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Watch Jimmy Page Rock Out on Bass with Jeff Beck in this Explosive Yardbirds Show

Jimmy Page (left), singer Keith Relf and guitarist Jeff Beck (right) of the rock band "The Yardbirds" perform onstage at Green's Pavilion in Lakeview Park on August 10, 1966 in Manitou Beach, MI.
Using an Epiphone Rivoli bass, Jimmy Page performs alongside singer Keith Relf (right) with the Yardbirds in 1966. Note the headstock of Jeff Beck's 'Burst creeping into shot on the left. (Image credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

By the mid-1960s, Jimmy Page had made his name as a formidable electric guitar player with a list of session credits too long even for him to remember. (Hey, it was the ‘60s!)

Another phase of his professional career kicked off when he joined the Yardbirds in 1966. Though he had already turned down previous offers, it was after a particularly rowdy gig in Oxford, U.K., that he was inspired to join the British rockers on bass.

They had commitments and dates, so I said, ‘I'll play the bass if you like'

Jimmy Page

“I went to a Yardbirds concert in Oxford,” Page told Guitar Player in a 1977 interview, “and they were all walking around in their penguin suits. [Singer] Keith Relf got really drunk and was saying, ‘Fuck you’ right into the mic and falling into the drums. I thought it was a great anarchistic night.

“I went back into the dressing room and said, ‘What a brilliant show!’ There was this great argument going on; [bassist] Paul Samwell-Smith saying, ‘Well, I'm leaving the group, and if I was you, Keith, I'd do the very same thing.’

“So, he left the group, and Keith didn't. But they were stuck, you see, because they had commitments and dates, so I said, ‘I'll play the bass if you like.’”

The Yardbirds in 1966 (L-R): guitarist/bassist Chris Dreja, singer Keith Relf, guitarist Jeff Beck, guitarist/bassist Jimmy Page, and drummer Jim McCarty.

The Yardbirds in 1966 (l-r): guitarist/bassist Chris Dreja, singer Keith Relf, guitarist Jeff Beck, guitarist/bassist Jimmy Page, and drummer Jim McCarty.  (Image credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Page’s stint as bassist in the Yardbirds was short-lived, however. Having swapped roles with the group’s co-founder and guitarist Chris Dreja to play alongside his pal Jeff Beck, the Yardbirds boasted one of the most formidable electric guitar duos in the history of rock.

“It worked out that we did the dual guitar thing as soon as Chris Dreja could get it together with the bass,” recalled Page.

We did the dual guitar thing as soon as Chris Dreja could get it together with the bass

Jimmy Page

Interestingly, Page later suggested Dreja take up the position of bassist in his new band, but having decided a career in photography was the way forward for him Dreja declined the offer. 

In 1969, Dreja's photograph of Page’s ‘new band’ – originally billed as the New Yardbirds – famously appeared on the reverse of Led Zeppelin’s eponymous debut album cover.

In this historical clip of the Yardbirds filmed just weeks after Page joined the band in 1966 he is seen playing alongside a ‘Burst-toting Beck while Dreja plays a Gibson ES-335 (opens in new tab) semi-hollowbody electric. 

Though Page must have been itching to grab a six-string and let rip, his performance as a bass player here is exemplary.

Browse Jimmy Page's eclectic catalog here (opens in new tab).

Rod Brakes is a music writer with an expertise in all things guitar-related. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a journalist covering artists, industry pros and gear includes writing hundreds of articles and features for the likes of Guitarist, Total Guitar, Guitar World, Guitar Player and MusicRadar, as well as contributions for specialist books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.