The Yardbirds in 1966. From left to right: Jeff Beck, Jim McCarty, Chris Dreja, Jimmy Page
and Keith Relf.
A British Invasion
band active in the 1960s British blues scene alongside The Animals
, The Small Faces
and The Rolling Stones
. The Yardbirds are best known for their hard-edged Blues Rock
sound, which influenced future Hard Rock
and early Heavy Metal
performers and for serving as the starting point for several guitar players who became famous in their own right; Eric Clapton
, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page
The original line-up consisted of Anthony "Top" Topham, Paul Samwell-Smith, Chris Dreja, Jim McCarty and Keith Relf. Topham had to leave due to studies, and was replaced by Eric Clapton. Clapton eventually left to join John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers shortly before the completion of the group's first studio album, which he felt was too much of a departure from their blues roots, and was replaced by Jeff Beck, who led the group in a distinctly psychedelic
direction. After Samwell-Smith quit to become a producer, Jimmy Page joined (with Dreja switching over to bass) and for a very brief period, Beck and Page played co-lead guitars. While there are few recordings of the two playing together, this configuration turned out to be highly influential.
Near the end of 1966, Jeff Beck was fired and Jimmy Page effectively took over as the leader of the group. They soldiered on until they disintegrated in 1968. Undaunted, Page decided to organize The New Yardbirds, recruiting Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham
to fulfil an obligation to play at several European tour dates. Page and company decided to record an album after the completion of the tour. Chris Dreja issued a cease and desist order that stated Page could only use the name for those tour dates. Inspired by a snarky comment from Keith Moon and John Entwistle
(that the band would go over like a lead balloon), the group changed their name to Led Zeppelin
Keith Relf died from accidental electrocution in 1976. In The Nineties
, Chris Dreja and Jim McCarty reformed the Yardbirds with several new musicians. (Indeed, McCarty has been the only stable member
version of the group, bar The New Yardbirds.) This edition of the band has released one studio album and several live albums. Dreja had to leave the Yardbirds in 2013 after suffering from several strokes, and he was replaced by founding member "Top" Topham. McCarty, Topham and others continue to tour as the Yardbirds to this day.
Principal Members (1963-1968) (Founding members in bold, current members in italic):
- Jeff Beck - guitar, occasional lead vocals, bass (1965-1966)
- John Bonham - drums (1968, died 1980)
- Eric Clapton - guitar, occasional lead vocals (1963-1965)
- Chris Dreja - guitar, bass, piano, vocals (1963-1968)
- John Paul Jones - bass (1968)
- Jim McCarty - drums, vocals, percussion (1963-1968)
- Jimmy Page - guitar, bass (1966-1968)
- Robert Plant - lead vocals, harmonica (1968)
- Keith Relf - lead vocals, harmonica, maracas, guitar, percussion (1963-1968, died 1976)
- Paul Samwell-Smith - bass, occasional lead vocals (1963-1966)
- Anthony "Top" Topham - guitar (1963)
Principal Members (1982-1983, 1992-Present) (Founding members in bold, current members in italic):
- Joe Allanson - bass (1982)
- Rod Demick - bass, harmonica, vocals (1992-1993)
- Jerry Donahue - guitar (2004-2005)
- Chris Dreja - guitar, vocals (1982-1983, 1992-2013)
- Mark Feltham - lead vocals, harmonica (1982-1983)
- Laurie Garman - harmonica (1994-1996)
- Alan Glen - harmonica, percussion (1996-2003, 2008-2009)
- John Idan - lead vocals, guitar, bass (1992-2009)
- Ben King - guitar (2005-Present)
- John Knightsbridge - guitar, vocals (1982-1983)
- Ray Majors - guitar, vocals (1994-1995)
- Gypie Mayo - guitar, vocals (1995-2004, died 2013)
- Jim McCarty - drums, percussion, vocals (1982-1983, 1992-Present)
- Billy Boy Miskimmin - harmonica, percussion (2003-2008)
- Andy Mitchell - lead vocals, harmonica (2009-Present)
- Paul Samwell-Smith - bass (1983)
- David Smale - bass (2009-Present)
- Anthony "Top" Topham - guitar, vocals (2013-Present)
- 1965 - For Your Love
- 1965 - Having A Rave Up
- 1966 - Yardbirds, better known as "Roger The Engineer"
- 1967 - Little Games
- 2003 - Birdland
- 1964 - Five Live Yardbirds
- 1966 - Sonny Boy Williamson And The Yardbirds note
- 1971 - Live Yardbirds Featuring Jimmy Page
- 1984 - London 1963 — The First Recordings!
- 1997 - BBC Sessions
- 1999 - Reunion Jam
- 2003 - Live! Blueswailing July '64
- 2006 - Reunion Jam Vol. II
- 2007 - Live At B.B. King Blues Club
- 2013 - Making Tracks
- Author Existence Failure: Keith Relf left the world in 1976 after electrocuting himself with a badly maintained guitar.
- Blues Rock: One of the earliest exponents of the style, along with The Rolling Stones and The Animals.
- Breakup Breakout: Clapton, Beck and Page.
- Cover Version: Most of their material, especially when they started off, was covers of blues, rock and roll and rockabilly songs, played a bit faster and heavier than the originals. Except for Roger the Engineer, heavy touring and limited studio time left the band mostly at the mercy of covers and songs written by outside musicians like Graham Gouldman.
- Cut-and-Paste Translation: Every album of theirs released stateside until Roger the Engineer.
- Mood Whiplash: "Ever Since The World Began" starts as a scary, doom-laden monotone chant about the evils of greed, and then suddenly becomes a light pop song with a call-and-response section... about the evils of greed.
- Psychedelic Rock:
- They went in this direction to an extent after Jeff Beck joined the group. It's best illustrated on Roger the Engineer.
- In fact, their song "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago" (one of few with both Page and Beck) was recently voted the number one UK Psychedelic Song in some poll.
- Revival: Dreja and McCarty's reformation of the group, which is also an example of The Band Minus the Face.
- Revolving Door Band: Throughout the Yardbirds' history, Dreja and McCarty have been the only consistent members.
- Sarcastic Title: "Mr. You're A Better Man Than I"
- Self-Titled Album: Almost with Five Live Yardbirds; Roger the Engineer depending on where and when it was released.
- Spiritual Successor: Led Zeppelin, who were originally called The New Yardbirds.
- Westminster Chimes: Quoted in "Jeff's Boogie".