Studio Lore: Tracking with Mick and Jeff

The year 1984 would prove to be a pretty big one for Eddie Martinez.
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The year 1984 would prove to be a pretty big one for Eddie Martinez. Run DMC’s “Rock Box”—with Martinez’s huge guitars—was about to radically change rap music, and he was poised to record the massive hit “Addicted to Love” with Robert Palmer. In addition, Martinez would soon get an invite to work with a rock legend and a guitar god that would take things up several notches.
—Matt Blackett

I received a call from producer Bill Laswell’s office asking if I was available to record Mick Jagger’s solo album She’s the Boss along with one of my favorite guitarists, Jeff Beck. Of course I said, “Yes!” With Strat in hand (that John Suhr beautifully prepared for me), I arrived at Compass Point studios stoked to get to work. I recall meeting Mick, Jeff, Chuck Leavell, Michael Shrieve, and Sly and Robbie a bit later in the sessions.

Mick would usually play the songs down on guitar, and I could tell from the get-go that he learned how to play from Keith. Mick’s pocket is similar to Keith’s in that he sits on the back end of the beat. I really believe what Mick was looking for from me was to be the glue—to offer some special rhythm-guitar sauce. I definitely wasn’t called down to play like Keith.

Jeff had several guitars—he had the pink Jackson with “Tina” carved in it, his Telecaster, and a mid-’50s sunburst Stratocaster. The amps were a Seymour Duncan Convertible and a Mesa/Boogie Mark II that might have belonged to Mick or Keef.

The title track, “She’s the Boss,” was the first cut we recorded. It’s a really quirky yet funky tune where my rhythm work was a good foil for Jeff’s claw-picking guitar part. My jaw dropped when I heard Jeff play his part. It was so left field in a good way. He played it for me before I had even heard the song, and it was so dope and fresh and it had me scratching my head. Another part that was cool on that same song was how I was answering Jeff on the bridge prior to his solo. Both guitars are clearly defined left and right in the stereo picture. “Lonely at the Top” is another tune where I felt the guitars melded in a really good way.

Jeff didn’t really say anything about my playing, but I could tell that he dug the fact that it wasn’t going to be a “Rock Guitar at the O.K. Corral” kind of vibe. All I was doing was serving Mick’s songs with parts that would help the track swing and free Jeff up to do his magic.

My takeaway after playing with this brilliant guitarist wasn’t a special lick or riff, but rather a question: How authentic is my playing? Jeff’s flow is free and unrestricted. He’s amazing and he’s always shooting from the hip. I learned at these sessions that being spontaneous and standing on the precipice and taking that leap is really important to a player’s authenticity. We’re all a product of our life experience and our influences, but what matters is what we do with it. I learned that how I channeled my experiences and influences would be my own signature. That’s worth much more than a riff and it’s a valuable lesson indeed.