Beck's Bolero

'Beck's Bolero' is a short, rock-based instrumental piece heavily influenced by Maurice Ravel's 'Bolero', recorded by Jeff Beck with Jimmy Page on guitar, John Paul Jones on bass, Nicky Hopkins on piano, and Keith Moon on drums. The song composed by Page, was first released as the B-side of a Jeff Beck solo single on 25 March 1967, and was later on released on the 1968 album Truth. The single charted at number 14 on the UK charts.

Overview

The song is considered by many critics to be an important work in the early proto development of both the heavy rock and progressive rock genres. 'Beck's Bolero' was recorded at IBC Studios on 16 May 1966. John Entwistle was scheduled to play bass but couldn't attend, so John Paul Jones was called in as a last minute replacement. Beck, Page, Hopkins, Jones, and Moon planned to record a whole album, but contractual obligations prevented them from recording together again, and this was the only song from that session that was released, eventually as a B-side. Moon couldn't leave the Who and he resorted to arriving at the studio during the sessions in disguise, so no one would know he was playing with another band. Jeff Beck claimed that Pete Townshend 'glared like daggers at me' after he later found out about the recording sessions.

The song is roughly divided into three parts. The first part being two lead guitars playing separate melodies over a bolero rhythm; the first a rock lead in a moderately overdriven tone; the other playing a slide piece in a clean slinky tone resembling a steel guitar. A simultaneous drum break and vocal scream is heard at halfway (courtesy of Moon, who knocked over his recording mic in the process, resulting in his crash cymbal being heard over the other percussion for the rest of the piece), after which the band begins playing a powerful blues rock section. The first fuzzbox-distorted lead guitar eventually emerges from the sonic sludge along with the bolero rhythm, this time being played with percussive flourishes. Shortly thereafter, another lead guitar playing its own melody. The song is then brought to a very abrupt end as the band simply stops playing.

Mickie Most claimed production credit on the song when it was released as a single, even though he was not in the studio either during the recording or mixing stages.

Page formerly inducted Beck into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Page and Beck were previously present and inducted as members of the Yardbirds in 1992. 'Beck's Bolero' was performed by both Beck and Page together at the induction ceremony, with Page playing the original Fender XII guitar from the 1966 session.

Beck's Bolero 45 rpm single B side

Accolades

  • Bruce Pollock - The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005) *
  • Toby Creswell - 1001 Songs: the Great Songs of All Time (2005) *
  • DigitalDreamDoor - The 100 Greatest Rock Guitar Solos (2005) 133
  • DigitalDreamDoor - The 100 Greatest Rock Instrumentals (2008) 44

(*) designates unordered lists.

Credits

Musicians:

  • Jeff Beck - electric guitar
  • Jimmy Page – 12 string electric guitar, producer
  • Nicky Hopkins – keyboards
  • John Paul Jones – bass guitar
  • Keith Moon - drums, percussion

Production:

  • Mickie Most – producer
  • Glyn Johns - engineer, mixing
  • Peter Mew - remastering (2000s)

Bibliography

  • Carson, Annette (1998) Jeff Beck: Crazy Fingers. London: Plexus Publishing. ISBN 978-0-85965-263-6 (OCLC 230180241).
  • Case, George (2009) Jimmy Page: Magus, Musician, Man: An Unauthorized Biography. Rev. edn., Milwaukee, WI: Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-0-87930-947-3 (OCLC 244058456).

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