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Zharth's Music Log (Revisited)

Week 58: Yardbirds Covers

(Originally posted on May 14, 2018)

Preface: The last edition of Zharth's Music Log was posted almost six years ago, if you can believe that. But though this might not seem like a sufficiently awesome theme to resurrect the mlog over, the truth is, this is a theme I've been sitting on for a long, long time. And the Yardbirds - the quintessential guitar supergroup of the '60s, featuring no less than Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page on guitar (at various times) - interestingly, the focus of Joe Bonamassa's triple tribute to the British Blues Explosion, which is finally being released this month - is one of my favorite bands of all time. And they're not like Bob Dylan - official covers by high profile bands are few and far between. But every once in awhile I stumble upon one, and it's always a treat. And that's what we're celebrating this week.

Monday: The James Gang - Lost Woman (Live) [Live In Concert, 1971]
Comments: I think this is one of the first Yardbirds covers I stumbled across, and it's certainly the longest, being stretched out to a near 18 minute long mostly-instrumental jam by the early band that featured Joe Walsh of later Eagles fame - The James Gang, better known for their radio hit Funk #49 (you may not know it by name, but you'd probably recognize it if you heard it).

Tuesday: Rainbow - Still I'm Sad [Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, 1975]
Comments: Fresh from Deep Purple, guitar virtuoso Ritchie Blackmore paired up with one of heavy metal's first and foremost poster children - Ronnie James Dio - to form Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow. Opening with the radio hit Man On The Silver Mountain, their debut album closed with an interesting choice of a Yardbirds cover, the melancholy Still I'm Sad, ably interpreted as an instrumental with a very lyrical lead guitar part.

Wednesday: Fleetwood Mac - For Your Love [Mystery To Me, 1973]
Comments: Sandwiched between the trailblazing Peter Green era and the chart-topping Buckingham-Nicks era, comes this Bob Welch-era cover of what was itself a transitional song for The Yardbirds - For Your Love. It's rumored that Eric Clapton quit the band after the release of this song, their first hit single (on which he refused to play), because the band was going in a more experimental direction, away from their blues roots. He transferred to John Mayall's Bluesbreakers for a short stint before setting off on his own progressive experiment with the Cream. His replacement in The Yardbirds, Jeff Beck, had and never has had a problem with musical experimentation.

Thursday: Jeff Beck - Shapes of Things [Truth, 1968]
Comments: Recorded by a former Yardbird himself, not long off of his tenure with the band, on the debut album that paralleled Jimmy Page's own reinvention with Led Zeppelin's first album (a band that was originally billed as The New Yardbirds for contractual reasons), this is undoubtedly the least distilled cover we'll listen to this week, and yet, underneath Rod Stewart's distinctive vocals, Jeff Beck still manages to make it sound unique.

Friday: Rush - Heart Full Of Soul [Feedback, 2004]
Comments: One of two Yardbirds covers (the other being the band's most popular and most frequently covered song, Shapes of Things) featured on Rush's 21st century EP of covers, appropriately titled Feedback, also including the likes of Buffalo Springfield and The Who. Though never having been a diehard fan of Rush (but Working Man was one of the hardest rocking songs of the '70s), when this EP came out, I sat up and took notice. A band is only as good as its influences, after all.

Saturday: Aerosmith - Think About It [Night In The Ruts, 1979]
Comments: Speaking of influences, Aerosmith is another band with great influences - and one of the few I know of who has covered both The Yardbirds and the Peter Green era of Fleetwood Mac. If you've ever listened to their song Livin' On The Edge, it contains a not-so-subtle homage to The Yardbirds' Mr. You're A Better Man Than I (I'd've liked to've heard them cover that one!). Although Aerosmith is somewhat known for doing The Yardbirds' signature cover of The Train Kept A Rollin', and I also have a live version of them doing I Ain't Got You, for this theme I picked the somewhat more obscure Think About It, which is interesting in that it features the guitar solo that Jimmy Page recycled for the middle section of Led Zeppelin's epic Dazed and Confused.

Sunday: David Bowie - I Wish You Would [Pinups, 1973]
Comments: Perhaps the most unexpected artist to show up this week, from David Bowie's own album of covers (preceding Rush's Feedback by three decades, however) - also including the likes of The Who (as well as Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd), and yet another version of Shapes of Things - comes Bowie's tripped-out version of the harp-heavy blues I Wish You Would.

Honorable Mention: I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Tom Petty's cover of I'm A Man, which can be heard on his Live Anthology box set, released in 2009. Truth be told, I'd been holding off this theme for the sake of this very song, until I'd reached a point where I realized I had at least seven other Yardbirds covers accounted for! I'm not including it here because its heritage as a Bo Diddley tune is possibly even stronger than The Yardbirds' claim to it (although Muddy Waters might have something to say about that), and because it gives me an excuse to rule out another version of the song covered by The Who on their debut album from 1965, which I just don't have room for - there are only seven days in a week! It is absolutely still worth mentioning, however, as, like Aerosmith, Tom Petty was also an artist with strong influences, including both The Yardbirds and Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac. His unexpected passing last year has left a devastating hole in the music world.