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Jeff Beck’s 10 best songs

Rock music will always be indebted to the late, great Jeff Beck - Deborah Feingold
Rock music will always be indebted to the late, great Jeff Beck - Deborah Feingold

10. Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers (1975)

It’s the languid solo that elevates this stand-out from Beck’s second solo album, Blow By Blow. The song was written by Stevie Wonder and produced by Beatles' foil George Martin. But the magic all flows from Beck, who pours heart and soul into the pyrotechnics rippling through the tune and off-set by a tinkling organ. Wonder isn’t on the track. He does, though, make an uncredited appearance playing clavinet on another Blow By Blow power ballad, Thelonious.

9. Goodbye Pork Pie Hat (1976)

Beck and Martin got on so well making Blow By Blow that they reunited later that same year for Wired. The standout from their Wired album is Goodbye Pork Pie Hat. It's an epic reworking of Charles Mingus’s 1959 tribute to late saxophone player Lester Young. Beck’s version stretches out the grief and melancholy and introduces lashings of guitar sparkle.

8. I Ain’t Superstitious (1968)

That’s a young Rod Stewart on vocals as Beck tackles the drawling stomper. I Ain't Superstitious was written by Mississippi bluesman Willie Dixon and first recorded by Howlin’ Wolf. It’s the closing track on 1968’s Truth LP, Beck’s first following his departure from The Yardbirds and is produced by Mickie Most (Herman’s Hermits, Lulu). It is regarded as the definitive take on the song – though trash metal kingpins Megadeth took their shot at it in 1986.

7. Going Down (1972)

Beck’s guitar fights for prominence over Max Middleton’s keys and Bobby Tench’s vocals, though, as ever, his molten noodling wins out. Beck went straight to the blues motherlode for the recording sessions, which took place at TMI Studios in Memphis Tennessee. Covers by Led Zeppelin and Pearl Jam struggle to equal the slaloming majesty of Beck’s fretwork on this Jeff Beck Group classic.

6. Hi Ho Silver Lining (1967)

Beck purists will cringe – but this flashy aberration is the tune for which he will go down in history. It was written by the American duo of Larry Weiss and Scott English and recorded simultaneously by Beck and London psychedelic band, The Attack. Producer Mickie Most encouraged Weiss and English to finish the track after they came up with the chorus. He then passed it on to Beck, whose jaunty version spent 14 weeks in the charts. Beck’s toes may have curled even as it rocketed into the top 20 – as he declined to include it on the Truth album, released in 1968.

5. Freeway Jam (1977)

Beck’s keyboard player Max Middleton wrote Freeway Jam for Blow By Blow. That record shifted a million units, though it was a live recording from the LP Jeff Beck With the Jan Hammer Group Live that broke the track. You can see why too: the live version features cathartic playing by Beck, leading into a spiralling solo by Hammer that verges on Krautrock. It’s essentially Spinal Tap’s Jazz Odyssey come to life.

4. People Get Ready (1985)

Beck reunited with his old mucker Rod Stewart for this take on Curtis Mayfield’s 1965 staple. Gospel-influenced and with lyrics inspired by the civil rights movement, it would go on to be recorded by Bob Dylan and Ziggy Marley. But the definitive integration was by Beck and Stewart. In 1985, they took the tune into the US top 10, Beck’s hurricane-force guitars and Stewart’s raspy yelp existing in perfect harmony.

3. Stroll On (1966)

Stroll On was recorded for Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Swinging London” thriller Blow Up. This heat-seeker features lava-hot interplay between Beck and future Led Zeppelin lodestar, Jimmy Page. The recording is an update of the Yardbirds' tilt at The Train Kept A-Rollin. The blues number was written in 1951 by Cincinnati bandleader Tiny Bradshaw. The Blow Up version takes it to another dimension, with hints of psychedelia and even heavy metal. With Beck and Page going head to head, it’s the Godzilla v Kong of mid-Sixties blues workouts.

2. Beck’s Bolero (1967)

Nobody could accuse Beck of lacking ambition or pretension. His debut solo single was recorded while he was still playing in The Yardbirds. And it features the all-time classic power trio of Keith Moon on drums, John Paul Jones on bass and Jimmy Page on guitar. Page, for good measure, wrote the track, based on Boléro, the 1928 classic piece by French composer Maurice Ravel. It featured on the Truth LP but was first encountered as a B-side to Hi Ho Silver Lining.

1. You’re The One (1993)

Kate Bush and Jeff Beck will strike many as artists from a different universes. But that’s why this collaboration, from Bush’s the Red Shoes LP, works so well. Her dusky, ethereal voice entwines with his measured playing. It’s a story of opposites attracting, with results more memorable than anyone could have predicted.