Keith Richards has addressed long-standing rumors that The Rolling Stones were once lining up to recruit Jeff Beck to their ranks, following the departure of Mick Taylor in 1974.
Taylor, who replaced founding multi-instrumentalist Brian Jones in 1969, was part of the Stones family for five years, and left shortly after the release of the band's It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll album. With the need for a new guitarist, the Stones swiftly began auditioning potential replacements.
As the reports go, Beck found himself on that list (alongside one Rory Gallagher), but after a trip to Rotterdam and an ill-fated audition, the two parties never saw eye-to-eye, and as such, the late electric guitar icon ended up remaining on his own musical path.
Speaking in a new interview with Guitar Player ahead of the release of the Rolling Stones' new album, Hackney Diamonds, Richards reflected on the post-Taylor period, and addressed whether there was any truth to the rumors of Beck’s potential appointment in the mid-’70s.
“We felt that Jeff had his own furrow to plow and that he was not a team man,” Richards recalled. “He was a soloist to the max. He was such an individualist. It wouldn’t have worked with the Stones at all. We’re all about teamwork.”
Despite the obvious creative clashes between Beck and the Stones, Richards was also quick to caveat his comments with the observation that the Stratocaster master was an exceptionally gifted guitarist.
“But don’t get me wrong, he was a tremendous player,” Richards went on. “The odd times we got together, I was always amazed by the stuff that he did with his tremolo bar. He was one of the best, man, and he’s going to be missed.”
Back in 2012, Beck gave his own account of his Stones audition, and cited similar reasons as for why his own interests and those of the band never truly aligned.
After not meeting any member of the band for the first two days following his trip to the studio, Beck then spent a day with them – enough time to realize they were both on completely different paths.
“Eventually, we got into the same room together and I started playing Bill Wyman’s bass so hard the dust was flying off,” Beck told Ultimate Classic Rock. “I wandered off and the engineer, Glyn Johns, said, ‘That’s incredible!’ I said, ‘One for the archives, mate. I’m leaving tomorrow.'”
Reportedly, Beck described their process as “dysfunctional,” and said he couldn’t deal with the “lack of purpose” that came with the gig, no matter how financially lucrative the package would have been.
“Some people might find it hard to believe that you’d walk away from the Stones gig,” he said, “but Keith and I wouldn’t have gone through an album without punching each other out anyway.”
Like Richards’ recent comments, Beck also had nothing but positive things to say about the rock ‘n’ roll icons, even going so far as to later tell BBC 6 Music (via Far Out) that he “would have loved to have been a Rolling Stone.”
“But the thought would have been better than the act, I think – the fantasy of it,” Beck mused. “I don’t think I would have lasted, number one. I don’t think, musically, they were on the same path.”
To read the full interview with Keith Richards, visit Magazines Direct and pick up issue 740 of Guitar Player.
That issue also contains an interview with Hackney Diamonds producer Andrew Watt, who tells the story of Paul McCartney creating “complete carnage” while in the studio with the Stones thanks to a modded Höfner bass.