Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by YardByrd, Jul 21, 2016.
Yes, in the first 10 seconds even. Never twigged to that before.
That guitar tone is so dirty! No wonder word spread so quickly to go see this new band.
I'm curious, did you actually interview them both at the same time where they could hear each other's answers, or separately and then just arranged their answers together so the article would flow better?
Thanks again for sharing.
Both... One was after a gig in 97 with both... The other three years later, one at a time
Probably the best interview of any Yardbird anywhere, thanks.
"Happenings …" always impressed me it was about reincarnation.
Confirmed. Makes it even better!
On Page's guitar tones, I gotta vouch for the second backing track
to "Avron Knows", particularly the change just before the fade out
kicks in. Very punk; shoulda gone with that one.
I dug into my minimal live Yardies archives, and both of the other versions I have (31.5.68 & 1.6.68) use slide in this section, albeit an octave lower and consequently less noticeable. The original album version has no slide there, so it looks like Jimmy varied his approach from show to show.
I'll give the Shrine sets a close listen in the morning...
My favorite release of the year. I never thought I'd say that.
Thanks for posting these here. They answered a lot of my current questions.
Finally got notification from amazon that my cd has shipped .... been reading about this for weeks now and still haven't heard any of the new version ! .... but is mine gonna have "the gap" ? Has anybody dealt with amazon about this ?
I did a quick snip with Audacity.
As did I - but I still want the corrected CD.
I'm holding off ordering a little bit while the gap issue is taken care of. I've waited this long so...
Doesn't that still leave "something" out ? I thought that's what I read a couple dozen pages ago ....
I just hit the 2:13 gap on OUSD on my Amazon ordered CD. Arrgh! Should I send it back or it will it be worth more one day with the imperfection? Killing me.
I could be mistaken, but I believe a note has been cut right before the gap - but whoever posted about that feels the cut note is an edit, not something that was lost in the gap. The gap, as far as we can tell, is a "stutter," and added 1/10th of a second (give or take) of silence, not an actual dropout where a bit of music was lost.
But I could be wrong.
great thread and info.
Can 'A Tribute to Johnny Kidd and the Pirates' be far behind?
This article on the Jimmy Page Yardbirds is by yours truly from 2001. It is a back issue of Ugly Things magazine #20. The earlier McCarty & Dreja interview posted here was also from the same issue. Part two to follow.
IMAGES IN SOUND: The Yardbirds Final Flight 1966-68
"When The Yardbirds started getting high, that was the turning point.”– Rick Brown, The Misunderstood
Yardbirds – the name still elicits awe 33 years after the group’s demise.
Besides the similarly monikered Byrds, no other band embraced as many styles as did the English group. The Yardbirds mastered stone-cold blues, moody pop and jet-propelled rockabilly. They almost single-handedly pioneered psychedelia and its bastard stepchild, heavy metal. Further, an unreleased track from their last studio session affirms that they were on the cusp of inventing country-rock. Their influence on garage-rock subculture was equaled by few and surpassed by none.
Best known as the springboard for the Holy Trinity of Guitar– Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page all served stewardships in the group – The Yardbirds were actually a marvelous musical unit, albeit an unstable one in the personnel department.
The band’s history has been well documented in the past. Consequently, this article does not examine the group during Slowhand’s tenure or its Golden Age under Jeff Beck. However, the group’s kamikaze final flight with Jimmy Page at the controls usually gets short shrift. Over the past two years, unreleased Page-era studio tracks as well as a legendary live show have been issued, demanding a reassessment. This article attempts to do just that. So, climb into the way-back machine and hit rewind.
Beck & Page
Throughout 1966, The Yardbirds had experimented with painting in tonal colors. Exploiting Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page’s dual lead guitar abilities to their utmost, Keith Relf felt confident in describing the group’s music as “images in sound.” The Yardbirds made good on that boast, recording psychedelia’s siren song in July 1966. Unfortunately, “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” was to be the first and last single released by the Beck and Page lineup.
The song would peak at #30 in the American charts the following autumn. Along with The Byrds’ “Eight Miles High” and The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows,” The Yardbirds’ magnum opus issued a call to hallucinogenic mayhem that few could resist.
The 45’s non-U.S. flipside, “Psycho Daisies,” featured a rare vocal appearance by Jeff Beck. Basically a super-charged Eddie Cochran adaptation, the tune found Beck confessing his devotion to his Hollywood girlfriend, Mary Hughes.
Later in the year, a searing rewrite of “Train Kept A-Rollin’” appeared in the Swinging London movie, BLOW UP. Entitled “Stroll On,” the tune showcased the band in a nightclub scene with Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page on dual lead guitars. As Beck smashed his axe, Page smirked nefariously, his face wreathed with Beelzebub-like muttonchops.
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band was venturing into the same territory at the time with their two guitarists, Michael Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop. The American group’s magnificent EAST-WEST album found the duo swapping solos and forging raga rock in a slightly similar manner to The Yardbirds. However, Bloomfield and Bishop exchanged lead duties throughout the title song “East-West.” Bishop would solo as his band-mate provided rhythm guitar and vice versa.
Beck and Page, on the other hand, would play the same lead lines in tandem. In live situations, the duo spit out stereophonic clusters of synchronized notes on hits like “Over, Under, Sideways, Down.” The effect, to say the least, was devastating. Sadly, this potential was to remain untapped and largely unrecorded. The three aforementioned Yardbirds tunes are the only ones to showcase the star-crossed Beck and Page configuration in the studio. Jeff Beck’s initial enthusiasm at having Jimmy Page in the band slowly turned to insecurity. Beck was an emotional wildcard, playing a brilliant gig one night and then three disastrous shows in a row.
Page, on the other hand, had been Britain’s premier studio guitarist (playing on Kinks and Who sessions among many others). Honed in the hit-making factories of London, Page knew that one must deliver the goods upon demand if one was to be paid. Jimmy Page was never less than startlingly competent, if not quite reaching the stellar heights Beck could scale on occasion. Page’s professionalism and reliability exacerbated the already tenuous situation. Further, Beck felt that his territory was being encroached upon. He wanted to do all the guitar parts, apparently forgetting that he had been the one to offer Page an invitation to join the band in the first place.
Beck stopped showing up for gigs, leaving the band to soldier on as a four-piece. When he did actually bother to make an appearance, he was as apt to smash his axe as he was to play it. The Yardbirds had already played at least 150 shows in 1966 before even embarking upon their autumn American tour. The stress was becoming too much and things quickly came to a head. Jeff Beck’s behavior bordered on the bizarre. As an example, during a gig at The Comic Strip in Worcester, Massachusetts, Beck destroyed an amplifier out of frustration. One must keep in mind that the guitarist had just turned 22-years-old. The enormous pressure was too much to bear for a sensitive young man.
“It was on that Dick Clark tour – there were a few incidents. One time in the dressing room I walked in and Beck had his guitar up over his head, about to bring it down on Keith Relf’s head, but instead smashed it on the floor,” Jimmy Page recalled years later. “Relf looked at him with total astonishment and Beck said, ‘Why did you make me do that?’ ****ing hell. Everyone said ‘My goodness gracious, what a funny chap.’ We went back to the hotel and Beck showed me his tonsils, said he wasn’t feeling well and was going to see a doctor. He left for L.A. where we were headed anyway. When we got there, though, we realized that whatever doctor he was claiming to see must’ve had his office in the Whiskey. He was actually seeing his girlfriend, Mary Hughes, and had just used the doctor bit as an excuse to cut out on us.”
Obviously, things could not continue. To make a long story short, the band fired Jeff Beck. This left Page in an uncomfortable position. He was best of mates with Beck, yet after years spent laboring as a session musician he found himself relishing life with a functioning band. Beck pressed his friend to leave with him. Page opted to stay the course. With the abrupt dismissal of their wildcard guitarist in November 1966, five live Yardbirds were no more.
Then There Were Four
Jeff Beck was only the latest casualty in the ongoing rock n roll wars. The Yardbirds had lost Top Topham, Eric Clapton and Paul Samwell-Smith since 1963. Fortunately, Beck’s departure wasn’t quite as debilitating as it could have been. After all, the band had gotten used to carrying on as a quartet whenever the Moody One had stalked off during the ill-fated American tour.
However, only the most resilient of groups can lose four members in a three-year period and continue with a sense of cohesion. Once again, only a Byrds comparison is analogous. It’s downright stupefying that these two bands could suffer so many departures and boldly continue to map out uncharted territory. Compare their situations to The Beatles, who in sharp contrast were blessed with one producer and no personnel changes after issuing their first single, “Love Me Do.”
Obviously, with Jeff Beck’s exit musical elements changed within The Yardbirds. Whereas McCarty, Samwell-Smith and Beck had provided harmony vocals in the band’s classic lineup, only McCarty now filled the breach. He revealed himself to be a triple-threat: superb drummer, gifted songwriter and fine backup singer. In retrospect, it is interesting to note that even guitar-dominated bands of the time featured vocal harmonies, something sadly lacking in modern rock n roll.
Regardless, this stripped-down lineup also found Keith Relf stepping up. Over time, he began contributing rhythm guitar when the occasion warranted as well as his accustomed lead vocals and harmonica playing. Relf has been routinely criticized for his apparent shortcomings as a singer. One must take into account the fact that he suffered from debilitating asthma and had to use a bronchial inhaler in-between songs when they played live. He had suffered a collapsed lung in 1963 that had hospitalized him for six weeks. His flat and sinister tone suited The Yardbirds’ material perfectly however. A more gifted and authentic blues vocalist like an Eric Burdon or Van Morrison would have overwhelmed nefarious vehicles like “Shapes Of Things.” Finally, Keith Relf’s harmonica work reveals him to be a master of the instrument. Within the realm of ‘60s white blues, nobody is a more passionate harp player.
All these elements would rewire the group’s makeup over the coming months as they attempted to grapple with the new dynamics. The first order of business was fulfilling contractual obligations and getting in the studio.
With Beck gone, the band finished their scheduled fall tour of America. While in Detroit, The Yardbirds shared the bill with a new group out of New York, The Velvet Underground. A Lou Reed original, “I’m Waiting For The Man”, immediately captivated the Englishmen. The New Yorkers had not as yet released their debut album, THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO. Soon, The Yardbirds would be one of the first to purchase it.
Back in England, The Yardbirds entered the studio for the first time as a four-piece. Unfortunately, they had very little material to record. This should not have come as a surprise. Having recorded their classic ROGER THE ENGINEER album barely six months previously, the group had since embarked on another punishing schedule, playing at least 120 dates throughout the world. They were only able to snatch a one-day breather to record in their busy itinerary before embarking on another eight-day tour of the States.
On December 22, 1966, The Yardbirds entered Olympic Studios in London to lay down some tracks. The band tried to catch lightning in a bottle once more by doing another Graham Gouldman composition, “You Stole My Love.” This was to be their fourth cover of his material. They attempted to recreate the magic of the “For Your Love” sessions by bringing in ex-Yardbird Paul Samwell-Smith to produce said session. Things did not go smoothly. Samwell-Smith had already produced (Gouldman’s own band) The Mockingbirds’ version and did not realize that The Yardbirds intended to cover it. Samwell-Smith was not happy with the group’s choice of material and he was further annoyed that the musicians hadn’t even worked out an arrangement. Jimmy Page was actually teaching Dreja the necessary changes in the studio. Further, Samwell-Smith and Page clashed immediately. Fifteen takes were attempted, but the song never progressed to the point where Keith Relf laid down a vocal. A piano-drum duet, “L.S.D.” was also composed on the spot, but is only of interest to the completist. Paul Samwell-Smith was not amused with the proceedings. He finally had enough and stormed out of the studio. Needless to say, neither song came to fruition. The two tunes would finally be issued in 1992 on the LITTLE GAMES SESSIONS & MORE compilation.
The title of the latter song makes it apparent that hallucinogenic drugs were tightening their grip on certain members of The Yardbirds. Relf and McCarty had been experimenting with marijuana and acid for some time. Dreja and Page steered well clear of drugs. This division would have a profound effect on the band over the next 18 months.
And that was it for studio work in 1966. Once again, The Yardbirds were faced with a daunting number of worldwide gigs that would take them well into the New Year. 1966 alone had witnessed nearly 200 documented gigs. It was taking its toll. Band members were falling by the wayside like GIs on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
Brave New World
Surely 1967 would be a better year. For one thing, the group had a new manger, its third since 1963. Gone was the egotistical Simon Napier-Bell. Enter Peter Grant. Grant was a hard-nosed and fearless character who looked out for his charges. Under his direction, the band finally began making money, which surprised them to no end.
A January and February tour of the Pacific with Roy Orbison found the band settling comfortably into the four-piece format. Orbison was not impressed, however. Night after night, The Yardbirds delivered a blistering version of “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago.” It failed to move the elder statesman of rock n roll. Orbison regarded it as little more than an audio triage clinic. To put it bluntly, The Yardbirds were too loud and wild for his taste.
Jimmy Page also introduced a new element into the band’s sonic alchemy at this time. In his studio days, Page had experimented with using a violin bow on his guitar.
“I had used it before I joined The Yardbirds. It was suggested to me by a session violinist. I didn’t think it could be done at first – bowing a flat necked instrument – but I took his advice and got a bow and started having a go and I could see the possibilities in it,” he said.
Jimmy Page could only bow two strings at a time to produce a melody. When he ran the bow across all six strings, a strange whooping sound was produced. With Beck safely out of the way, Jimmy Page pulled this striking gimmick out of his bag of tricks. As well as providing new tonal textures, it was an effective visual device. It’s been asserted that Page actually got this idea from Eddie Phillips of The Creation. However, many guitar players from David Lindley to Syd Barrett appear to have used a violin bow at the time. Who came up with the idea in the first place doesn’t really matter. Obviously, Page was determined to evolve. After all, that’s what this particular group was famed for.
In March 1967, the band finally entered the studio for the first time in four months. However, things had changed dramatically. For one thing, they were given a producer they’d never worked with before: Mickie Most. Most was well respected in the recording industry, having guided lightweight entities like Herman’s Hermits to chart success. Page was well acquainted with Mickie Most, having provided guitar work at the aforementioned act’s sessions. The pairing of pop producer Mickie Most with iconoclastic visionaries like The Yardbirds was an ill-conceived decision to say the least.
Groundbreaking singles like “Shapes Of Things” and “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” were not to be the order of the day anymore. The #30 U.S. peak of their last single, “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago,” was considered a major disaster. The powers-that-be decreed that there would be No More Taking Chances. Self-penned material would be relegated to album tracks. Therefore, Most assigned the group a song to record for release as a single. The first order of business was to tackle a charming ditty called “Little Games.”
While the song did feature a cello arrangement by Most session-crony John Paul Jones and a nifty solo from Page, it was certainly not on par with the group’s earlier revolutionary singles. The 45’s flipside, “Puzzles,” was solid, but still not up to snuff. However, it did boast a sizzling solo courtesy of Jimmy Page.
In April, “Little Games” was released. It went over like the proverbial lead balloon, struggling to #51 in America. It didn’t even make an appearance on the British charts.
In the interim, Epic had released a greatest hits package in the States in March. Unsurprisingly in the Brave New World of 1967, the groundbreaking material on this album slaked American fans’ thirst for vintage volume. With gems like “Over, Under, Sideways, Down” and “Still I’m Sad” nestling against psychedelia’s crown jewel, “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago,” the LP climbed to #28 during a 37-week residency in the charts. Further, it was to become The Yardbirds best selling album during their existence.
Emboldened by this response, Most pushed on with recording a new Yardbirds album. Of course, he totally misread the signs. Instead of allowing them to return to their earlier innovative material, he still hoped to furnish them with a perfect pop vehicle.
Frantic touring was still the order of the day, however. The group entered the studio only when they could shoehorn the time into their demanding schedule. In April and May, the band bounced in and out of the studio to lay down tracks for what became their final studio album. Recording conditions were ridiculous. Page was still fuming about it years later and rightly so.
“It was so bloody rushed. Everything was done in one take because Mickie Most was basically interested in singles and didn’t believe it was worth the time to do the tracks right on the album. Stu [Ian Stewart] from the Rolling Stones played piano on those tracks, and when we finished the first take of the first track we were recording he said, ‘That’ll sound much better the second take.’ Mickie Most was sitting in the control booth, and all of a sudden he said, ‘Next!’ Stu couldn’t believe it,” Jimmy Page said.
Starting with the recording of the “Little Games” single, session players began making frequent appearances on The Yardbirds’ recording sessions, which makes no sense except from a ruthless economic point of view. Of course, the band was more than adept at playing whatever material was demanded, even if it was assigned and not to their liking. However, with their crushing responsibilities on the road, The Yardbirds were allotted very little studio time. When they were able to find time off to record, they would enter the studio only to find that Most’s session hacks had already laid down basic tracks. Often, only Page’s guitar and Relf’s vocals were needed to complete these recordings.
Unfortunately, Page’s production expertise from his session days wasn’t brought to bear at this time. It’s unsettling that Page’s uncanny ear would allow him to participate in some of the dubious fodder that was foisted on the band by Most. Perhaps Page was simply intimidated by the producer, whose reputation packed an enormous wallop. After all, it’s hard to argue with a man who steered countless singles to the top of the charts.
Further, it slowly became apparent that Samwell-Smith’s departure left a huge hole in the songwriting process. Beck had also been a major catalyst, although he didn’t write songs per se. Relf and McCarty still contributed material, but it was slowly beginning to veer towards a lighter feel than they’d previously exhibited. The newest member, Jimmy Page, was still in the embryonic stages of songwriting. Dreja was good for the odd riff or lyric when he could be coaxed out of his shell.
Although the sessions were nominally approached with the intent of recording an album, Mickie Most was always on the look out for 45s.
“‘No Excess Baggage’ was something Most suggested as a single, but we did it as an album session. There could’ve been a lot better stuff on the album,” Page declared. “I remember him saying to me once, about guitar solos, ‘They’re something you stick in the middle of the single where there isn’t any vocal.’ He didn’t share my view that a guitar solo, like the ones on the Ricky Nelson records, for instance, could be an uplifting experience.”
Obviously, The Yardbirds’ producer was totally clueless and unsympathetic to their true nature. Regardless, by May the album was in the can. In light of this arbitrary recording schedule (the lead track, the “Little Games” single, was recorded in early March and the last track during the first of May in-between numerous gigs), it’s striking that the album sounds as organic as it does. Highlights from the album include two blues rewrites, “Drinking Muddy Water” and “Smile On Me.”
Fortunately, there was also original strong material sprinkled throughout the LP. Jimmy Page’s Middle Eastern showpiece, “White Summer” (inspired by Davey Graham), and the delirious violin bow extravaganza “Glimpses” illuminated the band’s psychedelic bent. Keith Relf’s elegiac “Only The Black Rose” showed the influence of English folk music. Said tune is one of the most underrated chestnuts in the band’s repertoire. The original “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor” was stark raving mod while “No Excess Baggage” was a bruising and effective cover. Less essential is the humorous jugband nick “Stealing, Stealing.” Downright dated and rickety is “Little Soldier Boy,” which no amount of rationalization will excuse.
The album didn’t quite meet commercial expectations. When it came out in America in July, it tanked at #80. Initially slated for an autumn release in Great Britain, the LP was eventually withheld from the group’s homeland altogether.
Part two - part three to follow
On The Road
Having gleaned their very name from Beat Generation bard Jack Kerouac’s writing, it’s poetically appropriate that The Yardbirds spent most of their time performing in new and exotic locales. While the band was irked with the recording situation in the studio, gigs were another matter. The Page-led group still pushed the envelope onstage. “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor” found Page using his violin bow on a Vox 12-string guitar.
“It continued developing with Jimmy,” Keith Relf said.
Actually, they were far more consistent than they had been with Jeff Beck. The Aquarian Age was upon them and the young men were excited. They racked their collective brain, experimenting with anything that would propel them into the unknown. As an example, they quickly embraced the new aural elements that rock n roll was exploring in live situations.
“All I remember with that is that we were the first group to use backing tapes. Y’know, bombs dropping and newsreels – musician’s concrete – as a backdrop to the music,” Page related.
This was sometimes augmented with visual elements, i.e. scenes from World War Two being projected behind them. The wildcard eclecticism of the Beck days was far from over. The group was still in the hands of a showboat guitarist who harbored audacious ideas and sartorial sense to boot. All of the members dressed in ruffles, silk, crushed velvet and suede. The effect was marvelous, crossbreeding the Edwardian look with pop-art aesthetics to create a psychedelic dandy image. The young men weren’t the only ones undergoing cosmetic adjustments. Jimmy Page’s Telecaster sported small silver discs, which reflected and refracted the stage lights, creating rainbow hues. It was a long way from the suit-and-tie days of the Crawdaddy.
Blues standards still figured in The Yardbirds’ set, although they were now drenched in Technicolor. Their old warhorse, “I’m A Man,” began to mutate as a result. Page took to caressing his guitar with a violin bow as Keith Relf recited impromptu poems.
Chris Dreja, in the meantime, had turned into a go-for-broke bass player. Whereas in the past his underrated guitar playing had allowed Clapton and Beck to snake in and out of his rhythm patterns, Dreja’s bass work simply surged and throbbed. While perhaps not as melodic as Samwell-Smith could be at times, Chris Dreja brought an energy and recklessness to the instrument that complimented Page’s playing perfectly.
Throughout the spring, The Yardbirds had played all over Europe. They recorded sessions for Swedish radio and the BBC as well as appearing on German and French television, all the while trying to cobble together the LITTLE GAMES album at De Lane Lea Studios in London!
“Sometimes we didn’t know whether we were coming or going,” Jim McCarty laughed ruefully.
Unfortunately, in June Mickie Most concocted another single with the aid of session musicians. There was very little Yardbirds participation at the sessions. This time the result was the dreadful “Ha Ha Said The Clown.” This song had just been a major hit for Manfred Mann. Most’s famed pop sensibilities were questionable on this one. What chance would The Yardbirds have of topping a single that had recently reached #3 in the British charts? Indeed. However, it never was issued in the U.K. Not that it did much better by being released in the States, where it rose no further than #45.
The band’s split personality was evident to listeners who bought the singles and also attended the shows. The band was also aware of the dual nature of their recording persona and their stage identity.
“You see, like towards the end in ’67 or ’68 we were playing the Fillmores. We were more into the psychedelics. That was the thing that was happening for us,” Relf said. “Whatever happened in the studios was the producer’s idea of what the band should be. What we were actually doing was getting off on sound and feedback – just letting it go.”
Magick & Mysticism
In the summer of 1967, The Yardbirds landed in the United States again. Many fans were unaware that Jeff Beck had left the group. Some were initially skeptical of the new guitarist. Jimmy Page didn’t disappoint the majority of them. The band was strong enough musically to bear up under the scrutiny of the press and fans.
Relf and McCarty continued to dabble in drugs. Often, they would room together and get high while listening to their favorite psychedelic albums.
Jimmy Page was sufficiently independent and had a strong ego, which allowed him to spend time by himself practicing guitar or checking out other musicians. Apocryphal stories also have him roaming dusty old stores, looking for grimories of black magick or artifacts that had belonged to the Great Beast, Aleister Crowley.
“We didn’t pay it much mind. Jimmy was very quiet about it. We were aware of his taste for, ah, perversions. De Sade and that lot. As for his interest in magick, that wasn’t unusual. After all, Keith and I were studying Eastern mysticism at the time,” Jim McCarty said.
Chris Dreja was the odd man out. He had formed the band with Relf and McCarty and had a strong sense of loyalty to them. Yet he was confused by their drug intake. Dreja immersed himself in photography to while away the off-hours. A rift was slowly developing that the members weren’t quite aware of, being unable to see the forest for the trees.
Sound And Silence
Towards the end of their summer tour in America, the group was slated to appear in New York City. They appeared on a local radio show and talked about plans for recording a new studio album (it never materialized). The band also mentioned that they would be performing a gig a few days later with The Youngbloods and Jake Holmes. On August 25, 1967 The Yardbirds played said show at The Village Theatre in Greenwich Village. Jim McCarty was immediately transfixed by their opening act, the acid-folk artist Jake Holmes. Holmes played acoustic guitar along with an electric guitarist Teddy Irwin and bass player Rick Randle. The trio delivered a devastating original song entitled “Dazed And Confused.” Featuring a dramatic descending bass line, the tune was rife with spooky caesuras and smeared with menacing washes of fuzz guitar. Years later, this author asked Jake Holmes if he remembered that particular gig.
“Yes. Yes, and that was the infamous moment in my life when ‘Dazed And Confused’ fell into the loving arms and hands of Jimmy Page,” he said.
Of course, Holmes was referring to the fact that Led Zeppelin eventually turned his song into a heavy metal monstrosity, giving him not credit for penning it. However, it was The Yardbirds who were the first to notice the tune’s potential. After all, the group had never been shy about taking another artist’s song and arranging it to their style. Jim McCarty sought out the LP it appeared on, THE ABOVE GROUND SOUND OF JAKE HOLMES, the very next day. A longtime Village resident, John Alusick has said that he witnessed Page buying it also. Regardless, McCarty is quick to point out where the song actually comes from.
“I went down to Greenwich Village and bought his (Jake Holmes’) album and we decided to do a version. We worked it out together with Jimmy contributing the guitar riffs in the middle,” he recalled.
Relf tinkered with Holmes’ original lyrics as Page added sonic elements to it. For one thing, the song was tailor-made for his violin bow. “Dazed And Confused” was obviously a keeper. Subsequently, it would change the course of rock n roll forever.
Despite having a strange and exciting new song in their arsenal, it was business as usual in the studio. In September, Most once again coerced the band into doing a cloying pop tune by an outside songwriter, in this case Harry Nilsson’s “Ten Little Indians.” Once again, Dreja and McCarty’s participation appears to be non-existent. Anyway, the results were predictable.
“Our producer Mickie Most would always try and get us to record all these horrible songs. He would say ‘Oh, c’mon, just try it. If the song is bad, we won’t release it.’ And, of course, it would always get released! During one session, we were recording ‘Ten Little Indians,’ which was an extremely silly song that featured a truly awful brass arrangement. In fact, the whole track sounded terrible. In a desperate attempt to salvage it, I hit upon an idea. I said, ‘Look, turn the tape over and employ the echo for the brass on a spare track. Then turn it back over and we’ll get the echo preceding the signal.’ The result was very interesting – it made the track sound like it was going backwards,” Jimmy Page said.
No amount of studio tomfoolery was going to propel this turkey into the Top Ten. Indeed, it barely scraped to #96.
Returning to New York in November, The Yardbirds performed their version of “Dazed And Confused.” It was becoming a regular feature of their stage show. Audiences reacted enthusiastically, which was noted by all the band members, especially Jimmy Page.
Jake Holmes had no idea that the group was in town or that they had adapted his tune. He was to remain blissfully clueless as to what consequences his song had wrought until it showed up on Led Zeppelin’s debut album well over a year later.
Other madcap ideas buzzed around the moribund Yardbirds, like flies drawn to a carcass. One ridiculous concept was for the band to provide music for a ballet to be performed by Pan’s People in Paris in December. Thankfully, this never came off.
Think About It
January 1968 found The Yardbirds back in England. There was lot to think about. All their singles the previous year had failed dismally. Mickie Most willfully ignored the fact that the market had evolved into an album-oriented format (how does one miss the impact of SERGEANT PEPPER’S six months previous?). Fans were looking for more adventurous platters, not pop swill. Only the most ignorant could be unaware of what inroads Cream and Jimi Hendrix were making at the time. More significantly, these groups were breaking out of the beachhead that The Yardbirds themselves had established two years earlier. The Yardbirds still played that type of music live, but their studio material was different altogether. Could a band survive as two diametrically opposed entities?
“You see, the band was pretty schizoid through the changes of personnel. So, you got a pretty schizoid kind of sound. I mean the band can’t undergo those changes without bearing some sort of shock – without direction being sort of blurred,” Keith Relf said.
This schism continued to widen, not only between the band’s studio identity and live persona, but also within their very ranks. Relf and McCarty yearned to embrace a gentler type of music, which was in keeping with their drug-addled consciousness. Simon & Garfunkel’s style, in particular, appealed to the duo. Further, Relf was simply tired of competing with loud guitars after all these years. The two began dropping hints that they might leave the band. Jimmy Page, on the other hand, was fully turned on by the idea of volume. Chris Dreja was caught in the middle. While he owed personal loyalty to his longtime band-mates, he felt that Page’s guitar-heavy vein was the one to mine.
Funnily enough, it needn’t have been such a black-white choice. Page’s guitar playing was as informed by the acoustic work of Bert Jansch as it was by rockabilly icons Cliff Gallup and Paul Burlison. He was just at home eliciting Arabic tones on his ravishing showpiece “White Summer” as he was issuing a greasy hard-nosed solo on “Smile On Me.” He was more than willing to follow Relf and McCarty down whatever road they wished to strike out upon.
“I told them we’d be able to change within the group format; coming from a sessions background I was prepared to adjust to anything. I hated to break it up without even doing a proper first album,” Page said.
Relf and McCarty wanted out, though. The brand name “Yardbirds” was associated with loud, guitar dominated rock n roll. They were having none of it. Now, they just had to gear themselves up for the divorce.
Their final single summed up the situation the best. The ‘A’ side was a jaunty ode to a prostitute, “Goodnight Sweet Josephine.” The lyrics were a trifle risqué, but it was a pure pop confection. Relegated to the underside, however, was the true heir to “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago.” The flip was the majestic “Think About It.”
“The other element of the band, the essential element of the band, was surviving on the ‘B’ sides at that time,” Relf said.
Penned by McCarty, Page and Relf, the song opened with a ringing, hypnotic riff courtesy of the guitarist. Relf’s sinister lyrics resonated with any listener lucky enough to actually turn the 45 over. Even the biscuit-tin drumming added to the tune’s appeal. A wonderful howl from Keith Relf summoned the bridge where at last Jimmy Page fully came into his own on a Yardbirds studio piece. An incredible treated rhythm guitar track tolled underneath a flurry of notes that featured snatches of the solo that Page was using on “Dazed And Confused.” Backward percussion and a harmonica fade finished “Think About It” off in grand style. It was certainly a fitting Last Will And Testament. The single was the final official release by the group during their existence.
“I suppose that was the other side of The Yardbirds still trying – ‘Think About It,’” Relf remembered later.
Unfortunately, listeners were unaware of either “Goodnight Sweet Josephine” or its dynamic ‘B’ side. The song didn’t so much as dent the Top 100 in America and it wasn’t even issued in England. Sadly, “Think About It” was the right song at the right time. But after four successive singles featuring bubblegum, nobody was buying anymore.
On a brighter note, Most had been relived from production duties before the single came out. Manny Kellem had been appointed as The Yardbirds A&R man and producer by label head Clive David before the spring of 1968. Unfortunately, nobody seems to have noticed at the time that “Think About It” had been squandered.
This is the type of material that The Yardbirds still excelled at in live situations, though. And while fans might not have been buying the singles, they were still flocking to see the group perform. In particular, the underground scene in America had embraced them as psychedelic ambassadors. This would have shocked Eric Clapton, who only three years earlier dismissed his former bandmates as purveyors of pop and nothing more.
Although The Yardbirds boasted three of the greatest guitarists ever, it should be noted the group never indulged in gratuitous soloing. By ’68 it had become expected due to Cream’s influence for bands to engage in lengthy improvisations, whereas instrumentalists traded solos ad infinitum. While The Yardbirds were stretching out numbers (one must bear in mind they had been doing this as early as 1963 anyway), they never noodled a la The Grateful Dead. Rather, the instruments weaved a pattern of sonic threads, hues and textures, i.e. images in sound. Nobody ever soloed needlessly. These sonic segues were augmented by a stage show that sometimes included candles and incense censers.
At this point, Page’s Telecaster boasted an appropriately swirling and luminous paint job. He had taken his sartorial sense to its logical conclusion. He was resplendent in knee-length embroidered coats and silk shirts. Dreja, too, kept pace on the fashion front. Not so the other two. Keith Relf often sported a walrus mustache and looked quite slovenly in grungy leather jackets. McCarty also dispensed with any pretence to being a Beau Brummel, wearing faded football shirts. The schism within the band ran deeper than their taste in clothing.
Relf and McCarty were burned out. The Yardbirds were reaping dividends monetarily but the hippy duo felt artistically inhibited. Quite frankly, they’d had enough. Drugs were also draining their psyches. Somewhere along the line Jim McCarty had had a particularly bad acid trip, which plunged him into a long depression.
“It took me years to recover,” he said simply.
Footage of The Yardbirds during their last stage often reveals a tired McCarty, who sighs throughout the performance. Not that he ever contributed less than his fair share on drums. He was quite simply a young man worn to a frazzle by the demands of a hungry business. Drugs only exacerbated the exhausting situation.
On March 2, 1968, Relf and McCarty again expressed their desire to quit. Page and Dreja weren’t surprised, just disappointed. They persuaded the two to stay through the end of the upcoming American tour at least.
A week later, The Yardbirds made an appearance on a French television show, “Bouton Rouge.” They played three songs, “Train Kept A-Rollin’,” “Dazed And Confused” and “Goodnight Sweet Josephine.” The quartet might have been in its death throes, but the music was as spectacular as ever. Page, in particular, was a commanding presence as he wielded his violin bow, shining like a 1,000 suns in ruffles and assorted psychedelic threads.
Be that as it may, the end of the road was in sight. There was one last American tour, however.
third and final part
Dazed And Confused
On March 30, 1968, a weary band stumbled into New York City. The Yardbirds were suffering from jetlag, having landed in America two days previously. They had spent the interim battling a springtime blizzard and playing gigs spread out over New York State.
Epic Records was aware of their forthcoming demise. Consequently, the record company was determined to squeeze one more album out of them. The group was shocked when they were told that their Anderson Theatre show at Second Avenue and Fourth Street was going to be recorded.
Regardless, the doughty band took the stage before an audience of devotees. The resultant show is where the crux of the Jimmy Page-era Yardbirds’ legend lies. The group stormed into a version of “Train Kept A-Rollin’” that bore little resemblance to its rockabilly forefather. Instead, Page used an electric cattle prod to whip the song through its paces as Relf’s harp bleated like a mad cow.
Heavy metal was here for better or worse. They then surged into a hallucinatory version of “Mister, You’re A Better Man Than I,” complete with aural washes from a wah wah that dripped like quicksilver before erupting into a staggering “Heart Full Of Soul.” Next up was their reworking of Jake Holmes’ tune. It was an overwhelming showpiece and the very heart of their gigs now.
Throughout the song, The Yardbirds experimented with liberal dashes of silence amid the sound, creating a disconcerting aural collage that left the audience aghast. “Dazed And Confused” glistened nightmare white, sweating sex and suicide. It was psychedelia at high tide.
After delivering said tune, the group realized they couldn’t one-up themselves. Rather, they strutted their soul inclinations on a cover of “My Baby.” Jimmy Page once again showed off his mastery of the Crybaby pedal.
The Yardbirds ran through the rest of their repertoire, featuring hit singles and selected material from the LITTLE GAMES album. Knowing that this tour was to be their last, the band appears to have enjoyed themselves for the first time in years. Just before “Shapes Of Things,” Relf gently chided Page, introducing him as the “grand sorcerer of the magick guitar.” Then, Jimmy Page hoisted his Danelectro and proceeded to better The Byrds’ “Renaissance Fair” by conjuring images of a Moroccan bazaar on “White Summer.” The Yardbirds ended the show with an extended take on “I’m A Man,” during which Page dropped to his knees and quoted the riff from “Over, Under, Sideways, Down.”
The Yardbirds stayed in New York for a few days after the show, enjoying some well-deserved rest and relaxation. At some point, Epic played them tapes of the Anderson Theatre gig. The band was unhappy with the recording. Years later, Page complained in particular about the A & R man who ordered the recording of the gig, Manny Kellem.
“He had one mike on the drums, which was unthinkable, and he miked the wrong cabinet for the guitar so that the fuzz-tone which gave it all the sustain wasn’t picked up,” Jimmy Page said.
The band rejected the live tape in early April 1968, insisting that Epic couldn’t release said recording. It wasn’t the last they would hear of the show, though. More later.
The record company played their last card, suggesting a studio session with Manny Kellem. The powers-that-be hoped that at least one more single could be released. Kellem was another strange choice as a producer, since his previous experience had been with easy listening-type material.
The Yardbirds entered Columbia Studios in New York and laid down five tracks between April 3 and 5, 1968. While Kellem wasn’t an ideal match for the group, the results were a little more interesting than under Most’s direction.
“Avron Knows” was a mod-styled rocker, reminiscent of The Small Faces in polyesterday shirts and chocolate trip trousers. The Yardbirds also laid down a nice take of a song that was a regular feature in their live repertoire, Garnet Mimms’ “My Baby.” They had just played this at the Anderson Theatre a few days previously. However, this was the first time the backing vocals were properly recorded. Both were crackerjack performances.
Less essential was “Taking A Hold Of Me,” a riff-rocker that featured a guide vocal courtesy of Jim McCarty. Given more studio time, this tune might have developed into something interesting. Downright strange was “Spanish Blood,” a cowboy curio that found McCarty play-acting his way through a Spaghetti Western, reciting a poem to Jimmy Page’s Spanish guitar.
The most significant song recorded at the sessions was an original number called “Knowing That I’m Losing You.” Once again, The Yardbirds were on the cutting edge of rock n roll. This wouldn’t be apparent at the time, though. The Byrds’ mythic album, SWEETHEART OF THE RODEO, has often been heralded as the origins of country-rock. The Yardbirds were breaking similar ground four months before said LP was even released. “Knowing That I’m Losing You” is meandering hippy country, smacking of Buffalo Springfield. Keith Relf’s high lonesome lyrics are matched by his yearning and heartbreaking vocal. Jimmy Page brought a down-home flavour to the proceedings with a steel guitar. Strangely, there seems to be a quote from “Crimson & Clover” in the song! Be that as it may, the tune is as remarkable as any that appeared on The Byrds’ legendary album.
However, while listening to playbacks, none of the recordings were deemed to have chart potential. They were filed away and remained a vague rumour for three decades. These sessions will be discussed later.
Unfortunately, the group’s most powerful song was not caught on tape at Columbia in New York City.
“It’s been one of my greatest regrets that we never recorded ‘Dazed And Confused’ in the studio,” Dreja said. “It’s a brilliant epitaph actually. We were feeling very dazed and confused at that point!”
Last Rave-up In L.A.
After New York, the band plunged into a long tour of America. They trudged across the continent for two months. Finally, they arrived in California, where they played a last stand in Los Angeles at the famed Shrine on May 31 and June 1. D.C. Cole attended these two performances, smuggling a tape deck into the auditorium under his girlfriend’s maternity dress. The resultant recording became one of rock’s most treasured bootlegs, LAST RAVE-UP IN L.A. The Yardbirds’ performance is breathtaking, but unfortunately the sound itself is abysmal. Cole’s recollections of the event do shed significant light on some of the very last shows the group ever played, though.
“The 1968 shows at the Shrine were amazing. Their music had developed to such a point that some of it was the most advanced rock n roll ever done. It was like electronic Stravinsky,” Cole remembered.
This is especially significant, considering Cole had seen them on three separate occasions during the previous year. At that time, he had been disappointed in Page’s performance.
“I was frustrated with the band in 1967. I’d been following them since their very first American tour. Obviously, Beck was incredible. Page was a let down on their first tour as a four-piece. He carried on valiantly without Beck, playing both lead and rhythm. But his tone was muddy, not like Beck’s sultry sound. On their last tour, Page had got it together and was stunning,” Cole said.
At this point, the band could segue effortlessly from pop to blues to psychedelia to heavy metal. The volume of their live shows was simply overpowering. A listen to “I’m A Man” during the Los Angeles gig reveals a girl yelling at the pinnacle of the song “can’t they play it more quietly?” The Bo Diddley number had been with them since their Crawdaddy days in 1963. Of course, it was now a barely recognizable acid casualty.
The Yardbirds’ song list in Los Angeles was very similar to the one they had played two months earlier in New York. However, there were a few additions to their repertoire that they didn’t perform at the Anderson show. The old whipping post, “Smokestack Lightning,” at this point was a surrealistic medley that would dissolve into a cover of “I’m Waiting For The Man.” The Velvet Underground song had shown up in the Yardbirds’ set at various times during the previous year. On their final tour, it had been transformed beyond recognition. The original was a perverse pop song that buzzed and shimmered with an antiseptic ether-glow. The Yardbirds pushed it into the Interstellar Delta, resulting in a post-apocalyptic homage to white noise, i.e. a rave-up that reeked of Stockhausian dissonance. The Brits’ thrashing cover certainly would have felt quite at home on The Velvet Underground’s sophomore album.
“That’s another one we probably should have recorded in the studio,” Dreja said.
This show also featured a harmonica workout by Keith Relf on “Bye Bye Bird.” This was a strange choice indeed, being a straight blues cover with Relf playing solo harp. D.C. Cole explained why this Sonny Boy Williamson song made a seemingly arbitrary appearance.
“There was a reason for that interlude. Jimmy Page had broken some strings and his hand was bleeding,” Cole said. “He sat down on the edge of the stage, sobbing. Relf played harmonica until Page got it back together.”
Emotions were obviously running high as the band reached the end of the road. Relf and McCarty were experiencing a sense of relief. Page, on the other hand, must have been frustrated beyond belief, knowing they were throwing away vast potential.
In early June, The Yardbirds played their last American gigs at a speedway in Montgomery, Alabama. Soon, they returned to England and on July 7, 1968 played their final gig at Luton Technical College. It was officially over. Or so they thought. The fallout is still being felt three decades later.
Phoenix From The Ashes
Keith Relf and Jim McCarty indulged in their acoustic fantasies for a brief time as a duo called Together. Nothing came of it, so they formed an outfit called Renaissance, which attempted to marry rock to classical. This peculiarly English fascination with legitimising rock n roll by adding classical motifs also came to naught after an eponymous debut album. One listen to said LP and it’s obvious that Relf and McCarty were shell-shocked survivors of the rock n roll wars. Nothing else can explain their decision to pursue this type of music after the sheer audacity of their earlier work. Ironically, a few years later Relf was involved in a heavy metal band, Armageddon. Their one and only album features some of Relf’s best vocals and harmonica work. Sadly, he was electrocuted to death in his private recording studio in 1976. He was only 33-years-old.
Jimmy Page and Chris Dreja had initially planned on continuing The Yardbirds. However, Dreja soon dropped out. John Paul Jones entered the picture on bass and vocalist Robert Plant and drummer John Bonham rounded out Page’s new quartet. Contrary to accepted myth, the band never called itself The New Yardbirds. The real Yardbirds had contractual obligations to fulfill in Scandinavia in September of 1968. Page’s new band (with Peter Grant still managing) made the trip instead. Advertisements bill them either as The Yardbirds or The Yardbirds With Jimmy Page. The only time the band was ever billed as The New Yardbirds was on one side of a Marquee flyer for their British debut in October 1968. The other side of the same announcement portrayed them as The Yardbirds, however. Within a few days, the group changed their name to Led Zeppelin. Page continued to derive mileage from his Yardbirds past, making a reputation for himself on the back of “Dazed And Confused.”
In retrospect, it’s obvious that Jimmy Page made the right choice financially. However, a comparison of “Dazed And Confused” as played by his two bands is quite telling. The Yardbirds’ version is alternately delicate and threatening while Led Zeppelin’s is shrill and devoid of spontaneity as well as lacking significant tonal shading. The piece’s real author, Jake Holmes, shares that evaluation. He received a copy of The Yardbirds’ reading of his song in the spring of 2001. Previously he had been unaware that the band had even covered it.
"The Yardbirds’ ‘Dazed And Confused’ is really good. I understand what ‘garage’ people see in all this craziness. I like their version much better than Led Zeppelin’s," Jake Holmes said.
Jimmy Page was still delving into his bag of leftovers on Led Zeppelin’s third album. The band re-recorded one of the songs The Yardbirds had done in April of 1968, “Knowing That I’m Losing You.” Led Zeppelin called it “Tangerine.” The arrangements are almost identical. The song was attributed solely to Jimmy Page, with no mention being made of Keith Relf, who had written a significant chunk of the lyrics that appeared in Led Zeppelin’s version.
“He (Keith Relf) should really be given a credit for that one,” Jim McCarty said, referring specifically to the second verse’s lyrics in “Knowing That I’m Losing You,” which appear intact as the first verse in “Tangerine.”
The two versions both feature a steel guitar courtesy of Page. Once again, The Yardbirds’ version is superior. Relf’s vocals are heartbreaking and McCarty’s drums much lighter. Their take has a prominent Morricone touch and the massed vocals at the end take it to new heights. Led Zeppelin’s version simply pales in comparison.
As for Chris Dreja, he quickly settled into life as a professional photographer. He basically abandoned music until hooking up with ex-Yardbirds Jim McCarty and Paul Samwell-Smith (who had spent the intervening years as a producer of Cat Stevens and Jethro Tull among others) in the ‘80s as Box Of Frogs. McCarty had stayed busy in the music scene through the ‘70s. His valiant struggle with drugs is documented in an autobiographical album released in 1994, OUT OF THE DARK.
In 1992, The Yardbirds were inducted into The Rock n Roll Hall Of Fame. It was vindication of sorts for Jim McCarty and Chris Dreja, since neither of them had reaped the rewards or recognition that their former colleagues had. The duo reformed The Yardbirds in the mid-1990s. This latter day version of the band is logging as much travel time as the ’67 incarnation. That’s another story, though.
It’s slowly becoming apparent that the Yardbirds’ final years were far more artistically successful than has been generally conceded. Some of the ’67-’68 material matches up to anything the Beck-era produced. Witness especially “White Summer,” “Only The Black Rose,” “Glimpses,” “Think About It,” “Avron Knows,” “Knowing That I’m Losing You” and “Dazed And Confused.” These songs are all as innovative and dynamic as anything produced by the band in its previous incarnations.
As for albums, LITTLE GAMES has always been in the shadow of its big brother, ROGER THE ENGINEER. The Page lineup’s studio album itself is aging surprisingly well. Some of ROGER THE ENGINEER’s blues retreads are badly dated unlike the blues rewrites on LITTLE GAMES. A back-to-back listen finds the two albums of similar quality.
Unfortunately, of the six albums put out in the United States during the band’s existence, only two of them were recorded as actual albums. Of course, those are the two aforementioned LPs. Amazingly, the band was given less than a week’s time to record the fabled ROGER THE ENGINEER. Even then, there were significant obstacles to overcome. The band didn’t even have material composed, so they were forced to improvise on the spot, laying down basic tracks as Keith Relf wrote lyrics in the vocal booth! As for LITTLE GAMES, the haphazard circumstances surrounding its difficult delivery were examined in this article.
The other four albums were ad hoc single compilations, live recordings and a greatest hits collection. Yet even with this erratic approach, The Yardbirds have garnered a posthumous reputation that any band would envy.
In retrospect, it’s mind-boggling that a group could experience so many cataclysmic changes and still revolutionize music as The Yardbirds did. Swapping lead guitarists like socks and losing four members along with enduring three managers in the space of five years would have sunk any other band. In comparison, The Byrds were the epitome of stability compared to their feathered British cousins. Given a stable management situation and a producer with vision, it’s impossible to contemplate what might have been.
However, that’s not the way it went down. As for this article, it’s a re-evaluation of the Page-era, not revisionism. “Ha Ha Said The Clown” is still a truly horrendous song. But let’s not forget that the Beck line-up was also capable of producing dreck like “My Girl Sloopy.”
The critical reception given LITTLE GAMES upon its initial release was generally favorable. As the years went by, though, its stock fell. By the late 1980s, the Jimmy Page-era Yardbirds were regarded as having squandered a colossal amount of potential. The balance was redressed to a certain extent in 1992. A compilation was issued, joining that configuration’s album with unreleased studio recordings and the singles with their essential ‘B’ sides like “Think About It.” Entitled LITTLE GAMES SESSIONS & MORE, the Page line-up finally reclaimed some of what was due them in the first place.
Unfortunately, a complete reassessment of this era rests in the hands of the one man who should care about it the most, Jimmy Page himself. How so? The story stretches back to April 1968. At that time, the group rejected the Anderson Theatre recordings. In 1971, Epic Records decided to sneak the show into the marketplace. The record company obviously hoped to ride on Jimmy Page’s long coattails, what with the massive success Led Zeppelin was experiencing. The New York City gig was issued as an album called LIVE YARDBIRDS! FEATURING JIMMY PAGE. “Dazed And Confused” was erroneously called “I’m Confused” on the release, a title the band never used. Jimmy Page had it suppressed immediately.
“The Anderson Theatre show I didn’t think was too bad. Jimmy says Keith had a bad night. I think it was more a case of doing ‘Dazed And Confused’ pre-Zeppelin that made him withdraw it,” Jim McCarty said.
Page was also rightfully incensed that crowd noises had been overdubbed on the performance. Instead of brooding silences throughout “Dazed And Confused,” a listener could now hear cocktail glasses clinking.
In 1976, the album was released yet again. Once more, Page halted its release. The show has been available in different pirate configurations ever since. Its first official CD release occurred in the summer of 2000 when Mooreland Street Records issued a version. This particular CD also had an afternoon sound check of “Train Kept A-Rollin’” and “Dazed And Confused,” which were taken from an audience member’s recording. Critics instantly hailed the release as a major lost classic. Unfortunately, Jimmy Page had his lawyers issue a “cease and desist” order within weeks.
Much has been made of why Page doesn’t want this album out. Funnily enough, he has said he thinks the group’s performance is substandard. Comparing said show to Led Zeppelin’s officially sanctioned mediocre live opus, THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME, begs the question: is he serious?
In retrospect, Jim McCarty and Chris Dreja are quite content with the Anderson Theatre performance. Strangely, they insist the band played better gigs. If that’s true, one can’t begin to fathom what The Yardbirds sounded like on a good night. As it is, the performance in question is the best live show caught on tape in rock history. ‘nuff said.
Jimmy Page ordered Epic to destroy the masters, parts and lacquers of the Anderson gig in 1977. Things get murky at this point. Files also show that all tapes were “returned to client” (whom the record company believed to be Jimmy Page, not The Yardbirds). Records are inconclusive as to whether this was actually done, though.
As for the Columbia sessions recorded by the band in April 1968, that is also a complex story. Four of the songs were released on a compilation in the summer of 2000. Entitled CUMULAR LIMIT, the package of Jimmy Page-era material was issued by NMC. Fans were alternately elated and disappointed. The sessions had been a vague rumor for years. Once issued, copies of the album were snapped up quickly. The four songs satisfied expectations. Further, there was a version of “Dazed And Confused” (properly credited to Jake Holmes as arranged by The Yardbirds) from their appearance on French television in March 1968. As with all things Yardbirds, though, fans were left only half-satisfied.
“Knowing That I’m Losing You” was nowhere to be found on CUMULAR LIMIT. Jim McCarty had hinted that it would be included on the compilation in an interview prior to the release. At the last minute, McCarty and Chris Dreja (who had participated in the project) instructed NMC not to include that particular song out of deference to Jimmy Page’s delicate sensibilities. Specifically, they didn’t want to upset their former guitarist by including a song he had made famous with Led Zeppelin. It made no difference. Page issued a legal challenge. The record company is no longer pressing copies of the album.
McCarty, Dreja and Keith Relf’s widow, April, would like to see both albums re-released and have attempted to negotiate with The Yardbirds’ former guitarist, but to no avail. Issuing LIVE YARDBIRDS! FEATURING JIMMY PAGE along with all five songs from the last studio sessions would finally give the ’67-‘68 line-up its richly deserved desserts.
Page has been unfairly blamed for the apparent shortcomings of the band’s recorded repertoire during his tenure. Let’s not forget that he shouldered the burden of playing sole guitar in a group that was designed for two guitarists. Ironically, Jimmy Page himself has contributed to his tenure’s lack of critical acclaim. By suppressing LIVE YARDBIRDS! FEATURING JIMMY PAGE and the songs from the final Columbia sessions (especially “Knowing That I’m Losing You”), he has kept some of the band’s finest work out of the hands of the public. It behooves Jimmy Page to . . . nay, it’s his responsibility to rehabilitate the reputation of his beloved Yardbirds. This is an open plea to him from fans all over the world to give his consent to releasing the material in dispute.
In the meantime, what recordings do you need from the band’s final configuration? Try and track down LITTLE GAMES SESSIONS & MORE, LIVE YARDBIRDS! FEATURING JIMMY PAGE and CUMULAR LIMIT. Indeed, as far as albums go, LIVE YARDBIRDS! FEATURING JIMMY PAGE is the best platter the band ever recorded. Dynamically speaking, that is. While it’s a bit ragged in places, it still packs a potent punch that is matched by few albums in rock n roll history. Unfortunately, that album and CUMULAR LIMIT will be difficult to obtain at this point, what with the scarcity of said product due to legal scuffles. It will be well worth your time and efforts. That’s a promise. Happy hunting and Yardmerizing!
All Chris Dreja, Jim McCarty, Jake Holmes and D.C. Cole quotes are from interviews conducted with the author. All Keith Relf quotes are from an interview conducted with William Stout. Stout bootlegged obscure Yardbirds material in the early ‘70s on a compilation called MORE GOLDEN EGGS. Relf agreed to sit for an interview, well aware of what Stout was doing. Consequently, Keith Relf was probably the first, if not the only, major rock star to participate in the packaging of a bootleg of his own material! Jimmy Page quotes are from interviews conducted by Dave Schulps and Nick Kent in the 1970s for various music magazines.
probably a couple pieces of info have come to light since I researched and wrote this back in the internet's infancy... we had no idea there was an alternate take of "Drinking Muddy Water" from the final studio sessions as an example... or that two sets had been recorded for the Anderson show...
besides that, I'm still happy with this... especially after Jack White's guitar tech told my editor that Jack White shared the magazine with Jimmy Page back during the shooting of the guitar movie, It Might Get Loud... and maybe that plea toward the end of the article, where I beg Page to release the Anderson theater and studio sessions, didn't fall on deaf ears! Who knows... just glad I finally got to hear this material in full fidelity!
the article starts with a quote from Rick Brown, singer of California band The Misunderstood, who do the greatest Yardbirds song the Yardbirds never did... I posted below... a lap steel, by Glenn Ross Campbell, dominates the tune... his usage of it inspired Jeff Beck to use one on the Truth version of Shapes of Things... Rick Brown roomed with Beck circa '66/'67 before fleeing for Thailand, avoiding the US draft... this broke up The Misunderstood, who really were on the verge of great things... to finance his flight to Asia, Rick sold his leather fringe jacket to Jim McCarty, which you can see in photos of the Yardies in their final stages...
You've got me pondering about it being a live take, especially if you take into consideration the possibility the slide in the call/response is a contemporary overdub (something we know Pete has done on 50 year old Who material)... sheer speculation of course but it's your can of worms!
That's a great anecdote, and I'd love to think Jack White had some role in changing Jimmy's mind on releasing those tracks.
There's just something cool about newer generations of musicians inspiring their elders to reassess parts of career.
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