14 Rock Around the World • November. 1976
Jeff Beck is one of a very few musicians today whose name can conjure up images of a variety of groups with a variety of sounds. a testament to both his versatility as well as his reluctance to settle down with a band. Jeffs history is strewn with the ashes of groups, combinations that glowed for only a short time before burning out; The Yardbirds. Jeff Beck Groups Mk. 1 & 2. Beck, Bogart & Appice, and on to the present. Jeff has always managed to surround himself with talented players (given the field he was working in at the time), while managing to just miss creating the perfect record with those players. A third album from any of the bands he was in could have been the one he’s seemingly always looking for.
After leaving The Yardbirds, the last’group of which he was just a member, The Jeff Beck Group came together. and several legends were born. “Truth” was recorded in eleven hours. unleashed on an unsuspecting public. and The Jeff Beck Group Mk. 1 hit the road. Unfortunately, the problem of being a guitar hero cropped up for Jeff again, with his record company playing up that aspect of the band more than any other; “Beck-Ola” was recorded in an atmosphere resembling a gathering thunderstorm. The last line of ‘Rice Pudding’ is abruptly sliced in mid-note as if the storm was just breaking. and indeed it was. Shortly afterward. Jeff sacked Ronnie Wood. Rod Stewart left with him to become Faces in the crowd. and the original JB Group ceased to exist.
Many people are convinced that this particular collection of musicians never approached on record what they were capable of. Citing songs like ‘Drinkin’ Again,’ which never did make it onto an album. these people maintain that internal tensions
were a debilitating factor in the studio. In actual fact, however, the personalities who comprised the Beck Group, led by Jeff, seemed rather to thrive on struggle. If everything had become a mutual admiration society. there wouldn’t have been much spark in the studio; everything would’ve been too laid back, and that would’ve driven Jeff, in particular, up a soundproofed wall. Tension, however, existed on many levels: Rod Stewart had kind of a Keith Reif-esque complex about lead guitarists dominating the stage, Ronnie Wood was a frustrated lead player demoted to bass. and Jeff was uncomfortable with a lead singer. To solve the problem, Jeff simply tried to play longer and longer breaks which may have helped ease his discomfort, but did absolutely nothing for either Rod’s or Woody’s hang-ups. Ashes were burning for the Jeff Beck Group. . .
Contemplation time came for Jeff as he sat back and assessed what he had done up till then. For his entire professional life, he’s played London-coloured, Chicago bluesy rock ‘n’ roll; he’d done it well, to be sure, and he’d been innovative, individual. But satisfaction had eluded him, and he sat back and wondered why.
There was talk, speculation. rumors, all about Jeff. Some interesting combinations came up (like Beck. Bogart, Appice & Stewart under the name ‘Cactus’), but nothing ever came of them because one fine day, Jeff almost wrote himself a one-way ticket to The Great Gig In The Sky in a car crash and musically, he was irrelevant for two years.
Towards the middle to latter stages of his recovery period, Jeff sat and slowly focused his thoughts on a new direction. He’d always been an ardent fan of r&b, Tamla Motown, and just soul music in general. (In fact, one of the musical links between Jeff and Rod Stewart was an admiration for black music and artists like David Ruffin and Booker T.) Jeff decided to completely follow his instincts and desires for once, and The Jeff Beck Group Mk. 2 was formed, including Bob Tench (vocals and 2nd guitar), Cozy Powell (monster drums), Max Middleton (keyboards and literal key figure for some time to come), Clive Chaman (bass), and our shy lad Jeff. The music was, as the first album stated, rough, but it was ready, ‘cuz Jeff was ready. For openers, he sported a black singer (quite a shock for Anglophiles). dressed even duller than before, and just leaned back and slid into that Motown-cum-jazz feel, playing musical tag with Max and follow the leader with Cozy. “Rough And Ready” got maybe more polarized reviews than anything Jeff had ever done. His record company was nervous; they knew the enormous popularity Jeff commanded as a rock player, but they couldn’t estimate what it would be if he stayed in the same indefineable vein “Rough And Ready” flowed in. Jeff remained stubborn (that% our Jeff), but ultimately compromised on the second album, playing more rock and less soul. Sharpie that he is though, Jeff recorded that second Ip in Memphis, home of Stax, and landed the legendary Steve Cropper as producer.
Both albums did well, but during the second tour, you could see Jeff fighting the battle between what he had intended to do, and what he found himself actually doing, night after night. So concerned with this new dilemma was he that he didn’t at first see that the same two guys kept coming back to see him
play—Tim Bogart and Carmine Appice.
Tim and Carmine were another turning point for Jeff. New York bred on hard-driving rock and roll, and both Tim and Carmine had been admirers of Jeff s for years, and ultimately
hit on the pulse of Jeff’s frustration when they invited him to jam. In a way, it was really weird, ‘cuz Jeff had convinced himself that the direction of “Rough And Ready” was at least the right path for him, and now he found himself, to his surprise, wanting to rip off thousands of notes in the traditional rock ‘n’ roll manner. The search had taken another twist .. .
Beck, Bogart & Appice were the core of Jeffs power trio experiment. At first, Max was retained on keyboards, and Kim Milford (from the Broadway production of IC Superstar’) .. . ahem . . . handled the vocals in a manner that convinced both Jeff and Carmine to attempt to drop Mr. Kim out a hotel window. It was rowdy rock ‘n’ roll time, and Max was having none of it. He left, but didn’t disappear; pared down to the terrible trio, BBA powerized its way onto the charts.
Looking back on it, nothing that happened should have been
surprising; Jeff had seen old mates Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page become rich and famous in a remarkably short period of time. As much as anything else, BBA was Jeff’s way of saying “Why not me, too?” Of course, the dual facts that Tim and Carmine were every bit as inflammable as Jeff, and refused to live in Britain when Jeff refused to live in America, made for an ideal situation—everyone fighting. Creatively, one and all thrived on the internal pressures, with the predictable result that some of the tracks on the BBA album make the tonearm sizzle, while in concert, they were overpowering.
Of course. too, it couldn’t last; this wasn’t the real Beck. this was an exploding copy. Bitter fighting broke out during the recording of the second album (Jeff reputedly burned all the masters one night), and like a gigantic comet, BBA blew up.
If nothing else, BBA demonstrated to Jeff which direction