"The money was tempting, I could have made a fortune, but my reputation would have been shot": why Jeff Beck turned down joining The Rolling Stones

Jeff Beck and The Rolling Stones
(Image credit: Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage | Michael Putland/Getty Images)

In December 1974, while at a party in London, Mick Taylor told Mick Jagger than he was quitting The Rolling Stones. The news completely blindsided his bandmates, but while there was some debate as to why he made the call, the guitarist, who had developed a heroin habit during his five-year stint in the band, later confessed that he felt he had to jump ship in order to deal with his addiction, and keep his family away from the dangerously messy drug culture which surrounded the band.

“I just needed a break,” he told Classic Rock in a 2020 interview

With the Stones set to begin work on their follow-up to It's Only Rock 'n Roll, replacing Taylor was viewed as a matter of urgency, with Peter Frampton, Steve Marriott and Rory Gallagher among the guitarists reportedly considered for the role. Perhaps the most intriguing option explored by the band was the option of recruiting Jeff Beck, but speaking to International Musician & Recording World in autumn '75, the South London-born guitarist seems rather bemused that the idea was ever mooted. 

“I got a call from Keith Richards and he acted like he had known me for twenty years,” Beck told writer Steve Rosen. “And he asked me to come over and play and I thought it just meant kill a weekend. So I thought, Well, it would be nice to spend a couple days in Rotterdam. I went over there, and I found out they wanted me to join. I couldn't believe that. I mean, the money was tempting, I could have made a fortune and never have to work again but I would have been half dead and my reputation would have been shot. I think things have worked out better this way... I couldn't be happier really.”

In 2012, Beck spoke about the audition with Ultimate Classic Rock, and said, “Some people might find it hard to believe that you’d walk away from the Stones gig, but Keith and I wouldn’t have gone through an album without punching each other out anyway.” 

Asked last year by Guitar Player about the rumour that Beck had been approached, Keith Richards suggested that it was the band, rather than Beck, who nixed the idea.

“We felt that Jeff had his own furrow to plow and that he was not a team man,” Richards said. “He was a soloist to the max. He was such an individualist. It wouldn’t have worked with the Stones at all. We’re all about teamwork.”

“But don’t get me wrong, he was a tremendous player,” Richards added. “The odd times we got together, I was always amazed by the stuff that he did with his tremolo bar. He was one of the best, man, and he’s going to be missed.”

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.