When a legendary guitarist is invited to play on another artist’s recording session, they are expected to make a noticeable impact on the song or album they're working on.
Such was often the case when the late Jeff Beck – as a session guitarist and/or “famous guest who just happened to be in the neighborhood, so he thought he’d drop by the studio” – lent his mythical six-string skills to other people’s tunes throughout the ages.
Below, we present 13 of Beck's best guest studio appearances, from studio sessions with Stevie Wonder and blazing cameo guitar solos with Jon Bon Jovi and Ozzy Osbourne all the way to a surprising reggae run-out with Toots & The Maytals.
13. Stevie Wonder – Lookin' For Another Pure Love
Album: Talking Book (1972)
Stevie Wonder’s sultry groove is the stuff of legend, but it comes as no surprise that Beck managed to go toe-to-toe with the soul man with a demonstration of his own formidable musicality on this cut from ‘72’s Talking Book.
Not only does he raise Wonder’s keyboard musings with some silky noodles of his own, Beck manages to steal the show with a crystal clean solo halfway through proceedings – an unfiltered lens into Beck’s brilliance.
12. Jon Bon Jovi – Blaze of Glory
Album: Blaze of Glory (1990)
No offense to my fellow New Jerseyan, Jon Bon Jovi, but for this particular example, we've decided to post a clip of just the guitar solo – to deliver you to Beckland as quickly and efficiently as possible.
In fact, you’ll also notice that another YouTuber has posted a 31-second clip of Beck’s isolated solo from this tune. At the very end of that clip, you can hear someone – probably Bon Jovi – scream, “Yeah!” from the control room. This creative, out-of-left-field little creation will probably inspire the very same reaction from you.
11. The Pretenders – Legalize Me
Album: Viva El Amor (1999)
At first, one wonders if Beck is even playing on this unassuming but catchy tune – until just around the 2:14 mark, when he boldly announces his presence with one of his trademark whammy-bar moves... and it just gets Beck-er from there.
10. Toots & The Maytals – 54-46 Was My Number
Album: True Love (2004)
This Toots album is packed with guest appearances by big-name guitarists, including Eric Clapton, Trey Anastasio, Bonnie Raitt and Keith Richards. But, as he always did, Beck stands out in the crowd, delivering a cool, weirdo solo that almost makes it sound as if his part was tracked backwards (It wasn’t). It was also a nice change of pace to hear Beck in a reggae setting.
9. Paul Rodgers – I Just Want to Make Love to You
Album: Muddy Water Blues: A Tribute to Muddy Waters (1993)
Simply put, Beck’s evil tone on the intro riff alone is enough to earn a spot on this list. Beck appeared on three songs on this Muddy Waters tribute album by the beloved Bad Company and Free frontman.
8. Paul Jones – The Dog Presides
Album: Insane Times (1968)
Here’s the Jeff Beck Group-era Beck sounding very much like his former Yardbird self on this song’s opening riff, fills and solo. The recording even features another former Yardbird, Paul Samwell-Smith, on bass, not to mention the Beatles’ Paul McCartney on drums. Sadly, no one can seem to identify the barking dog.
7. Narada Michael Walden – Saint and the Rascal
Album: Garden of Love Light (1976)
This catchy, funky, hooky instrumental can almost be considered an outtake from Wired, Beck’s 1976 album. After all, Narada Michael Walden played drums on Wired and wrote four of its songs, including Play with Me. Beck returned the favor in marvelous fashion by recording with Walden.
6. Jimmy Copley – Everyday I Have the Blues
Album: Slap My Hand (2008)
For fans who were turned off by the heavy-handed production on Beck’s 1986 album, Flash, it’s a treat to hear him play with such a small, stripped-down band here; in fact, all you really hear are the drums (the late Copley was a UK drummer with impressive credentials) and Beck’s chunky-sounding Strat.
And that’s fine, because you get to hear him turn a simple three-chord blues shuffle into a showcase for his whammy-bar hijinks and bizarro-world bits and pieces.
5. Rod Stewart – Infatuation
Album: Camouflage (1984)
Listen to how Beck contributed something special and unique to what could’ve been just another catchy mid-'80s pop hit. Beck also appeared in the music video – as does actor Mike Mazurki, who can be spotted in the films Some Like It Hot and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
4. John McLaughlin – Django
Album: The Promise (1995)
This one gives you lots of bang for your buck: you get Jeff Beck trading off with John McLaughlin on a seven-plus-minute rendition of John Lewis’ Django, a musical elegy for Django Reinhardt. Beck starts things off with the basic melody, and things pretty much get more and more interesting as the song moves forward.
3. Stanley Clarke – Hello Jeff
Album: Journey to Love (1975)
When the star of the show – in this case, bassist Stanley Clarke – actually incorporates his session guitarist’s name into the title of the track he played on, you can expect some memorable fretwork.
Such is the case on this mid-'70s instrumental gem, which features impressive playing by everyone involved, including the brilliant Clarke.
2. Roger Waters – What God Wants, Pt. III
Album: Amused to Death (1992)
Roger Waters is singing about vultures, bullets and soldiers, when, all of a sudden, a Strat bursts into the mix just before the two-minute mark, playing a powerful, emotional solo.
Is it an outtake from Pink Floyd’s The Wall? Nope; it’s one of a handful of Beck-enriched songs from Waters’ Amused to Death album. Check out Beck’s solo – how he uses every inch of real estate Waters gives him. If nothing else, the song answers the rarely asked question, “What would Pink Floyd have sounded like if Jeff Beck were in the band?”
“I still don’t know how he does it,” Waters has said of Beck. “He’s incredibly technically gifted in ways the rest of us can’t even begin to think about. He also has incredible pitch. When you play a harmonic and then play a melody on the whammy bar, it’s quite extraordinary to listen to.”
1. Ozzy Osbourne – Patient Number 9
Album: Patient Number 9 (2022)
The Prince of Darkness – aka one John Michael "Ozzy" Osbourne – has always surrounded himself with first-class guitarists, from Tony Iommi to Randy Rhoads to Jake E. Lee to Zakk Wylde to Gus G. and beyond.
So it makes perfect sense that on his pretty damned well received 2022 album, Patient Number 9, he'd finally add Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck to that list.
And while Clapton does a fine, slightly wild, not to mention slightly Cream-like job on his Ozzy collab (One of Those Days), Beck once again – and I know I've already said it above in this very story – stands out in a crowd.
Beck, who got the nod for the album's dramatic title track, pulls out all the stops, turning in a soup-to-nuts performance that not only ranks as one of 2022's greatest guitar moments, but also a genuine career highlight.
The track's importance and power has only grown since Beck's shocking death in January 2023; it stands as one of the last recorded works of a true six-string wizard.