By late 1966 The Yardbirds were almost gone. Jeff Beck was kicked off for his unexcusable unprofessional behavior during the American Tour (non-apparences in many concerts). But the ebullient british guitar axe, who shared the six string duties with the musician-for-musicians, the most-in-demand-session man Jimmy Page, was the main arranger and the band driving force in the studio. Also gone was their former manager Simon Napier-Bell. His substitute was the mighty Peter Grant…
the band decided to carry on as a four piece even if the studio material was fairly inconsistent, as testified by the projected next single You Stole My Heart. When they didn’t finalized the sessions, the producer Paul Samwell-Smith quit too. The recording sessions for the new single (Little Games/Puzzles) and the new album was scheduled with Mickie Most.
After a successfull U.S. Tour, the band stormed Europe through March and April, 1967. Their sound began to mutate: by then is a powerful heavy blues with overtly psYchedelic and experimental tones, the songs became longer and longer with conspicous instrumental jam with jimmy page setting the direction, as in I’m a Man with Relf creating lyrics on the spot in front of Jimmy Page’s bowed guitar, a tip off to the tecnique invented by the great Eddie Philips of The Creation. You can clearly see the new drive of the band in those clips broadcasted from offenbach for the german tv show “beat beat beat”.
The album Little games was a mixed effort, with a very experimental side that didn’t run smoothly in the basic r’n’b thing of the yardbirds. The album fell flat and didn’t chart but the band began to gell around the superheavy and textured guitar style of Jimmy Page. It’s a new, reinvigoreted band the one you can see playing on a french tv show recorded on March 9, 1968. In the band repertoire just entered a slow blues number named Dazed and Confused, based on a jake holmes’ song…
On march 30, The Yardbirds arrived at nyc to play a show at the anderson theater. Epic Records, that is already planning the demise of the band, decided to record the concert to fulfill the contractual obligations. Despite the so and so recording, the concert is spectacular: experimental but loose, heavy but neat with great renditions of all the hits. Here it comes the Will Shade’s review on the #19 of the great great fanzine “ugly things“:
“from the anphetamine charged version of Train kept a-rollin’ that kicks open the proceedings to a delirious cover of i’m a man that finishes it off, Live Yardbirds! Featuring Jimmy Page is an aural inferno parading as a pop concert. The album’s high point might be the radically rearranged Mister you’re a better man than i, which segues straight into a toxic shocked Heart full of Soul. Mister sticks close to the original version until page issues a greasy solo that dissolves into an orgasmic wah wah run. Singer Keith Relf’s percussive vocals during the segment are highly evocative of Time of the Season. Strangely, the Zombies wouldn’t issue that single until several weeks after the Yardbirds performed said show. Many listeners will buy the album solely to hear the yardbirds take on a song that Led Zeppelin later made famous. They won’t be disappointed. Dazed and Confused reeks of sweat and nightmare. The aforementioned audience recording was used to edit in an extra verse at the beginning of the song. Epic apparently dropped this from the original release because the band had timing problems. note, too, that The Yardbirds never called the song I’m Confused. Their record company gave it that erroneous title on the original release in 1971. Regardless, Relf’s harmonica yelps replicate paranoia in a way that plant’s faux-woman squeals never could. jim mccarty’s drumming is far more fluids than bonham’s, goosing the song along until chris dreja’s surging basslines punch it into thermal meltdown. Further, page’s violin bow doesn’t come across as schtick as it usually wont do. Instead, it is a necessary element in the psychedelic alchemy, heightening the dramatic tension. His riffing, of course, is brutal. the song is the apex of phantasmagoria, equally anything they had previously done. The album also boasts an inciderary take on Shapes of Thing, as jimmy page covers jeff beck’s original solo with diabolical ferocity. the guitarist’s elegant showpiece, white summer, is a middle eastern marvel. Dinamically speaking, Live Yardbirds! Featuring Jimmy Page is the best recording the band ever made”.
But, after an aborted recording sessions at the columbia studios in early April 1968, the band called it quits in july.
In 1971 columbia records issued the recording of the show with the title LIVE yardbirds! featuring Jimmy Page to cash in with the new page’s band, with liner notes written by a young rock critic named lenny kaye… Page halted it immediately and had it stopped every time it was re-released, so the record is quite rare in its official release even if it was often bootleged. You can download it here, with bonus material from a stockholm concert in 1967.
The band was scheduled to tour sweden in autumn, but the band who walked in those nordic stages was called new yardbirds and had a very different line-up: Jimmy Page, john Bonham, Robert Plant, john paul jones. in few days the new yardbirds took off under a heavier sky as led zeppelin.
PS i’ve just heard the devasting news about lou reed’s death. in their last days the yardbirds played several times lou’s hymn to manhattan lowlife waiting for my man. As many of you, my life was saved by rock’n’roll… and it was alright… thank you, lou