The Yardbirds

Greatly Appreciated

The Yardbirds  are an English rock band that had a string of hits in the mid-1960's, including "For Your Love", "Over Under Sideways Down" and "Heart Full of Soul".  The group is notable for having started the careers of three of rock's most famous guitarists:  Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, all of whom are in the top five of Rolling Stone's 100 Top Guitarists list (Clapton at No. 2, Page at No. 3 and Beck at No. 5).  The bulk of the band's most successful self-written songs came from bassist/producer Paul Samwell-Smith who, with singer/harmonica player Keith Relf, drummer Jim McCarty and rhythm guitarist/bassist Chris Dreja, constituted the core of the group.  The band reformed in the 1990's, featuring McCarty, Dreja and new members.  (More from Wikipedia)
Other notable covers by the Stillroven are of more obscure songs from British bands, like "Cheating" (by the Animals), "Little Games" (by the Yardbirds) and "Tell Me Have You Ever Seen Me" (by Small Faces).
(September 2010)
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Another song on Ear-Piercing Punk is my favorite version of the absolute best anti-prejudice protest song, "Mister You're a Better Man than I" by a band called the Herde. (First verse: "Can you judge a man, / by the way he wears his hair? / Can you read his mind, / by the clothes that he wears? / Can you see a bad man, / by the pattern on his tie? / Well then, mister, you're a better man than I . . .") "Mister You're a Better Man than I" was written by two of the guys in Manfred Mann, though the better known version is by the Yardbirds, so that is high praise indeed.
(April 2011)
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Sam Ugly (who was only 16) and Tony Torcher had played together in a Anglophile band called the Markeys that played a lot of early Stones, Yardbirds, AnimalsKinks, and Who songs.  After they heard the first Ramones album, and after several of the early punkers came through town – Patti SmithTalking Heads, and Iggy Pop – a new direction was clear; and the band brought in lead singer Mike Nightmare and his brother Raymi Gutter (when original Markeys guitarist Brian Vadders wouldn't cut his hair) – good thing, too, because it is Gutter's guitar that really stands out here.   The band started out with the name Rotten and changed it to the Ugly when they heard about Johnny Rotten.  
 (November 2011)
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While I would have to put the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds as the Top Three British Invasion bands to my way of thinking, the Animals would be right behind them, even ahead of the Kinks I think.  
(September 2012)
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Many of Bo Diddley's songs were hits for others, notably "I'm a Man" by the Yardbirds; there was even a completely ridiculous rumor that Bo Diddley specifically wrote "I'm a Man" for the Yardbirds, even though "I'm a Man" was actually the "B" side of his very first single back in 1955. 
(December 2012)
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You can talk about your pioneers of rock and roll – Chuck BerryLittle RichardElvis PresleyJames Brown, just to name a few – and you can even bring up your British Invasion greats – the Beatlesthe Rolling Stonesthe Animalsthe Yardbirdsthe Kinks, just to name another few.  All of them are already in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and deservedly so.  However, you can play a lot of more modern rock records all day long and not really discern more than a hint of their direct influence; no question it's in the DNA, but actual Elvis Presley-style vocals or Chuck Berry guitar licks or James Brown wails are elusive. 


That is not so with Link Wray:  His influence is front and center on a good 50% of the records that I play, because he is credited with introducing the "power chord" on electric guitar to rock and roll, a technique whose effect is often enhanced by distortion. 

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The 2008 documentary, It Might Get Loud shows rock guitarist legends from three generations discussing their music and their careers and their influences:  Jimmy Page (the YardbirdsLed Zeppelin), The Edge (U2), and Jack White (the White Stripes, the Raconteurs).  Needless to say, they all three made the Rolling Stone list of 100 Greatest Guitarists also:  #3, #38 and #70, respectively. 


At one point, Jimmy Page starts flipping through a pile of 45's and pulls out "Rumbleby Link Wray and His Ray Men.  To see a rock legend grooving along with that song, to see that big beaming smile on his face, to hear him discussing how the song developed, to see Page actually doing "air guitar" to "Rumble":  that really is something special.  The clip from It Might Get Loud is well worth a viewing: . 


(February 2013)

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The song that I love best on Pebbles, Volume 10 is "Train Kept A-Rollin'" by the Bold (also known as Steve Walker and the Bold) – actually there is a song by this band on both Pebbles, Volume 9 and Pebbles, Volume 10.  This was the first time that I had heard this song; I have since collected several more that include versions of "Train Kept A-Rollin'" by luminaries like the Yardbirds and Aerosmith, and it has become one of my very favorite songs regardless of who is doing it.  It is hard to top this blistering performance, however. 


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The Rolling Stones were from London, as were the Kinksthe Who and the Yardbirds.  The Animals came from Newcastle, an industrial backwater like Liverpool, though on the opposite coast.  The Hollies were formed in Manchester, though the bandmembers came from East Lancashire.  The Moody Blues were from the Birmingham area; Birmingham, Alabama (one of the first major industrialized cities in the American South) is named for the British city. 


(July 2013)


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The Goldie and the Gingerbreads 1964 recording of "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat" made it to #25 in the UK.  Here in this country, Herman's Hermits released "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat" two weeks earlier; the heavy promotion of that song cut them out of the U. S. charts.  After meeting Eric Burdon and the AnimalsGoldie and the Gingerbreads was signed for a European tour, where they performed with the Who's Who of the British Invasion the Beatles, the Rolling Stonesthe Animals, the Yardbirdsthe Holliesthe Kinks, and others. 


(October 2013)


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The proto-punk side of the Velvet Underground is well known – indeed, it is as difficult to imagine punk and new wave without the Velvet Underground as it is to think that heavy metal would have come along without the Yardbirds.  


(December 2013)


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"Rollin' Stone" by Muddy Waters is a bridge from the raw blues of Robert Johnson directly to rock and roll; while it is basically a straight blues song, there are startling changes in the beat and cadences over the course of "Rollin' Stone".  Within the blues world, it is a direct antecedent to Muddy Waters1954 recording of the Willie Dixon song "I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man" (Steppenwolf included "Hoochie Coochie Man" on their 1968 debut album Steppenwolf, among numerous other covers by various rock musicians), Bo Diddley's "I'm a Man" (1955), and Waters' answer "Mannish Boy" (also in 1955).  I suppose that Bo and Muddy had a pretty good rivalry going back then, but on several occasions, I saw a performance of "I'm a Man" by Muddy Waters in later life on a series of films on TV called Living Legends of the Blues – that rendition even leaves the cover of "I'm a Man" by the Yardbirds in the dust.

(March 2014/1)
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Like another English band, the Yardbirdsthe Strawbs (also known as Strawbs) is known as much for its previous musicians as it is for its early folk-rock and progressive-rock albums.  


(July 2014)


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By September 1963the Rolling Stones had outgrown the local club scene and had begun to tour; their replacement at the Crawdaddy Club was another of the major British Invasion bands, the Yardbirds, whose line-up at that time included Eric Clapton.  Other major bands and artists who performed at this club include Led ZeppelinLong John Baldry, Elton John, and Rod Stewart


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Of course, more than a few 1960's fans such as yours truly might have expected yet another Bo Diddley song on the Crawdaddys' CD called Here 'Tis, not coincidentally entitled "Here 'Tis"; but it is not among the tracks.  I have two versions of the song; one is by the Yardbirds, and another that is even better is by the Betterdays.  The latter version of "Here 'Tis" is included on the Pebbles, Volume 6 LP that introduced me to the raw English R&B sound that inspired the creation of the Crawdaddys in the first place. 


(January 2015/2)


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Like the band's first record, the Primitives' second single for Pye Records"You Said" b/w "How Do You Feel" did not chart at all in the U.K.  About the flip side, Bruce Eder notes:  "[A] bluesy cut with a nice, choppy rhythm part, similar to what the Yardbirds did with 'Here 'Tis' or 'Good Morning Little School Girl' on-stage, only with better singing."


(May 2015)


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Haymarket Square gained a solid reputation in the local music scene right away; one of their gigs was at the Playboy Mansion.  Allmusic says that they began "sharing stages with important international groups like the Yardbirds and Cream, as well as local favorites H. P. LovecraftSaturday's Children, and the Shadows of Knight".  Before long, the bandmembers began writing songs similar to those of their idols Jefferson Airplane, particularly Gloria Lambert (who was the sole author of 4 of the 6 songs).  
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The Yardbirds recorded "Train Kept A-Rollin'" while they were on their American tour in 1965.  In her biography of Jeff Beck, who was lead guitarist for the band at that time, Annette Carson notes (as quoted in Wikipedia) that their "propulsive, power-driven version, however, deviated radically from the original. . . .  [Their] recording plucked the old Rock & Roll Trio number from obscurity and turned it into a classic among classics".  Cub Koda writing for Allmusic notes of the Yardbirds' version that they made "Train Kept A-Rollin'" a "classic guitar riff song for the ages". 
The Yardbirds included "Train Kept A-Rollin'" on their second American album, Having a Rave up with the Yardbirds that is absolutely chock full of classic songs; in addition to their major hits "I'm a Man" and "Heart Full of Soul"Having a Rave Up includes "Evil Hearted You" and "Still I'm Sad", plus a full side of the Yardbirds in concert featuring Eric Clapton on lead (taken from their British debut album, Five Live Yardbirds) that includes "I'm a Man" again plus their devastating cover of Howlin' Wolf's "Smokestack Lightning" that I first heard on their 1967 collection The Yardbirds' Greatest Hits.  Anyone who thinks that the British Invasion began and ended with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones needs to hear this music post haste. 
Many people don't realize that Led Zeppelin is a successor band to the Yardbirds.  After Keith Relf and Jim McCarty left the Yardbirds in mid-1968, lead guitarist Jimmy Page was about the only bandmember left.  He set about finding new musicians for his next band that was sometimes called the New Yardbirds.  When the four bandmembers in Led Zeppelin started played together, the first song they did was "Train Kept A-Rollin'".  Jimmy Page recalls of that session (as quoted in Wikipedia):  "We did 'Train' . . .  It was there immediately.  It was so powerful that I don't remember what we played after that.  For me it was just like, 'Crikey!'  I mean, I'd had moments of elation with groups before, but nothing as intense as that.  It was like a thunderbolt, a lightning flash – boosh!  Everyone sort of went 'Wow'." 
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Steven Tyler was in a band that opened for the Yardbirds in 1966 and says of their performance (again from Wikipedia):  "I had seen the Yardbirds play somewhere the previous summer with both Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page in the band. . . .  In Westport [at their supporting gig on October 22, 1966] we found out that Jeff had left the band and Jimmy was playing lead guitar by himself.  I watched him from the edge of the stage, and all I can say is that he knocked my tits off.  They did 'Train Kept A-Rollin'' and it was just so heavy.  They were just an un-f--kin'-believable band." 
(June 2015)
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"Shapes of Things" by the Yardbirds is the first song written by the bandmembers that became a hit; it was released on February 25, 1966 and reached #3 on the UK singles chart and #11 on the Billboard Hot 100.  Richie Unterberger has written of this song for Allmusic:  "[Jeff Beck]'s guitar pyrotechnics came to fruition with 'Shapes of Things', which (along with the Byrds' 'Eight Miles High') can justifiably be classified as the first psychedelic rock classic." 


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So what is "psychedelic rock" anyway?  I once described it as "music designed to be enjoyed while under the influence of psychotropic drugs such as marijuana and LSD", but I never intended that to be a definition.  The way that the Wikipedia article on psychedelic rock starts isn't much better:  "Psychedelic rock is a style of rock music that is inspired or influenced by psychedelic culture and attempts to replicate and enhance the mind-altering experiences of psychedelic drugs."  The article lists the pioneering bands as being the Beatles, the Beach Boysthe Byrds, and the Yardbirds


(July 2015)


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An overview of the Loons was published in the San Diego Reader in 2015 upon the release of Inside Out Your Mind; eight other articles about the band had been published previously by this alternative weekly. The article lists the “genre” for the Loons as noise/experimental and punk and describes the “full scope of their sound” as “Beatlesque vibes reincarnated in the form of post-punk fervency”. Influences are listed in the article as the Pretty Things, the Seeds, the Yardbirds, the Monks, the 13th Floor Elevators, MC5, the Misunderstood, and the Dutch band the Outsiders
(June 2017)
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Stephen Cook with Allmusic gives the album 4½ stars and writes:  “Taking Brit blues invaders like Themthe Animals, and  the Yardbirds as a template, not to mention plenty of ’60s garage inspiration, San Diego’s Tell-Tale Hearts forged a fairly original beat homage between 1983-1986.  A bit too gritty and blues-based to really fit in with L.A.'s contemporary Byrds and pop-psychedelia revival (the Rain Paradethe Three O’ClockPlasticland), the Hearts only cut one album, an EP, and a smattering of singles and live tracks. . . .  Compiled by bassist Mike Stax and featuring the snider-than-Van Morrison vocals of Ray Brandes, the 21-track collection includes studio highlights like ‘(You’re a) Dirty Liar”’ and ‘Me Needing You, as well as some super lo-fi demo covers and a live rendition of the Seeds’ ‘Satisfy You.” 
(September 2017)
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Yet another SS-20 song, “Still I’m Sad” (the Yardbirds song) is on a split 45 that was given away by an Italian magazine called Lost Trails, with the other side being a live performance of the Patti Smith Group song “Dancing Barefoot” by the Australian punk rock band Celibate Rifles.  Discogs has several more of these free 45’s listed that feature other bands from the Bomp! Records roster, such as past UARB the Tell-Tale Hearts, Gravedigger Vthe Fuzztonesthe Steppes, and the Miracle Workers
(December 2017)
Last edited: April 7, 2021