The Yardbirds

The Yardbirds

Synopsis of Pop Music

"For your love, for your love,
I would give the stars above..."

The Yardbirds hold a unique place in rock and roll history, a band as famous for the guitarists they produced as they are for their music. Throughout the group’s career, their ever-shifting lineup included such influential and important guitarists as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. But even this distinguished lineage should not overshadow the fact that the Yardbirds also made a lot of wonderful rock music. Between 1964 and 1968, the group recorded a string of successful singles that have become classics of guitar-driven pop and have influenced guitar-rockers around the world.

The story of the Yardbirds began in London in 1963. The group’s member were all regulars of London’s blues scene and united to pursue a hard-driving, raucous style modeled after American blues music. They perfected their chops with a residency at the Crawdaddy Club, filling a post that had recently been vacated by the Rolling Stones. Over time, the band began to stretch their blues repertoire into frantic, guitar-driven jams called 'rave ups.' This era of their career was captured on their first album, Five Live Yardbirds. It became a U.K. hit and made an instant guitar hero out of Eric Clapton.

In 1965, the Yardbirds scored their first single hit with “For Your Love.” The tune took the group's sound in a different direction by exchanging their pure blues sound for a challenging style of pop that blended harmonies, unusual stop-and-start structures and exotic touches like bongos and harpsichord into their previously guitar-dominated music. It became a top hit on both sides of the Atlantic, peaking at #6 in the U.S. At this point, Clapton left to pursue other directions and was replaced with Jeff Beck. The new six-stringer's desire to experiment with guitar effects like feedback would soon push the band’s pop off in a new, experimental direction.

The Yardbirds continued to score hits throughout 1965 with “Heart Full Of Soul,” a rocker with an Eastern-sounding melody, and the straight blues of “I’m A Man.” Touring the U.S. and Europe extensively to support these hits, they continued to score on the singles charts into the next year with songs like “Evil Hearted You.” The B-side of this song was “Still I’m Sad,” a rocker that showed off the band’s experimental tendencies by taking its basis from a Gregorian chant. One of the most notable hits from this era was "Shapes Of Things,” a feedback-laced stomper with a militaristic sound and a stop-and-start structure.

When bassist Samwell-Smith decided to move on in 1966, his post on bass was filled by future Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page. The new lineup released “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago,” which mixed droning vocals with all kinds of guitar effects to create a psychedelic classic. Jeff Beck left a few months later, prompting Page to move into the guitar seat. The new unit recorded Little Games, their most pop-styled album yet, and scored hits in America with “Ha Ha Said The Clown” and “Ten Little Indians.” They also performed in the classic film Blow-Up.

The Yardbirds disbanded in 1968 when the members decided to pursue different musical directions. Jimmy Page formed a ‘New Yardbirds’ to fulfill a touring commitment, and this new lineup soon became known as Led Zeppelin. Since then, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page have scored many hits and shaped the way the electric guitar is used in pop music. Meanwhile, the Yardbirds reunited for a string of concerts in 1983 and a new Yardbirds has since been formed by original member Jim McCarty. The Yardbirds' reputation as a training ground for future guitar gods is deserved, but beyond that, the influence of their guitar-driven rock was and always will be an important part of pop music.

Artist Release History

1964 - Five Live Yardbirds
1965 - Having a Rave-Up with the Yardbirds
1965 - For Your Love
1966 - Roger the Engineer
1966 - Over Under Sideways Down
1966 - The Yardbirds
1966 - Sonny Boy Williamson & the Yardbirds (live)
1967 - Blow-Up
1968 - Little Games
1970 - Performance by Clapton, Beck & Page (compilation)
1971 - Live Yardbirds Featuring Jimmy Page
1977 - The Yardbirds Favorites (compilation)
1999 - Live at Crawdaddy Repertoire
1999 - BBC Sessions (live)

Pop Sub Categories


Essential Music Albums

Greatest Hits 1964-1966 (Rhino)

Band Members

Keith Relf vocals
Chris Dreja rhythm guitar, bass
Jim McCarty drums
Paul Samwell-Smith (1963-66) bass
Eric Clapton (1963-65) guitar
Jeff Beck (1965-66) guitar
Jimmy Page (1966-68) guitar, bass

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