Jeff Beck's Top 10 Studio Guest Appearances
When a legendary guitarist is invited to play on a recording session, he or she is expected to make a noticeable impact on the song or album being recorded.
Bearing that in mind, Jeff Beck—as a session guitarist—has pretty much never disappointed.
Here are his top 10 guest-session appearances.
Actually, we’ve thrown in a bonus track. Our math was never all that good anyway!
11. Bon Jovi, “Blaze of Glory” Blaze of Glory (1990)
Beck guested on Bon Jovi’s 1990 album, Blaze of Glory, even lending a solo to the album’s title track.
As it turns out, someone in YouTube land was thoughtful enough to post this 31-second clip of Beck’s isolated guitar solo, so you don’t even have to listen to the entire song (I mean, assume you don’t really want to, which is very understandable).
At the very end, you can hear someone scream “Yeah!” from the control room.
10. The Pretenders, “Legalize Me” Viva El Amor (1999)
At first, one wonders if Beck is even playing on this song—until just around the 2:14 mark, when he boldly announces his presence with one of his freakish trademark whammy-bar moves—and it only gets better from there.
09. Toots & The Maytals, “54-46 Was My Number” True Love (2004)
This is from a Toots album that’s packed with guest appearances by big-name guitarists, including Eric Clapton, Trey Anastasio, Bonnie Raitt and Keith Richards. But, as always, Beck stands out in a crowd, delivering a cool, weird solo that almost makes it sound as if his part was tracked backwards in the mix (It wasn’t). It’s also a nice change of pace to hear Beck in a reggae setting.
08. Paul Rodgers, “I Just Want to Make Love to You” Muddy Water Blues: A Tribute to Muddy Waters (1993)
Beck’s evil tone on the intro riff alone is enough to earn this tune a spot on this list. It also represents the only slide guitar to be found among these choices. Beck appears on three songs on this Muddy Waters tribute album by the Bad Company and Free frontman.
07. Paul Jones, “The Dog Presides” Insane Times (1968)
Here’s the Jeff Beck Group-era Beck sounding very much like his former Yardbird self on this song’s opening riff, fills and solo. The recording even features another former Yardbird, Paul Samwell-Smith, on bass. That’s Paul McCartney on drums, by the way. No one seems to remember the barking dog’s name.
06. Narada Michael Walden, “Saint and the Rascal” Garden of Love Light (1976)
This catchy, funky instrumental with a strong hook can almost be considered an outtake from Wired, Beck’s classic 1976 album. After all, Narada Michael Walden played drums on Wired and wrote four songs on the album, including “Play With Me.” Beck returned the favor by playing with Walden.
05. Jimmy Copley, “Everyday I Have the Blues” Slap My Hand (2008)
For people who’ve survived listening to Beck’s over-produced Flash album (1986), it’s a real treat to hear him play with such a small, stripped-down band; in fact, all you really hear are the drums (Copley is a British drummer with impressive credentials) and Beck’s chunky-sounding Strat. And that’s fine, because you get to hear him turn a simple three-chord blues shuffle into a showcase for his whammy-bar hijinks and out-of-left-field bits and pieces.
04. Rod Stewart, “Infatuation” Camouflage (1984)
Listen to how Beck contributes something special and unique to what could’ve been just another catchy mid-1980s pop hit. Beck also appears in the video—as does actor Mike Mazurki, who can be spotted in the films Some Like It Hot and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (my all-time favorite movie).
03. John McLaughlin, “Django” The Promise (1995)
Simply put, this one gives you twice the bang for your buck: You get Jeff Beck trading off with John McLaughlin on a seven-plus-minute rendition of John Lewis’ “Django,” a musical elegy for guitarist Django Rheinhardt. Beck starts things off with the basic melody, and things pretty much get more and more interesting as the song moves forward.
02. Stanley Clarke, “Hello Jeff” Journey to Love (1975)
When the star of the show—in this case, bassist Stanley Clarke—actually incorporates his session guitarist’s name into the title of the track he played on, you can expect some memorable fretwork. Such is the case on this mid-Seventies instrumental gem, which features impressive playing by everyone involved, including the brilliant Clarke.
01. Roger Waters, “What God Wants, Pt. 3” Amused to Death (1992)
Roger Waters is singing about vultures, bullets and soldiers, when, all of a sudden, a Strat bursts into the mix just before the two-minute mark, playing a powerful, emotional solo. Is it an outtake from Pink Floyd’s The Wall? Nope; it’s one of a handful of Beck-enriched songs from Waters’ 1992 Amused to Death album.
Check out Beck’s solo, and how he uses every inch of real estate Waters gives him. If nothing else, the song answers the rarely asked question, “What would Pink Floyd have sounded like if Jeff Beck were in the band?” “I still don’t know how he does it,” Waters says of Beck.
“He’s incredibly technically gifted in ways the rest of us can’t even begin to think about. He also has incredible pitch. When you play a harmonic and then play a melody on the whammy bar, it’s quite extraordinary to listen to.”
Damian Fanelli is the online managing editor at Guitar World and Guitar Aficionado. His New York-based band, the Blue Meanies, has toured the world and elsewhere.