Like his Yardbirds bandmate Eric Claptonthe late Jeff Beck had a long, varied career in the roles of sideman, band member and group leader.

Unlike Clapton, Beck usually recorded more than one album with his various projects. His best work could typically be found under his own name. When he left the Yardbirds, Beck and his guitar remained the star of the show, even as he recruited friends such as Keith Moon, Rod Stewart and Ron Wood to play on his records.

In addition to showcasing some of the greatest fretwork ever recorded, our list of the 10 best Jeff Beck songs often features rock’s biggest and most important names.

  • 10

    ‘I can’t return the love I feel for you’

    The Jeff Beck Group

    From: ‘The Jeff Beck Group’ (1972)

    Beck recorded his fourth album in Memphis with producer Steve Cropper, the great session guitarist who played on so many of the great R&B singles that came out on Stax Records in the 60s. The Jeff Beck Group is one of his most soulful, and this instrumental cover of a song written by Ashford & Simpson is a sweet highlight.

  • 9

    ‘Crashes’

    The Jeff Beck Group

    From: ‘The Jeff Beck Group’ (1972)

    Memphis musician Don Nix played sax in the Mar-Keys with The Jeff Beck Group producer Steve Cropper. He also wrote “Going Down” in the late 60s. Since then, everyone from bluesman Freddie King to WHO and Led Zeppelin to Pearl Jam have played it. Beck’s version features a tame vocal by his singer Bobby Tench, but the searing guitar solo soars.

  • 7

    “Because we ended up as lovers”

    Jeff Beck

    From: ‘Blow for Blow’ (1975)

    Along with his cover of the Beatles’ “She’s a Woman” (see No. 9 on our list of top 10 Jeff Beck songs), Beck’s 1975 album also included a couple of cuts written by Stevie Wonder. The best is this moody, brooding ballad that builds over nearly six minutes to one of the guitarist’s most lyrical and famous solos. Blow by Blow reached no. 4, Beck’s best ever.

  • 6

    ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’

    Jeff Beck

    From: ‘Wired’ (1976)

    Beck followed up in the 1975s Blow by Blow (see #9 on our Top 10 Jeff Beck Songs list) with another record produced, at least in part, by George Martin. But unlike its predecessor, The cable is more of a jazz fusion outing than a bluesy jam outing. The highlight is Charles Mingus’ jazz standard, one of Beck’s most subtle and passionate recordings.

  • 5

    ‘Freeway Jam’

    Jeff Beck

    From: ‘Blow for Blow’ (1975)

    “Freeway Jam” was one of Beck’s most popular songs, and for good reason: The solo he fired off was one of his very best. The song was written by Max Middleton, the keyboardist Beck worked with in the Jeff Beck Group as well as on his first two solo albums, Blow by Blow and The cable. It’s a great instrumental showcase for the LP’s core quartet.

  • 4

    ‘I’m not superstitious’

    The Jeff Beck Group

    From: ‘Truth’ (1968)

    Willie Dixon’s classic was originally recorded by legendary bluesman Howlin’ Wolf in 1961. But it’s Beck’s version with the Jeff Beck Group – including Rod Stewart on vocals and Ron Wood on bass – that hits hardest. Everyone was playing to win, especially Stewart, who delivered one of his best performances ever. But no doubt about it: the song belonged to Beck, whose piercing guitar pierced every line.

  • 3

    ‘Beck’s Bolero’

    The Jeff Beck Group

    From: ‘Truth’ (1968)

    First of all, there’s the band that plays on Beck’s first solo single, which was recorded while he was still in the Yardbirds: Keith Moon on drums, John Paul Jones on bass and Jimmy Page, who wrote the song, on 12-string guitar. Then there’s the song itself, a three-minute, three-part instrumental based on Ravel’s classic piece that’s loaded with guitar effects: slides, double solos, distortion, and a hyper-drive ending that barely catches its breath before swinging back to its original inspiration. Guitar heroism begins right here.

  • 2

    ‘Happening ten years ago’

    Yardbirds

    From: 1966 single

    Beck and Page only played on a handful of Yardbirds songs together. This was the first, a Top 30 hit with a slinky guitar riff. “Happenings Ten Years Ago” is also notable for having one of Beck’s few vocals on record. He is the voice behind the mumbled speaking section that continues during the fuzzy guitar solo.

  • 1

    ‘Heart full of soul’

    Yardbirds

    From: 1965 single

    The Yardbirds’ second Top 10 hit (their first, “For Your Love,” was released a few months earlier and featured Eric Clapton on guitar) marked one of Beck’s early career highlights. Not only did he mime a sitar during the familiar riff that rings through the song, he also hit one of the first distortion-heavy solos ever recorded.

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