Jeff Beck Reflects on Early Rivalry With Eric Clapton
They're two British rock legends who came up roughly around the same time — and crossed paths more than once while doing so — so it stands to reason that there would be a certain amount of good-natured rivalry between Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton.
That didn't keep Clapton from contributing to the new documentary Jeff Beck: Still on the Run — and although their relationship has since mellowed, Beck admitted pleasant surprise while watching Clapton's complimentary interview segment for the film. "I never expected him to bother to be in it. I studied his face over and over, just to make sure there wasn't something else going on," he laughed to Rolling Stone. "But no, it was just overwhelming."
They've come a long way since Beck joined the Yardbirds following Clapton's departure — and was with the group at a time when, as Beck quipped, they were playing for U.S. audiences and selling records while Clapton "was playing in a club with John Mayall for eight people." Shortly thereafter, laughed Beck, "Lo and behold he comes out with Cream and swipes us all around the head."
That slight tension persisted for years. Recalling a 1980 Clapton gig he was invited to, Beck remembered committing a series of blunders that ultimately inadvertently contributed to a rivalry that, as he later discovered, was inflamed by his work with Stevie Wonder.
"I thought to myself, 'Obviously you won't be playing, so go along and have a beer.' On the way there, he goes, 'Do you want to play 'Blackie'?' And I said, 'Uh, I don't know that song.' He said, 'No, it's my guitar.' I went, 'Oh, whoops.' First calamity of the evening," said Beck. "So I said, 'I didn't bring a guitar, so I'll do that.' Then about a minute later, he turned around and stood at the car and goes, 'This is not gonna be one of these blowing-off things, is it?' I said, 'Listen, either I play or I don't.' And there was that, what's the word, uncomfortable rivalry about it."
Jeff Beck: Still on the Run is due out May 18. Check out the trailer for the documentary below.