10 Great Yardbirds Tracks

Some bands are lucky to have one star guitar player – The Yardbirds had three!  The Yardbirds helped launch the careers of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page, all inventive players who helped to fashion the blues rock genre as we know it today. Of the three, Page helped further the genre the most, but Clapton and Beck used their knowledge of the instrument to create a body of work that was both progressive and deeply reverent of its roots.

But there is always more to a band than a lead guitarist. Custodians Chris Dreja and Jim McCarty provided a framework, both in the original and rebooted lineups, allowing the vocalists and lead guitarists the freedom to spiral into all sorts of directions. And then there was Keith Relf, who died before The Yardbirds were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His purring style of singing helped propel the blues into the British mainstream, inspiring a legion of singers to follow in his wake. Here are ten tracks that show off the whole band.

“Good Morning Little Schoolgirl”

Breezily arranged and recorded with a thirst for lust, The Yardbirds’ rendition of this blues classic is a zesty response to The Beatles and The Kinks. Their mission was to bring blues to the British masses, although guitarist Eric Clapton had his concerns, feeling that their live output overshadowed their recordings. “This was not something I felt just about the Yardbirds,” he revealed in 2007,” but about other bands that I admired, like Manfred Mann, the Moody Blues, and the Animals, all of whom were far better live than they were on recordings.”

“For Your Love”

Before fronting bands 10cc and Wax, Graham Gouldman made a name as a worker bee, writing and producing hits for bands all over England. His first hit was “For Your Love,” a track he wrote in close collaboration with his father Hymie, a Jewish playwright and poet. Through his manager  Harvey Lisberg’s efforts, the song made its way to Giorgio Gomelsky, who tailored it for The Yardbirds. Bolstered by Brian Auger on harpsichord, The Yardbirds introduced a symphonic element that impressed Gouldman, but Clapton – already disappointed by the band’s departure from the blues – disliked the finished results. He left the group, but the band found a man who proved to be a worthy replacement.

“Heart Full of Soul ”

Gouldman did very well from his association with The Yardbirds. Not only did they cover “For Your Love,” but returned to Gouldman for “Heart Full of Soul”, an artistic watermark for both the songwriter and the band. Inspired by Gouldman’s Indian-style phrasing, the band decided to hire a sitar and a tabla player for the session. But despite their valiant intentions, the sitar player couldn’t play to their satisfaction, leading Jeff Beck to bullishly perform the part on his guitar. What transpired was one of his most formidable licks, which may have inspired John Lennon to utilize a similar hook on Revolver‘s “She Said, She Said.” Hymie Gouldman is thought to have contributed to the song, and Harvey claims he came up with the name of the song. “I should be co-credited with ‘Heart Full of Soul’,” he joked in 2023,” because I came up with the title, and that’s basically the chorus.”

“The Nazz Are Blue”

Beck sings this one, and does so nicely; his ragged vocal style chugging over the sea of guitars below him. Beck plays a propulsive guitar solo, although Chris Dreja acquits himself quite nicely with a barrelling counter-hook. “I can’t find a woman,” Beck cries, “no matter how hard I try.” In Keith Relf’s hands, the lyric might come across as disingenuous, but Beck brings a sincerity to the track that keeps it driving along. Jim McCarty splashes from behind the guitar players, shifting from cymbal to back-pedal work with aplomb.

“Over Under Sideways Down”

Guided by Beck’s frenzied riff, the track dives headfirst into the uncertain waters of psychedelia, propelled by a blistering bass line (believed to be played by Beck, rather than Paul Samwell-Smith.) Relf, who delivers one of his most spontaneous vocals, is said to have written the lyrics, although his original suggestion “over under sideways down/that’s the best way I have found” was changed to a safer “…..backward forwards square and round” for fear of BBC censorship.

“Ever Since The World Began”

English pop has always thrived on humor and The Yardbirds were no exception. “Ever Since the World Began” packs two decidedly different songs in one: the first introspective, the latter battier. No matter the changes of time signature, Relf sounds resolute throughout, jumping from stoic chant to giddier vocals. Indeed, the song ends with a scat vocal that sounds like it was recorded there and then. This level of creativity served the band well.

“Happenings Ten Years Time Ago”

Jimmy Page was purportedly offered first refusal to replace Clapton in 1964. He declined, so Beck was hired in his place. By 1966, Page had grown tired of session work, and asked if they would reconsider their position. Initially hired as a bassist, Page was promoted to the status of dual lead player, changing both the sound and the dynamic of the band (Dreja agreed to play bass onstage to allow for this change.) “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” is a curio, in that it features Beck and Page fighting for the frontline. In those efforts to make it to the frontline, the song anticipates the heavy metal antics of Page’s follow-up group, Led Zeppelin. Interestingly, the song also features John Paul Jones on bass, who would join Page in Zeppelin at the end of the 1960s.

“White Summer”

On November 30th, 1966, Beck left The Yardbirds. It’s unclear whether he quit or was pushed, but Page performed Beck’s solos in a style that revered the original but had enough of Page’s influences to avoid any criticisms of mimicry. Rather than hire a rhythm guitarist, The Yardbirds merely carried on as a four-piece, both in the studio and on stage. Little Games, produced by Mickie Most, proved to be the band’s swansong and features some of their most sophisticated arrangements. One of the clear highlights is “White Summer,” a Page solo recording in all but name.

Performing the melody on an acoustic guitar, Page is accompanied by an oboe and Chris Karan on tabla.  “I used a special tuning for [the song],” Page recalled in 1977, “the low string down to D, then A, D, G, A and D.”

“Little Soldier Boy”

From the military drums to the guitar splashes, “Little Soldier Boy” is a batty addition to the band’s catalog. The intentions are unclear, but the track stands among a list of anthems geared towards the counterculture clamoring for the electric guitar. Relf performs the song as if whispering the parable to his listeners. The song could easily have wound up on a rock album from the era.

“Ten Little Indians”

This is a track from a bygone era and holds up as an enjoyable romp, showcasing Page’s talents as a producer. As it happens, there are only two members of The Yardbirds on this track: Donovan mainstay Clem Cattini is on percussion, while John Paul Jones plays the throbbing bass part. “Ten Little Indians” is a Harry Nilsson composition, although his influence is buried beneath the hypnotic guitar line and thunderous drum exhibition closing the track on a hard-edged note.

-Eoghan Lyng

Photo: Getty Images

9 comments on “10 Great Yardbirds Tracks

  1. Les Fender

    All great ones (not many that aren’t). Still I’m Sad is one of my faves.

  2. Some good comments here, but it’s a shame you had to include duff tracks like “Little Soldier Boy” and “Ten Little Indians,” which have little to do with The Yardbirds. There are SO many better choices…how about “What Do You Want” or “Hot House of Omagarashid,” which spotlight Jeff Beck’s incredible and totally innovative for its day guitar work?

    You might have also noted that “White Summer” is a direct rip-off of a Bert Jansch number. But then this is Page we’re talking about, so what do you expect?

    • Eoghan Lyng

      What Do You Want is a fantastic track, Mike. Well chosen!

    • True about Bert Jansch. But also, it portends Black Mountain Side. Here is what Wikipedia says about the songs: “”Your Time Is Gonna Come” opens with Jones playing an unaccompanied organ solo, leading into the verse. Page plays acoustic and pedal steel guitar. The track has a crossfade into “Black Mountain Side”, an acoustic instrumental based on Bert Jansch’s arrangement of the traditional folk song “Black Water Side” and influenced by the folk playing of Jansch and John Renbourn. The song was regularly performed live as a medley with the Yardbirds solo guitar number “White Summer””

  3. Barry Baddams

    Shapes of Things???


    Think About It was a better example of Page Era Yardbirds; when I heard that guitar solo, I really thought Page was the best guitar player I heard until that point. IMHO, that and the first LZ album were Jimmy Page at his peak. I don’t think he ever equalled that level of excitement. What happened after was good, but the solo on that song (Think About It) was more exciting than anything he did later–and it was a great song!


    Think About It, with that breathtaking Page guitar solo, should be on this list. It’s peak Page, and the song is great. Page is a good producer, but my attention is always on the playing.

  6. “White Summer”. Brilliant. Shades of things to come. “Over the Hills and Far Away”, yeah?

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