“I was doing what I was supposed to do, while something totally different was coming from Jeff… There were parts where it just did not work”: Jimmy Page reflects on the Yardbirds, and his short-lived two-guitar tandem with Jeff Beck

(from left) Jim McCarty, Chris Dreja, Jimmy Page, Keith Reif and Jeff Beck, pictured in 1966
(Image credit: Ivan Keeman/Redferns/Getty Images)

For a brief period in 1966, the Yardbirds had not only one of the most formidable electric guitar tandems of their day, but what to this day remains one of the most formidable two-guitar attacks in rock history. 

Amidst a series of personnel shuffles, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck would serve as the band's two guitar players, touring together with the group and recording the seminal single, Happenings Ten Years Time Ago.

Though the two budding virtuosos had plenty of mutual respect for one another – indeed, their friendship would extend far, far beyond their time together in the Yardbirds – it perhaps isn't a huge surprise that their respective styles occasionally clashed in the band. 

“Sometimes it worked really great, and sometimes it didn't,” Page said of his musical interaction with Beck during that time in a 1977 interview with Guitar Player. “There were a lot of harmonies that I don't think anyone else had really done, not like we did. The Stones were the only ones who got into two guitars going at the same time, like on old Muddy Waters records. But we were more into solos rather than a rhythm thing.

“The point is, you've got to have parts worked out, and I'd find that I was doing what I was supposed to, while something totally different was coming from Jeff,” Page went on. “That was all right for the areas of improvisation, but there were other parts where it just did not work.”

Page was quick to clarify that the occasional musical disharmony came not from any deficiency of character on anyone's part, but different six-string evolutions from shared musical roots.  

“You've got to understand that Beck and I came from the same sort of roots,” Page told GP in the same interview. “If you've got things you enjoy, then you want to do them – to the horrifying point where we'd done our first LP [Led Zeppelin] with You Shook Me, and then I heard he'd done You Shook Me [on Truth]. I was terrified because I thought they'd be the same. But I hadn't even known he'd done it, and he hadn't known that we had.”

Though Beck had left the Yardbirds by the end of 1966, Page stuck with the ever-evolving band until their dissolution in 1968, and was even left with their name. With vocalist Robert Plant, bass guitar ace John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham, Page formed a band initially christened “The New Yardbirds.” The New Yardbirds, of course, would then become a little band called Led Zeppelin...

Jackson Maxwell
Associate Editor, GuitarWorld.com and GuitarPlayer.com

Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com and GuitarPlayer.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.

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