TOOLS OF THE TRADE: Fender Jeff Beck Signature Strat, Fender Esquire, Gibson Les Paul, Marshall amps, his fingers
KEY ALBUMS: Truth, Blow by Blow, Wired, Guitar Shop
SIGNATURE SONGS: "Cause We've Ended as Lovers," "Freeway Jam," "People Get Ready," "A Day in the Life"
HIDDEN GEM: "Where Were You"
HALLMARK: Quirky, unpredictable lines; one of the greatest musical interpreters of all time
The guitarist's guitarist, Jeff Beck is probably the most respected and revered player among his peers, even though he never reached the same commercial success and broad appeal as fellow '60s British guitar gods Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. He has nonetheless charted a career rich in diversity, versatility, and new frontiers, and unlike his esteemed cohorts, El Becko's stock even now in the twilight of his career is on the rise!
Musically speaking, you name it, Beck's done it. From his early blues-drenched rock with the Yardbirds and the Jeff Beck Group (with Rod Stewart on vocals) to his fusion-fueled work in the '70s to his slick, synth-flavored work of the '80s to his sporadic yet special appearances in the '90s and through the mid '00s, Beck has always been on the cutting edge of guitar playing. In the past three years, Beck has resurrected his career with outstanding results. His DVD, Live at Ronnie Scott's, utterly and completely blew away reviewers and guitarists across the board. He was then inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist, and in the subsequent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City, Beck stole the show. His masterly interpretation of the Beatles' "A Day in the Life" earned him a 2010 Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental. And, finally, his June 2010 tribute show to Les Paul at the Iridium in New York City, was a red-carpet, star-studded event, which you can see in its entirety on the Jeff Beck: Rock and Roll Party Honoring Les Paul DVD.
One of the traits that makes Beck so Special as a guitarist is his canny sense of pitch. Whammy bars and Fender Strats typically do not make a good combination, yet Beck yanks and cranks on his to produce everything from extreme divebombs to gentle, pitch-perfect harmonic melodies. Another key element to his unique phrasing is his dynamic timing. He plays a little behind the beat here, a little ahead there, yet it always feels tight.
Other Beckisms include his penchant for pre-bent notes and bend when and where you least expect them, the courage to play any note he wants to play—regardless of the key—and make it sound good, and the tonal variety he creates via switching pickups and manipulating his volume and tone controls. That's right, folks: those controls aren't glued at "10." Go ahead, give 'em a twist or two.