Thoughts on the sad loss of a guitar genius – and friend. Jeff Beck.
I guess I’m struggling today, as everyone wants to talk about Jeff, of course, and they want to talk to me, but I really don’t feel, I don’t really feel up to talking to the Press and media about it, ‘cos I don’t feel ready. This is such an extraordinary loss and he was such an extraordinary person. It’s hard to process the fact that he’s not here, apart from process what I would like to say.
Jeff was completely and utterly unique and the kind of musician, which, who was impossible to define and I was absolutely older than me and came from the same area where I came from, but he was a hero to me all along, doing things which I kind of dreamed of doing when I was at school – he was already up there in The Tridents and then in The Yardbirds, doing extraordinary things, and a major, major inspiration for me to try and do the same – not the same but to give myself a voice the way he had
If you wanna hear his depth of emotion, and sound and phrasing, and the way he could touch your soul, listen to ‘Where Were You’ off the “Guitar Shop” album. Just Google “Where were you Jeff Beck” and listen to it for four minutes. It’s unbelievable. It’s possibly the most beautiful bit of guitar music ever recorded, alongside Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Little Wing’. So sensitive, so beautiful. So incredibly creative and unlike anything you’ve ever heard anywhere else.
Yes of course he had his influences too, but he brought an amazing voice to rock music, which will never, ever be emulated or equalled.
Yeah, he came from my area, so he was like a local boy, and I saw him play so many times, always with my jaw on the ground, thinking, “How does he do that?” I often think it must have been might be like being around Mozart and seeing that incredible genius at work and wondering where it could possibly come from? How could he be that great?
And if you were with Jeff – if you were round his house, he’d come out from the garage having been under his, one of his cars for the last few hours – his finger ends all covered in grease and muck, and looking like he’d just kinda crawled out from a ditch somewhere. And then he’d pick up the guitar and this beautiful, sensitive music would come out. And I think I was very shy. I didn’t really know how to talk to him, ‘cos I couldn’t quite follow him. He wasn’t an easy person for me, maybe because I was in so much awe of him that I was never at ease. And I wrote him a song. I wrote, well I wrote a song about him called ‘The Guv’nor’ for one of my solo albums, and he came over to my place here in the studio – played it with me and we had a laugh – and he played some incredible stuff. Again my jaw dropped. I couldn’t really pick up a guitar when he was in the room because he was so incredible [laughs] – just wanted to watch and listen. So he played on the track and he was like: “Ah yeah, whatever.” And I don’t think I would ever put into words exactly how much I did revere him. I hope I gave him a picture. I don’t know if he knew, but I feel like I feel like I wasn’t a good enough friend to him and that’s one of the things that happens, I suppose, but particularly in this case I feel there were so many times I could’ve rung him up and I wish I had, to be a proper friend.
But Jeff Beck is so unique – so influential on every guitarist I’ve ever met in my life. The loss is incalculable. It’s so sad not having him in the world anymore. I still can’t quite compute it in my head. So this is as far as I can get at the moment, I’m afraid, but I was listening last night to my old Yardbirds albums, which is the first time when he kind of started to put out there what he could do “Over Under Sideways Down”. Have a listen to that. And “Shapes Of Things” – oh my God, when you get to the solo in the original Yardbirds version of ‘Shapes Of Things, it’s like something takes off like a space rocket. No-one had ever heard something like that before. Instead of the guitar sounding like a guitar, it sounded like something between a sitar and some strange wind instrument. Just listen to it. Blew my mind at the time as one of the major things which made me wanna play guitar as I do, and take it up as a career, if you like. But that will always, always stick in my mind ‘Shapes of Things’, ‘Where Were You’ from the “Guitar Shop”, but so many incredible things he did.
He was wild. He was unquantifiable, and extraordinarily difficult to understand, but one of the greatest guitar geniuses the world has ever seen and will ever see.
God bless you, Jeff. Miss you.”
Brian May: Thoughts on the loss of Jeff Beck 12/01/23