Wednesday, January 11, 2023

RIP Jeff Beck, Titan of Guitar

JUST GOT THE NEWS was blowing up while I was teaching, so I took a look between lessons and had a load of texts telling me Jeff Beck had I took a breath....and then I took a moment & told my students a little about this GIANT of the guitar world.

Now I'm sitting with a glass of scotch and Jeff's music soaring out of the speakers.

This is a HUGE loss to the world of guitar AND to the world of music. I'll write more about it soon at Skinny Devil Magazine - something to sum up his career and cultural impact for not only his fans but for the uninitiated. 

(ed: the story is now HERE)

But right now, hours after hearing the news, I want to write something personal; something probably selfish....because I'm sitting here alone and totally bummed out. So I want to write about what Jeff meant to me.

I was a kid, a teenager and new to guitar. But I consumed a lot of '70s gold, "Hair of the Dog" by Nazareth and all the early Aerosmith and Nugent's "Double Live Gonzo" and the live Kiss records and Rush's "2112". Excellent material all, no doubt.

But then, all in a year, I was hit by a handful of artists....I had no idea the guitar could do those things!

Of the handful of artists & albums that turned my world upside down, inside out, I'll name two from opposite ends of the spectrum, as it were: In the acoustic realm, 1980's "Friday Night in San Francisco" (Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, Paco de Lucia), and from the electric realm, 1976's album "Wired" by Jeff Beck.

I didn't understand what I was hearing from either album at first. Simply couldn't wrap my head around either. But nothing sounded the same after. 

"Led Boots" melted my brain and "Sophie" both compelled & confused me. So I grabbed "There and Back" (1980) and then went in reverse, buying a scratched up copy of "Blow By Blow" (1975) and even more scratched copy of "Jeff Beck w/ Jan Hammer Group Live" (1977), obsessing on songs like "Freeway Jam" and "Blue Wind".

It changed how I heard sound, how I conceived of the instrument, and later (when I understood the underlying musical concepts), how I both wrote and taught music. How I write and teach music today.

Jeff never stopped. Like the Miles Davis of rock music, he kept changing, evolving, rebelling against his own musical past. Never satisfied with what he had already done, and instead carving a new name into new stone.

Those who know me know my love of the ancient story of Prometheus (I'll expound on this later when I write a less selfish piece about Jeff). Jeff was a God...a Titan. Jeff was the Prometheus of modern electric guitar. That's all I can say for now.

Thank you, Jeff....for all the strange and beautiful noise.

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