When English guitarist Jeff Beck died unexpectedly on Jan. 10 at the age of 78, reportedly from complications from bacterial meningitis, the outpouring of appreciation was swift, including a nod from Dallas-based guitar god Jimmie Vaughan.
Beck’s acclaimed career initially tracked with the British Invasion — he logged time in the legendary Yardbirds, which also counted Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton among its ranks — and found him collaborating with a who’s who of legends: David Bowie, Keith Moon, Rod Stewart and Roger Waters, among many others, appeared on stage or on record with Beck.
To mark Beck’s passing, we reached out to a handful of North Texas-based guitarists, and asked them simply: What are your favorite Jeff Beck songs, and what did he mean to you? Here are their answers.
“I’ve got many favorite Jeff Beck songs, but I remember being very, very inspired by his Blow by Blow and Wired records,” Lettieri said via email. “Particularly, when I was in college, searching to find some sort of direction as a musician who wanted a career someday. Songs like ‘Constipated Duck’ (great title) and ‘Play with Me’ helped define my path as an artist.
“At the same time, watching him play ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ live at a show in 2010 was one of the only times I’ve ever cried at a performance. He had the ability to conjure up so many emotions, and you hung on every note. There was this spontaneity in his playing that was so engaging. And it all just sounded like ‘Jeff.’”
“Hard to pick a very favorite, but I’d probably have to go with ‘Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers’ — the way he makes the cry just weep (for lack of a better obvious description) sends chills,” Holt said via email. “Another that does that is ‘Where Were You.’ Nobody had better control or tone. When I saw him live, I was completely mesmerized by how he never seemed to lose complete focus … he never hit a wrong note; he never once seemed anything other than completely in control of the instrument.
“And that’s the rarest thing, especially for a player as adventurous as him. When you ask guitarists who the best guitarist is and so many of them say JB, you know there’s something to it. He was truly a musician’s musician. Never flashy for the sake of flash, always taking chances, always hanging over the edge, but somehow still sticking the landing.”
“My first introduction to Jeff Beck’s music was in 1977 as a 12-year-old learning to play guitar,” Kobetich said via email. “I remember going into Smithhaven Mall, Long Island, New York, with my mom, sis and bro as I was screaming out the melody to ‘Blue Wind,’ with the acoustics of the mall nicely lending to the annoyance I was generating. Honestly, I was so intimidated that I stuck with learning Black Sabbath’s music at the time! My older cousin turned me onto a best-of Yardbirds album, as well as Blow by Blow and Wired.
“I saw him once in 1983 for the Ronnie Lane benefit with Page and Clapton. I was a huge fan of Zeppelin, but lost interest in Clapton after Cream. Beck, I was still unfamiliar with a lot of his other music at the time, but recognized he just kept getting better … better than the other two! As I’ve matured as a musician, I’ve completely embraced branching out into uncharted musical territory, taking much inspiration from [Beck’s] career, though obviously trying not to copy. He was innovative from the very early days with the Yardbirds.”
Daniel Hines of Left Arm Tan
“Jeff Beck is the greatest,” Hines said via email. “While other hotshot guitarists can be compared to a F-35 fighter jet, performing amazing feats of speed, Jeff was a UFO doing things that no human had ever imagined. And he did it with melody, restraint and a song-first attitude. You’re never the same person after hearing Jeff play ‘Where Were You’ or ‘A Day in the Life.’ Such beauty.”
Preston Jones is a North Texas freelance writer and regular contributor to KXT. Email him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter (@prestonjones). Our work is made possible by our generous, music-loving members. If you like how we lift up local music, consider becoming a KXT sustaining member right here.