2023 – R.I.P. Jeff Beck
(ignore the April 30, 2017 publish date………I mean, c’mon – the guy died in 2023………..do the math! Anyway, this was published on January 15, 2023)
If I read one more thing about how he’s up there jamming with Jimi and Eddie, I’m gonna barf (actually, I haven’t read that anywhere – I just said that in hopes of stopping some talentless writer from saying that).
This was a biggie. Nobody doesn’t like Jeff Beck. He was great to listen to, but I also got to photograph him a half-dozen times and I consider myself fortunate that I was able to do that.
Here are those stories (and if you see “PANO” anywhere in this writeup, it’s a bigger image that you should click to enlarge):
I had forgotten about the first time I got to do that. While I was researching what I thought was the first time (1976), I found a couple of slides labeled “1975” in the 1976 folder. So I went through my ticket archive – yeah, I have one – and found one from April 27, 1975, when Jeff headlined at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, NJ – my future “house” (the Mahavishnu Orchestra opened the show).
The slides were nothing to write home about and none were razor-sharp, but I found one not-quite-passable image where he was using a voicebox/talkbox (that tube going up to his mouth), like the kind that Peter Frampton made popular a year later on “Do You Feel Like We Do?”:
Forward to October 16, 1976: I was a (non-teaching) faculty member at Bergen Community College in Paramus, NJ, running all the chemistry and physics labs for the night classes. I knew the Director of Student Activities well because I was a student there for my first two years of college.
He knew of my involvement with music and always asked me about the bands that were on the lists he received from booking agents. When he mentioned that Jeff Beck was available, I was stunned and uncalmly screamed, “YES! YES! GET HIM!”.
And he got him.
I took my favorite shot of Jeff at this show. In it, he seems to be posing like a bathing beauty in a Star-Trek t-shirt while staring right at me in the middle of a song:
What more could I ask for?
The Jan Hammer Group was one of the openers (REO Speedwagon was the other). Jan joined Jeff at one point. When the set finished, Jan came off the stage first, followed by Jeff:
Backstage, I hadn’t asked anyone about photographing Jeff there because no one was around, so I just walked in. Jeff doesn’t look thrilled and thinks about what his next move should be. As you can see, I backed away when he picked up the racket:
The truth is, I just made that up after looking at the pix. I really don’t remember what happened there, but I know I felt very awkward – probably a little star-struck – as he just sat there. I hadn’t yet developed my backstage chops yet, so I just took a couple of shots and left – grateful to have gotten anything.
The BCC school paper was The Monitor and I contributed photos from the shows I shot there (PANO):
If you look at the crowd shot, you’ll notice that the front row of the gym was empty. That was always saved for faculty, so that’s how I got to shoot so many shows there from up front without any sort of official photo pass.
Here’s the story that ran under that photo:
I’m just glad I had a hand in getting Jeff Beck to play BCC.
By now, I had been the house photographer at the Capitol for a couple of years and I did MUCH better shooting Jeff there this time around on October 7, 1980. I shot the February, 1984 magazine cover that opened this post at this show and got a lot of other images published as well, including the September, 1981 cover of Guitar World magazine:
A similar shot got a full page in Guitar & Bass magazine in England:
These three images also got published:
As you can see, shooting Jeff Beck was NEVER boring!
There was a series of superstar benefit concerts in the UK and US for multiple sclerosis that was inspired by Ronnie Lane (Small Faces founder), who was afflicted with MS.
Here’s the lineup for the show I got to shoot on December 9, 1983 at Madison Square Garden (as taken off the press release): Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, Kenney Jones, Andy Fairweather-Low, Joe Cocker, Ronnie Lane, and an All-Star band of the finest sidemen in the world, including Ray Cooper, Simon Phillips, Fernando Saunders, Jan Hammer, and Chris Stainton.
All I saw was “Page, Clapton & Beck” and all I wanted was a shot with the three of them in it.
Before the show started, the photographers were all given positions in the pit. We were not to run around there because of the video crews. “Stay in your spot!”
Well, when the Big 3 finally got together on stage, they were to the right of center. My position was well left of center, so I got what I could, shooting across the stage when there were many musicians between us.
I focused on Clapton because he was in the middle, distance-wise. That meant that the other two would be somewhat out of focus, but either alternative would have put Jimmy or Jeff VERY out of focus.
So these are what I came up with:
I’m just glad that I had the chance to finally shoot the Big 3 together.
But I’m sad that MS took Ronnie from us in 1997.
1989 – “The Fire Meets the Fury” tour
This tour paired Jeff with Stevie Ray Vaughan. To keep things equal, they alternated as headliners. I got to shoot them at The Spectrum in Philadelphia on November 7, 1989 and at Madison Square Garden in NYC on November 11.
Here are two shots of Jeff from Philly:
You’ll note the “word” BOZZ in the first pic. Jeff’s drummer on this tour was Terry Bozzio – (former) husband of Missing Persons’ singer Dale Bozzio.
Got a little more at MSG on the 11th, starting with my favorite shot of Jeff that night:
Two more of Jeff before Stevie joined him onstage:
Things got a little crazy during what looks like an “axe-behind-the-head” duet. Have you ever seen Jeff Beck doing that while lying on the floor laughing?
This would have been a great shot if Jeff was closer and Stevie opened his eyes (photographers are never satisfied):
I absolutely do not remember the two hot chicks on the stage. Did their presence twist Jeff into a knot and make Stevie seem to be handing his guitar to the closest person (me?)
I have never printed or scanned this image before. I just saw it – the last image on a B&W contact sheet – when I was putting this post together.
Anyway, I’m sad that he’s left us, but I’m glad I had these opportunities to document this amazing six-string hero.
And I know he’s up there jamming with…………..oh, wait – I’m not supposed to say that, according to this post’s opening paragraph.