Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page all got their start with The Yardbirds and went on to rock ‘n’ roll fame and fortune. The core of the band was Keith Relf (vocals and harmonica), Chris Dreja (initially rhythm guitar, then bass), and Jim McCarty (drums and backing vocals). As did many British bands from that era, they started off covering blues numbers, gradually moving into popular music. Clapton, who recorded their first major hit, “For Your Love,” left the band the day the single was released (March 25, 1965), unhappy with the direction the band was moving in. They asked Jimmy Page, who declined and recommended Jeff Beck. In early 1966, bassist Paul Samwell-Smith departed. Jimmy Page joined initially to play bass while Chris Dreja learned the instrument; when Dreja took over on bass, Page and Beck both played lead guitar until Beck left later that year.
Our first song today is “Over, Under, Sideways, Down.” Jeff Beck played lead and bass guitar on this track, which also included Relf, Dreja, and McCarty. Original bassist Samwell-Smith gets a vocal credit on this song. It reached #10 in the UK and #13 in the US in 1966. (The flip side was “Jeff’s Boogie,” an instrumental almost identical to Chuck Berry’s “Guitar Boogie.”)
Our second song is “Evil-Hearted You.” It wasn’t released in the US, but rose to #3 in the UK in 1965.
The band split up in 1968, with Page and Dreja wanting to stay with heavier rock music and Relf and McCarty moving more in the direction of folk and classical music. They recruited Robert Plant to do vocals, who recommended drummer John Bonham. When Dreja left to pursue a career in photography, they called on bass and keyboard player John Paul Jones, and the band was then rechristened Led Zeppelin.
McCarty, Dreja, and Samwell-Smith reunited as the Yardbirds in the early 1980’s for a “British Invasion” tour, and in 1992 McCarty, prompted by manager Peter Barton, reformed the Yardbirds, after the original band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The band has two websites, one for the UK and the other for the US.
The Yardbirds, your Two for Tuesday, June 23, 2015.