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The Yardbirds' final days: the Page era
The powerful synergy between Beck and Page proved short-lived; Beck was fired from the group after a tour stop in Texas in late October 1966, and the Yardbirds continued as a quartet for the remainder of their career.
Page became the new lead guitarist and he was just as bent toward experimentation as Beck, particularly his striking technique of scraping a violin or cello bow across his guitar strings to induce a round of odd and surreal sounds, and his dextrous use of a wah-wah pedal. He also proved an adept finger-style guitarist, as evident on the shimmering "White Summer", a raga- and folk-styled instrumental composition that employs the melody of "She Moves Through The Fair" and owes an evident debt to Davy Graham's "She Moved Through the Bizarre".
Increasing chart indifference, record company pressure (their British label EMI pressed hitmaking producer Mickie Most upon them in a failed bid to re-ignite their commercial success), and drug-related problems meant that by 1967, the Yardbirds' days were numbered. The "Little Games" single released in the spring flopped so badly in the UK that EMI did not release a Yardbirds record in Britain for another year. A cover of Manfred Mann's "Ha Ha Said The Clown" -- on which only one band member, Relf, actually performed -- was the band's last single to crack the U.S. Top 50, peaking at No. 44 in Billboard in the summer of '67. Their final album Little Games, a psychedelic album released in the U.S. that July, did poorly.
The Yardbirds spent most of the rest of that year touring in the States with new manager Peter Grant while living a schizophrenic pop life: their records became more benign (a cover of Harry Nilsson's "Ten Little Indians" hit the U.S. in the fall of '67 and quickly sank) as their live shows were becoming heavier and more experimental. The band rarely played their 1967 singles live, preferring to mix the Beck-era hits with blues standards and covers by groups such as the Velvet Underground and American folk singer Jake Holmes. Holmes' "Dazed and Confused", with lyrics rewritten by Relf and cranked up to a blues-metal frenzy by Page, McCarty and Dreja, was a live staple of the Yardbirds' last two American tours -- and it went down so well that Page decided to keep it in the quiver even after the band's demise.
A concert and some album tracks were recorded in New York City in March 1968 (including the currently unreleased song "Knowing That I'm Losing You", an early version of a track that would be re-recorded by Led Zeppelin as "Tangerine"). All were shelved at the band's request, although once Led Zeppelin hit big, Epic tried to cash in by releasing the concert material as the bootleg Live Yardbirds: Featuring Jimmy Page. The album was quickly withdrawn after Page's lawyers filed an injunction on it. The Yardbirds' final single, "Goodnight Sweet Josephine", was recorded in January 1968. Released two months later, it failed to crack the Billboard Top 100 but is notable in retrospect for its B-side, "Think About It", which featured a proto-Zeppelin Page riff and snippets of the "Dazed" guitar solo in the break.
Such efforts did not improve the commercial success of the band. In addition, the members were split over the band's direction: Relf and McCarty wanted a folk sound, while Jimmy Page wanted to play more "Heavy" the kind of music that Led Zeppelin would become famous for.
July 7, 1968: The Yardbirds play their final gig at Luton Technical College in Bedfordshire, England (twelve years to the day later Led Zeppelin would play their final concert in their original line-up in Berlin).
The New Yardbirds: Evolution into Led Zeppelin
But Jimmy Page, left with a touring commitment yet unfulfilled in Scandinavia, was compelled to put a new lineup together. Terry Reid was asked to join the new group, but he turned down the offer because of his new recording contract, instead recommending a then-unknown Midlands singer by the name of Robert Plant. Plant, in turn, recommended his childhood friend John Bonham on drums. Dreja bowed out to pursue a career as a rock photographer; enter bassist/keyboardist/arranger John Paul Jones, who had reportedly inquired about forming a band with Page as early as 1967.
They made the tour as "The New Yardbirds". Fans at these early shows were confused by new members, expecting to see Keith Relf. After this brief tour the band found themselves clicking, and returned home to England to produce, in a very short time, a landmark debut album. Interestingly, what was to become Led Zeppelin was still being billed as "Yard Birds" or "The Yardbirds Featuring Jimmy Page" as late as October 1968; indeed, some early studio tapes from the Led Zeppelin album were marked as being performed by "The Yardbirds".
The Yardbirds record company Epic believed that the band with Jimmy Page were under contract still to Epic. They soon found out that Jimmy was not under contract as a Yardbird and thus was free to sign with who ever he wanted to. When Led Zeppelin signed with Atlantic Records, Clive Davis was not happy and remembered they had the old tapes from the Anderson Theatre. For the second time, the album was released, this time under the Columbia Special Products label. Again, Page stopped distribution a week after its release. Jimmy Page would have continued to use the name but legal threat from Dreja (who claimed he also shared rights to the Yardbirds name) hastened the name change, finally closing the books on the Yardbirds for the rest of the century.
The term "Lead Zeppelin" was The Who's Keith Moon's tongue-in-cheek description of the prospective fortunes of a proposed "supergroup" that would have comprised himself, John Paul Jones, Steve Marriott, Beck and Page. Peter Grant changed the spelling of "lead" so that the name wouldn't be mispronounced.
01. Little Games
02. Smile on Me
03. White Summer
04. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor
06. Drinking Muddy Water
07. No Excess Baggage
08. Stealing, Stealing
09. Only the Black Rose
10. Little Soldier Boy
11. Puzzles [1991 U.S. Stereo Mix]
12. I Remember the Night [1991 U.S. Stereo Mix]
13. Ha! Ha! Said the Clown
14. Ten Little Indians [1991 U.S. Stereo Mix]
15. Goodnight Sweet Josephine [Version 1 -- Unphased]
16. Think About It
17. Goodnight Sweet Josephine [Phased U.S. Single Version]
18. Most Likely You Go Your Way (I'll Go Mine) [BBC Sessions]
19. Little Games [BBC Sessions]
20. Drinking Muddy Water [BBC Sessions]
21. Think About It [BBC Sessions]
22. Goodnight Sweet Josephine [BBC Sessions]
23. My Baby [BBC Sessions]
24. White Summer [BBC Sessions]
25. Dazed and Confused [BBC Sessions]