George Martin on the Making of Jeff Beck’s Blow By Blow + Jeff Beck Gear Guide!
George Martin will be forever fixed in the musical consciousness as the man who produced the Beatles. From that moment in 1963 when he took the band into the studio to record their first song, “Love Me Do,” his fate was sealed. Anything and everything the fifth Beatle ever did before or would ever do after would always be measured by what he created with the Fab Four. Working with the most musically and culturally significant band the world has ever known leaves a mark.
[originally by Steven Rosen | 05.23.2008, Gibson.com] In late 1974, some five years removed since working on the Beatles final album, Let It Be, Martin undertook another project not without its significance. He teamed with guitar genius Jeff Beck and recorded Blow By Blow, the first instrumental record to ever break the Top Ten (it reached No. 4) and Jeff’s first step into vocal-less waters.
Beck had grown weary of being a guitar player supporting a singer. He wanted to do something different, something completely outside of the box.
“I wanted to go directly onto an instrumental guitar album,” Beck explained a few months after Blow By Blow’s March 1975 release. “I realized another vocal album would be out of the question because there weren’t any vocalists available that I liked.
“It was nice to work with somebody that knows a Gb from an Am. George was a very good, objective person to have around. He put the album into perspective and that’s what I think a producer should do. He controlled it, and any wild ideas that we had, he just pushed them out the window. I wouldn’t say he completely comprehended what I was doing, but then I didn’t either [laughs].
“I enjoyed making the Blow By Blow album with George because there was an air of importance about the project. But it wasn’t like, ‘C’mon, you bastard! We’ve been waiting two years for that!’ I think it’s the best guitar playing I’ve done since Truth.”
Now, Gibson Lifestyle has published online a rare interview from 1978, where George Martin reveals what it was like behind the boards during the recording of one of the most legendary albums of all time.
“I said this to him at the outset, I said, ‘I’m not gonna give you any magic if you’re thinking of that; I’m not gonna give you sounds that you’ve never had before. The sounds are gonna have to come from your guitar and you’re gonna have to work on ’em.’ …He would make the sounds himself in the studio and then we would translate them into recording. And of course then we would add a little gloss here and there but there was nothing specific about any particular tricks that we did on the album. “
“…there’s nothing [Jeff Beck] likes better than to get under the front of his car and change the oil and get himself all greasy. He loves playing about with mechanics and things. And he tends to look upon his guitars like a lump of old iron. It’s amazing to me how these instruments … he brings a battered old Fender in and says, “This bloody thing is no good.” And I say, ‘Well, haven’t you got another one?” And he said, “No, it’s all I’ve got.” And then he proceeds to pick it up and make the most incredible, beautiful, heavenly sounds imaginable.”
THE JEFF BECK SOUND – ALL ABOUT JEFF BECK’S GEAR THROUGHOUT THE YEARS:
Jeff Beck’s gear at the time of “Blow By Blow” included a ’54 Les Paul and ’70s Strats through Marshall head/Univox cab, with boost and wah pedals. The solo on “Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers” played on ’58 Tele w/humbuckers.
Some reports say beck used a Fender Tweed at the time, as well. He certainly has been known for using them live, as the recent live image (below) shows.
It’s possible that he also used a Fuzz pedal…perhaps the same Tone Bender he used to have in the Yardbirds days (quite rare and expensive now. The Electro-Harmonix Double Muff is quite good for that simple, vintage-style type of fuzz…)
Jeff Beck’s trademark axe has been his surf green Stratocaster, but in the above picture, as you can see, he’s got a blonde Strat.
And from somewhere in the Fender website we managed to find this info:
Beck’s main axe that’s been with him for for quite some time is a well-worn Jeff Beck Stratocaster® signature model. This surf green warhorse is named “Little Richard” in token of the fact that the rock ‘n’ roll legend signed his name on the body in mile-high letters. Said body shows signs of having been completely split apart in two places, and carefully glued back together.
“I’ve been playing this same Strat,” Beck shrugs. “…It’s just the one I always pick up and use. It’s completely broken in. In fact, it’s all bashed up.”
In the early ’60s, Beck became one of the first guitarists to experiment with feedback.
“I had a terrible amp that fed back anyway,” he recalls. “When we started playing big ballrooms, you’d turn up the volume and wheeeeee. And everybody would start looking at me thinking I wanted to be dead ’cause I’d made this mistake. So I had to turn a horrible sound into a tune to make them think I’d meant it. That’s where it all came from.”
By the Yardbirds era, Beck had abandoned the Strat he started on. He experimented with a few Telecasters before settling on a ’54 Fender Esquire as his main guitar. He played his Esquire through two Vox AC30 combo amps positioned “on two chairs commissioned from whatever sources,” he notes, “so that they were at waist level where I could get to the controls easier and hear them better. They were linked together in series.”
Jimi Hendrix became a friend and confidant of Beck’s during the Jeff Beck Group period (1968). Hendrix gave Beck several pieces of guitaristic advice. “On my early stuff, I was playing the thinnest strings you could get,” says Beck, “.008s. And then the Jimi man came along and told me, ‘You can’t play with those rubber bands. Get those off there.’ So my string gauges have been creeping up ever since. Now I’ve got.011, .013, .017, .028, .038, and .049. I’m trying to get heavier on the top end.”
It was also Hendrix who rekindled Beck’s interest in the Strat. For much of the early ’70s, he fluctuated between Strats, Teles and Les Pauls.
Beck’s right hand technique is highly idiosyncratic. He’s one of the only full-on rock guitarists who picks with his bare fingers rather than a plectrum (pick). “When the tailpiece of the Strat is properly set up, for me, I can feel the spring balance,” he says. “There’s a balance between the tension of the strings and the counter-tension of the springs on the back. I have it set so there’s just enough tension to bend the armup a whole step. That’s about it. If the bridge is leaning forward too much because of string tension, then you’re not going to get the downward press you need. So it’s about75% down, 25% up. That will do it for me.”
In 1989 Beck began collaborating with Fender on a Jeff Beck signature model guitar, having overcome some initial reluctance. After some reflection, though, he came up with a few designs based on his playing idiocyncrasies. “I had them alter the saddles,”
To accommodate Beck’s vigorous string bending, a double roller nut was devised. “The top three strings have a double roller, “ Beck elaborates. “It stops that extraneous ringing noise you don’t want, and helps the intonation as well.”
Beck has used a variety of amps over the years, often with a wall of cabinets. For his now legendary “The Fire and the Fury” tour with the late Stevie Ray Vaughan in 1989, he went a different direction.
Jeff Beck (right) on stage with Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Photo by W.A. Williams.
“I had a couple of Fender Twins and that was it,” Beck says. “Stevie couldn’t believe it. He had a huge stack with about 15 different amps, all gaffer-taped to a rolling platform. At the end of each night’s gig, we’d alternate between him coming on to play with me and my band, and me going on with his band. The volume coming out of those amps was so unbelievable. And every night he’d say, ‘You know man, I’m talking to my guys about getting your setup.’ And I said, ‘I’m talking to my guys about getting yours.’ With a good sound guy and 20 million watts of PA, you don’t really need to be loud onstage. But he sounded amazing.”
[originally by Alan di Perna, from Fender Frontline Vol. 26, 1999]
The Jeff Beck Stratocaster® features an alder body, rosewood fretboard, deep ’50s neck shape, two Gold Fender-Lace® Sensors in the neck and middle positions, and a Gold Dually® Fender-Lace Sensor in the bridge position.