a well-known sign on the Highway Code of Non Interviewees.
Jeff`s been taking his time about things, doing his own album in his own time, and also breaking some new ground by producing an outside group for the first time – “much easier than producing yourself” – (Upp, who backed Jeff on the special guitarists` edition of BBC 2`s “Workshop”).
Beck remains a much-misunderstood man, a name to make cub-reporters and aspiring guitarists tremble alike with fear. Actually, he`s ah, ah, ah, ah, shy. Sympathy for the devil? Well if you saw Jeff play with Beck Bogert Appice at Brighton Dome during the last tour, and noticed that he didn`t once look at the audience, you might not think the idea quite so far fetched.
But, you may say, what about all those nasty things he says about everybody? And you`d be right, he`s not a man to throw compliments around, but then again, if you`ve talked to Jeff, you`d know that he ridicules suggestions that he`s anything special at least as often as he puts down other people. And he does, no mistaking it.
Basically, Jeff`s anti-show biz to the degree that he seems to feel a bit coy about actually saying anything nice about people, and just showbiz enough that he gets a giggle out of his Mean and Moody reputation.
It happens to be a fact that he had a longish, friendly chat with Rod Stewart recently after a chance meeting, but when you mention that Rod said in his interview in SOUNDS last week that their relationship was “better than it`s ever been” and that there might be a chance of the two of them working together again, you won`t get any of that “All friends together” stuff out of Jeff. He`s his own man, whatever else he is, and that`s part of the reason why he`s never been any bigger than he is in the gold album stakes.
Where other guitarists would be happy to get a few songs together, run off a few licks, and take the whole thing on an incessant tour until the next album, Jeff gets quickly bored, and once he gets bored he hangs back and gets unobtrusive, and then all those faithful Beck fans (whose existence he practically denies), who come along expecting “All that schizophrenic mad uncontrolled stuff” get disappointed and things start to crumble a bit.
Beck, Bogert, Appice? That was Jeff`s dream band back in the Mickie Most days, and if the band had got together when he first felt enthusiastic about the idea, it might have been the three-piece band to end them all. Some nights it came close, but the band took so long in actually becoming reality that I suspect Jeff`s tastes had moved on beyond that kind of music by the time it became reality.
During the tour, Billy Cobham`s “Spectrum” album became a kind of BBA anthem, permanently blowing out of Carmine`s cassette recorder (“the bible” as Jeff described it), and consequently, the music that the trio were listening to was increasingly departing from the kind of thing they were playing. So Jeff hung back and gazed at his feet, and Carmine effectively took over the group, doing the introduction and most of the singing as well as his powerhouse drumming, and the band as a whole sounded less unified, and a lot less interesting.
“Right. That`s it. He was the energy in the group, always a happy soul, and he kept me and Tim together longer than we would have done if it had been someone else drumming, but he didn`t have many ideas really that were usable, the material was sadly lacking, and rather than carry on with bum material and die slowly, I just quit. It was just a thing that I had to do, that BBA thing, to see what would happen, and I pursued it as long as I thought reasonable.”
Worthwhile? “Oh, yeah. I don`t think there was any time-wasting, really.” And yes, Mr. Stratocaster`s axe does fall a little bit on Messrs. Bogert and Appice; Carmine for dubious drum tuning, and Tim for his “unbelievable fetish for volume”. Again, Jeff adds that Tim was “doing on bass what I should have been doing on lead guitar”, so the criticism is really against what the band became compared to the high and definite Beck ideals.
But Jeff, weren`t BBA going to be the ultimate band? “They were the ultimate for that stuff, making a lot of noise.”
As often happens with Jeff, the departure comes with plenty of unreleased material left that way. The second-album-that never-was went through so much re-mixing and reshuffling, all to no avail. But there`s also a large amount of live material in the old baked bean can, and for a studio-hating live guitarist, it`s sad that there`s never been a live album that has showcased Beck live.
“A lot of people think the live tunes should be the next album, but that would be looking back. There are one or two things I wouldn`t mind being released, but they would have to be done right.” Naturally enough, he`s lost interest again, after all there`s a whole album since then, which he grudgingly admits is the first solo album, and even more grudgingly admits (with some persuasion from his management) he has had more control over than any previous album he`s been on.
The new album has Max Middleton, the keyboard man from “Rough And Ready” days. Philip Chen, bass player on just about everything British and funky of late, and drummer Richard Bailey, currently on tour with David Essex, and is produced by George Martin. From which set of names, I think you can take it that it will be more melodic than recent Beck records. But Jeff says it isn`t close to “Rough And Ready”.
“People might think that because of Max being on it, because he`s very forceful and very influential. I call him Max “Doorbell” Middleton, because he always puts in two notes that go “ding-dong”, and it sounds like somebody at the door.”
What is it like? Well, it`s almost entirely instrumental, and Jeff describes it as a mixed package. “There`s a lot of varied moods on it, and…I dunno. There`s not the magic that I wanted on there. It`s very hard to describe, but the album was under my control for the first half, and then there`s some stuff on there that I didn`t write and I had to be bribed and convinced that, that part was going to be all right. There`s some good and some unsuitable.
“There`s a shortage of good material now, and there is some good material on the album, and none of it`s bad. It`ll definitely be the best-produced album I`ve made, George Martin`s great, very level headed. Nothing impresses him.”
The album will again be with CBS, for whom Jeff is signed directly to America, and his relations with the company seem very good.
He`s still not entirely sure that the album is representative Guaranteed Genuine Jeff, and the next road band is going to be very different again from the studio one. Finding the right people is going to be very difficult, given that Jeff listens almost exclusively to black music.
Does he ever try and sound black? “No, no. I`m white…well, sort of blotchy. There`s no way a white group can sound black.”
The group? Well, he`s not going to go through protracted auditions, and he thinks most of them will have to be black, especially the drummer. “I think this`ll probably be the last band I`ll ever have, I want it to be exactly what I want. I don`t want four robots or anything like that, but not too big egos either.”
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Bob Dylan, Alan Price, Golden Earring, The Faces, Jethro Tull, Gary Glitter, Gary Shearston, Wizzard, Doug Kershaw, The Irish Question, ELP, Brian Eno, Sutherland Brothers & Quiver.
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