How the Yardbirds Revolutionized Rock Live on the BBC

Jeff Beck–led band blew up the very possibilities of sound 50 years ago

When you look over the trove of BBC recordings that still exist, you naturally look to what the Beatles did, and then Hendrix’s airshots a few years later, but it’s tough to beat the recordings the Yardbirds made there starting 50 years ago. This iteration of the band didn’t leave us a live album, a reality that might be one of the worst losses in rock history, were it not for the surviving BBC material.

“Too Much Monkey Business”

The August 6th, 1965 version of Chuck Berry’s “Too Much Monkey Business” is just one of those “come on, you have to be shitting me” performances, with two Beck solos that contain torrents of notes that tumble out faster than anything Ritchie Blackmore would later play, and with perfect articulation. If you can play guitar better than this, you can’t play it much better. Bent notes, hammer-ons, vibrato, cheek, Chet Atkins finesse, Son House power, all at Alvin Lee warp speed.

“Still I’m Sad”

Oh, this is normal – how about some Gregorgian chant on the radio while you’re planning your weekend young person things? But so it went when the Yardbirds broke into “Still I’m Sad” at a September BBC session that is part raga drone for voice, Druidic death lament and what one might imagine they used to sing around the rocks at Stonehenge. Maybe to get the Martians to land for the latest time. People knock Relf as a singer, but he was the perfect vocalist for this band, with a voice that cuts its own unwavering path out of the sonic maelstrom.

Source: Rolling Stone