I’ve interviewed Jeff Beck a number of times, and we did this one in 2005 for my first book about Telecasters (Six Decades of the Fender Telecaster). Naturally enough, we concentrated on Jeff’s use of Teles and Esquires, which predated his later moves to Les Pauls and, later still, to Strats.
We settled down in the kitchen of his 16th century Sussex pile for a cup of tea and a good chat about Yardbirds guitars, Jimmy Page‘s birthday present, and Seymour Duncan’s Tele-Gib, among quite a few other things.
Jeff, you told me once that your first Fender was a Strat you bought in 1961, when you were about 16, on HP [credit]. And I think you sold that to buy a car?
I think I did, yeah [laughs]. I think I got a phone call saying there’s a Strat in London, and I’d get on the train, which is something I never would have dreamed of doing—I’d never even get a bus—so I found my way to Charing Cross Road, all on my own, looked at this guitar, and dreams floated off into the distance [laughs]. I actually saw it, touched it, and that was enough.
I had a catalogue way before then, which I used to look at, an American from Fender when it was in Fullerton. I always remember it was on a ritzy looking paper, and I always thought these guitars have got to be about a thousand quid, and then I found out they were only £147—and even then I thought well, I can see myself being able to get hold of the money, if I sold everything I had.
In the end, I got it on HP. It was a 1960 sunburst, didn’t have a vibrato arm, and I painted it pink, or lavender. I sold it back to the… I remember it was split in two, this big split appeared along the back of it. I’d whacked something with it. So on the train as I went to sell it, I touched it up with my girlfriend’s nail varnish. It matched perfectly. Fantastic story, eh? And they never spotted it.
All the [Gene] Vincent Blue Caps guys had matching white Strats, so I had to have one of those—I had to have a Strat. My rhythm guitarist [John Owen, in Beck’s first proper band, The Deltones] actually had the first Fender. He had a Telecaster, a few months before I could even afford a down payment to put on a Strat.
So I would ogle this thing. I spent more time playing it than he did! He put everything in motion to try and get me to get the Strat so I wouldn’t keep nicking his guitar all the time. And eventually I ended up with that Tele.
Talking about the Strat for a moment—I can’t imagine what that guitar must have looked like to people when it first appeared in the mid-’50s.
Well, you know, the reason I left school was because of that [laughs]. I mean that is brain damage when you’re a kid of 14 and you see that—it’s just a piece of equipment that you dream about touching, nevermind owning.
The first day I stood in Lew Davis or one of them shops [in central London] I just went into a trance. I got the wrong bus home, just dreaming about it, you know? It just blew my brains apart, and it’s never been any different since. The Futurama never even was a threat. Even when I was 15, I used to look at the Futurama with great disgust—it was like the Woolworth’s version of the Strat.
Ode to Jeff Beck: Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Vince Gill, Steve Stevens and more on why he’s the guitar hero’s guitar hero
By David Von Bader a day ago
Some of guitar’s greatest names on Beck’s influence, praising his mastery of the space between the notes and relentless pursuit of innovation
If you’ve spent almost any time at all immersed in guitar culture, you’ve undoubtedly realized that our guitar universe runs on idolatry. Guitarists need heroes. We crave inspiring figures to learn from – characters whose sounds and aesthetics we can analyze, fuse together and incorporate into our own identities as players.
We’re a deeply reverent bunch that love signature- model gear, copping iconic licks as accurately as possible (Thank you, YouTube!) and partaking in the endless hunt for tones that recall the sounds of our favorite records.
And while the concept of the guitar hero is as old as rock ‘n’ roll itself, new heroes arrive for each new generation – with only the most remarkable players earning an immunity to the sands of time, capable of wielding influence over generation after generation after generation.
Among the proverbial High Court of Living Guitar Gods, Jeff Beck stands tall as the player other greats seem to most commonly point to when asked who they believe to be a truly worthy of the title. So we’re just gonna go ahead and say it: Jeff Beck is the guitar hero’s guitar hero.
Throughout a monastic life of guitar playing and a career chiefly marked by perpetual reinvention, Beck has provided seemingly infinite innovation on the instrument. Combining an otherworldly, fluid, dynamic touch, brilliant melodic sensibilities and a holistic approach that uses every last bit of a guitar, Beck’s playing is something that, at its best, transcends the instrument altogether.
It becomes a disembodied voice screaming out from the bowels of a Marshall, a mythical Siren escaping the guts of a Strat only by the will of a tricky finger flicking a volume knob. The man can be seen applying chalk to his hands before he plays, but the chalk might as well be magic pixie dust, because there really is no other worldly explanation for the raw emotional content Beck can dredge from a guitar.
We could go on waxing poetic here – and we all know how much guitarists love hyperbole – but we’ve decided to do you one better and got some bonafide guitar heroes to make the point for us.
Gathered here to celebrate the true champion of the guitar that is Jeff Beck are noted players pulled from varied genre and generation, all titans of the instrument in their own right.
Our panel includes Steve Vai, Steve Stevens, Vince Gill and Joe Satriani, plus relative newcomers Tyler Bryant of Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown and Bones UK guitarist Carmen Vandenberg, who shared electric guitar duties with Beck on his latest studio album, 2016’s Loud Hailer, an album that she also helped write.
While their respective voices on the instrument are unique and diverse, every member of our panel is bound by deep admiration for the great innovator from Wallington, England, a fellow who’s changed the game time and time again. And who knows what 2020 will bring?!
“When you go into a studio you’re trying to figure out a way to create the best impression of who you are,” says Steve Rosenthal, recalling his first professional recording experience. “I thought, ‘Well I’m 20 years old, if I’ve got to spend a lot of time in a place, this seems like an interesting place to spend some time.”
As the owner of The Magic Shop recording studio, Rosenthal spent the last three decades helping artists like Lou Reed, Coldplay, David Bowie, Arcade Fire, Norah Jones, and countless others present their own best impressions of themselves. More recently, running MagicShop Archive & Restoration Studios, he’s helped to usher in improvements on classic recordings by The Rolling Stones, Blondie, Elvis Presley, Woody Guthrie, and others, as well as digging into some legendary artists’ unreleased archives.
Rosenthal got his start in the mid ’70s as an engineer at A1 Sound in New York City, owned by Herb Abramson, co-founder of Atlantic Records. “I had to record the Atlantic Records way,” Rosenthal recalls. “You could only have three microphones on the drums… all the records that I engineered when I was at Herb’s place were sort of R&B records with large bands… and it would pretty much all happen at once. It was really trial by fire.”
With partner Gary Dorfman, Rosenthal opened NYC studio Dreamland in the late ’70s, recording tons of the punk and new wave bands that were popping up all over town at the time, and even starting one of his own, TV Babies, as well as his own label, Rockin’ Horse Records. In 1984 Rosenthal parted ways with Dorfman and went off on his own, working at several different New York studios and building up a solid clientele. During this period he did his first archival/restoration work on The Rolling Stones’ catalog through their former manager/producer Andrew Loog Oldham.
It was in 1987 that Rosenthal finally opened The Magic Shop downtown on Crosby Street. “I wanted to get a place with high ceilings,” he relates, “because I wanted good drum sounds, and that led me down to SoHo, which was incredibly funky at that point. It was still transitioning from an industrial neighborhood that was leaving and an arts neighborhood that was growing.”
Rosenthal made a crucial decision to build his studio around a mighty but disregarded piece of equipment. “I really wanted to have a vintage Neve,” he says. “I loved the sound of those early 1067s, 1079s, those Neve mic pres. In those days, they were destroying the vintage Neves—they would break them up and just keep the mic pre’s, because everybody wanted to use SSLs. I’ve never been a big SSL guy. So I went to England and I went on a Neve hunt to try to find a vintage console.”