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1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die: Over Under Sideways Down

Posted by purplemary54 on February 27, 2014

Installment number one of this feature is a good one.  In the book, the recordings are listed alphabetically, and it seemed counterproductive to just go through the book in order.  (Also, I’m not so sure that’s how Tom Moon intended for it to be used.)  So I riffled through the pages a couple of times, stopped, and slapped my hand down.  It landed on this 1996 album by the Yardbirds.

Moon notes that Over Under Sideways Down (released in the U.K. as Roger the Engineer) was the first Yardbirds album conceived as an album instead of just a bunch of singles collected for release.  It’s bluesy and rocking, with just a bit of psychedelia.  Fairly typical for the era, actually, but executed with more skill and verve than many of the other, forgotten British bands of the mid 60s.

The Yardbirds’ biggest claim to fame, besides the awesome single “For Your Love”, was being the launching pad for three of the greatest Rock guitarists ever.  Eric Clapton was their first lead, but he quit in a Blues purist huff when the band moving away from, well, pure Blues with songs like “For Your Love.”  (I think he did okay for himself.)  Jeff Beck was Clapton’s replacement, and was joined soon after by his friend Jimmy Page, then a well-known session man.  The band was in the middle of a U.S. tour when they fired Beck, in spite of his massive talent, for being a bit of a flake.  (Like Clapton, Beck did pretty well for himself after leaving the band.)  Page took over as lead guitarist, but the band was doomed.

The Yardbirds broke up for the same reasons a lot of bands do: different ideas about their musical direction (differences that can be heard clearly on Over Under Sideways Down). Lead singer Keith Relf and drummer Jim McCarty were leaning toward something less heavy, while Jimmy Page had some hardcore hard Rock visions.  Manager Peter Grant and Page had a looming tour in Scandinavia and no band, since bassist Chris Dreja had also left.  They held auditions, and ended up hiring a young unknown singer named Robert Plant who recommended his friend John Bonham on drums.  John Paul Jones, another well-known session man, rounded out the lineup.  They toured under the moniker of The New Yardbirds in 1968, but I think we all know how the rest of the story turned out.

Even with all that historical baggage, Over Under Sideways Down holds its own as good music.  If you’ve never listened to the Yardbirds before, this is as good as place as any to start.



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