I bought a 20 Smash Hits-type compilation of The Yardbirds for $2 on cassette tape (to clarify – this was when I was about 13 and I bough tapes regularly and they were $14-20 usually). Sometimes I’d get a $10 bargain tape or for $5-$10, but $2 was the cheapest – ever. That seems comical now (you’d be doing pretty well to make $2 selling any cassette tape these days). It was a budget compilation – there was record hiss and so on but it opened up a new world to me, and that world was all about the myth, the folklore, that story of the holy trinity, the triumvirate – Clapton, Beck, Page – as a young fan of guitar music – particularly blues, and rock and, er, blues-rock, the story of The Yardbirds was legendary. And I was in hook, liner and sinker.
And so for years that cassette tape was all I needed and the next time I got more Yardbirds was when I bought the triple-tape Beck compilation, Beckology. Another revelation and the whole first album gave me a load more of Yardbirds – including this album in its entirety, or at least between that and the other tape I had, I had it all. But I’ve never sat down to listen to the album in its original order until I decided to kick off this challenge.
It stands up pretty good. The Yardbirds weren’t ever as great as their story boasts – that three-great-guitarists trick really has made the band seem a whole lot more important. Their singer was awful, the other members pretty average, a lot of the material was ho-hum. But there’s an energy here that is palpable. And Jeff Beck is, when push comes to shove, my all-time favourite guitarist I think. That’s not to say that everything he’s ever been involved with is fantastic, or that it even gets a free pass, but it’s all of interest. Always.