Virtuoso guitarist Joe Satriani says his career (and that of many others) wouldn’t exist without the work of rock legend Jeff Beck.
When guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani began imagining a recording career based on instrumental compositions, he knew it was possible, thanks in large part to the fact that Jeff Beck had recorded hit albums (Blow by Blow, Wired) without the help of a singer a decade earlier. Satrianiwho replaced Beck on Mick Jagger’s 1988 solo tour, shared his thoughts on Beck’s legacy in a new interview on our podcast Rolling Stone Music Now. Here is his tribute in his own words:
When I started playing there was a bunch of musicians like Jeff, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Pete Townshend, George Harrison, Martin Barre [de Jethro Tull], Jimi Hendrix, all these musicians. They were my introduction to real electric guitar playing. I didn’t know Buddy Guy, BB King or Albert King, all these guys who influenced this group of musicians.
It was really fascinating for me, as a young guitarist, to build a style out of these second-generation electric blues players. And then, after a while, finding out who their roots were, and then going back and looking at Buddy Guy and saying, ” OK, and him, who is he influenced by? “.
But Jeff, like it or not, had this irreverent attitude every time he paid tribute to these blues players. And it turned out that Jeff Beck was really Jeff Beck. No matter who he was playing with, he was taking over and redesigning things. Eric Clapton was super respectful. Eric said to you: These are my roots. I’ve studied. I created this cultured style around these people, and I’m showing it to you. And Page was a little crazier. Hendrix took it to another level. With Jeff, it was almost as if he was saying, ” Yeah yeah. I’ve listened to all these guys and they’re great, but look what I’m doing with them. »
For me it started with Truth . I was too young for the Yardbirds. And then when I started playing in a high school band at 14, guys who were a year or two older than me really introduced me to all these other musicians, and Jeff Beck in particular. The first time I heard ” going down I thought that was the final version. I thought to myself, what could be better than that? Especially the way Jeff was going back and forth. What a strange way to play a piece of blues. What a great way not to copy all the other bluesmen who had done it. I just thought it was really brilliant and it was so different.
But over the decades, Beck has always improved. I don’t mean he refined what he was doing. He just added so much to what he could do on guitar. Technically speaking, what he did with the Stratocaster was really interesting. Hendrix definitely reinvented what you could do with the Stratocaster, and Beck was on the same level. Beck concentrated on picking with his fingers, using the guitar in the arrangements in a quasi-melodic way to accompany the singer. Jimi was singing himself, so it was a slightly different approach.
Beck kept adding more. And when I think of Guitar Shop it’s a perfect example of a record that blew people away in the same way that Blow by Blow Where Wired. He broadened his horizons by playing with new people, writing new songs, and he always brought out a technical aspect, like the use of harmonics. He represented his personality with these things, he wasn’t copying a trend, but bringing out a part of himself. He was always bigger than technique.
What interested me the most was his melodic side. I loved playing the guitar crazy and making noises, and I love the showbiz attitude of rock & roll. But if it’s not melodic, I pick up. If it’s just a display of technique, I’m not there, and Jeff had a beautifully melodic way of being.
But Jeff also had this crazy attitude. It was always evident to him in every song he played. I carried that with me into the mid-1980s when I felt like I could do other things with my life and just wanted to start making fun recordings at home. I relied on the idea that Jeff had had a great career doing what he wanted to do.
He was looking for musicians who were at the forefront of what he thought was new music. And he tried to incorporate that into his way of looking at the electric guitar, and how it would fit into this new idea of combining rock, blues and jazz. At the time, it was the merger. But he never got lost in it. No matter who he played with, he kept that Jeff Beck attitude. It was like a reminder: you don’t need to water down what you’re doing. In fact, you even have to do the opposite. Look what Jeff did. He became more Jeff every time, and that’s why every time he released a record, people were like, ” Oh my God, what is that? What is he doing now? »
When Blow by Blow came out, I had just finished playing in a disco band for about a year. In the rhythm section, we were all rockers who needed money, a gig that paid off every week. That’s why we were in this group. But our heart was in rock & roll. And when that record came out, we were still jamming on it, especially on “Freeway Jam”.
The way Jeff used harmonics [plus tard]… for me, the song “ Where Were You is probably one of the most remarkable instrumental guitar pieces ever recorded.
I saw him play it live and it’s really breathtaking. He never did it the same way twice, but it was beautiful every time. It was such a tour de force to put together an almost impossible technique and pull it off. In the live clip where he does it at Ronnie Scott’s, it really does feel like the guitarist is taking the biggest risk of all time. Because it can’t be done in agreement, really. And all the harmonics won’t stand out like on the album.
But there he is, putting his whole heart and soul into it with a little smile here and there. And you can see how difficult it is and how his hands are like treasures. It’s incredible. It’s like the guitar loves his hands and they say, ” OK, let’s play with that. When he plays those high notes, it takes your breath away, and you forget the technique. Until someone says to you: Hey, do you know how to play that? And you say, ” Yes but no. I have it memorized and I can play all the notes, but really, it doesn’t sound like Jeff when he plays it. »
Translated by the editor