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

When legends recognize the talent of their peers, it’s a moment worth noting. In a recent interview with Harmless Dave from the Real Music Observer, Eric Clapton, the legendary guitarist, opened up about the moment he realized that Jeff Beck could surpass him in skill. The two guitar virtuosos had their fair share of iconic moments, but Clapton’s candid admission about Beck’s prowess is a testament to the respect and admiration that existed between them.

Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck first crossed paths as members of the seminal British rock band, the Yardbirds. Though they didn’t play in the group simultaneously, Clapton’s departure in 1965 paved the way for Beck to join the band. Over the years, their careers took different trajectories, but they always remained connected through a mutual appreciation of each other’s talent.

Recounting his experience of watching Beck perform with the Tridents, Clapton said he had realized that if he changed his mind, there would be no turning back, as that guy truly had the talent. He was impressed by Beck’s unique approach to guitar playing, making use of effects pedals and a mini rack, something he had never seen before.

According to Clapton, even back then, Beck’s technique was remarkable. When Clapton watched his performance on YouTube a year ago, it seemed as though he had advanced even further. For Clapton, every year, Beck consistently improved, and the precision in his right hand, along with the extraordinary independence of his fingers, was simply astonishing. He’d never witnessed anything like it.

Clapton’s words on Jeff Beck:

“He [Jeff Beck] was in a group called the Tridents, a very low-profile band. Strong and well-known in the area, but I snuck in and saw them, and I thought that if I changed my mind, I was not going to be able to go back because this guy had got what it takes. I thought he wouldn’t put up with that. There were shenanigans for a very long, but I think that was probably why he brought Jimmy Page and just so they could have a good time because clearly, the band was going to go mainstream and get try to get big.

So, what I heard when I saw him that night was it was the first time I saw anyone use pedals, effects, and a mini rack. His technique, even then… He refined it to, I mean, when I last saw him play in America last year, I was watching him on YouTube. We were doing gigs in Europe, and I was really getting down, and I was not well. I still had COVID when I was playing gigs.

I go back to my room, and I find Jeff’s gig from the night before, and I watch that, and it would lift me up to where I could be able to work that night for my thing because it to me seemed like he’d moved on. He’d constantly been moving up a notch all the time every year, and the refinement in his right hand and the independence between the fingers were so phenomenal. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The admiration that Eric Clapton held for Jeff Beck is evident in his words. It’s not often that we witness such candid praise from one guitar legend to another. Their journeys may have taken them down different paths, but the respect and influence they had on each other’s careers were undeniable.

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