Guitarist Jeff Beck: touring in America
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NEW YORK (AP) -- Jeff Beck is a hero to fans and an inspiration to musicians. He is described as one of the most important electric lead guitarists in rock history.
His guitar playing -- eclectic and unpredictable -- gave The Yardbirds its celebrated futuristic quality after he replaced Eric Clapton in 1965. His pioneering experiments with bent notes, feedback, fuzz and other distorted amplification influenced hundreds of musicians.
Since leaving The Yardbirds in late 1966, Beck, 54, has crafted a successful solo career, moving from blues-based rock to hard rock to fusion to techno experiments.
Beck's new CD "Who Else!" celebrates his 34th year on Epic Records. The album features 11 new guitar instrumentals. Its styles and influences range from techno to blues to Irish traditional music.
He is one of the entertainers who contributed their own versions of Beatles songs on a new superstar compilation. Beck takes his guitar to "A Day in the Life." The recording, to be called "In My Life," will mark the retirement of 70-year-old Beatles producer George Martin.
Life on road can be rough
Beck, whose tour of 25 U.S. cities ends April 18, admits that life on the road can be difficult.
"It takes an average of three hours to unwind after a gig. You're still thinking what happened during each number and thinking, 'I must straighten that out.' You can wake up after one hour of sleep. You listen to CNN for 10 hours."
Life on the road can also be lonely -- and confining, says Beck, who lives in Sussex, England.
"You can't call anybody because of the time change. You can't catch a bus and go home. You're stuck there. It's kind of a prison. There are 20 other people there because of you. You can't leave."
Q: "Who Else!" contains several styles of music. What style are you most interested in playing now?
Beck: I get more kick out of discovering something new on the guitar that hasn't been done before than any pattern of previous achievement. I'm not likely to do something very predictable anyway. Sometimes I do, which in itself will be a contradiction.
Q: Do you prefer to make instrumental albums?
Beck: If I was to go the singing route, I wouldn't know whom to look for. I've been singing Rod Stewart's praises and damning him over the years. But nobody hits Rod's spot. Eric Clapton was clever enough to teach himself to sing. He supported a career with it. You don't want to hear me sing. I have no desire to sing whatsoever.
Q: How has your playing style changed over the years?
Beck: I think my playing has changed more in the last eight to 10 years than the rest of my whole life. Still, I cannot escape some Beckisms. I think Beckisms are influences from eastern Europe, speedy vibratos, slightly weird intonations. Influences from Bulgarian folk music have definitely crept in the last five to 10 years. I've been in love with Bulgarian village choirs a long time. They're so spot on. The music sounds like 12-part harmonies. That has crept into my playing style.
Q: Why don't you do more tours? Don't you enjoy it?
Beck: I do enjoy it. Especially post-35, you start to enjoy things more. When you're received well after the first tune, you get the feeling, 'I haven't wasted my life standing over this ridiculous-shaped piece of wood.' After a good gig, there's nothing quite like it. The thrill of having somebody enjoy themselves at what you've done can't be equaled. It's instant reward. I blame my management. They should get me on the road and get me doing smaller tours and more often. I don't want to go back home and be retired. I haven't come close to burning out.
Q: How would you describe your touring experiences?
Beck: I have been guilty of dumping bands, in very early days, when only five people were on the road. In early days, we tuned up and practiced in the back room of a bar. It was pasted together very crudely. It has become a highly detailed operation now. It's costly if anything goes wrong.
Q: Can you describe one awful thing that has happened on the road?
Beck: On a 46-date summer tour in 1995, after about six weeks, in Kansas in 120-degree heat, I was wringing wet before I went on. I fainted. It was a dehydrating problem. There was a woman in the emergency room who'd been hit over the head with a pistol. I said, 'Let me go; take her.' They said, 'You're sicker than she is.'
Copyright 1999 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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