The immortal Jeff Beck is gone; guitar shop has lost one of its bearing walls; the perpetual innovation the six-string slinger was pursuing for six decades is over. A restless soul, Beck’s never been a fixture on music scene, simply because he couldn’t help but be always moving – from note to note, from genre to genre, from fashion to fashion – while remaining the same easily recognizable creator of sound, while remaining at the forefront of it all. Not for nothing Jeff’s 1968 solo debut bore the title of “Truth”: that’s what he wanted to seek and find.
It wasn’t enough for him to merely perpetuate THE YARDBIRDS’ rave-ups, as preserved for posterity in “Blow-Up” by Antonioni; neither it was enough for him to merely play the blues or rock the joint. Beck’s grip on his roots used to be as strong as his plectrum-free fingers which squeezed nuanced feelings from Jeff’s Fender, yet his urge to experiment seemed to be just as strong, if not stronger. That’s why “18” that the veteran issued in 2022 in tandem with Johnny Depp didn’t look like a misstep for the guitarist who introduced techno to his jive on “Who Else!” back in 1999 before grabbing a Grammy, his third out of eight, for the equally contemporary, in aural terms, “You Had It Coming” the following year. Beck saw fusing styles as the most perfect way of artistic expression – the reason for him finding a kindred spirit in Stevie Wonder and eliciting “Superstition” out of the American performer; ditto Jeff’s choice of colleagues – be it Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice with whom he formed a self-named trio, Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood with whom he shared a birdlike hairdo, or such stellar instrumentalists as Cozy Powell, Jan Hammer, Tony Hymas and Tal Wilkenfeld. Everything and everyone was a part of the route to truth.
I had a chance to interview Beck many years ago, but telephone line failed, and although I could hear Jeff call my name, he couldn’t hear me, so our conversation didn’t happen. Fortunately, I chanced to see the legend on stage in 2018 and experienced the dazzling wonder of his music live. Goodbye, Jeff Beck, you left us in a blaze of glory.