It’s all in the details when it comes to copping the rhythm figure from Jeff Beck’s “Rock My Plimsoul,” a sly retake on B.B. King’s “Rock Me Baby” (credited to “Jeffrey Rod”) from 1968’s incredible Truth album. This is actually Beck’s rhythm guitar part—his main guitar (not notated) plays along with but doesn’t exactly double the part for the first three measures before switching to lead lines halfway through bar 4 of the song’s 12-bar blues progression.
Beck’s one-bar, I-chord motif is built on a common, single-note blues lick in B, and features twin low-register roots, an octave-higher B, and the b7 (A), all played as shuffled eighth-notes during the first two beats with the b7 tied to beat three. It’s a simple riff, but it’s dripping with juicy details, from the palm-muted first beat and b7-to-octave-root grace-note hammer-on and vicious vibrato on the b7 during beats two and three, to the often varied triplet on beat four. Ex. 1a, the first lick you hear, shows the moves that remain consistent on the first three beats during repeats and transpositions to the IV (E) and V (F#) chords, plus the first in a series of variations on beat four’s triplet, played here as chromatic 4-#4-5 hammer-ons (E-E#-F#). In Ex. 1b (and the next four examples), the first two beats are identical, but here we’re adding an extra A on the and of beat three. (Beat four remains the same.) Ex. 1c changes up beat four of the original figure with a 4-5-b7 triplet (E-F#-A) that utilizes a slide between the first two notes, while Ex. 1d recasts this move as a hammer-on and includes the extra A from Ex. 1b. Ex. 1e’s descending root-b7- 5 triplet (B-A-F# on beat four) appears often in the lead guitar part, and is typically played against one of the other triplet licks, creating a delicious rub between the two parts. (Note the pull-off between the first two notes.) Any of the previous examples can be played over the I chord in bars 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 11, and 12 of the 12-bar blues progression. Finally, Ex. 1f transposes one version of the I-chord motif up a perfect fourth to E to coincide with the IV chords in bars 5, 6, and 10. Move it up another whole step to F# and you’ve got bar 9’s V chord covered.
But guess what? As cool as Beck-y’s interchangable rhythm guitar parts are, I’m really here to talk about (then) future Rolling Stone Ron Wood’s bass part. You see, it’s this figure (not Beck’s) and Mickey Waller’s drumming that gives this moderately slow shuffle its uniquely lopsided triplet groove. Bassists who aren’t familiar with the original recording and simply follow the guitar part couldn’t be more wrong! Check it out, arranged for guitar: Ex. 2a shows how Woody prefaces his b7-to-root grace-note hammer-on with an eighth-rest, and then delays it until the and of beat two—one eighth-note later than Beck’s. This means that Beck is playing the b7 while Woody plays the root— very cool! Wood’s hammer-on also marks the beginning of a rhythmically displaced quarter-note triplet (root-b7-5) that culminates with beat four’s chromatic 4-#4-5 triplet to create the song’s signature lope. Ex. 2b features the variation most used by Wood throughout the tune. Transpose it up a fourth for the IV chord and up a fifth for the V chord. This often-missed detail makes all the difference in the world, so the next time you jam on “Rock My Plimsoul” and the bassist starts doubling your part, do me a favor and set him or her straight. And that goes for drummers, too!