The Yardbirds - Live At The BBC album review

The Yardbirds' evolution in action at the Beeb

The Yardbirds Live At The BBC album cover

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One of the great joys of the British Broadcasting Corporation’s archives is that while they thought nothing of wiping videotapes of lots of 1960s TV, for some reason much of the audio output remains safe. That means there are whole warehouses of BBC live recordings and sessions out there, all seemingly featuring the great Brian Matthew, and all worth preserving, for reasons of both history and excitement.

The Yardbirds were the kind of band who had cause to record for the BBC on occasions throughout their career, and for that reason this is arguably more interesting than, say, The Beatles’ sets, as it charts the progress of the band’s evolution almost song by song, from early hit I Ain’t Got You and For Your Love to the curious, misdirected pop of Goodnight Sweet Josephine and Little Games.

Along the way there are covers (Hang On Sloopy), routines (the age of the rehearsed interview in full swing) and the always-present excitement of going to America. However, the real meat of the collection is in its guitar workouts: a five-minute Smokestack Lightning, a whirling Drinking Muddy Water.

No other band moved between blues, pop, psychedelia and experiment with the ease The Yardbirds did, and this collection shows them doing so at their best.

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David Quantick

David Quantick is an English novelist, comedy writer and critic, who has worked as a journalist and screenwriter. A former staff writer for the music magazine NME, his writing credits have included On the HourBlue JamTV Burp and Veep; for the latter of these he won an Emmy in 2015.