NME Festival blog: Jeff Beck discusses ‘uncomfortable rivalry’ with Eric Clapton


Ahead of a new documentary about his life, Jeff Beck has opened up about his past “uncomfortable rivalry” with Eric Clapton.

The new film Still on the Run: The Jeff Beck Story, covers the guitar legend’s entire history – from his teenage days jamming with Jimmy Page to joining the Yardbirds with Beck, solo career and up to the present day.

The doc features an all-star cast of rock legends paying tribute to Beck, including Clapton – much to his surprise.

“I must admit there was a tear – especially with Eric,” Beck told Rolling Stone. “I never expected him to bother to be in it. I studied his face over and over, just to make sure there wasn’t something else going on [laughs]. But no, it was just overwhelming.”

Discussing how Clapton’s “character was emblazoned in my brain as being a real bother boy” due his “punchy” nature, Beck went on to discuss how a rivalry developed during their time in the Yardbirds together, and the years shortly after.

“I remember he invited me to this gig [in 1980] in Guilford, near where he lives, and I thought, “Why is he asking me?” I thought to myself, “Obviously you won’t be playing, so go along and have a beer”,” recalled Clapton.

“On the way there, he goes, “Do you want to play ‘Blackie’?” And I said, “Uh, I don’t know that song.” He said, “No, it’s my guitar.” I went, “Oh, whoops.” First calamity of the evening. So I said, “I didn’t bring a guitar, so I’ll do that.” Then about a minute later, he turned around and stood at the car and goes, “This is not gonna be one of these blowing-off things, is it?” I said, “Listen, either I play or I don’t.” And there was that, what’s the word, uncomfortable rivalry about it.”

He added: “I found out later from Pattie, his wife, that there definitely was [rivalry] – especially with the Stevie Wonder stuff. He was not too amused about me doing something successful with Stevie. I think that maybe got under his skin a bit.”

Beck did confess however, that he saw Clapton as existing in a very separate artist world as he “had the blues covered”.

Clapton meanwhile, made headlines earlier this year when he opened up about “going deaf” and his ongoing health problems.

“The only thing I’m concerned with now is being in my seventies and being able to be proficient,” said Clapton. “I mean, I’m going deaf, I’ve got tinnitus, my hands just about work.”

“I’m hoping that people will come along and see me just because, or maybe more than because I’m a curiosity,” he continued. “I know that is part of it, because it’s amazing to myself I’m still here.”

Still on the Run: The Jeff Beck Story is released on Friday May 18.



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