The Yardbirds - 'The Story of The Yardbirds' (dvd)

2008 HIQ Entertainment

Georgio Gomelski - manager 1963-1966
Chris Dreja - rhythm guitar and later bassist
Jim McCarty - drummer
Keith Relf - harmonica
former members:
Paul Sam-Well Smith - bassist
Eric Clapton - guitar (Oct.'63-Feb.'65)
Jeff Beck - guitar (Feb.'65-Nov.'66)
Jimmy Page - guitar (Jun.'66-Nov.'66)

1.) "Louise"
2.) "I Wish I Would"
3.) "I'm The Man"
4.) "Heart Full of Soul"
5.) "Still I'm Sad"
6.) "Train Kept Rollin'"
7.) "Over, Under, Sideways, Down"
8.) "Shapes Of Things"
9.) "Happening Ten Years Ago"
10.) "For The Love"
11.) "My Girl Sloopy"
12.) "Stroll On"
13.) "I'm Confused" (When this version of the Yardbirds changed their name to Led Zeppelin they also changed the name of this song to "Dazed And Confused")

      Originally formed around the suburbs of London in 1962-63 as The Metropolitan Quartet, The Yardbirds performed first performed as the back-up band for Cyril Davies, and achieved notice on the British Blues scene when they took over has the house band at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond, succeeding the Rolling Stones in 1963.
      With a repertoire taken from the American Delta Blues scene and such Blues titian’s as Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddly, Sonny Boy Willianson II, and Robert Johnson, it wasn’t long The Yardbird’s began to gain a following within the  London music scene.
       The band made their first of several significant line-up changes in October 1963 when the replaced lead guitarist Anthony ‘Top’ Topham with art student Eric Clapton.  Setting him apart from his peers Clapton’s playing style was nothing like they had ever heard.  Between Eric’s glossy guitar playing and Relf’s harmonica style, the group could boast two attractive players that made listeners overlook their still incomplete rhythmic attack.  Crawdaddy Club impresario Giorgio Glomelsky – who had all but discovered the Rolling Stones but thought it was beyond his realm to be a manager – had learned from his previous mistake to become The Yardbirds manager however, as it turns out produce the band’s first release.
      Under Glomelsky’s guidance The Yardbird’s were signed to EMI’s Columbia Records in February, 1964; they set a precedent of a sort when their first album turned out to be a live album titled, “Five Live Yardbirds”, recorded at the legendary Marquee Club in London.  Blues legend Sonny Boy Willianson II invited the group to tour England and Germany with him, a union that survives to this day on a live album memorable for Williamson’s trouper-like adaptation of his deep troubadour style of blues to The Yardbirds’ raw, unpolished rock version. “Those English Kids,” Williamson famously said of The Yardbirds and other British blues groups like The Animals and the Stones, “Want to play the blues so bad - and they play the blues so bad.
     Though the band cut several singles it was their third single titled, “For Your Love” that gave the band their highest chart position in England, and gave them their first major hit in the United States when it was released stateside in 1965.  This move into a more ‘pop’ sound infuriated Clapton who at the time was a strict Blues purest and doubted the ability of “nice collage kids” form Cream with bassist Jack Bruce.  Before leaving the band Eric recommended studio guitarist Jimmy Page as his replacement.  However, Page uncertain at the time of losing his lucrative studio gig Page recommended his good friend Jeff Beck.  Beck’s playing style pushed The Yardbird’s towards ‘psychedelic rock’ sound.  Jeff played his first gig with the band just two days after Clapton’s leaving.
      In August 1965, The Yardbirds along with Jeff Beck embarked on their first U.S. tour.  The Beck-era would produce just three more U.S. tours.
       With Beck, The Yardbirds produced a number of memorable, groundbreaking recordings, from single hits such as, “Heart Full Of Soul” to Bo Diddly’s “I’m The Man” and “Shape Of Things”.  Beck was voted #1 lead guitarist of 1966 in the British music magazine Beat Instrumental and his work during this period influenced such musician’s as Jimi Hendrix.  His tenure with The Yardbirds is viewed by many as the group’s “golden area”.
     Shortly after recording the sessions that produced ‘Yardbirds’ (a.k.a Roger The Engineer) Samwell-Smith made the decision to leave the group to work behind the scenes as a record producer.   The guys called on former Yardbirds guitarist Jimmy Page.  Page agrees to play bass for the band until rhythm guitarist Dreja could become more comfortable with that instrument.
     Being blessed with two world-class guitarists was evident on their live performances.  After a small tour opening for The Rolling Stones the band hit the studio to begin working on the single “Happening Ten Years Ago”.  Jimmy being able to switch between guitar and bass along him and Beck to play twin lead guitar solos, so when it became time to record “Happening Ten Years Ago” the band enlisted the help of session’s bassist John Paul Jones.  The B-side of the U.S. version contained the track “The Nazz Are Blue” this track features a rare lead vocal performance by Jeff Beck.
      The powerful synergy between Beck & Page proved short lived with only a hand full of live-recording.  After a tour stop in Texas in late October 1966, The Yeardbirds made the decision to fire Jeff Beck and continue as a quartet. 
       Page became the new lead guitarist and was as bent towards experimentation as Beck was, particularly his striking technique of scrapping a violin or cello bow across his strings. Despite Page's contributions, the Yardbirds' commercial fortunes began sinking quickly. "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago" as a single had only reached No. 30 on the U.S. Hot 100, and fared even worse in their native Britain. Chart indifference led to record company pressure, as British label EMI pressed hit-making producer Mickie Most upon them in a failed bid to reignite their commercial success, forcing them to record songs by outside writers that did not fit their trademark sound. Their first experiment with Most, the "Little Games" single released in the spring, flopped so badly in the UK that EMI did not release another Yardbirds record there until after the band broke up (a UK release of the "Goodnight Sweet Josephine" single was planned the following year, but cancelled). A cover of Manfred Mann's "Ha Ha Said The Clown" — on which only one band member, Relf, actually performed — was the band's last single to crack the U.S. Top 50, peaking at No. 44 in Billboard in the summer of '67. Their final album, Little Games, released in America in July, was a commercial and critical non-entity.
     The Yardbirds spent most of the rest of that year touring in the States with new manager Peter Grant while living a schizophrenic pop life: While their records became more benign (a cover of Harry Nilsson's "Ten Little Indians" hit the U.S. in the fall of '67 and quickly sank), their live shows were becoming heavier and more experimental. The band rarely played their 1967 singles on stage, preferring to mix the Beck-era hits with blues standards and covers from groups such as the Velvet Underground and American folk singer Jake Holmes. Holmes' "Dazed and Confused", with lyrics rewritten by Relf and cranked up to a blues-metal frenzy by Page, McCarty and Dreja, was a live staple of the Yardbirds' last two American tours — and it went down so well that Page decided to keep it in the quiver even after the band's demise.
     By 1968, their studio output and live repertoire were two almost completely different entities, with the former going nowhere fast but the latter still popular with the underground counterculture. Furthermore, there was now both a personal and artistic rift between the members of the band. Keith Relf and Jim McCarty were regularly using marijuana and LSD by this time, and wished to pursue a different style of rock influenced by folk and classical music. Jimmy Page, who at the time avoided drugs, wanted to steer blues-rock into new, more intense directions of dynamics and depth, the kind of music that Led Zeppelin would become famous for. This left Chris Dreja, who still felt a loyalty to his friends and bandmates of several years but was confused by their drug intake, preferred Page's type of music, and by now was also developing an interest in photography. By March, Relf and McCarty had decided to leave, but the other two managed to persuade them to stay at least for one more American tour.
     The Yardbirds' final single, recorded in January and released two months later, reflected these diverging tastes. The A-side, "Goodnight Sweet Josephine", was in the same vein as their Mickie Most-produced singles of the previous year and was closer to the style Relf and McCarty were leaning toward, but its B-side, "Think About It", featured a proto-Zeppelin Page riff and snippets of the "Dazed" guitar solo in the break. At a time when heavy psychedlic blues-rock as played by Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience was enormously popular, "Think About It" was the right song at the right time. Nevertheless, four straight bubblegum singles had destroyed the band's reputation permanently as far as records were concerned, and this last single did not even crack the Hot 100.
     A concert and some album tracks were recorded in New York City in March (including the currently unreleased song "Knowing That I'm Losing You", an early version of a track that would be re-recorded by Led Zeppelin as "Tangerine").  All were shelved at the band's request, although once Led Zeppelin hit big, Epic tried to cash in by releasing the concert material as the bootleg Live Yardbirds: Featuring Jimmy Page. The album was quickly withdrawn after Page's lawyers filed an injunction.
     On July 7, 1968, the Yardbirds played their final gig at Luton Technical College in Bedfordshire, England.  Ironically, this was twelve years to the day Led Zeppelin would play their final concert in their in Berlin.  


     ‘The Story of The Yardbirds’ DVD is exactly what the title says it is.  The documentary goes from the incarnation of the band by the band’s rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja in 1962 to the band dividing into two groups The Yardbirds and The New Yardbirds (later changing their name to Led Zeppelin).  I have always known Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page were all members of The Yardbirds at one time or another.  However I never realized until watching this DVD that they were members of the band in those first five years.  In the history of Rock only Chris Dreja and Jim McCartny can say their band The Yardbirds spawned three of the top ten guitarist of all-time.  If you are a fan of The Yardbirds this DVD will be a must have.