I once was lost, but now I’m found

There’s nothing better than hearing a song you used to love but have somehow forgotten all about over the years.  Perhaps it’s the one great song on a so-so album, so you don’t even remember it’s there.  Or maybe it’s on a super album but the radio plays only the same 3-4 songs, neglecting some choice tunes in the mix.


Or maybe you never heard it before, even though it’s on a popular album.  Some music-loving friend turns you on to a deep track, and blows your mind.  “Wow!  Where has THAT song been all my life?”

That’s the purpose of my series of “lost classics” blogs (this is the 35th installment!) in which I turn the spotlight on these hidden gems.  They live among us, dear readers.  Treat yourself to these dozen songs I’ve selected from the 1969-1983 period that will perhaps spark great memories, or thrill you for the first time.

And off we go…


“Queen of My Soul,” Average White Band, 1976

This R&B band from Scotland made quite a splash in the US in the mid-to-late ’70s with singles like the #1 instrumental “Pick Up the Pieces” and its follow-up, “Cut the Cake,” and three Top Ten albums.  On their third LP, “Soul Searching,” there’s an infectious dance track by guitarist/bassist/vocalist/songwriter Hamish Stuart called “Queen of My Soul” that is guaranteed to get you up out of your chair.  Its main message, repeated often in the chorus and coda, is that music can play a hugely important role in our lives:   “Music, sweet music, you’re the queen of my soul…”

“Mirage,” Santana, 1974

After a spectacular debut LP, followed by two consecutive #1 albums, Santana foundered a bit in 1973 as their lead guitarist wanted to stretch boundaries and try new things.  Several personnel shifts occurred, and the music, while fascinating at times, didn’t offer what the band’s early fans were looking for, so the albums didn’t chart as well.  Still, there’s often a diamond in the rough hidden amongst average songs, and on “Borboletta,” it’s a gorgeous keyboard-dominated track called “Mirage,” written and sung by organist/pianist Leon Patillo.  Carlos Santana is, of course, on hand to offer his trademark biting guitar riffs.

“I Really Don’t Know Anymore,” Christopher Cross, 1980

This unlikely-looking singer-songwriter seemingly came out of nowhere in early 1980 with his eponymous debut LP and its four hit singles (“Sailing,” “Ride Like the Wind,” “Never Be the Same” and “The Light is On”).  He won the “Big Four” Grammys that year, including Song of the Year (as composer) and Record of the Year (as performer) for “Sailing,” Album of the Year, and Best New Artist, the only time this has happened in Grammy history.  Did he deserve it?  That’s debatable, but the album is full of really great music, and the lost gem, to me, is “I Really Don’t Know Anymore,” a shimmering rock track that features Michael McDonald sharing vocals, and a scorching guitar solo by jazz/rock great Larry Carlton.

“Starship Trooper,” Yes, 1971

This accomplished progressive rock group from England had greater chart success with their “Fragile” album and its single “Roundabout,” and their #1 opus “Close to the Edge,” but I keep going back to the brilliant 1971 LP, “The Yes Album.”  There you’ll find the minor hit  “I’ve Seen All Good People” and the sonic smorgasbord of the leadoff song, “Yours is No Disgrace,” but most diehard Yes fans are partial to the 9-minute “Starship Trooper,” which is actually a suite of three separate pieces of music combined in a gorgeous, mesmerizing track.  In particular, Jon Anderson’s crystalline vocals and Steve Howe’s intricate guitar work stand out.   

“Tell Me All the Things You Do,” Fleetwood Mac, 1970

The band that blues guitarist Peter Green put together in 1967 would go through several giddy highs and discouraging lows before they hit superstardom in 1977.  In 1970, Fleetwood Mac muscled their way through the sessions for “Kiln House,” their first LP without Green at the helm, who had abruptly left to join a commune.  Guitarist Jeremy Spencer wasn’t much of a songwriter, and he too would soon be swayed by a persuasive cult.   This left the bulk of the songwriting on the frail shoulders of young Danny Kirwan, a new recruit the year before.  He came through with a couple of gems, including “Tell Me All the Things You Do,” where his tenor voice sounds a lot like Christine McVie, who became a full-fledged member later that year.  Kirwan’s guitar work is masterful here.

“Criminal World,” David Bowie, 1983

It had been three years since Bowie’s last release, 1980’s “Scary Monsters,” so naturally, the public was about to meet a new Bowie persona.  He wrote or identified eight captivating songs, hired Chic’s Nile Rodgers to produce, and unleashed then-unknown blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan on most of the tracks, and the result, “Let’s Dance,” was #1 in ten countries.  While “Modern Love,” “China Girl” and the anthemic title song rightly get most of the attention, I suggest you take a listen to “Criminal World,” which features Vaughan adding just the right guitar fills to spice things up.  Great song!

“Albert Flasher,” The Guess Who, 1971

Randy Bachman had been the de facto leader/guitarist/songwriter of this polished Canadian band, but he departed after “American Woman” in 1970, later to lead Bachman-Turner Overdrive.  That left singer/pianist/songwriter Burton Cummings to take over the reins, and he came up with some impossibly catchy Top 20 tunes to keep the Guess Who popular for several more years — “Share the Land,” “Hand Me Down World,” “Rain Dance” and my favorite, “Albert Flasher,” a piano-driven single that wasn’t available on an album until many years later.  Cummings’ vocal delivery here is simply spectacular.  I wish this one went on longer than its brief 2:18 length.

“Tell Me to My Face,” Dan Fogelberg & Tim Weisberg, 1978

For his fifth album, Fogelberg teamed up with jazz flautist Weisberg for the delightful “Twin Sons of Different Mothers,” which reached #8 on the charts on the strength of the single, “The Power of Gold.”  Most of the LP showcases the delicate interweaving of flute and acoustic guitar, but “Power of Gold” is full-bodied and really cooks, and even more so is the incredible 7-minute rendition of “Tell Me to My Face,” written by Graham Nash and Allan Clarke in 1966 and recorded by The Hollies.  Fogelberg’s version is leaps and bounds better than the original, if only because production values are so superior…but so is the musicianship.  I crank this one up every chance I get.

“Be My Lover,” Alice Cooper, 1971

The shock rock of Alice and his band of hard rock misfits had struggled to find an audience at first, but producer Bob Ezrin polished up their sound and asked for songs with great hooks, and the band responded with “I’m Eighteen,” a teenage rallying cry to this day.  On their “Killer” album in ’71, “Under My Wheels” kept momentum alive until 1972’s “School’s Out” and “Elected” and 1973’s “Billion Dollar Babies” LP made them one of the nation’s top concert draws.  But go back to “Killer” — many compelling songs there, particularly “Be My Lover,” written by guitarist Michael Bruce.  The dude knew his way around a knockout riff.

“Kozmic Blues,” Janis Joplin, 1969

In early 1969, Janis had left her erstwhile group, Big Brother and the Holding Company (despite their #1 album together, “Cheap Thrills”), and instead assembled a new band loosely known as The Kozmic Blues Band.  This group, which included blues great Mike Bloomfield on a few tracks, recorded the impressive “I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!” just before appearing at Woodstock.  The album’s release a month later capitalized on that appearance and reached #6 on the charts.  Three singles were released but curiously went nowhere, despite their energy and musical quality.  The title track shows Joplin in fine form, offering alternately dulcet and screeching vocals as a basic piano melody evolves into a full brass, full-throated tour de force, all in a compact 4:42.

“Night Flight,” Led Zeppelin, 1975

Eight new songs were recorded by the band for their “Physical Graffiti” album in 1974, but since their combined length pushed the limit of a conventional single album, they decided to resurrect some unreleased tracks recorded during previous sessions and make “Graffiti” a double album.  Naturally, it went to #1, but only four or five of the 15 songs got much airplay — usually “Kashmir” and “Trampled Under Foot,” maybe “In My Time of Dying.”  But the one I like is “Night Flight,” originally intended for the “IV/Untitled” album in 1971.  Carried by John Paul Jones’ keyboards, and a typically powerful Robert Plant vocal, it packs a wallop, and recalls “Misty Mountain Hop” and “Four Sticks” from that classic album.

“Freedom Rider,” Traffic, 1970

Steve Winwood had already achieved so much before he was 21 — hits with Spencer Davis Group, forming trippy folk/rock band Traffic, then teaming up with Eric Clapton for the Blind Faith project.  He then decided the time was right for a solo LP, and started writing the songs that would eventually make up the extraordinary “John Barleycorn Must Die” album.  Because Winwood used Traffic’s drummer Jim Capaldi and flute/sax player Chris Wood in the recording sessions, he relented and agreed to call it a Traffic album, which kick-started another five years and three more amazing albums for the band (and delayed Winwood’s solo career until the late ‘70s).  On “Freedom Rider,” Wood’s sax and flute passages perfectly complement Winwood’s piano and organ, and that voice — well, there are few peers in the business. 


Over under sideways down, when will it end?

When I first heard a couple of weeks ago that Jeff Beck died, I was sad, of course, particularly because he’d been taken by bacterial meningitis, a relatively uncommon occurrence these days. But I can’t deny that it just didn’t affect me the way I would’ve been devastated by the passing of Eric Clapton, or Jimmy Page, Beck’s fellow travelers in the British rock pantheon.

I came of age musically with Cream, and then Led Zeppelin, and for some reason I still can’t quite figure out, I never immersed myself the same way in Beck’s musical offerings. I’m not alone in this. Beck never got anything close to the worldwide fame, attention and appreciation of Clapton or Page, even though he was arguably as influential among recent generations of guitarists as either of them. They don’t call Beck “the guitarists’ guitarist” for nothing.

Beck’s death forced me to sit down over the past fortnight and finally listen closely to Beck’s catalog — his days with The Yardbirds (1965-1966), his time as leader of the Jeff Beck Group (1968-1973) and as a solo artist (1975-2023). What a revelation! Why did I wait so long?

There’s a clear reason, it seems to me, why Beck’s music often didn’t do as well on the charts as his compatriots’ albums did. Beck was far more experimental, innovative and willing to go beyond the blues or blues-rock favored by Clapton and Page. From his earliest recordings, he pushed the guitar to produce new, unusual sounds; he embraced the possibilities of incorporating jazz chords and free-form tempos in his jazz fusion period and beyond; and he spent most of his solo career recording instrumental tracks without benefit of a vocalist, pretty much a requirement if you’re going to make the pop charts.

I recall hearing Beck’s amazing blues-drenched 1968 debut album “Truth” in a record store around the same time I was snatching up the Cream and Zeppelin LPs, and I was compelled to buy it, but curiously, I didn’t listen to it all that often, and I didn’t buy any subsequent Beck albums. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I didn’t much care for the vocals provided by a young Rod Stewart. (In fact, I’ve never liked Stewart, particularly after he converted to a more pop-oriented approach.)

After getting the advice from a few Beck fanatics (especially my friend Ira) who pointed me toward the “essential” songs in his catalog, I found myself feeling more and more foolish that I failed to give this virtuoso his due. Each album in his repertoire — especially 1975’s “Blow By Blow,” 1989’s “Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop” and 2001’s “You Had It Coming” — contains tracks that had me picking my jaw up off the floor. Holy smokes. I now hereby acknowledge, belatedly, what my electric guitar player friends have been talking about all these years.

As Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash put it, “It’s a lot easier to appreciate Beck’s guitar playing if you’re a guitar player. He just had such a natural control over the instrument. It’s the ability to make it do something that you’ve never heard anybody else do. ‘Blow By Blow’ is the album I had when I was a kid. Jeff would go from love songs to a really blistering, hard-rock, heavy-sounding guitar without ever going over the top.”

Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil added, “Jeff Beck was an incredibly proficient guitarist, but he wasn’t Mr. Pedant. The late Seventies to late Eighties were full of guitarists who were preoccupied with technique, like the guitar wasn’t a voice but a tool to be mastered. Jeff Beck wasn’t that way. He used it as a microphone. He was confident.”

When Beck was just a boy, his parents pointed him toward the piano and encouraged him to learn the classics, but when he heard the great Les Paul on the radio playing “How High the Moon,” Beck asked his mother about it. “That’s an electric guitar,” she said. “It’s all done with tricks.” He replied, “Well, that’s for me!”

He was inspired by blues guitarists like B. B. King and R&B-leaning players such as Steve Cropper, and began learning on a borrowed guitar. He even made attempts to build his own guitar using cigar boxes and fence pieces. This early inventiveness became an integral part of his adult life, as he loved to tear apart and rebuild everything from guitars to cars, marveling at how things worked and how he might alter them to make them go faster, farther, louder.

As a teen, he met Page, and began playing in a succession of regional groups, most notably The Tridents, who played “flat-out R&B, like Jimmy Reed stuff, and we supercharged it all up and made it really rocky,” Beck recalled. “I got off on that, even though it was really only twelve-bar blues.” He also did some work as a session guitarist for a couple of records, although they went nowhere.

Then at age 21, he was recruited to become the guitarist for The Yardbirds, a promising British blues band that had just scored a Top Ten pop hit in the US called “For Your Love.” Truth be told, the position became open because Clapton, who considered himself a blues purist, didn’t want to play pop music and left to join John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (and then Cream). He suggested Page as his replacement, but Page was involved in lucrative session gigs, so he declined but instead lobbied for Beck to fill the slot, who eagerly jumped at the opportunity.

The Yardbirds in 1966 (L-R): Jeff Beck, Chris Dreja, Jim McCarty, Jimmy Page and Keith Relf

He was with the band for only a year and a half, but the work he did with them was significant. First came “Heart Full of Soul,” another Top Ten hit that featured Beck on what has been called the first use of a fuzz box to deliberately distort his guitar to sound like something else, in this case a sitar. This was followed by the #11 hit “Shapes of Things,” a cover of Bo Diddley’s “I’m a Man” and the manic “Over Under Sideways Down,” all showcasing Beck’s edgy stylings. When the band lost its bass player, Page, who had grown bored with session work, agreed to temporarily take on the assignment. Once a new bass player was found, Page reverted to guitar, and for a few months, The Yardbirds boasted both Beck and Page on guitar, producing the psychedelic “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” and a heavy metal-ish remake of the jump blues tune “Train Kept A-Rollin’.”

But Beck disliked the constant touring and either left the group or was fired, depending who’s telling the story. (“They fired me,” said Beck from the podium at The Yardbirds’ induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.) He was a self-described perfectionist with a bad temper, which earned him a reputation as being somewhat difficult to work with, but he managed to pull together a lineup of future stars to comprise The Jeff Beck Group: Rod Stewart on vocals, Ronnie Wood on bass, Nicky Hopkins on keyboards and John Paul Jones on bass and keyboards. They recorded “Truth” in 1968 and “Beck-Ola” in 1969 but then disbanded. Beck remembered, “The 1960s was the frustration period of my life. The electronic equipment just wasn’t up to the sounds I had in my head.”

Different configurations of The Jeff Beck Group came and went, as did a lineup called Beck, Bogert & Appice in which he collaborated with the rhythm section from Vanilla Fudge. Only one of the albums from this period made the charts in his native England but they all reached the Top 20 in the US.

When Beck joined up with Beatles producer George Martin in 1975, he made a significant departure from his blues-based work and reached #4 on the US album chart with the all-instrumental “Blow By Blow,” which includes the luxurious ballad “‘Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers,” the ambitious “Freeway Jam” and a bonafide Beck tour de force, “Diamond Dust.” If you do yourself one favor this month, give this record a listen. Beck’s guitar here is truly inspired.

The follow-up, 1976’s “Wired,” was a little heavy on the use of Jan Hammer’s jazz-fusion synthesizer noodling for my tastes, but Beck continued to shine with his guitar soloing, and the album again sold well in the US. He toured with Hammer’s group, released a live album with them, and also worked with jazz bassist Stanley Clarke on a few projects.

In the early ’80s, Beck was no longer the tempestuous rebel, eager to mix it up with a wide range of artists. He performed at several benefit concerts with Clapton, Page and others. He was fond of doing cover versions of well known songs (The Beatles’ “She’s a Woman” and Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” come to mind), but none was more successful than his 1985 reunion with Stewart for a scintillating new arrangement of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready,” which peaked at #5 on the US Mainstream Rock chart.

He contributed to records by a broad variety of other artists, from Bon Jovi to Seal, from Ozzy Osbourne to Roger Waters, from Tina Turner to Paul Rodgers, from Stevie Ray Vaughan to Robert Plant, and also worked with newer stars like Kelly Clarkson and Joss Stone in more recent years. “Who’s gonna say no when I got the call? I was proud that someone remembered I was even alive,” Beck joked in an interview in 2019. Most unusually, he recorded and performed with actor Johnny Depp, who happens to be a credible vocalist and guitarist as well. Their 2018 album “18” included reimaginings of such classics as Smokey Robinson’s “Ooh Baby Baby,” “Brian Wilson’s “Caroline, No,” Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and John Lennon’s “Isolation.”

When Beck was inducted into the Rock Hall as a solo artist in 2009, he was genuinely humble about it. “I couldn’t believe I was even nominated,” Beck said shortly afterwards. “I thought the Yardbirds was as close as I’d get to getting in. I’ve gone on long after that and gone through different musical changes. It’s very nice to hear that people have been listening.”

Page, who rarely speaks publicly about other musicians, wrote on social media last week, “The six-stringed Warrior is no longer here for us to admire the spell he could weave around our mortal emotions. Jeff could channel music from the ethereal, his technique unique, his imagination apparently limitless. Jeff, I will miss you along with your millions of fans. Rest in peace.”

Said Sir Paul McCartney about his fellow Brit: ““Jeff Beck was a lovely man with a wicked sense of humour who played some of the best guitar music ever to come out of Great Britain. He was a superb technician who could strip down his guitar and put it back together again in time for the show.”

Jeff Beck was never a prolific artist, releasing a new LP only every 5-7 years for the remainder of his life, but he made those releases count. I’ve compiled what I consider the most impressive and/or intriguing tracks from each of his albums (Dig his wondrous cover of “Over the Rainbow” from “Emotion and Commotion”!), and I invite you to revel in these selections for the first time (as I just recently did) or refamiliarize yourself with them if you’ve been away from them for a while.