Eric Clapton On Realizing Jeff Beck Could Top Him As A Guitarist

Eric Clapton

In a recent interview with Harmless Dave from the Real Music Observer, Eric Clapton, the iconic guitarist, opened up about the time he realized that Jeff Beck’s musical prowess could surpass his own. When musical legends acknowledge the exceptional talents of their peers, it’s a moment that deserves recognition.

Both guitar virtuosos had their share of unforgettable moments, but Clapton’s candid acknowledgment of Beck’s skills speaks volumes about the mutual respect and admiration they shared.

The paths of Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck first crossed during their stints in the influential British rock band the Yardbirds. Although they didn’t play together in the band at the same time, Clapton’s departure in 1965 created an opening for Beck to join. Over the years, their musical journeys diverged, but their connection remained strong, rooted in a profound appreciation of each other’s musical abilities.

Clapton recounted the eye-opening experience of watching Beck perform with the Tridents. He remembered that moment when he realized that if he changed his mind about Beck, there would be no turning back because Beck possessed an extraordinary talent. What struck Clapton was Beck’s innovative approach to playing the guitar, incorporating effects pedals and a mini rack, something Clapton had never witnessed before.

According to Clapton, even back then, Beck’s guitar technique was remarkable. When Clapton watched a recent performance of Beck on YouTube, he marveled at how Beck had continued to evolve and advance his skills. Every passing year, in Clapton’s eyes, brought further improvement, and Beck’s precision with his right hand, coupled with the astonishing independence of his fingers, left Clapton in awe. He confessed that he had never seen anything quite like it.

Clapton shared his thoughts on Jeff Beck, saying, “He [Jeff Beck] was in a group called the Tridents, a band not widely known but respected in their area. Sneaking in to watch them, I realized that if I changed my mind about Beck, I wouldn’t have a chance to go back because this guy had undeniable talent. I knew he wouldn’t settle for less. There were ups and downs in his journey, but I think that’s why he brought Jimmy Page on board, so they could have a good time together because it was clear the band was going mainstream and aiming to make it big.

The night I watched him play was a revelation. It was the first time I had seen anyone use pedals, effects, and a mini rack. His technique, even then… It continued to refine over the years. When I last saw him play in America last year, I was watching him on YouTube. I was in Europe, doing gigs, and I wasn’t feeling well, still recovering from COVID while performing.

I would return to my room, find Jeff’s gig from the previous night, and watch it. It lifted me up, giving me the energy I needed for my own performance. It felt like he was constantly elevating his skills, year after year. The refinement in his right hand technique and the remarkable independence of his fingers were truly phenomenal. I’ve never witnessed anything quite like it.”

Eric Clapton’s deep admiration for Jeff Beck shines through in his words. It’s not often that we witness such candid praise from one musical legend to another. Although their musical paths diverged, the impact and respect they had for each other’s careers were undeniable.

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