The Yardbirds are one of the best known blues rock acts to come out of Britain, and when you think of the band, some famous names come to mind, especially those of guitarists. Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page were all, at one point or another, members of the Yardbirds. You’ve probably heard hits such as “For Your Love,” “Heart Full of Soul,” and “Shapes of Things,” but from 1963 to 1968, they recorded many other great songs that you may not know as well.
In 1968, the band broke up due to both creative differences and their singles flopping on the charts. I mentioned Jimmy Page earlier, and, you guessed it, there’s a Led Zeppelin connection here. Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham toured Scandinavia as the Yardbirds, but they had to change their name to “Led Zeppelin” because of an alleged cease-and-desist order.
But let’s get back to the ‘Birds. Here are 10 Yardbirds tracks that have been overlooked in the past.
1) “My Girl Sloopy,” For Your Love (1965)
You’ll know the McCoys’ version of this song; it was released in the same year and soared to #1 on the charts. Both versions were actually released right around the same time. Jeff Beck’s guitar playing in this track gives the Yardbirds’ version an edge that the McCoys’ version lacks; it almost sounds like a precursor to the garage-rock sound.
2) “Heart Full of Soul (sitar version),” For Your Love (bonus track) (1965)
Although this song was a hit for the Yardbirds, this particular version never made it past the demo stage. Ultimately, they ditched the sitar, and the version we all know and love went to #2 in the UK charts and #9 in the US. Sitars were featured in a lot of songs in the ’60s, giving them a more psychedelic sound. Even though psychedelic music didn’t become popular until a couple of years later, the sitar sound really works on this song.
3) “Sweet Music,” For Your Love (1965)
Two different bands playing together on one song — now that’s something different! Once in a while, you’ll find a band member from one band working with another band, but it’s not often you see two bands in their entireties playing on one song. You might not have known that the Yardbirds and Manfred Mann collaborated, but they did on this particular track. This song is definitely closer to the style of the mid-’60s British Invasion rather than blues rock. Hearing Paul Jones and Keith Relf singing together is really cool. You can’t skip this catchy tune from two bands full of talented musicians!
4) “You’re A Better Man Than I,” Having a Rave Up With The Yardbirds (1965)
I have to say, this is one of my favorite Yardbirds songs, because it’s a great way to start off an album; the guitar at the beginning of the song really hooks the listener right from the get-go. When I had a radio show, one of my listeners requested this song, and I played it and instantly fell in love with it. Jeff Beck’s guitar solo in this track is really a highlight and influenced many guitarists who would become famous later. I’m honestly shocked that this wasn’t a hit.
5) “A Certain Girl,” Five Live Yardbirds (1964)
A bit different and more in the vein of the British Invasion sound than their later material, “A Certain Girl” was the B-side to their first single, which failed to chart. Eric Clapton played guitar on this song. Love the call and response in this tune; it really makes this song catchy.
6) “The Nazz Are Blue,” Roger The Engineer (1966)
Roger The Engineer is an album that’s a good introduction to the Yardbirds if you’re new to listening to the band, and this song is a pure blues-rock song. What sets this track apart from the rest is that their frontman, Keith Relf, didn’t sing lead vocals; instead, it was Jeff Beck. Fun fact: late-1960s psychedelic band the Nazz (of which Todd Rundgren was a member before he went solo) named themselves after this song.
7) “Hot House of Omagarashid,” Roger The Engineer (1966)
“Hot House of Omagarashid” is a fun, sort of experimental song, and I can really see it being a theme song for a TV show. “Weird in a good way” is the perfect way to describe this track, because it’s not your typical 60s rock song. It’s most certainly a song that makes you want to dance!
8) “Jeff’s Boogie,” Roger The Engineer (1966)
This song, which was heavily inspired by Chuck Berry, is a highlight on Roger The Engineer. After listening to this song, you can easily see why Jeff Beck is considered a guitar legend. Its upbeat tempo and rollicking melody make listening to this song a lot of fun.
9) “Smile On Me,” Little Games (1967)
This song is a Yardbirds original, and it’s true to the blues rock genre. By the time this album came out, Jeff Beck had left the band to do some solo work and subsequently start the Jeff Beck Group. “Smile On Me” is another example of a Yardbirds song that has an excellent guitar solo, but this time it’s by Jimmy Page. Page didn’t just do great guitar work for Led Zeppelin, so if you haven’t heard this song, you’re missing out! I love the fuzzy sound of his guitar solo; it blends blues rock with some psychedelia.
10) “White Summer,” Little Games (1967)
“White Summer” is an instrumental by Jimmy Page, and to put it simply, it’s incredible. I think that this could have been an inspiration for when Led Zeppelin did on “Black Mountain Side” and “Over the Hills and Far Away.” Jimmy Page would actually play “White Summer” and “Black Mountain Side” as a medley in concert, so if you’re a Zeppelin fan, you should check this song out. Many different styles of music inspired this song, from traditional Irish to Indian and even Arabic music. There’s even an oboe played in the song — a rarity in classic rock.