February 4, 2023

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A tribute to Jeff Beck by Living Color guitar hero Vernon Reed

5 min read

A few colleagues were guitar heroes Visibly influenced by its news Death of Jeff Beck on January 10, aged 78, than Living Color Vernon Reed, whose first social reactions Consists of vulgarity and intelligibility. He followed it With a full tweet storm’s worth Those of praise for the people helped shape him. diversity speech With Reid about what Beck has created one of a kind

“The guitar community has been blindsided. We’ve had a lot of bad days — I remember Steve Ray Vaughn and Dime Bag Darrell and Chris Cornell; Before there was Social, (Chicago’s) Terry Kath or Jimi Hendrix or Kurt Cobain; Even our elders, such as B.B. King – but this is undoubtedly one of the worst. On Twitter, my initial reaction was just, ‘Fuck, no.’ It blew my mind. It’s blowing my mind just talking about it.

“Jeff Beck was a fearless guy. He was one of those rare prodigies who actually developed. He was kind of a rockabilly prodigy coming into it, and then he had these big open ears. He wasn’t stuck with the Yardbirds. He listened to jazz. And he was free to be influenced by that, but he wasn’t stuck with jazz fusion either. He was an early hotshot and he was just under his belt and knew it, so he wanted to go places he didn’t know. He was Jimi Hendrix or Was in the top (rock) ranks like Van Halen or Jimmy Page, but he was also as unique as Robert Fripp – he could be both of those things.

“I was too young for the Yardbirds, but I was coming up with ‘Blow By Blow’ and ‘Wired,’ or playing with Stevie Wonder on ‘Talking Book,’ and then going into jazz-rock. He was so omnipresent in a way, and Yet he had such a personality and was so open and didn’t care what the audience thought. When he heard jazz music, when he heard ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,’ he heard a melody that just moved him and he went with it. went. When he heard the Mahavishnu Orchestra with John McLaughlin and Tony Williams with Miles Davis, it affected him and he went with it and he challenged his audience. And he played quasi-gospel with ‘People Get Ready’ or Joss Stone. With ‘I Put a Spell on You’ or the rock ‘n’ roll of ‘Shapes of Things’ with Rod Stewart, he always lived in space in a way that was absolutely unique.

“And he collaborated across many lines. You know, he featured prominently on this Malcolm McLaren waltz record (‘House of the Blue Danube’), playing with Bootsy Collins, and killed that record because he took a fancy attitude to it. He digs it and he doesn’t care what people who aren’t Malcolm McLaren fans think; He just went with it. And that’s one of the reasons why he’s one of my personal heroes. If you are attached to your legend, you have to be careful how you move. And he arrives at this extraordinary place not with caution, but with a reckless precision, if you will. He proceeded in a way that would terrify ordinary people.

“He also brings this haunting quality; It went to the ethereal realm – not just chops. He can come down and get dirty or he can stay in the upper atmosphere, just floating in the clouds, still on the ground. He doesn’t have to go up and down the scales really fast to be attractive. He didn’t have to be tapped on the neck – and he loved and could do all those things. The lyricism was as detailed as his vibrato. His dynamics, the way he handled the strings, the body of the guitar, the way he held the chords, not picking—that’s what made him extraordinary. I’ve seen a lot of guitarists who blow me away with what they do — like Alan Holdsworth, Jesus Christ, it’s like, Yee Yee! He had a completely different kind of mastery. Beck blew me away with real subtle, little things. He’ll play a fill, not even the lead single – just a toss off thing – and I’m like, ‘What just happened?’

“Thinking about a favorite, one of the most obvious things to pick would be ‘goodbye pork pie hat’ or ‘shape thing’ or ‘get ready man.’ These are things that are very populist. ‘Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers’ was a great tune. But for me it’s either his version of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ or he did this thing that I shake my head every time I hear it: this short instrumental ballad ‘Where We Are You’. And the fact that he goes, ‘Where have you been’ and it’s not a question. He makes it a statement and he doesn’t add a question mark to the title. It’s vague, but it feels like the fragility of life on this planet, where everything is interconnected and we’ve all evolved together, and he got it.

“There are a few different versions of ‘Where Were You’ — there’s the recorded version, which is amazing, but there’s a live version of ‘Live at Ronnie Scott’s’ and he’s playing it in real time and it’s jaw-dropping. He was able to get a kind of belltone harmony and play one note, and then use the hammy bar to play the rest of the tone by manipulating only the tremolo arm. I can’t explain how incredibly difficult it is to play a note, sustain it, and then, without fretting, just do it with the twang bar. This is a wonderful level of technique, but it is a very subtle and very subtle technique. He freaked out the rest of us, because we’d be like, ‘Holy shit. How? Huh?’

“I didn’t spend as much time with him as I would have liked, but he was always incredibly gracious and he was a really friendly friend. I remember him touring with Santana and playing at the Felt Forum (in New York City), when I sat with Carlos, and I was standing 20 feet away from him. It was just amazing, because I was looking at his hands and trying to correlate where his hands were with the sound coming out of the guitar — and I couldn’t. He seemed to be performing a sleight of hand with a full deck of cards and short sleeves.

“Now, it’s like the idea that Prince is a character from the past — that’s crazy. The same way people once lived alongside extraordinary figures like Mozart, or ‘There’s Paganini,’ or going down to the Village Vanguard to see Coltrane. He was a living person doing his thing in real time. . And it always comes down to: We were lucky to have them with us. At some point you go, ‘Shit, I was in the world with this person when they were doing their thing.’

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