Jeff Beck is one of those musicians that exists in only the most hallowed of spheres. A virtuoso on the six-string, he has consistently trod his own unique path throughout his six-decade career. To get an essence of the rock god and the company his status affords — he was one of three iconic guitarists to play in the British Invasion troupe, the Yardbirds. It is not solely that he was a member of such an influential group, but that the other two guitarists who had, at points, assumed the role of six-string conjurer were none other than Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton.
In fact, Beck and Page would fleetingly play alongside each other as dual guitarists in the quintet. If filling the boots of Eric Clapton was not a significant indicator of Beck’s prowess, then surely being replaced by the future mastermind of Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page is. Over his career, Beck has combined styles such as hard rock, blues, jazz and electronica to cultivate high levels of respect.
Furthermore, Beck has lent his dexterity to the works of esteemed artists such as David Bowie, Hans Zimmer and Kate Bush over a variety of different formats. He is so respected that Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason alleged in his 2004 autobiography Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd, that in the wake of founder Syd Barrett’s departure, the group had pinpointed Jeff Beck as the ideal replacement, but “none of us had the nerve to ask him.”
As we have clearly outlined above, being a musician of such a mythic status with a career traceable back to the halcyon days of the ’60s, Beck’s life has been full of these interesting convergences with countless icons. In 2016, when promoting his album, Loud Hailer, Beck remembered one of the most influential guitarists of all time, Jimi Hendrix.
In discussion with legendary journalist David Fricke for Rolling Stone, the direction of the conversation was turned to the late ‘Purple Haze’ mastermind after Fricke drew sonic comparisons between ‘Scared for the Children’ and Hendrix. Beck revealed that the riff for the track “inadvertently came out” and was indeed inspired by Hendrix’s ‘Angel’. He then declared his undying love for the left-handed genius: “There’s no escape. I’ve never loved Hendrix more than I do now.” He continued, “Ever since I learned the chords to ‘Little Wing’, nobody can shut me up.”
Beck then cast his mind back to the time he first saw Hendrix perform: “It was probably one of the first shows he did (in London). It was in a tiny downstairs club in Queensgate. It was a fashion club – mostly girls, 18 to 25, all dolled up, hats and all. Jimi wasn’t known then. He came on, and I went, ‘Oh, my God.’ He had the military outfit on and hair that stuck out all over the place. They kicked off with (Bob Dylan’s) ‘Like a Rolling Stone’, and I thought, ‘Well, I used to be a guitarist.'”
Beck was then kind enough to transport us back to the era of flower-power and social upheaval as he described his relationship with Hendrix. It features a cameo from none other than the Rolling Stones’ future guitarist, Ronnie Wood. Beck told Fricke that he knew Hendrix “as well as you could in the fleeting moments.”
He explained: “When the Jeff Beck Group played the Scene (in New York in 1968), he was there most nights. What an education, having him come in with his guitar. One night he played mine. He didn’t have his guitar. I ended up playing bass. There’s a photo. Jimi’s in the shot, (bassist) Ron Wood is in the background. You don’t even see me in the picture.”
Beck’s mind-blowing story of coming into contact with one of the most iconic axemen of all time is indicative of the fast pace and perpetually revolving doors of the “Swinging Sixties”. It is a testament to the late Hendrix that even Jeff Beck, a virtuoso in his own right, should be greatly inspired by him, a sentiment that continues to course through his veins even today.
Listen to ‘Scared for the Children’, below.