How Jeff Beck’s Ego Cost Him the Yardbirds
The famous music group the Yardbirds formed in 1963. Before creating the band Led Zeppelin, guitarist Jimmy Page was a member of the Yardbirds. While in the group, Page and Jeff Beck both performed as lead guitarists until Beck left the band. According to Bob Spitz’s 2021 biography Led Zeppelin: The Biography, Beck’s departure was due to the arrangement of playing guitar alongside Page.
Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck played guitar together
Keith Relf, Paul Samwell-Smith, Top Topham, Jim McCarty, and Chris Dreja are the original members of the Yardbirds, with Eric Clapton soon replacing Topham.
After Clapton left the Yardbirds, the band approached Page about joining. Instead of accepting the offer, Page recommended Beck for the job.
When Samwell-Smith left the band, Page briefly joined to play bass. After Page joined the Yardbirds, Beck became sick, and Page temporarily replaced him as the band’s guitarist while Dreja started playing bass.
After Beck returned to the Yardbirds when he recovered, both Page and Beck played guitar together.
“We rehearsed hard on all sorts of things,” Page said in Led Zeppelin: The Biography, “especially introduction riffs to things like ‘Over Under Sideways Down,’ which we were doing in harmonies. It was the sort of thing that people like Wishbone Ash and Quiver would perfect, that dual lead guitar idea.”
The arrangement between Page and Beck did not work out for long
While Page and Beck both playing guitar together on stage worked at first, it soon became a toxic work environment for the band.
“It was fascinating to watch, but it was also unhealthy,” McCarthy said in Led Zeppelin: The Biography.
Dreja gave his perspective in the biography, saying, “I personally don’t think Jimmy ever went out on stage with the intention of trying to blow Jeff off the stage. But with Jeff, I think, it got to be a ‘my-balls-are-bigger-than-yours’ sort of thing.”
According to Led Zeppelin: The Biography, Beck himself even admitted the arrangement was not working, and he said, “In the end, we were just on opposite sides of the stage, glaring at each other and blowing all night.”
Jeff Beck left the Yardbirds
While on tour in 1966, Beck left the band to return to Los Angeles. Page took over as the sole lead guitarist.
“Dumping Jimmy with all the guitar work in mid-tour was a pretty s***** trick,” Beck said in Led Zeppelin: The Biography, “but there was no other way out.”
Eventually, the Yardbirds met up with Beck in LA to officially fire him from the band. To Beck’s surprise, Page decided to stay with the Yardbirds
“They were just totally adamant,” Page said in Led Zeppelin: The Biography. “And when it was over, Beck got up to leave and asked me if I was coming too.’ I said, ‘No, I’m going to stay.'”