When Jeff Beck made his final departure from the Yardbirds, there didn’t seem to be much discussion about the future of the band. They were back in the studio three weeks later and then back to the US for more tour dates. 1967 should have been a big year for the Yardbirds. The West Coast was exploding with music, much of it influenced by the innovative sounds the Yardbirds had produced over the previous two years. Sadly they were eclipsed by these very same bands, and the new crop of British bands like Traffic, Cream, The Who and certainly Jimi Hendrix.
Jimmy Page suggests they bring in bit maker Micky Most to handle production. Most had done well for the Donovan, The Animals and Herman’s Hermits. The band had already attempted to record You Stole My Love with Paul Samwell-Smith at the helm. He wasn’t pleased to learn he’d be rerecording a song he’d already produced for the Mocking Birds. We wouldn’t hear the results until it appeared on the Little Games Sessions and then the short lived Cumular Limits.
Epic 5-19156 April 3, 1967
The Yardbirds first effort with Most was a fair size hit and not a half bad song. Little Games had a lot going for it; an aggressive beat, and interesting arrangement and some meaty guitar. Just months after Happenings Ten Years Time Ago, it seemed a serious step backwards. This was the only one of the last four singles they’d play live when I saw them. Live version can be heard on the BBC Sessions and the Stockholm broadcast. The B-side was a very good original powered by Page on 12 string guitar. It’s a shame Puzzles wasn’t added to the Little Games album. It might have helped.
|Ha Ha Said The Clown/Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor|
Epic 5-10204 July 17, 1967
Non- stop touring was the order of the day in 1967. Another single was released early in July. The Tony Hazzard tune, Ha Ha Said The Clown had been released as a single by Manfred Mann, who enjoyed chart action in the UK and Europe with it. I suppose Micky Most figured it hadn’t been heard in the US so why not give it to the Yardbirds. This novelty number might have suited Manfred Mann, but it didn’t help the Yardbirds declining stock. This time we didn’t even get a unique killer B-side. Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor would appear on the Little Games album three weeks later. I do remember hearing Ha Ha Said The Clown as we drove up to SF to see the Yardbirds at the Fillmore. Needless to say, they didn’t play it that night.
Taking a look at the landscape of that famous summer, it’s pretty clear that the Yardbirds are no longer considered the cutting edge. Montery Pop had taken place just a few weeks prior to this Fillmore gig. The only “old school” British Invasion band to perform at that historic event was Eric Burdon’s new Psychedelic Animals. In one weekend Hendrix and The Who had changed the game. Cream had also been invited to perform, but Robert Stigwood didn’t think it that important. There was no doubting Page’s musical abilities, but the Yardbird’s rhythm section was looking a little long in the tooth in the face of Keith Moon, Mitch Mitchell and Jack Cassidy.
|Ten Little Indians/Drinking Muddy Water|
Epic 5-10248 October 16, 1967
Jimmy Page has said how much he disliked their next single. A song by Harry Nilsson looks like a good idea on paper, but the nursery rhyme lyrics of Ten Little Indians didn’t impress the band. Page made the most of it, layering bowed guitars and backwards echo. EMI didn’t bother releasing this one in the UK either. The B-side was again taken from the Little Game album.
|Goodnight Sweet Josephine/Think About It|
Epic 5-10303 April 1, 1968
1968 saw the Yardbirds back in the US for another two and a half months of touring. One more single was recorded before the band hit the road. Another Tony Hazzard tune was selected, Goodnight Sweet Josephine. The results of the first attempt were not satisfactory, so Page went back and cut a new track with session musicians. The song was a lot like Ha Ha Said The Clown, only not as good. It’s the B-side that caused a stir. Think About It was classic Yardbirds and a hint of things to come.Yardbirds - Think About It Live 1968
|Yardbirds Fillmore Auditorium |
By the time the band left for what would be their last tour, Keith Relf and Jim McCarty had decided they wanted to move on to something different. Page knew exactly what he was going to do next. The show I saw in May 1968 was a blueprint for Led Zeppelin. Sadly the Live At The Anderson Theater album shows you very little of what was heard in the spring of 1968. Dazed And Confused was a feature as were two long pieces which included Waiting For The Man, Hey Gyp, How Many More Years and Smokestack Lightning. When Page returned with Led Zep seven months later, it was a very similar set, with a version of For Your Love dedicated to Keith Relf.
Historical note: The Jeff Beck Group made their famous Fillmore debut just a couple of weeks later.