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Jeff Beck, Brian Wilson and Beach Boys "weird" but good combination
Jeff Beck acknowledges that he and Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson on the road together "is on odd combination, no doubt about it."
But, he contends, it's a good one.
"If it was me walking down the road and I could see Brian Wilson and someone else on guitar doing two disparate kinds of music, I wouldn't think that was weird at all," says the rock guitar virtuoso, who established his credentials with the Yardbirds and his own Jeff Beck Group (featuring Rod Stewart) before going solo in 1975. "I would think it's like two concerts in one, really, with a little paper clip in the middle."
The Wilson-Beck pairing isn't only on stage -- where the two (along with Beach Boys alumni Al Jardine and David Marks) combine for several songs. The two have been in the studio together as well, working on material for a future album, or albums, Wilson is recording, a combination that was inspired by Beck's performance of "Surf's Up" at the 2005 MusiCares Person of the Year gala honoring Wilson.
"He really blew my mind, so we thought we'd have him join us on our album," explains Wilson, 71. "He plays the most goddamn greatest guitar you've ever heard. He plays more notes per bar than you can imagine. He brings quality notes."
Wilson says he's has "eight or nine songs done" for his album," which he describes as "very mellow kind of stuff, mellow harmony, not very much rock 'n' roll yet. It's very different from anything I've ever done." Among those is a version of the standard "Danny Boy" with Beck, which is also featured during the concerts. Beck, meanwhile, says he's also played on a suite-like piece he's been told Wilson composed with the guitarist in mind. "There's a style about the melody and the chords that I think he wants to recapture some of the 'Pet Sounds' flavor," reports Beck, 69, who's also working on a new album of his own. "They let me take the melody wherever I wanted the flavor of them to go, but the fact is when you've got the backing of Brian's chords you automatically play West Coast-style guitar. It's just inbuilt into the essence of what he writes. You can't do anything far from it, so it's hard to wedge my style in there, but I've tried to do it as best I can."
Jardine, 71, says the material he's worked on "really feels like the old-style Beach Boys music that people grew up with. I think people who like Brian and the Beach Boys will like it."
Of course, Wilson, Jardine and Marks would really like to be still touring with the Beach Boys right now after last year's 50th anniversary celebration that brought the group back together again. Lead singer Mike Love and keyboardist Bruce Johnston, however, decided to go their separate ways again -- to their bandmates' dismay.
"My reaction was shock," Jardine says. "We were talking throughout that tour about how the wile is bigger than the sum of the parts, and I was beginning to think we might just keep going. But I don't think (Love) was able to deal with sharing the load; he was the (Beach Boys) messenger for so many years that he became the Beach Boys, and the rest of us were incidental, I think. That does happen, and we sometimes forget that it's the music that got us here...But what we're doing, it really represents the music well and sounds wonderful, so that's the thing I'm enjoying so much."
Having Rod Stewart and Jeff Beck in town one night apart brings into relief the push-and-pull, seemingly love-hate relationship the two veteran British rockers have had during the past 35 years.
It was in 1968 that Beck, fresh from his tenure with the Yardbirds, launched the Jeff Beck Group with its powerhouse singer, Rod Stewart, and its debut album "Truth." The association lasted all of 18 months and two albums but have inextricably tied Stewart and Beck together and led to regular questions about when they'll work together again.
And they have. Beck played on Stewart's 1984 album "Camouflage," though subsequently abandoned the accompanying tour, while Stewart sang the Impressions' "People Get Ready," a Top 5 Rock hit for Beck's Grammy Award-winning 1985 album "Flash." Since then, however, the two have not been able to reconcile schedules and ambitions, which has led to a degree of animosity -- at least publicly.
Stewart says his latest "brainwave" was to do a joint reunion between the Faces and the Jeff Beck Group, with he and guitarist/bassist Ron Wood playing in both bands. But, he says, "there are two chances whether Jeff would want to do it -- slim and none. When Jeff's angry at you, he stays angry for a long time. I sent him a Christmas card or e.mail the year before last and never heard anything back. That's just how he is."
Beck, meanwhile, contends Stewart's lack of accessibility isn't just about scheduling. "When he came on stage with me at the El Ray (in Los Angeles) a couple years ago, there were all the signs he should do something with me, 'cause I've never heard an audience yelling the way they yelled when he came on," Beck recalls. "When we finished you had to (cover) your ears. It was astonishing.
"On the way to the airport he called and said, 'Did you read the review of that? It's great! Let's talk. Let's do some more,' but then six months go by and you don't hear anything, and just when you're about to embark on a tour you get the call, 'Hey, what's going on?' He's got to focus. He prefers (soccer); maybe that's the problem."
Beck says he even prepared 11 song demos for Stewart to consider, "and he said they're in the wrong key. So there's the commitment; he didn't even tell me which key to do these tracks. He doesn't sound the same anymore; the timber of his voice has changed, so therefore there's no point in trying to do 'Truth 2.' He should've called me 24 years ago for that."
Brian Wilson and Jeff Beck perform at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25, at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $29.50-$79.50. Call 313-471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com. Rod Stewart and Steve Winwood perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, at The Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $49.50-$152.50. Call 248-377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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