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The Yardbirds

The Yardbirds

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The Yardbirds <tr style="text-align: center;"><td colspan="3">Image:Yardbirds including Clapton.jpg
The Yardbirds under Eric Clapton
Background information

<tr><td>Origin</td><td colspan="2">Image:Flag of England (bordered).svg London, England</td></tr><tr><td>Genre(s)</td><td colspan="2">Blues-Rock\Pop\Folk Rock</td></tr><tr><td>Years active</td><td colspan="2">19621968
1992present</td></tr><tr><td style="padding-right: 1em;">Label(s)</td><td colspan="2">Columbia Records (UK)
Epic Records (US)</td></tr><tr><td>Website</td><td colspan="2"></td></tr><tr><th style="background: #b0c4de;" colspan="3">Members</th></tr><tr><td style="text-align: center;" colspan="3">Keith Relf
Chris Dreja
Jim McCarty
Paul Samwell-Smith
Top Topham
Eric Clapton
Jeff Beck
Jimmy Page</td></tr>

The Yardbirds were an early English rock band, noted for starting the careers of three of rock's most famous guitarists, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. A blues-based band whose sound evolved into experimental pop rock, they had a string of hits including “For Your Love”, “Over, Under, Sideways, Down” and “Heart Full Of Soul”. They were a crucial link between British R&B and psychedelia; they set the framework for heavy metal explored further by Led Zeppelin and their guitarists were extremely influential in music.

The Yardbirds were pioneers in almost every guitar innovation of the '60s: fuzz tone, feedback, distortion, improved amplification, and were one of the first to put an emphasis on complex lead guitar parts and experimentation. They eventually evolved into Led Zeppelin, once Jimmy Page became the leader and the rest of the members left after several unsuccessful efforts to keep them in, forcing Page to find replacements in the form of John Paul Jones, Robert Plant, and John Bonham.

The term, "Yardbird" is southern American slang for 'chicken' (as in poultry), and it is a slang expression for "prisoner," i.e. one hanging out in the prison yard.


[edit] History

[edit] Beginnings

Formed originally as the Metropolitan Blues Quartet in 196263 in the London suburbs, the Yardbirds first achieved notice on the burgeoning British blues scene (or "rhythm and blues", as the British music press alluded to it) when they took over as the house band at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond—succeeding the Rolling Stones in September 1963. With a repertoire drawn more from the Delta-soaked Chicago blues titans Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson II, and Elmore James than the more commercially-minded Chuck Berry and Jimmy Reed influences of the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds began to build a following of their own in London before very long. Their inexperience and their less-than-stellar musicianship was obvious but their commitment was just as powerful, as they hammered away at versions of such blues classics as "Smokestack Lightning", "Got Love If You Want It", "Here 'Tis", "Baby What's Wrong", "Good Morning Little School Girl", "Boom Boom", "I Wish You Would", "Done Somebody Wrong", "Rollin' and Tumblin'", and "For Your Love".

They made their first significant lineup addition when singer/harmonica player Keith Relf, rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja, bassist Paul Samwell-Smith and drummer Jim McCarty, replaced original lead guitarist (Anthony) Top Topham with a very boyish-looking art student named Eric Clapton in October 1963. Clapton already knew what he was doing with his instrument; his solo turns, while far enough from the gripping little gems for which he became famous soon enough, already set him apart from most of his peers among the British blues clubbers. Between his sleek guitar playing and Keith Relf's improving harmonica style, the group could at least boast two attractive players that made listeners overlook their still-incomplete rhythmic attack. And, of critical importance, Crawdaddy Club impresario Giorgio Gomelsky—who had all but discovered the Rolling Stones but thought it beyond his range to become their manager—learned enough from his previous miss to become the Yardbirds' manager and, as it turned out, first producer.

Under Gomelsky's guidance, the Yardbirds got themselves signed to EMI's Columbia label in early 1964; they set a precedent of a sort when their first album turned out to be a live album, Five Live Yardbirds, recorded at the legendary Marquee Club in London. The group was well enough reputed that none other than blues legend Sonny Boy Williamson himself invited the group to tour England and Germany with him, a union that survives to this day on a live album memorable for Williamson's trouper-like adaptation of his deep troubador style of blues to the Yardbirds' raw, unpolished rock and roll version. ("Those English kids," Williamson said famously of the Yardbirds and other British blues groups like the Animals and the Stones, "want to play the blues so bad—and they play the blues so bad", though he had a personal affection for the Yardbirds' members and even thought of moving to England permanently, until the illness that resulted in his early death in 1965.)

[edit] Breakthrough success and Clapton secession

The quintet went from there to cut several singles, including "I Wish You Would", but it was their third single, "For Your Love", a Graham Gouldman composition that was anything but the blues, which put the band to their highest chart position yet in England—and gave them their first major hit in the United States when it was released Stateside in 1965. The group's move into pop outraged lead guitarist Eric Clapton, at the time a no-holds-barred blues purist, who had already doubted the ability of "nice college kids" like bassist Paul Samwell-Smith to play the "real blues". Clapton left the group in protest, subsequently joining John Mayall's Blues Breakers. The loss could have been devastating to the Yardbirds; Clapton had already shown the striking, stabbingly virtuosic style he would later expand and deepen with Mayall and unfurl as a full-fledged virtuoso statement with the improvisational blues rock/psychedelic Cream and return to pure blues again with Derek & The Dominos. Clapton recommended Jimmy Page, a studio guitarist he knew (and with whom he would soon cut a series of stirring blues guitar duets, including "Tribute to Elmore" and "Draggin' My Tail"), as his replacement, but Page—uncertain at the time about giving up his lucrative studio work—recommended in turn his friend Jeff Beck, whose fleet-fingered style and bent for experimentation pushed the Yardbirds to the direction from which they became widely credited for opening the door to "psychedelic" rock.

In 1965, the Yardbirds issued a pair of albums in the U.S., slapped together somewhat haphazardly from their British recordings, For Your Love (which included a delightful early take of "Hang On, Sloopy"—they'd gotten hold of a demo of the song before the McCoys had their chartbusting crack at it a year later, and their patented doubletime "rave up" version is a treat) and Havin' A Rave Up With The Yardbirds, half of which came from Five Live Yardbirds.

[edit] Jeff Beck's tenure

Beck's tenure in the group produced a number of memorable recordings, from single hits like "Heart Full of Soul", "I'm A Man", and "Shapes of Things" to the Yardbirds album (known more popularly as Roger the Engineer, and first issued in the U.S. in a bowdlerised version called Over Under Sideways Down), and established him as a top-rank guitarist whose experiments with fuzz tone, feedback, and distortion jolted British rock forward with a bold dropkick. In addition, the Yardbirds began serious experiments with things like adapting Gregorian chant ("Still I'm Sad", "Turn Into Earth", "Hot House of Omagarashid", "Farewell", "Ever Since The World Began") and various European folk styles into their blues and rock rooted music, and this gained them a new reputation among the hipster underground even as their commercial appeal had begun already to wane.

It was shortly after the sessions that produced Yardbirds that Paul Samwell-Smith decided to leave the group and work behind the console as a record producer. Jimmy Page re-entered the picture here, agreeing to play bass until rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja could become comfortable with that instrument, and then teaming with Beck for tantalising twin-guitar attacks. Pronounced examples of what the Beck-Page tandem could do were the concert dates they played as the opening band for The Rolling Stones, in which they were described by critics as "World War Three", and the single "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago", a 2:55 psychedelic explosion that was the most experimental pop record that had been recorded to date. "Happenings" featured Beck and Page on twin lead guitar, with John Paul Jones brought in to the recording session to play bass; it was backed with "Psycho Daisies", which featured Beck on lead guitar and Page on bass. The Beck-Page era Yardbirds also recorded "Stroll On", their half-crazed rendition of their standard "Train Kept A-Rollin'", which they recorded for the Antonioni film, Blowup. Relf changed the lyrics and title the night before it was recorded because there was not enough time to acquire permission from the copyright holder. "Stroll On" features a twin lead-guitar break, so it is very likely that the Beck-Page tandem was at work on this recording. The Beck-Page lineup is believed to have made one other recording, a commercial for a milkshake product "Great Shakes" -- a short rehash of "Over Under Sideways Down". There was also one additional recording that Beck and Page made in secret -- "Beck's Bolero", a piece inspired by Ravel's "Bolero" yet credited to "Page" (Beck also claims to have written the song). The rest of the lineup was John Paul Jones on bass, Keith Moon on drums, and Nicky Hopkins on piano. "Beck's Bolero" was first released as the B-side of Beck's first solo single, "Hi Ho Silver Lining", and was included on his first solo album, "Truth".

Their appearance in Blowup was accidental: originally, The In-Crowd had been planned but they were unable to attend the filming. The Yardbirds filled in at short notice, and the guitar that Beck smashes at the end of their set is a replica of Steve Howe's instrument.

[edit] The Yardbirds' final days: the Page era

The powerful synergy between Beck and Page proved short-lived, Beck either quit or was fired from the group after a tour stop in Texas in late October 1966, and the Yardbirds continued as a quartet for the remainder of their career. Page became the new lead guitarist and he was just as bent toward experimentation as Beck, particularly his striking technique of scraping a violin or cello bow across his guitar strings to induce a round of odd and surreal sounds, and his dextrous use of a wah-wah pedal. He also proved an adept finger-style guitarist, as evident on the shimmering "White Summer", a raga- and folk-styled instrumental composition that employs the melody of "She Moves Through The Fair" and owes an evident debt to Davy Graham's "She Moved Through the Bizarre".

Increasing chart indifference, record company pressure (their British label EMI pressed hitmaking producer Mickie Most upon them in a failed bid to re-ignite their commercial success), and drug-related problems meant that by 1967, the Yardbirds' days were numbered. The "Little Games" single released in the spring flopped so badly in the UK that EMI did not release a Yardbirds record in Britain for another year. A cover of Manfred Mann's "Ha Ha Said The Clown" -- on which only one band member, Relf, actually performed -- was the band's last single to crack the U.S. Top 50, peaking at No. 44 in Billboard in the summer of '67. Their final album Little Games, a psychedelic album released in the U.S. that July, did poorly. The Yardbirds spent most of the rest of that year touring in the States with new manager Peter Grant while living a schizophrenic pop life: their records became more benign (a cover of Harry Nilsson's "Ten Little Indians" hit the U.S. in the fall of '67 and quickly sank) as their live shows were becoming heavier and more experimental. The band rarely played their 1967 singles live, preferring to mix the Beck-era hits with blues standards and covers by groups such as the Velvet Underground and an American folk singer named Jake Holmes. Holmes' "Dazed and Confused", with lyrics rewritten by Relf and cranked up to a blues-metal frenzy by Page, McCarty and Dreja, was a live staple of the Yardbirds' last two American tours -- and it went down so well that Page decided to keep it in the quiver even after the band's demise.

A concert and some album tracks were recorded in New York City in March 1968. All were shelved at the band's request, although once Led Zeppelin hit big, Epic tried to cash in by releasing the concert material as the bootleg "Live Yardbirds! Featuring Jimmy Page". The album was quickly withdrawn after Page's lawyers slapped an injunction on it. The Yardbirds' final single, "Goodnight Sweet Josephine", was recorded in January 1968. Released two months later, it failed to crack the Billboard Top 100 but is notable in retrospect for its B-side, "Think About It", which featured a proto-Zeppelin Page riff and snippets of the "Dazed" guitar solo in the break.

Too little, too late. The band had split in spirit by the end of 1967: Relf and McCarty wanted to go folk, Page wanted to play louder, and ne'er the twain did meet. The Yardbirds played their final gig at Luton Technical College in Bedfordshire on July 7, 1968.

[edit] Evolution into Led Zeppelin

But Jimmy Page, left with a touring commitment yet unfulfilled in Scandinavia, was compelled to put a new lineup together. Terry Reid was asked to join the new group, but he turned down the offer because of his new recording contract, instead recommending a then-unknown Midlands singer by the name of Robert Plant. Plant, in turn, recommended his childhood friend John Bonham on drums. Dreja bowed out to pursue a career as a rock photographer; enter bassist/keyboardist/arranger John Paul Jones, who had reportedly inquired about forming a band with Page as early as 1967. They made the tour as "The Yardbirds". Fans at these early shows were confused by new members they were expecting to see Keith Relf. After this brief tour the band found themselves clicking, and repaired home to England to produce, in a very short time, a landmark debut album. Interestingly, what was to become Led Zeppelin was still being billed as "Yard Birds" or "The Yardbirds Featuring Jimmy Page" as late as October 1968; indeed, some early studio tapes from the Led Zeppelin album were marked as being performed by "The Yardbirds". The Yardbirds record company Epic believe that the band with Jimmy Page were under contract still to Epic. They soon found out that Jimmy was not under contract as a Yardbird and thus was free to sign with who ever he wanted to. When Led Zeppelin signed with Atlantic Records Clive Davis was not happy and remembered they had the old tapes from the Anderson Theatre. They issued the album not once but twice under the Sony special products label in 1971. Jimmy would have continued to use the name but legal threat from Dreja (who claimed he also shared rights to the Yardbirds name) that hastened the name change, finally closing the books on the Yardbirds for the rest of the century. The term "Led Zeppelin" had originally been popularized by The Who's Keith Moon as early as 1966 as a tongue-in-cheek name for a proposed "supergroup" that would have comprised himself, John Entwistle, Beck and Page. By spring 1969, it was synonymous with a band that would revolutionize rock over the next decade.

[edit] After the Yardbirds

The remaining Yardbirds did not exactly go gently into that good night. Samwell-Smith, who had gone on to fame as Cat Stevens' producer in 1970, helped vocalist Relf and drummer McCarty organise a new folk group called Together and later, Renaissance.

Keith Relf resurfaced in the mid 1970s with a new quartet, Armageddon, a hybrid of hard, thrusting rock and folk that included former Renaissance mate Louis Cenammo. They recorded one promising album before Relf died in an electrical accident while playing an ungrounded guitar in his home studio in May 1976 Jim McCarty meanwhile formed Shoot in 1973 and produced one lp called "On the Frontier" The band never toured but did perform on the BBC several times and recorded an unreleased 2nd album. Keith Relf was in the process of forming a new band/project called "NOW". Which quickly evolved into Illusion featuring Jim McCarty and Keith Relf along with the ex-members of Renassiance. By this time the name was being used by another Renassiance so they took the name Illusion from their 2nd Album.

Jim McCarty, Paul Samwell-Smith (who had remained Cat Stevens' producer to the day Stevens converted to Islam and withdrew from pop music entirely), and Chris Dreja offered a nucleus in the 1980s for a short-enough lived but fun-enough kind of Yardbirds semi-reunion called Box of Frogs, which occasionally included Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page plus various friends with whom they'd all recorded over the years.

The Yardbirds were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. All six living musicians who had been part of the group's heyday, including Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page, appeared at the ceremony. (Contrary to numerous misidentifications over the years, those three had never played in the group together; the confusion may have stemmed from the misleading title of the 1971 Epic Records anthology Yardbirds Featuring Performances By: Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, a set which fell out of print and became a very expensive collectors' item for many years.) Jeff Beck cracked at the ceremony: "I suppose I should say thank you, but they fired me - so fuck 'em!".

[edit] Reformation

Jim McCarty and Chris Dreja reformed the Yardbirds in the 1990s, with John Idan handling bass and lead vocals, and touring regularly since then with a number of guitarists and harmonica players passing through their ranks.

In 2003, a new album, Birdland, was released under the Yardbirds name on the Favored Nations label by a lineup including Chris Dreja, Jim McCarty, and new members Gypie Mayo (lead guitar, backing vocals), John Idan (bass, lead vocals) and Alan Glen (harmonica, backing vocals), which consisted of a mixture of new material mostly penned by McCarty and re-recordings of some of their greatest hits, with guest appearances by Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Slash, Brian May, Steve Lukather, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, John Rzeznik, Martin Ditchum and Simon McCarty. Also, Jeff Beck reunited with his former bandmates on the song "My Blind Life". The Shivers opened for them when they played in Indianapolis on this tour. And then there was the rare and improbable guest appearance on stage in 2005 by their first guitarist from sixties, Top Topham.

Since the release of Birdland, Gypie Mayo has been briefly replaced by Jerry Donahue, and subsequently by 22 year old Ben King, while Alan Glen has been replaced by Billy Boy Miskimmon from Nine Below Zero fame.

[edit] Members

The Yardbirds Line-Ups
The Yardbirds
(1963 - 1963)
The Yardbirds
(1963 - 1965)
The Yardbirds
(1965 - 1966)
The Yardbirds
The Yardbirds
(1966 - 1968)
The Yardbirds
(1992 - 1994)
The Yardbirds
(1994 - 1996)
The Yardbirds
(1996 - 1997)
The Yardbirds
(1997 - 2001)
The Yardbirds
(2001 - 2003)
The Yardbirds
(2003 - 2004)
The Yardbirds
(2004 - present)

[edit] Discography

[edit] Albums

[edit] Singles

  • I Wish You Would/ A Certain Girl - Columbia DB7283 1964
  • Good Morning Little Schoolgirl/ I Ain't Got You - Columbia DB7391 1964 #44
  • For Your Love/ Got To Hurry - Columbia DB7499 1965 #3
  • Heart Full Of Soul/ Steeled Blues - Columbia DB7594 1965 #2
  • Evil Hearted You/ Still I'm Sad - Columbia DB7706 1965 #3
  • Shapes Of Things/ You're A Better Man Than I - Columbia DB7848 1966 #3
  • Over Under Sideways Down/ Jeff's Boogie - Columbia DB7928 1966 #10
  • Questa Volta/ Paff...Bumm - R International SI R20-010 1966 (Italy only)
  • Happenings Ten Years Time Ago / Psycho Daisies - Columbia DB8024 1966 #43
  • Little Games/ Puzzles - Columbia DB8165 1967
  • Ha Ha Said The Clown/ Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor - Epic 5-10204 1967 (USA)
  • Ten Little Indians/ Drinking Muddy Water - Epic 5-10248 1967 (USA)
  • Goodnight Sweet Josephine/ Think About It - Epic 5-10303 1968 (USA)

[edit] Box Of Frogs

Vocalist John Fiddler and reunited Yardbirds founding members Jim McCarty, Chris Dreja and Paul Samwell-Smith.

[edit] The Honeydrippers

Vocalist Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page with Yardbirds colleague Jeff Beck

[edit] External links

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The Yardbirds

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