The Yardbirds - the history:

The Yardbirds - one of the most influential bands ever to emerge from the glorious British pop scene of the Sixties. They first sprang to notice with their high-energy interpretations of classic r'n'b material, but they were soon blazing a trail in other musical directions.

One of the most exciting bands on the live stage, their inventive repertoire used elements of beaty pop, psychedelia and heavy metal. The Yardbirds' imaginative vision and sheer vitality earned them an unrivalled reputation for new ideas - leaving their songs standing proud for all time.

Amid the high quality of pop music made in the classic decade of the Sixties, the Yardbirds racked up four top-five UK hits - "For Your Love", "Heart Full of Soul", "Evil Hearted You" (backed with "Still I'm Sad") and "Shapes of Things". Other charted singles included "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl", "I'm a Man", "Over, under, Sideways, Down" and "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago".

The band released a series of acclaimed albums during their lifetime including "Five Live Yardbirds", a live album with blues legend Sonny Boy Williamson, the innovative studio album "Roger the Engineer" and "Little Games".

Rhino records writes of the group on their "Greatest Hits" package:

"By now everyone knows the Yardbirds legend, if not their music; the band graduated three of the greatest Ph.D.s of rock guitar: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. They created hard-rock out of standard twelve-bar blues, doubling the tempos and whacking the amps up to ten. On the British club scene, the Yardbirds, the Animals and the Rolling Stones ruled the stages. The Yardbirds expanded the range of the electric guitar, experimenting with feedback, sustain, and fuzztone. They also coined and popularised the rave-up, a kind of free-for-all where you jam long and hard, not as soloists, but in a tandem, until you reach an epiphany about ten or twenty of thirty minutes later., a shuddering climax of decibels and pure energy, and then - back into the song for one more boom-boom chorus. The Yardbirds were the bridge between the tributary white r'n'b of the early Sixties London and the pastures of fuzztoned psychedelia and power-chorded heavy-metal plowed much later in the decade and throughout the Seventies. Yes, the Yardbirds laid the groundwork for Rock Guitar As We Know It."

The band was formed in 1963, starting out as an r'n'b outfit featuring Keith Relf (vocals), "Top" Topham (lead guitar), Chris Dreja (rhythm guitar), Paul Samwell-Smith (bass) and Jim McCarty (drums). Later in the year Topham left to be replaced by Eric Clapton. Already established with a loyal following on the Surrey gig circuit, the Yardbirds succeeded the Rolling Stones as the resident band at the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond - and quickly secured their own special popularity.

They were widely applauded from the outset - but after the release of their pop breakthrough hit single "For Your Love", Eric Clapton left for John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, his place in the Yardbirds being taken by Jeff Beck. Paul Samwell-Smith left the following year, with Chris Dreja switching to bass and newcomer Jimmy Page linking up with Beck for a powerhouse twin-guitar assault. The group continued to make waves on both sides of the Atlantic until they disbanded in July 1968.

Having helped lay the foundations for the heavy-metal sound with the Yardbirds, Page co-founded Led Zeppelin. Dreja became a photographer and Relf and McCarty formed Renaissance. (Sadly, Relf was electrocuted by his guitar in 1976).

(Text © Steve Kennedy)
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