Jeff Beck was one of three great guitarists to come out of the 1960’s British group, The Yardbirds. The two others were Eric Clapton, who co-founded the supergroup Cream, before embarking on a successful solo career, and Jimmy Page, lead guitarist for Led Zeppelin. Despite being ranked fifth in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of top one hundred guitarists, Beck never enjoyed the fame of Clapton and Page.
Here is Jeff Beck’s cover of Bolero, first recorded in 1967 with Jimmy Page and The Who’s drummer, Keith Moon.
In my last blog, Maurice Ravel Shows How it’s Done, I discussed the importance of building a strong therapeutic foundation which allows for the emergence of intuitive understandings. Clarity that was not present one moment, suddenly arises in the next. Logically, the maintenance of the foundation and the creation of the intuitive insight must be a co-creation between the patient and the therapist. The therapist cannot do it on their own.
It can be argued, that at an unconscious level, people communicate their inner struggles through the things they say and do. Freud showed how we reveal ourselves through a phenomena he called parapraxis, which entered the vernacular as Freudian slips. However, people can reveal themselves as much through their successes, as when they are suddenly out of control.
From this point of view, some people seek therapy because success is not enough. They want more from life. These patients often say things like, “From the outside, my life looks good.”
Like Maurice Ravel, Jeff Beck uses an ostinato, played by the drummer, to create the foundation of his rendition of Bolero. However, where Ravel maintains interest by passing the melodies between different instruments, Beck uses the piece to showcase his guitar skills.
About halfway through his rendition of the Bolero, Beck faces a crisis. It is evident that his brilliant guitar work is not sufficient to maintain interest. He either needs to introduce another instrument, or break the foundation of the Bolero. Beck decides to undermine the fundamental integrity of the Bolero.
So what is Jeff Beck communicating when he disrupts the Bolero to fit his needs, rather than giving over to the structure of the piece? There are an infinite number of possibilities. For me, two stand out.
Jeff Beck might have grown up in a warm, loving family that meant he felt sufficiently secure to break foundations, allowing his creativity to flourish. Being sufficiently held, loved and noticed in the family, he may not have needed to strive for fame. Or, did he come from a family where the foundation was constantly disturbed? Lacking a secure foundation, was he forced to build his life in his own way? Did he not gain the level of fame Clapton and Page enjoyed because he was never able to fit in?
We don’t know. These questions would sit quietly in the depths of the therapist as they metaphorically listened to the rest of Beck’s oeuvre, trusting that at some point clarity would appear.
By the way, Beck’s first album was titled “Truth.” As well as Bolero, it contained covers of the Tudor melody, “Greensleeves,” and the Paul Robeson classic, “Ol’ Man River.” In fact, Jeff Beck made a career covering songs that were never likely to ever be rock and roll tunes. What’s going on!