Before Jimi Hendrix’s arrival on London’s shores, Jeff Beck was one of the city’s most respected guitarists. However, now there was a new kid on the block. When Hendrix started to make waves, Beck was understandably curious, but nothing could have prepared him for what he was about to witness.
Beck had already proven his star quality with The Yardbirds before Hendrix made his way to London and was on the verge of beginning a solo venture. Although Beck’s temperament had caused him trouble in his career and led to his exit from The Yardbirds, his talent was never in doubt.
There was excitement about his next move, which turned out to be the formation of The Jeff Beck Group after he released a pair of solo singles in 1966. However, the surprise emergence of Jimi Hendrix took London by storm, and suddenly, Beck was no longer the most hotly anticipated star in the capital.
It didn’t take long for Hendrix to become a word-of-mouth sensation, and after hearing rave reviews about the new import, Beck felt compelled to see what all the fuss was about for himself. Understandably, the former Yardbirds axeman wanted to see Hendrix fail, but he was amazed by the spectacle the American put on, and the two then struck up a friendship.
He later recounted how his girlfriend told him about Hendrix and made him go to one of his shows. Beck revealed: “So I went down to see Hendrix at Blazes, and it was just unbelievable. It was like a bomb being blown up in the right place.”
He added: “I followed him around a bit, and he’d heard of me which I couldn’t believe, he said, ‘What’s that lick you play?’, and I said, ‘Happenings Ten Years Time Ago’, he said, ‘I swiped that on this’. Now I thought, this is incredible, we can talk music now, he’s not just an immovable force, and I can get some inspiration.”
While most artists would have been angry that their song had been stolen, Beck differed from the rest. Instead, he was honoured that Hendrix was aware of his work and the act of plagiarism only made him prouder.
Rather than being jealous of Hendrix’s otherworldly ability, Beck instead tried to spend as much time as possible in his company because he found him so greatly inspiring. The admittance of theft from Jimi only endeared him further to Beck and allowed them to speak freely on a level playing field as artists.