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The Yardbirds Return After 35 Years on April 22, 2003
Yardbirds revival is a guitarists' fest
By Steve Hochman
Special to The L.A.Times
January 5 2003
"Happenings Ten Years Time Ago" happened 36 years ago, when the Yardbirds
stood at the peak of psychedelic blues rock and launched budding guitar gods
Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.
They're happening again -- although the company isn't quite that
The first album under the Yardbirds name since 1967's "Little Games" is
being finished, with plans for an April 22 release.
Although Beck, who guests on the new song "My Blind Life," is the only one
of the three ax idols to appear on the new album, it showcases a parade of
stellar guitarists influenced by the band.
Brian May, Slash, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter and Steve
Lukather take the role on new versions of such '60s Yardbirds hits as "For
Your Love," "Shapes of Things" and "Over, Under, Sideways, Down." The Goo
Goo Dolls' John Rzeznik provides lead vocals on "For Your Love."
The revival is being anchored by two founding members, rhythm guitarist and
bassist Chris Dreja and drummer Jim McCarty. Guitarist Gypie Mayo and
harmonica player Alan Glen, both members of rowdy '70s English pub-rock band
Dr. Feelgood, are also on board, and young bassist John Idan takes the lead
vocal slot (original singer Keith Relf died in 1976).
It comes at a time when the Yardbirds' influence can be felt in the
emergence of the White Stripes, the Hives, the Strokes and other neo-garage
rock acts, as well as "Little Steven's Underground Garage," the popular
syndicated radio program devoted to the music with the E Street Band
guitarist as host.
Dreja says the current interest in garage rock is merely the surfacing of a
longtime subculture. "I guess I've been hearing the Yardbirds' sound for the
last 37 years," he says. "It's surprising that these bands are into it right
now, though I, for one, after the techno years, love to hear live music in
the raw manner. I've been playing around and had my ear to the ground. This
music never went away."
This venture was set in motion after the Yardbirds were inducted into the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. A European concert promoter contacted
Dreja and McCarty about touring. The two, who had worked together in a band
called Box of Frogs in the '80s, were up for it.
"The Yardbirds is difficult to put together," says Dreja, who spent most of
his non-music years as a photographer. "It's not a drawing-board band where
you can just say let's get a guitarist and a singer. But we felt we had the
right musicians, played a few gigs and found ourselves enjoying it
immensely. There were a few more personnel changes and we became a working
band four years ago. Then you start doing that and you think it would be
great to do an album with this band."
Vai, with his own Favored Nations Recordings label, provided a home for the
project, with Ken Allardyce (Goo Goo Dolls, Green Day) producing. Dreja says
that even with the passage of time, the songs' spirit remains.
"I think we were just as weird then as we are now," Dreja says. "Look at the
lyrics and songs, and they are very eclectic. Maybe we were old then. The
new material, though new songs, is instantly recognizable. You won't mistake
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