‘Still on the Run: The Jeff Beck Story': DVD Review
When it comes to guitar legends, no list would be complete without Jeff Beck. Since first plugging in, he shaped and molded a unique style that sounded like no one but himself. Coming forth in an era full of guitar legends like Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and later Jimi Hendrix, all had their own take on the instrument, but when all is said and done, Beck could often run circles around them all.
In this new documentary, Still on the Run: The Jeff Beck Story, the history of the man and his style are told in full with often gushing praise from the likes of Clapton, Page, Joe Perry and David Gilmour, who calls Beck "a maverick guitar player who doesn't like to repeat himself, and one who takes big risks." Meanwhile, Clapton admits, "There's been a lot of wake-up calls for me: Watching Jeff, listening to Jeff play, and working with Jeff. It's always intriguing."
The 90-minute features covers a lot of ground, from his early interest in rock and roll via records by Gene Vincent, Elvis Presley, Bill Haley and Les Paul ("Every time it would come on the radio I would run to the kitchen and say, 'Mum, what's this?'"). The film shows how Beck's ultimate approach to the instrument was fueled by a wondrous sense of adventure and always wanting to try something new.
His first big paycheck came with the Yardbirds' appearance in the 1966 film Blow Up. While the other members invested their money, Beck bought a 1963 split-window Corvette which he said was "the only sensible thing for a person like me to deal with." His often obsessive interest in hot rods, his prime passion outside of the guitar, is interspersed throughout the film.
The documentary only briefly covers his tenure in the Yardbirds, which is a shame since his contributions there were arguably the most significant of any of the legends the band had on guitar. Beck quit the band after being on the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars for a few dates in America. Upon returning to England, the first person he ran into was Rod Stewart.
"We talked a little bit and he said he was forming a band," Stewart recalls. "He'd left the Yardbirds, I was out of work. I may have mentioned Woody (Ron Wood) and said he's out of work as well. So it was three out-of-work musicians, and we formed a band." Thus, the Jeff Beck Group was born and for two albums would deliver a sonic assault like none had heard yet, with Led Zeppelin still looming around the corner.
Ever the reluctant pop star, Beck continued to forge his own path for the rest of his career, sometimes to the confusion of his bandmates. One time in particular was when, at the last minute, he decided the band wasn't ready to play an upcoming festival on their itinerary. That festival was Woodstock and to this day he still thinks he made the right decision to cancel that appearance.
His work with Stevie Wonder, George Martin, Jan Hammer and his sonic explorations in jazz/rock fusion with the landmark albums Blow By Blow and Wired both becoming major success stories, bringing Beck's playing to a wider audience and making his playing even more revered than it already had been.
His story up to the present day is told but, although it is all interesting, it should have spent more time on the Yardbirds and Jeff Beck Group days. But there is some great footage from all eras, as well as some intriguing interviews, making this a must for any Jeff Beck fan.