STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Class of 1992 inductees The Yardbirds have an important, and sometimes overlooked, place in rock history.
Besides the ‘60s hits “For Your Love,” “Heart Full of Soul,” “Shapes of Things” and “Over Under Sideways Down,” the British blues-rock group certainly had an ear for creative guitar talent. Their alumni roster includes the holy trinity of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.
The band’s signature sound featured the rave-up — where a song speeds up during the middle instrumental section and the musicians improvise, building to a climax, then going back on track into the last part of the song. During Beck’s tenure, The Yardbirds were pioneers of rock’s fuzz distortion guitar sound.
Original Yardbirds drummer Jim McCarty, who also plays other instruments and has recorded solo, is keeping the band’s legacy going with a fall tour backed by guitarist Johnny A. (Peter Wolf, Bobby Whitlock), bassist Kenny Aaronson (Bob Dylan, Billy Idol), singer/blues harpist/percussionist Myke Scavone (Ram Jam, The Doughboys), and guitarist/singer John Idan (Original Yardbirds lead singer/blues harp man Keith Relf died in 1976 of an accidental electrocution).
From Europe, McCarty took some time to respond to respond to some questions via email.
What’s this Halloween Night show at SteelStacks in Bethlehem going to be like?
The Halloween show will hopefully be a great show. There are some great musicians on the upcoming tour.
What role does the rave-up play in The Yardbirds stage show?
We shall play a mixture of hits, old blues covers Yardbirds-style, and of course some rave-ups which always were an important part of the live show.
What are (original rhythm guitarist) Chris Dreja, (original bassist and producer) Paul Samwell-Smith and (pre-Clapton lead guitarist) Top Topham up to these days?
Chris Dreja had a stroke on tour in 2011. It’s unlikely he will ever play again. Top Topham left the band in April this year, though he was part of it again for the last two years. Paul Samwell-Smith has now semi-retired and will not be playing in the band again.
What about the ‘80s band Box of Frogs, with you, Chris, Paul, and guest appearances by Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page?
Box of Frogs was great fun — a bit of a shame we never toured. We still play “Back Where I Started,” that I like to sing!
Will there be another guest-star Yardbirds album like “Birdland” (The 2003 release featured appearances by Jeff Beck, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Slash, Brian May of Queen, Steve Lukather of Toto, Jeff Baxter of The Doobie Brothers, and John Rzeznik of The Goo Goo Dolls)?
“Birdland” was a fun album to do, but took an awful lot of effort. It’s always possible!
Tell me about that weird period in 1968, when The Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin were still the same group.
Yardbirds and Zeppelin were never the same group. They were formed after The Yardbirds broke up, though did call themselves The New Yardbirds at first.
Annie Haslam lives in these parts (Bucks County). Tell me about when you and Keith Relf put together Renaissance, and what was going on that the lineup kept turning over?
Keith and I formed Renaissance after The Yardbirds broke up in ‘68. We wanted to do something quite different, and based our sound around the piano, in an early prog rock way. We found we were not comfortable touring and gradually the group changed personnel. I was at the audition for Annie and she was a great addition to the band.
Will Earl Slick ever play with the group in the future (The band was supposed to go on the road earlier this year with Slick on lead guitar, but a scheduling conflict caused him to bow out)?
Not sure about Earl Slick.
IF YOU GO
What: The Yardbirds in concert.
When: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 31.
Where: Musikfest Cafe at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks, 101 Founders Way, Bethlehem.
Tickets: $25 and $35.
Info.: Call (610) 297-7100 or go to www.steelstacks.org. For more about the band, check www.theyardbirds.com.