Thursday, September 17, 2020

The Yardbirds Take Off Like a Lead Zeppelin - 1968

In 1964, the Yardbirds succeeded The Rolling Stones as the house band at the Crawdaddy Club, 1 Kew Road, in Richmond, Surray (It was there, in February 1963 when The Rolling Stones, with all six original members, played their first gig). The Yardbirds were: Eric Clapton, Chris Dreja (rhythm guitar), Jim McCarty (drums), Keith Relf (vocals, harmonica) and Paul Samwell Smith (bass). Clapton would leave in 1965 (following the release of “For Your Love”) to be replaced by Jeff Beck. This iteration of the band would have hits in "Over Under Sideways Down" and "Heartful of Soul" both major breaks into the U.S. market, the latter penned by future 10cc member, Graham Gouldman. Although it didn’t chart in America, "Shapes of Things" would show its might among rising songwriters, including Paul McCartney and Jimi Hendrix, in years to come (David Bowie would cover the track in 1973's Pin Ups). In the year to follow, The Yardbirds, with Beck, would tour extensively, both in the U.K and in America.

In 1966, Paul Samwell-Smith, the Yardbirds' bassist, decided to leave the group to work as a producer. Jimmy Page was already a well-established studio session man, having played on The Kinks' "I’m a Lover Not a Fighter," The Who's "I Can’t Explain," The Rolling Stones' "Heart of Stone," Them's "Baby Please Don’t Go" and Petula Clark’s "Downtown." Page agreed to play bass in The Yardbirds until rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja transitioned to that instrument. Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page can be heard together on a number of Yardbirds tracks. The most notable is psychedelic classic, "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago" – not only because it features both Page and Beck on lead, but because session bassist John Paul Jones was brought in to play in Page's stead. In addition, for Michelangelo Antonioni’s film noir, Blowup, The Yardbirds, with double leads by Page and Beck, performed "Stroll On," an electric rendition of "Train Keeps a Rollin." Aside from a TV spot for a milkshake product called "Great Shakes," there is only one other Beck/Page track, with John Paul Jones on bass, Keith Moon on drums and Nicky Hopkins on piano—"Beck's Bolero," a piece inspired by Ravel's "Bolero", credited to Page (Beck also claims to have written the song). "Beck's Bolero" was first released as the B-side of Beck's first solo single, "Hi Ho Silver Lining" and was included on Truth.

Beck would leave the band (or was fired from the band) in October 1966 leaving Page the sole lead guitar. The band’s early success as a singles band was never repeated and The Yardbirds would spend the remainder of their time together as a heavier, more experimental unit, rarely playing the hits. One such tune was folk singer, Jake Holmes' "Dazed and Confused." Whether intended or not, Page was grooming himself for his next step. The band would stay together until July 1968 when Rolling Stone announced that Page intended to "go solo." Relf and McCarty would leave the band shortly thereafter to ultimately form Renaissance.

Rather than a solo career, though, Page recruited John Paul Jones and (along with the input of Keith Moon who said their sound would take off like a "lead zeppelin"), the impetus for Led Zeppelin (despite Moonie's skepticism), was established. Page plucked Robert Plant from the folk-rock Band of Joy and Plant, in turn, convinced Page to use his estimable rhythmic foil in that group, John Bonham, on drums. In 1968, The New Yardbirds were formed (minus Dreja), soon to change the name to Led Zeppelin.