Jeff Beck Discusses Gear, Technique and Hendrix in 1985 Guitar World Interview
Here's part one of our interview with Jeff Beck from the January 1985 issue of Guitar World. The original story by Gene Santoro ran with the headline "Jeff Beck, The Interview: Twenty Years of Rock and Roll Power," and the story started on page 34.
It’s been a long time since anybody’s heard from Jeff Beck. With the exception of the ten-date ARMS tour of 1984, his last time on the road was in 1981, in support of his album There and Back; and it was on that album and tour that the preeminent guitar-explorer bade farewell to his latest incarnation as a fusionmaster.
Nearly three years of silence followed, and as his old Yardbirds mate and longtime friend Jim McCarty put it, “We thought he needed a bit of shaking up.” The immediate result was Beck’s stunning reappearance as a badass rocker on four tracks of Box of Frogs, the album McCarty and the other surviving Yardbirds put out earlier this year.
Longer term, McCarty’s phone call to Beck was only the opening shot from a fusillade of guest-spot offers that had Beck appearing on cuts with the Vanilla Fudge, Tina Turner, Mick Jagger and, of course, Rod Stewart.
As you probably recall, Beck even toured with briefly with Stewart but bowed out after only a few dates. Then there’s Get Workin’, Beck’s own upcoming LP that, at the time of this writing, stands about seventy percent completed. It’s currently scheduled for an early 1985 release date.
Given all this activity by one of the acknowledged guitar heroes of an entire generation -- Beck's been recording, after all, for twenty years now, and managed to invent psychedelia, heavy metal and shriekback guitar along the way -- it seemed to us at GW that the fitting and obvious thing to do was to have a shot at putting Beck's career, achievements and musicianship into some kind of perspective.
Hence this two-part article. Part I is an exclusive interview with Beck speaking candidly and humorously -- so much for his reputation as the press' bad boy -- about a wide variety of topics: his re-entry into the music scene, the background for his various guest appearances, the new musical direction he's taking with Get Workin', his current equipment and new techniques, his own guitar heroes, his reactions to the crop of new electronic toys for guitarists and his thoughts on the current music scene.
Part II continues the discussion with Beck as he talks about his career as a superstar guitarist and its problems, how he thinks about his own playing, his perfectionism and his possible future musical directions. In addition, GW has talked with a number of musicians that have worked closely with Beck over the course of his career, people like Jim McCarty and Chris Dreja, Max Middleton, Jan Hammer, Stanley Clarke, Seymour Duncan. Their reminiscences and comments about Beck the musician and Beck the man -- how he works, what it's like working with him, the unique elements of his sound as a musician -- will make next issue's Jeff Beck Scrapbook an appropriate marker for this twentieth year of Beck's career.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, Jeff Beck.
GUITAR WORLD: You've resurfaced with a vengeance this last year or so.
That wasn't intentional, it just happened that way. The first thing was the Box of Frogs; they asked me last Christmas if I'd go down there and have a drink with them. So I went down there and had a drink with them and wound up playing on the record. Of course, they'd kinda said, "If you feel like it you can put a solo on here or there." I'd heard the demo beforehand and I quite liked it, and I couldn't see the harm of getting involved with old friends again.
What was it like getting back together with those guys after fifteen years?
Well, I was a bit afraid of what they'd sound like at first, because I don't think they had been near the music business, apart from the bass player, Samwell-Smith. But he kept his ear right to the ground the whole time: he's been producing a lot. So when I heard those tracks, I thought, "Wow, they're not bad at all; I've heard a lot worse." So I just went ahead and did my best for an afternoon. I say an afternoon, but I set up at three [p.m.] and we were working until about eleven at night. And [laughs] half an hour off for a drink!
How did you and Stewart hook up again?
I bumped into Rod the summer of '82, a: and I kept bumping into him in different places in Los Angeles. He was always friendly and saying, Well, when are we going to do something together? So I said, "Put your money where your mouth is." So then he organized the studio and we went in and did a thing called "People Get Ready." That turned out really well, and Warner Bros. and everybody just went crazy -- they loved it and all that.
Then they said, "All right, never mind your album, get something with Beck." So there was some talk about reforming [a group] with him, but that only happened on the three tracks with him on Camouflage. And it went from there: Rod rang up and said he loved what I had done on it, would I think about touring with him? What was spoken about was a very attractive offer financially, and also I wouldn't have to bear the brunt of headlining a tour, which after not touring for three years -- well, it's quite dicey out there, isn't it?
So I thought, "People are going to love this; if it turns out anything like what we're discussing it's going to be great." But, needless to say, it didn't, and I just got out of it as soon as possible, which was a shame, really. But he wasn't very forthcoming with any ideas which involved me, and I was just slotted in to about fifteen minutes. I just couldn't see the sense of touring the US, widespread, y'know, in that context. When my fans turned up they'd be thinking I'd gone mad or [pauses emphatically] moody.