I’ve never liked the concept of the “guitar gods” – Page is alright, but I look at Zeppelin as a whole; I never cared for Eric Clapton and there are so few others that I ever really took much notice of. But Jeff Beck IS the one I do consider to be my personal favorite; my guitar influence and hero. I had gotten into his style from the groundbreaking work he did with The Yardbirds, who I absolutely loved. The sound; the feel and the tastefulness of his solos made me try to better my then-rudimentary skills – “Over, Under, Sideways, Down” was a life-changer for me, as I knew I HAD to play that riff; get that sound and elevate myself as a guitarist.
Fast forward to the here and now: Beck’s career has spanned 5-plus decades and this new documentary, Still On The Run: The Jeff Beck Story covers his musical lifetime as well as showing a rare glimpse of the man in his most natural element away from the guitar and stage: at home, in his garage, working on and building cars. Some of the testimonials in this film include childhood friend Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Ron Wood, Joe Perry, Beth Hart and many others. Beck himself comes across as a very gracious, matter-of-fact, free-of-all-pretentiousness kind of interviewee. His demeanor is warm, light-hearted and with the exception of the music itself, he doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously. Which is refreshing, as these kinds of movies can sometimes veer into self-congratulatory bullshit or sanctimonious sob stories. The key point is that the focus remains pointed at the music – the types of styles and phases Beck was interested in, got into and explored via his own playing – which, in a word, was groundbreaking.
The documentary itself is well constructed, going between Beck at home and his timeline storytelling; many never seen photos and film clips are shared and I felt it never lagged. If anything, speaking as a fan, the periods of his career that I wasn’t aware of were even more interesting. You get it all: his life with The Tridents (his first band); The Yardbirds; the forward-thinking, innovating (original) Jeff Beck Group with Rod Stewart, Ron Wood and Mick Waller, then onto the jazzier/more-soulful Jeff Beck Group Mk II, working with BBA, Jan Hammer and on to the present day.
If you have an interest in guitar players – those who are willing to take risk; explore musical avenues they may not have dared previously and who don’t look back, you’ll find Jeff Beck to be that musician. He doesn’t sit idly by and play safe in one genre, even now. And at the rate he’s going, he’ll continue to find ways to bring himself to new levels of musicality while influencing generations to come. So take the time to check out Still On The Run: The Jeff Beck Story; as someone famously once wrote, “…sit back and listen and try and decide if you can find a small place in your heads for it.” Or in this case, watch while listening. It will be worth the time, believe me.
Still On The Run: The Jeff Beck Story is currently available