Now Playing: The Yardbirds – Live, Mon Provins France June 27, 1966 -‘When Will It End?’

by | Dec 10, 2017 | 0 comments


Now playing in the ‘rock room’ is a historic slice of celluloid featuring the revolving  guitar
line up of the amazing ‘Yardbirds’. This particular footage finds the group in the midst of their Summer 1966 European
tour. The band at this point was famously becoming the ‘farm team’ for
developing amazing guitarists. The beginnings of the group’s career started with
Top Topham, then moved in Eric Clapton, then Jeff Beck and finally Jimmy Page.
The black and white segment flickering in the ‘rock room’ today follows
founding member and bassist Paul Samwell-Smith’s departure from the band to move
behind the scenes and into the production side of music. He was replaced by
session guitarist extraordinaire Jimmy Page and for a brief but amazing time
the band contained both Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck.
The performance featured here finds the band performing on
June 27 1966 at Mon Provins, France tour de Cesar. The site of the concert was
a military compound famously built sometime in the years 1150-1180. A very
eclectic and rustic site for a rock and roll show; the bands featured and
sharing the bill with the Yardbird’s were also an amazing mix of talent. The
Small Faces, Simon and Garfunkel and Screaming Lord Sutch and the Savages also
were slotted into the featured lineup. The groups were being recorded for
Michelle Arnaud’s Music Hall de France, television broadcast The Train Kept a Rollin. The Yardbirds’
personnel grouping at the time was Jimmy Page on bass,  both Jeff Beck and Chris Dreja on guitars,
Keith Relf on vocals and harmonica and Jim McCarty on drums. This is Page’s
fourth performance with the band. Upon Beck’s departure Dreja would move over
to bass and Page would then take over guitar duties with stunning results.
At this formative time in the band’s history the group was
developing their blues excursions into psychedelic and expansive musical
expressions centered on stupendous guitar playing and the increasingly complex
musical compositions. Here the band plays a high octane three song set made up
of ‘Train Kept A Rollin, ‘Shapes of Things’, and ‘Over, Under, Sideways, Down’. 
The clip begins with a medieval ‘Yardbirds’ flag being
unfurled down the stony castle walls as the band rattles their way into the
Johnny Burnette  cut, ‘Train Kept A
Rollin’. McCarty firecrackers the opening on his kit as Page proceeds to lay
down a stunning bass line behind the two guitar attack of Dreja and Beck. Relf
directs the locomotive of sound with well timed harmonic moans that keep the
silvery sound grounded in its blues roots. The quintet is dressed sharply in
white suits that elicit the similar Carnaby Street style of the Beatles 1966
Japan tour outfits of the same vintage. After a rollicking sprint to the station,
‘Train’ is quickly concluded a spike driving opening to the show.
The only unfortunate aspect of this footage is the
‘television sound’.
While concentration and a discerning ear can pick out all
of the respective elements, the sonics could be much better, but this is to be
expected for a 1960’s television broadcast. The guitars are mixed low and the
vocals high but the existence of such footage renders these shortcomings
naught. The band is in fine fettle and their collaborative expressiveness
noteworthy.
The military march of ‘Shapes of Things’ follows and plays
with a tripped out punk attitude. McCarty slams around the kit crisply. The
song was an early 1966 single for the group and was not only groundbreaking
aesthetically but influenced the band’s contemporaries with Beck’s deft use of
feedback as well as the paisley tinged Eastern influence that permeates the
song. Here Relf’s voice quivers as he recites the lyrics, and the mid song
breakdown detonates in ‘Who’ fashion with both Page and Beck thrashing at their
axes. Beautifully done.
The most recent single from the group at the time follows
and concludes the brief but well played set. ‘Over, Under, Sideways, Down’ was
released the previous month and here gets a kinetic reading with Beck’s
strangled and wailing soling a highlight. Playing a vintage Gibson Les Paul
Beck’s fingers pull from the neck the track’s recognizable and tightly coiled
signature lick.  The three headed back
line of guitars stand clustered around the backing vocals microphone stand
stomping their boots in unison. The reading featured here is a lucky capture
and classic live reading of one of the ‘Yardbirds’ most well known cuts.
While lasting just under seven minutes this rare sequence
captures not only a fleeting period in the ‘Yardbirds’ history but is a welcome
addition to the ‘Yardbirds’ canon as a document of their influence and
proficiency as a live act. All the band members unique and individual strengths are on display As far
as the ‘legends’ go, we all know where Beck and Page’s careers would eventually
lead them; but this mid-1960’s film reference is a unique look back to where
they cut their teeth and how they developed their craft.

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