Jeff Beck: Still On The Run
Director: Matthew Longfellow
Ask any guitarist – they’ll tell you Jeff Beck is one of the greatest. Many will tell you he is the greatest, certainly he’s peerless in terms of his quest for exploration and expression given he’s forever linked to his Yardbirds-colleagues Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. Not for Jeff to just fall back into ‘playing the hits’ or constantly remastering and re-releasing a finite catalogue and tidying up previously unreleased live material. No, Beck would rather take years out, work on his cars, wait until he has something to say.
Finally a documentary traces Beck’s career, from the days learning from rock’n’roll and rockabilly heroes (Gene Vincent, Les Paul) through a childhood friendship with Jimmy Page to taking over from Clapton in the Yardbirds and then on through the versions of The Jeff Beck Group and from rock to jazz and fusion, to swing and rock’n’roll tributes and to the establishment of his lead guitar as the ‘voice’ of any line-up he was in; guest appearances here, forays into electronica there.
What makes Still On The Run so compelling is the talking heads gathered and how they gush. All are in agreement that Beck’s collaborations with Stevie Wonder, Rod Stewart and many others are both legendary and somehow underrated. All seem to think the very same of Beck’s playing.
And yet this film stops short of blatant hagiography.
Because Beck is a go-your-own-way guy, and player. And that picture is so perfectly painted here.
This documentary manages a rare feat in that it should still provide something – some great clips, some analysis, some funny stories and plenty of reverence – for those already on board, already fans. It will also give context and kudos to an amazing player if you’ve never quite understood the fuss or got the buzz.
It was wonderful to see and hear Clapton and Page in particular just bow down to Beck. So full of real love and admiration of his work and knowledge of his skill; both have reduced themselves down to lazy caricactures in so many ways, in their own playing and in the perception of them. Here they show passion and humility. And yes, they’re far more known, they are the household names and Jeff Beck is not. But they – and the others interviewed here (including band members past and present and so many heroes from rock history) – are all in agreement that Beck’s tone, his touch and his integrity is unprecedented, is perfect.
You can support Off The Tracks via PressPatron