The Yardbirds were a rock band from southwest London, England. Among the most talented of the British invasion bands, the Yardbirds achieved moderate commercial success in the mid-sixties. Their career spanned the critical transition between the British embrace of American rhythm & blues, to the psychedelic rock era, with its unconventional instrumentation and lyricism. During their prime in the mid-sixties, the band made a couple of important personnel changes, and may be best known for featuring three lead guitarists who achieved great fame after leaving the band. After they disbanded in 1968, Jimmy Page recruited a new lineup as the New Yardbirds, before changing the band’s name to Led Zeppelin. The Yardbirds were inducted into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.
Keith Relf (1943-1976), vocals, harmonica
Chris Dreja (b. 1945), rhythm guitar, bass
Paul Samwell-Smith (b. 1943), bass, vocals
Jim McCarty (b. 1943), drums
Eric Clapton (b. 1945), lead guitar, vocals
Jeff Beck (b. 1944), lead guitar, vocals
Jimmy Page (b. 1944), lead guitar, bass
Eric Clapton and The Blues
In the late fifties and early sixties, British youths were inspired by American rock & roll music culture; many musicians favored the music of black Americans, especially the electric blues from Chicago, Illinois. Like the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds fall into this category of blues purists, captivated by the music of artists such as Elmore James, Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley.
Eric Clapton, a serious student of blues guitar, joined the Yardbirds in 1963. Here is the best available video of The Yardbirds with Clapton, a version of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Louise”. Mr. Clapton is already a formidable talent.
Yardbirds Go Pop, Clapton Leaves, Enter Jeff Beck
The band strayed from its blues roots with its third single, “For Your Love”. Clapton objected to the focus on commercial success, and left the band in protest. Jeff Beck joined the band in May, 1965.
Writing this profile brought back an odd memory, from a period in life with few concrete memories. I was playing football for my fifth grade elementary school team. We were playing Hillview, a crosstown school in Menlo Park. I remember a kid on the other team repeating the mantra “for your love” over and over to the point of annoyance. After that year, I never played organized football again. My parents never encouraged me to play sports, even though my father was a college football star. I played split end that year for the flag football team, and I caught quite a few passes.
With Jeff Beck as guitarist, The Yardbirds explored different sounds, employed unusual instruments and added special effects to Beck’s guitar. The band’s strongest material comes from this period.
“Heart Full Of Soul” and “For Your Love” were written by an outsider, bassist Graham Gouldman. There was a time when The Yardbirds and The Rolling Stones were somewhat comparable, both outstanding interpreters of American rhythm & blues. But Mick Jagger possesses great charisma as a front man, and he and Keith Richards learned how to write good songs, enabling them to express themselves to a far greater extent. Songwriting often separates the good from the great.
Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page played together in the Yardbirds for about four months; Beck was fired for disciplinary reasons in October, 1966. By 1968, Relf and McCarty wanted to move in a folk music direction, while Page pursued the heavier, bluesier sound that became Led Zeppelin. Here Page and the Yardbirds play an extended version of “I’m A Man” in 1967:
The Yardbirds Song Notes:
1. All live versions are found on The BBC Sessions, except for “Got Love If You Want It (Live)” and “Five Long Years (Live)”, which can be found on Five Live Yardbirds.
2. “Got To Hurry (Take 3)” can also be found on Five Live Yardbirds.
3. “Steeled Blues” can be found on The Yardbirds Story, Part 1.
4. All other songs should be pretty easy to find.
Shapes Of Things, The Yardbirds ✭✭✭
Heart Full Of Soul, The Yardbirds ✭✭✭
I’m A Man, The Yardbirds ✭✭✭
For Your Love, The Yardbirds ✭✭✭
Heart Full Of Soul (Live), The Yardbirds ✭✭✭
Shapes Of Things (Live), The Yardbirds ✭✭✭
For Your Love (Live), The Yardbirds ✭✭
Too Much Monkey Business (Live), The Yardbirds ✭✭
Love Me Like I Love You (Live), The Yardbirds ✭✭
I’m Not Talking (Live), The Yardbirds ✭✭
I Ain’t Got You, The Yardbirds ✭✭
Honey In Your Hips, The Yardbirds ✭✭
I’m Not Talking, The Yardbirds ✭✭
The Train Kept A-Rollin’, The Yardbirds ✭✭
Lost Women, The Yardbirds ✭✭
Happenings Ten Years Time Ago, The Yardbirds ✭✭
I Ain’t Done Wrong, The Yardbirds ✭✭
Steeled Blues, The Yardbirds ✭✭
I Ain’t Done Wrong (Live), The Yardbirds ✭
The Sun Is Shining (Live), The Yardbirds ✭
Good Morning Little School Girl, The Yardbirds ✭
Boom Boom, The Yardbirds ✭
Five Long Years (Live), The Yardbirds ✭
Got To Hurry (Take 3), The Yardbirds ✭
I Got Love If You Want It (Live), The Yardbirds ✭
Over Under Sideways Down, The Yardbirds ✭
The Nazz Are Blue, The Yardbirds ✭
Boom Boom, John Lee Hooker ✭✭✭
Boom Boom, The Animals ✭✭
I Got Love If You Want It, Slim Harpo ✭✭✭
Good Morning Little School Girl, Grateful Dead ✭✭
Good Morning Little School Girl, Sonny Boy Williamson I ✭✭
Five Long Years (Take 1), Eddie Boyd ✭✭
The Train Kept A-Rollin’, Tiny Bradshaw ✭✭✭
The Train Kept A-Rollin’, Aerosmith ✭✭
The Train Kept A-Rollin’, Johnny Burnette Trio ✭
I Ain’t Got You, Jimmy Reed ✭✭
I’m A Man, Bo Diddley ✭✭✭
Shapes Of Things, The Allman Joys ✭
Too Much Monkey Business, Chuck Berry ✭✭✭
I’m Not Talking, Mose Allison ✭✭✭