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   Sunday, September 12, 1999 More Showbiz headlines

A Yardbird in the hand

Express Writer

It's a hell of a song, a jewel in the jazz-rock "fusion" crown, but the truth is far from romantic: Scatterbrain started life as a finger exercise!

 Could Jeff Beck therefore be the rock 'n' roll version of Bela Bartok? Could be. In any case, the 55-year-old guitarist is still considered one of the finest rock 'n' roll instrumentalists - a true guitar god, although, like all guitar gods, he denies it. (If you claim you are, you are instantly disqualified from being a guitar god. It's rather complicated.)

 Playing Wednesday in the Jubilee Auditorium, Beck has a convoluted career history that reads like the Scottish royal family tree during the Middle Ages.

 After studying at art college (most British musicians of any note went to art college, curiously, not music college), Beck joined the Yardbirds in 1965, went solo the next year, formed the Jeff Beck Group in 1967 with Rod Stewart and Ron Wood, got thrown off the Roy Orbison tour, fired his drummer, saw his bandmates quit, formed the group again, broke it up again, formed it again, formed another group, broke that up, joined the Jan Hammer Group, went solo again, tried and failed to hook up with Stewart again and so on and so forth into the future. His one and only hit, Sea of Love, with the Honeydrippers, is as uncharacteristic of the performer as you can get.

 Beck's career has also been fragmented by periods of inactivity, and by what appears to be an insatiable hunger for new sounds. His latest album, Who Else!, is no exception, marrying a hard-edged R&B sound with jazz and electronic dance music. Fans know to expect the unexpected with this unusual artist.

 Here's a peek inside the creator of Scatterbrain:

 1. What was the last movie you saw that you loved?
 Austin Powers, both of them. We're Austin Powers freaks.

 2. What was the first album you ever owned?
 I stole it from my sister: Gene Vincent and the Blue Cat.

 3. What was the last book you read?
 A book about Keith Moon called Dear Boy. It's his life story.

 4. What's your favourite hangout?
 Little Italy in London.

 5. Do you have a pet peeve?
 Being misjudged.

 6. What's your idea of the perfect Sunday?
 Listening to the radio, messing around with my car, taking stock of what I did the previous week, making plans for the following week.

 7. What's your favourite junk food?
 Chili beans with cheese.

 8. What are you doing on New Year's Eve, 1999?
 I shall be probably driving away from any kind of formal party. I'll just sit at home and do something that isn't millennium related. I think the whole thing is a joke.

 9. What gadget or gizmo can you not live without?
 Is a guitar a gadget? That's about it, really.

 10. Do you have a hobby or habit that you think would surprise people?
 I've had an Elizabethan garden designed that I helped build; and restoring ancient buildings.

 11. What's your favourite piece of clothing?
 My army boots. I put those on and I'm me.

 12. What would you change about yourself if you could?
 My schizophrenic tendencies. I'd like to be more focused, but perhaps that would destroy who I am.

 13. Who do you most admire?
 The Buddhist people who don't need material things.

 14. What is your greatest extravagance?
 Restoring old cars.

 15. Have you ever been mistaken for another celebrity?
 Yeah, in the early days, I got girls screaming thinking I was Mick Jagger.

 16. Do you have a favourite quote?
 I love the gravestone engraving: "I told you I was ill."

 17. What is your greatest weakness?
 I couldn't say that because I'd be in big trouble, so I'll have to go with No. 2: Being irresponsible.

 18. If you are reincarnated who will you be?
 With my luck, I would come back as myself. I don't know, I'd come back as someone who's a bit better with money than I am now.

 19. What is your favourite guitar?
 If I had to go on an island somewhere, I'd probably take the Stratocaster 1954 model. It has absolutely no modifications. It was good then, so it has to be good today.

 20. If you had to do it all over again, is there one thing you would change about your career?
 Yeah, I'd be a better bandleader. I'd take more authority and kick more ass, I think.

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