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Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Yardbirds: For Your Love


1) For Your Love; 2) I'm Not Talking; 3) Putty (In Your Hands); 4) I Ain't Got You; 5) Got To Hurry; 6) I Ain't Done Wrong; 7) I Wish You Would; 8) A Certain Girl; 9) Sweet Music; 10) Good Morning Little Schoolgirl; 11) My Girl Sloopy; 12*) Baby What's Wrong; 13*) Boom Boom; 14*) Honey In Your Hips; 15*) Talkin' 'Bout You; 16*) I Wish You Would (long version); 17*) A Certain Girl (alt. take); 18*) Got To Hurry (take 4); 19*) Sweet Music (take 4); 20*) Heart Full Of Soul (sitar version); 21*) Steeled Blues; 22*) Paff Bumm; 23*) Questa Volta; 24*) Paff Bumm (Italian version).

The Yardbirds never really had a proper studio album out until mid-1966, by which time most of their classic material had already been released as singles. So thank the crooked American market for putting out two Yardbirds albums in 1965 that, in between them, contained all these singles and more — with screwed-up track sequences and some real dreck wedged in between the clas­sics, but still, providing us with some sort of foundation for collecting and reviewing their output. Not surprisingly, both For Your Love and Having A Rave Up were later re-released on CD with tons of bonus tracks, and both these editions are absolute must-haves for any fan of good music, let alone specific fans of early British R&B.

For Your Love, released in the States in June '65, collects all but one of the singles originally produced for the UK market to that point, along with a few album-only tracks culled from session leftovers. As it is, this is really two bands: the majority of the tracks still hail from the Clapton era, but four already feature Jeff Beck as his replacement, recruited after Eric's departure in March 1965. (The official reason has always been quoted as Clapton's frustration at the «pop» turn in the band's sound with ʽFor Your Loveʼ, but he may have been generally dissatisfied with his limited role in the band — in fact, for all of Eric's alleged friendliness and humbleness that you read about in his biographies, it is curious that he never managed to last more than two years in any single band, before giving up on bands altogether). However, the chronological cut-off is quite clear: For Your Love stops precisely before their first truly ambitious and innovative single, ʽHeart Full Of Soulʼ (an alternate take of which, with a sitar part, is included as a bonus track), and so here we have a portrait of the early days of this band, when the only thing that separated it from the rest of the pack was having England's finest young blues guitarist in their midst. First one, that is, then another.

If you rearrange the tracks on the extended CD edition in more or less chronological order, the studio history of The Yardbirds begins with early demos that show them taking their cues from The Animals — ʽBaby What's Wrongʼ and ʽBoom Boomʼ were both done by that band earlier and much better, since Keith Relf is no match for Eric Burdon as a blues screecher, and Eric's lead guitar parts here are surprisingly quiet and muffled, though already fluent and melodic. There's also a Keith Relf «original» called ʽHoney In Your Hipsʼ, an uninspired Bo Diddley imitation that should have earned Keith a good slap in the face — hey man, if you're trying to make a girl by telling her "pretty baby, you got honey in your hips", at least sing it like you mean it; the only thing worse than sexism is bland sexism.

The true story of The Yardbirds begins with Billy Boy Arnold's ʽI Wish You Wouldʼ: here, for the first time, they show that they mean business, with that wonderfully nasty and fuzzy guitar riff, doubled by Relf's harmonica and drenched in cavernous echo for the sake of adding an extra whiff of danger. The band's propensity for «raving up» is also well served here, with all five members joining in for some loud collective racket in the middle. However, I personally prefer the B-side, where they cover Allen Toussaint's joke song ʽA Certain Girlʼ and almost turn it into a dangerous tune — not least because of Samwell-Smith's surprisingly thunderous bassline, but most of all because of Clapton's guitar. To my knowledge, this is the first officially released Eric Clapton solo part on record, and the man does not hold back one bit, delivering a short, but per­fectly constructed, fire-crackling, ecstatic solo that could proudly decorate any of the nastiest garage-rock nuggets of its era: I particularly love it how he is not being afraid of overdriving the sound here — something he'd usually steer clear of in the future.

For the second single, they'd agreed to let Clapton shine on both sides: ʽGood Morning Little Schoolgirlʼ repeats the joke formula of ʽA Certain Girlʼ with a bit extra salaciousness, but the best bit is from 1:18 to 1:39 with you-know-what, as well as the earliest stage of what would later be known as Eric's «woman tone» (not yet, but he is beginning to get there). And with ʽI Ain't Got Youʼ, they finally manage to one-up The Animals, since now they have their own Eric, and he sure knows how to extract the sharpest, snazziest sounds from his six-string... but would it have hurt these suckers to give him just a few extra bars? At least he gets to solo at length on the brief blues jam ʽGot To Hurryʼ, the B-side of ʽFor Your Loveʼ, but here he is not particularly on proto-punkish fire, and this kind of stuff would soon be done much better with John Mayall.

ʽFor Your Loveʼ, contributed for the band by professional hitmeister Graham Gouldman, is really an excellent pop song — though we would hardly expect anything less from the writer of ʽBus Stopʼ and future key member of 10cc. The harpsichord, played by Brian Auger, adds a nice baroque touch, and for the first time in his life, Keith Relf actually turns in a decent performance: as a young romantic with a touch of morbid paranoia (ʽFor Your Loveʼ seems to be sung from a deliriously suicidal point of view, if you ask me), he is much more convincing than as an authen­tic Delta bluesman. Blame it on Eric (who is formally credited for playing on the song, but there is no discernible lead guitar) to not know the difference between conventional and daring pop music: on the other hand, it is also true that ʽFor Your Loveʼ is not much of a Yardbirds song, being neither written by any of the members nor featuring any of their creative instrumental ideas, what with Auger's harpsichord being its most notable musical feature and all.

Finally, we get to the first small series of tunes from the Jeff Beck era, and things slowly start cooking: Mose Allison's ʽI'm Not Talkingʼ is a violent hard rock groove, with no less than three guitar solos from Beck, who wastes little time in experimenting with feedback, bends, wobbles, sustains, and generally makes his guitar sound like a mean and lean drunk driver, spiralling all the way home but somehow making it without crashing the car. ʽI Ain't Done Wrongʼ is more of a group rave-up thing, but even this features Jeff in experimental mode as he works in a suitably evil wah-wah tone in his solo. And The McCoys' ʽMy Girl Sloopyʼ is the first time that the band crashes the three-minute — actually, the five-minute — barrier, but I have never been a major fan of it: like ʽLouie Louieʼ, it is a very, very silly song, and unless your band can credibly pass for a bunch of drunk sailors, you should probably never even try it. The Yardbirds may pass for a bunch of mopey kids with a penchant for sunshades and guitar feedback, but for drunk sailors... not really. Not the most shining of their moments, as is ʽSweet Musicʼ, a pop/R&B hybrid that should have been left to professional crooners.

The bonus tracks on the CD are a mixed bunch, including some of the band's most embarrassing moments, such as an inexplicable decision to venture into corny Italian pop (the early 1966 single ʽQuesta Volta / Paff Bumʼ); an extended take of ʽI Wish You Wouldʼ that adds nothing to the laconic original; and several alternate takes with collector's value only. But they do have that weird sitar version of ʽHeart Full Of Soulʼ — and although the reworked version with Beck's sitar-imitating guitar is decidedly better, it is still a bit underwhelming that they never got around to working in a proper sitar part: that way, they'd have at least something on the Beatles, who would only release ʽNorwegian Woodʼ a few months afterwards. Still, this take is of major his­torical importance for being, in strict chronological terms, probably the first recorded use of the sitar in a Western pop song.

Anyway, if anything, For Your Love simply gives us some examples of two great guitar players honing their chops at the very crack of dawn of the age of Guitar Gods, and for that alone, it deserves a thumbs up. Some of the finest electric leads of 1964-65 are to be found here, as far as technique, melody, and tone are concerned; and although both Clapton and Beck would obviously go on to far more ambitious feats, it might be argued that the proportion ratio of length to quality of these leads has never really been outdone by either of them.


  1. Meanwhile Anathema, that one band you value so high have released a new album, The Optimist (under the name Ana_thema). I wonder whether you are going to complete your reviews of their discography praising that album too.

  2. I'm glad you mentioned I'm Not Talking. I've listened to this track several times and there's something weird about the rhythm on this one. Twice, after Keith sings "That's one thing I can do without" there's a weird slide into the break that, when I hear it, seems to presage a much slower jam, but it jumps right back into the frenetic dance groove. It always catches my ear. Knowing Mose liked experimenting with weird off beats and stops, maybe one of you music guys could clarify what's actually happening there.