Yardbirds assess the ‘Shapes of Things’ with a 55-year career
The Yardbirds, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, will perform at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, June 21-23, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Thursday tickets range from $35-$55. Friday and Saturday tickets are $39-$65. Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.parkcityshows.com.
The Yardbirds, one of rock ‘n’ roll’s pioneering British bands, will hit another milestone in its 55-year career this week when it plays a three-night run in Park City.
The concerts will mark the first time the band will play in Utah, said drummer Jim McCarty.
“That’s exciting for me,” McCarty said. “There aren’t a lot of places that the band hasn’t played. So I’m looking forward to this.”
The Yardbirds will perform at 8 p.m. on July 21-23 at the Egyptian Theatre. The concerts, according to McCarty, the sole original member in the line-up, will be a career retrospective filled with hits, deep cuts and the occasional cover.
“The blues covers will be songs like ‘Smokestack Lightning,’ ‘Train Kept a-Rolling’ and things like that,” he said. “Plus there will be the odd track thrown in here and then. There’s a good body of work to choose from.”
Many Yardbirds fans have told McCarty the songs — especially the singles “Heart Full of Soul,” “Shapes of Things” and “For Your Love” — are the soundtrack to their youths.
“It’s an honor to hear that,” McCarty said. “As long as I have a good band, and we play the songs in the right way, I think people will be happy to hear those songs. They bring back a lot of their childhood.”
The Yardbirds formed in 1963. Unlike other British bands such as The Who and Deep Purple, whose members tried to outdo each other or showcase their talents with solos, the band built a reputation as a band that played as a unit, McCarty said.
“That was something we did, because we loved the blues songs that were coming out of the United States at the time,” he said. “They were very exciting and very raw and they were something we enjoyed playing together. We just wanted to make them a bit different and put our own perspective on them, our own identity.”
The Yardbirds is also known as the band that launched the careers of guitar heroes Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page.
And while many music fans look at those musicians as rock gods, the Yardbirds knew them as young guitarists who brought new dynamics to the band, McCarty said.
Clapton replaced a guitarist named Anthony “Top” Topham, when Topham left to continue his art studies.
“Eric came in and became part of the team when we were doing mainly blues covers,” McCarty said. “He was very dedicated and made sure he played every solo correctly. He went through old recordings and made sure he played the songs note-for-note.”
Beck replaced Clapton in 1965, and expanded the Yardbirds style.
“He made it more psychedelic with all the different sounds,” McCarty said. “We loved that because we wanted to make our sound quite futuristic. We just put our ideas in the pot and waited to see what came out.”
Page filled the guitar spot when Beck departed in 1966.
“Jimmy consolidated our sound,” McCarty said. “As a session player, he initially was there to play what we wanted to play, but he also had a way of bringing our music down to earth, which made the band more business-like.”
The Yardbirds’ initial run ended in 1968, and with the exception of reunions without Clapton, Beck and Page, the band reformed in 1992, with original rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja, McCarty said.
Dreja had to retire due to health problems in 2013.
“Even before that, people had their favorite musicians and if someone like lead vocalist Keith Relf wasn’t in the lineup, some people wouldn’t want to see us,” McCarty said. “Of course, we don’t have Clapton, Beck or Page. So we had to deal with that.”
These days, McCarty doesn’t hear any complaints that he is the sole original member when it comes to the Yardbirds concerts.
“I think the reason is because we have a good band right now and we put on a good show,” he said.
The current lineup features lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist John Idan, lead guitarist Johnny A., bassist Kenny Aaronson, percussionist Myke Scavone and drummer McCarty.
“There is some great chemistry in the band and we’re surrounded by good people,” McCarty said. “It’s much more comfortable than it was in the ‘60s.”
Part of McCarty’s comfort is due to the touring.
“It’s not too overpowering for me, because we don’t do huge tours like we did in the 1960s,” he said. “The tours today are short and sweet, and I get to meet some really lovely people who come to have a great night.”
McCarty also enjoys seeing audiences enjoying the music.
“I also still have fun playing the songs,” he said. “They seem to stand up well after all of this time.”
Some of the songs have seen a revival, thanks to remakes by bands and artists such as Rush and blues guitarist Gary Moore.
“That’s very gratifying, particularly when people like Steve Vai, Little Steven, Alice Cooper and Steven Tyler do our songs,” McCarty said. “They are huge rock ‘n’ roll stars, but they are Yardbirds fans. And the fanbase seems to go on and on and grow as the years go on. It’s amazing.”
McCarty has also added to the Yardbirds mystique by penning his autobiography, “Nobody Told Me: My Life with the Yardbirds, Renaissance and Other Stories,” with fellow author Dave Thompson.
The book was released in March, and it is filled with memorable moments from the Yardbirds’ heyday.
“It took a while to get all the stories together, about three years, and the stories kept getting better and better, because I kept remembering more things,” McCarty said. “There are still a lot that I didn’t get in there, but it wasn’t particularly overwhelming. It was fun.”
In addition to keeping the Yardbirds’ music alive by touring, the drummer is involved with his own solo work, which is more akin to the singer-songwriter genre.
“I’m not quite sure at the moment where we’re going to go in the future, but we’ll see,” he said. “There may be a few more doors that will open.”
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