Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, and Jeff Beck… three of the finest guitar players of all time, and, at one point or another, all members of the Yardbirds. Whereas Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page are household names, Beck has sometimes got less attention than he rightly deserves. But those in the know (including Page, Clapton, Brian May, David Gilmore, and Slash) have called him the greatest guitarist in the world. If you want to find out why, check out these 10 best Jeff Beck songs of all time.
10. She’s a Woman
Beck, Bogart & Appice had all the makings of a great supergroup, but they failed miserably, disbanding before they’d even reached their second album. Still, the experience gave Beck enough of a shake-up to get back to the studio and start recording under his own name for a change. His all-instrumental, 1975 album Blow By Blow is incredibly solid, with She’s a Woman standing out as one of its highlights. Who needs vocals when the hook is this good?
9. Going Down
Going Down was written sometime in the late 60s by Memphis musician Don Nix. As per Ultimate Classic Rock, it’s since been recorded by everyone from Freddie King to the Who and Led Zeppelin to Pearl Jam. In 1972, Beck took a shot at himself with the Jeff Beck Group. In fairness, singer Bobby Tench’s timid vocals aren’t exactly memorable, but Beck’s stupendous guitar solos save the day.
8. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
Like its predecessor, Blow by Blow, producer George Martin’s influence is stamped all over Beck’s 1976 album Wired. But whereas Blow By Blow was all about the blues, Wired takes a jazzy direction, not least on Goodbye Pork Pie Hat. Beck’s understated but moving performance breathes fresh life into the Charles Mingus standard, earning it a place at No. 8 on our list.
Described by guitarz-for-ever.com as “epic,” Scatterbrain features one of Beck most luminous guitar riffs. If you’ve ever wanted to learn guitar, this is either the track to inspire you to finally start or to give the whole thing up as a lost cause. He may have always played second fiddle to Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page, but here, he out riffs the pair of them.
6. Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers
Described by EzineArticles.com as a Zen lesson in “the music is the spaces between the notes,” Beck takes Stevie Wonder’s moody, sulky masterpiece, Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers, stretches it out to nearly six minutes in length, adds one of his most iconic solos of all time, and makes it his own. The album it’s taken from, Blow by Blow, gave Beck his highest-charting position, peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard 200. Listening to this, it’s not hard to work out why.
5. Freeway Jam
Written by keyboardist Jan Hammer, released on the seminal album Blow By Blow, and featuring one of Beck’s most mind-blowing guitar solos, Freeway Jam has long been one of Beck’s most crowd-pleasing songs, and for very good reason. A highly improvised instrumental, it’s designed to be played loud, fast, and hard. For the definitive version, check out the wild take recorded at Karuizawa, Japan in 1986 – featuring Hammer on keyboards, Doug Wimbush on bass guitar, and Beck sharing the lead with Steve Lukather, its a manic, roof-raising triumph.
4. Happenings Ten Years Time Ago
As rockpasta.com says, with Beck on lead, and Jimmy Page on riffs, there’s few songs that can match Happenings Ten Years Time Ago any given year. The first Yardbirds record to feature the two master ax slingers together, it broke the Top 30 and quickly established itself as a firm fan favorite. It’s also one of the very few records to feature Beck’s vocals – listen carefully, and you can just make out his voice providing the background to the spoken section.
3. Heart Full of Soul
The only thing better than a song featuring Jeff Beck on guitar? A song featuring both Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page on guitar. On Heart Full of Soul, we get two of rock’s greatest ever guitarists for the price of one. It was the first Yardbird’s song to be released after Beck stepped into Eric Clapton’s shoes, and it rocks heavier and harder than almost anything they’d done till then. As well as somehow turning his guitar into what sounds suspiciously like a sitar, he also manages to produce one of the most iconic solos you’ll ever hear. The whole thing is masterful, and if you haven’t already heard it, now’s the time to do it.
2. I Ain’t Superstitious
I Ain’t Superstitious was first recorded by Howlin’ Wolf in 1961. The original is epic enough, but Beck’s 1968 cover takes things next level. With Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood on bass, it couldn’t fail, and it didn’t. Beck aggressive fills and dynamic wah-wah work add enough raw energy to send it stratospheric. Since its release on Beck’s 1968 debut album Truth, it’s been covered by everyone from the Grateful Dead to Megadeth, but Beck’s masterpiece is still the definite version.
1. Beck’s Bolero
Finally, we get to Beck’s Bolero, and with it, his magnum opus. Released on his 1968 album Truth, it features Beck on lead guitar, Jimmy Page on 12-string rhythm, John Paul Jones on bass, Keith Moon on drums, and Nicky Hopkins on piano. With a lineup like that, you’d expect great things. You get them. A three-part instrumental based on Ravel’s Boléro, it’s three minutes of rock heaven, with enough effects, slides, riffs, solos, and pure, unbridled energy to leave you panting for breath by the end of it. Guitarists don’t get better than Beck, and rock doesn’t get better than this.