Monday, May 3, 2010

The Immortals #89 - The Yardbirds

It's telling that I couldn't find any "definitive" Yardbirds record to listen to when preparing this entry. The band is best known for being a significant presence in the early "British Invasion" of 60s rock and for having a membership that included Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page- all of whom would go on to become much more famous for making much better music of much greater importance in the immediate future.

A run through this Yardbirds compilation's track list displays that the band failed to be a legitimate showcase for those celebrated musicians as either guitarists or songwriters. Like so many great bands of their time, they made their name on covers that interpreted American rock, soul and blues through the filter of white English kids with good taste in fashion, some fairly exotic instrumentation, and the desperate need to lay pipe for better careers to come.

(It's an old writer's term. Look it up.)

There are some kickin' tracks on here, especially the barbed wire whip of "Heart Full of Soul" and the justly-renowned "For Your Love", but both of those were written by the dude from 10cc. If Clapton, the Jeff Beck Group, and Led Zeppelin were going to eventually reinvent rock and roll into their own versions of drug-fuled power riffage (Clapton), heavy fusion (Beck), and... ummm... just a really kick-ass, turned-to-eleven version of the Yardbirds (Page), they were going to have to start at an earlier link in its evolutionary chain.

But unlike peers like the Beatles, Stones, and Kinks, the Yardbirds didn't go forward to do their best, most universe-altering work as a unified whole. And so now "The Yardbirds" are frozen in time, the greatest of the British Invasion acts not to mutate into something else, the embodiment of a sort of adolescent stage in rock's development.


Steven said...

I always thought of the Yardbirds as the Oakland Athletics of the early 2000s--some great players on a less-than-the-sum-of-its-parts team that never really achieved much in the playoffs. Which I guess would make a gold record the ALDS in this analogy.

Hm. Needs work.

Also let's cool it on the Jeff Beck love. There's a reason "Beck is God" wasn't scrawled on the walls of the London subway, or why he doesn't have an XM channel dedicated entirely to his oeuvre.

Brendan K said...

I'M not the biggest Jeff Beck fan, but the guy is more popular than you think amongst both musicians and music fans. Plus, recognizing a third member of the group made the writing flow better. Get off my back.