Keith Relf – vcls, hrmnca
Anthony ‘Top’ Topham – gtr
Chris Dreja – rhythm gtr
Paul Samwell-Smith -bs
Jim McCarty – drms
Formed from Metropolis Blues Quartet, 1963 with above line-up, the ‘most blueswailing’ Yardbirds as they were soon to be dubbed relied totally on Chicago-based Chess/Checker/Vee-jay C4 talogues for inspiration and material. Before (I), Topham had been replaced by Eric ‘Slowhand’ Clapton.
Band subsequently amassed loyal Home Counties following, growing when they took over Stones’ residency at legendary Crawdaddy Club. Soon after they became Marquee regulars and toured Continent with American bluesman Sonny Boy Williamson, (2) being record of the event.
Jeff Beck took over when Clapton joined John Mayall, and the Yardbirds on (3) – with Samwell-Smith and Simon Napier Bell ousting Giorgio Gomelsky as producer – emerged as one of the most innovative bands of day. (3) was all original material. By this time, band were also making it on singles market with a trilogy of hits: For Your Love, Heart Full Of Soul, and the double A- sided Evil Hearted You/Still I’m Sad, all in 1965.
It was because of this supposed ‘sell-out’ that, after playing on For Your Love, Clapton handed in his notice 1966 was year of comings and goings. Samwell-Smith was first to quit, to become producer (notably for Cat Stevens). Dreja switched to bass and Jimmy Page came in to play rhythm. Only one single came from this line-up, Happenings Ten Years Time Ago.
Beck was next to leave, and Mickie Most took over production chores on (4). This album was wreckage of what was supposed to be Yardbirds’ third official LP. With exception of title track, it was a mish-mash of demos, first-takes, and material the band is said not to have intended for public consumption.
(5) had been recorded a couple of months earlier, cut live at Anderson theatre, New York, 30 March 1968 – it wasn’t issued until 1971 and then was withdrawn within days of release. It is said to have been recorded on condition that it would be released only if Yardbirds gave their endorsement. they didn’t.
In abortive attempt to revive Top 40 interest in group, two, America – only’ singles, Ten Little Indians and Ha Ha Said the Clown, were released with little success. the Yardbirds disbanded after gig at Luton Tech in July 1968.
After the break-up Relf, who had cut two solo singles during time with Yardbirds, teamed up with McCarty first to form folk duo Together and later Renaissance; Dreja became photographer; Jimmy Page, left with rights to the name and some contracted dates, set about forming the New Yardbirds …the band that became Led Zeppelin.
In retrospect, Yardbirds were prototype of both the guitar-dominated bands, and heavy-metal psychedelic groups. Their importance will never be undermined.
(1) Live At The Crawdaddy (Reportoire 1963)
(2) Five Live Yardbirds (Columbia 1964)
(3) Sonny Boy Williamson & The Yardbirds (Fontana 1965)
(4) The Yardbirds (Columbia 1966)
(5) Roger the Engineer (Warner 1966)
(6) Little Games (Epic-U.S. import 1967)
(7) Live Yardbirds (Epic-U.S. import 1971).
(8) Remember The Yardbirds (Starline 1971).