Jeff Beck has never been shy about speaking his mind through his music. For more than 50 years, the Grammy-winning guitarist has expanded rock’s sonic vocabulary with an inventive style of playing that defies categorization.
With LOUD HAILER, Beck’s first new album in six years, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer shifts gears once again for an album packed with topical lyrics that touch upon his concerns about the future. Loud hailer — another name for a megaphone — is the perfect symbol for the 11 tracks.
“I really wanted to make a statement about some of the nasty things I see going on in the world — greed, lies, injustice — and I loved the idea of being at a rally and using this loud device to shout my point of view.”
To help him write LOUD HAILER, Beck enlisted two young women — guitarist Carmen Vandenberg and singer Rosie Bones. It was a chance meeting with Vandenberg last year at a birthday party for Queen drummer Roger Taylor that eventually led to the trio’s collaboration.
“She invited me to one of their shows, and I was blown away,” the guitarist recalls. “When we got together in January, I explained the subject matter I had in mind, we sat down by the fire with a crate of Prosecco and got right to it. The songs came together very quickly; five in three days.”
Beck recorded most of LOUD HAILER at home and produced it with Filippo Cimatti, who also works with Bones. In addition to the core trio, the album also features drummer Davide Sollazzi and bassist Giovanni Pallotti, who were both recruited by Cimatti.
The album’s roots, Beck explains, reach back to September 11, 2001. In particular, the plight of the “Jersey Girls,” four women who lost their husbands in the attacks and were instrumental in the creation of the 9/11 Commission.
“These women wanted answers, but were given none, which I found shocking and appalling,” the guitarist says. “I told Rosie about their fight to find the truth and she came up with ‘Ballad Of The Jersey Wives.’ That creative process repeated itself for most of the songs on the album. All credit to Rosie — she was able to bring these different ideas to life.”
Beck says he enjoyed his new role as lyrical director. “You can set the mood with an instrumental, but you can’t really tell a story. That’s not what you would expect to hear from someone who once remarked, ‘Good riddance to singers.’ But the truth is, I play better when I play off the lyrics in a song.”
A sense of outrage comes through loud and clear on the first single, “Live In The Dark,” as well as “Right Now,” which targets superficiality in pop culture. Beck adds: “I think Rosie says it all with the line, ‘Famously famous for nothing at all.’ Unfortunately, that’s where we are today.”
Anger may be the over-arching theme, but one of the album’s biggest strengths is its musical ebb and flow. Beck says: “It’s a careful balance of extremes that define the album: dark and light, heavy and tender.”
The mix ranges from the ethereal instrumental “Edna” and the country-tinged “Shrine,” to the greasy funk of “O.I.L.,” which includes a wicked slide solo played on a oil can guitar; a gift from ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons. But there are also several ballads, “Shame” (inspired by 1950s doo-wop) and “Scared For The Children,” in which Beck pays tribute to Jimi Hendrix with a moving solo. The guitarist adds: “I can’t help it; Jimi is forever in my blood.”
In many ways, Beck says LOUD HAILER is his most honest album. “Lyrically, I set the mood and subject matter. And musically, I used fewer electronic gadgets than ever before. It’s mostly just me playing through a Marshall head or a Fender Champ. What you hear on the album is what you’ll hear live in concert.”
This summer, Beck will co-headline a U.S. tour with one of his heroes, the legendary Chicago bluesman Buddy Guy. The joint tour begins in July — just a few days after the album’s released — and continues for most of the summer.
On August 10, Beck will make his Hollywood Bowl debut for a very special, career-spanning concert that celebrate 50 years of ‘dynamic music making.’ “Many years ago, a girlfriend took me there as a tourist. I remember standing on that stage and thinking, ‘One day I’ll play here.’ But I never got the chance until now.”
In addition to recording LOUD HAILER, Beck also wrote, BECK01 (Genesis Publications, jeffbeckbook.com). This signed, limited edition book explores Beck’s passions for hot rods and rock ’n’ roll. Hand-bound in leather and aluminum, the book features more than 400 rare and unpublished photos. Narrated by Beck, BECK01 is the definitive visual and historical record for this dynamic musician.
The trailblazing guitarist has been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice.
He entered as a member of the Yardbirds in 1992 and as a solo artist in 2009. Beck has earned a total of eight Grammy Awards — including one for his previous album Emotion and Commotion — and has recorded with everyone from Stevie Wonder and Buddy Guy to Tina Turner and Mick Jagger. He is widely regarded by his peers and fans as one of the greatest guitarists of all time thanks to his ability to make the impossible sound effortless.