Chances are that all of your favorite 70s rock bands learned a thing or two from Yardbirds songs. But we can’t fault you if you’ve never heard of them.
The Yardbirds were one of those influential yet short-lived British Invasion bands of the 60s that you only remember when you’re walking barefoot in the grass. Or smoking it.
Let’s check out their seven greatest songs and see what we “rave-up!”
About The Yardbirds
Lead singer Keith Relf and bassist Paul Samwell-Smith initially formed The Yardbirds in 1963. Guitarist Chris Dreja and drummer Jim McCarty came next, followed by lead guitarist Eric Clapton. A few months later, the band signed to EMI, thanks to their brilliant manager Giorgio Gomelsky.
Eric Clapton left The Yardbirds on the very day they released their first major hit. He didn’t like their new psych-rock direction. But it was 1965, for crying out loud. Did Clapton really want them entrenched in blues covers forever?
Clapton was replaced by Jeff Beck on lead guitar. Beck’s experimental guitar work brought them next-level success. His reverb, feedback, and fuzzy distortion blew up the British Invasion. Having A Rave Up With The Yardbirds was their highest charting album, cited by some as a significant step in rock and roll’s evolution.
In 1966, bassist Paul Samwell-Smith left the band and was replaced by none other than Jimmy Page. Page was a sought-after musical prodigy who quickly moved from bass to guitar after joining the band.
The power of having two mega-talented guitarists in the band, Beck and Page, sounded fantastic live, but eventually caused a short circuit. The band fired Jeff Beck after he no-showed on a gig opening up for The Rolling Stones.
The End of The Yardbirds?
The Yardbirds got heavier and even more experimental with Jimmy Page. Little Games would be their fourth and final album, released in 1968. They played their last gig on June 1, 1968. Jimmy Page wasted no time and started Led Zeppelin two months later.
Jim McCartney formed several other bands during the years to come and reformed The Yardbirds in 1992. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame that same year.
Unfortunately, founding member Keith Relf died by accidental electrocution in 1976. But the energy and intention he created carry on. According to the official website, The Yardbirds will play at least five gigs in 2022. You can bet at least most of these songs will be on their setlist.
#7 I’m a Man
About the Song: The Yardbirds showed the world how to turn a classic R&B tune on its head. The song was originally written and released in 1955 by the one and only Bo Diddley. At about 88 beats per minute. The Yardbirds’ studio rendition doubles the speed, adds attitude, and a dirty-sexy crescendo in the last sixty seconds.
I spell M-A-N… man
The strength of the lyric is all in the delivery, punctuating firmly between riffs.
First Appearance: This rockin’ cover of I’m A Man first appeared on The Yardbirds’ first album, Five Live Yardbirds, in 1964.
#6 Over Under Sideways Down
About the Song: Over Under Sideways Down is a Mod Classic! It is as the title suggests: fast, fun, and upbeat. You can feel the decadence of the 60s in this one.
I find comment 'bout my looks irrelativity Think I'll go and have some fun 'Cos it's all for free
First Appearance: This single made its debut in the U.K. in May of 1966.
#5 Shapes of Things
About the Song: On the surface, this fuzzy, psychedelic pop track by The Yardbirds tells the story of the disappointment of youth. Will I grow out of it, or does the world plain stink? But the words soldier and trees were nodding to the anti-war, environmental activism of the time. This was one of the first songs to stay away from covers, written by the band members.
Shapes of things before my eyes, Just teach me to despise. Will time make man more wise?
First Appearance: Shapes of Things was first released as a 7-inch single in February 1966.
#4 Heart Full of Soul
About the Song: Heart Full of Soul was a top ten hit worldwide in 1965. This love song utilizes a sitar-sounding guitar and alternating tempos. The contrast of wistful lyrics over upbeat instrumentation has become a classic alt-rock hook for bands in the decades to come.
And if she says to you She don't love me Just give her my message Tell her of my plea
First Appearance: This fuzzbox guitar jingle hit the scene as a U.K.single in June of 1965.
#3 Happenings Ten Years Time Ago
About the Song: Groundbreaking in more ways than one, some say this 1996 lost single was a prototype for heavy metal music. Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page played lead guitars side by side on this one. It’s a trip. It’s a fan favorite.
But it couldn’t compete with the chartbusters of the day like You Can’t Hurry Love by The Supremes. Totally different vibe. But one that’s made a lasting impression.
But the knowing is in the mind Sinking deep into the well of time
First Appearance: Happenings Ten Years Time Ago was released in October 1996, with Psycho Daisies as its b-side. It made its way to a full album the following year with The Yardbirds Greatest Hits.
#2 (I’m Confused) Dazed and Confused
About the Song: If you ever need to prove the connection between The Yardbirds and Led Zepplin to anyone, then this is your track. It’s hard not to immediately associate the voice of Robert Plant with that descending bass line. But The Yardbirds covered it first, and it’s striking.
Folk singer Jake Holmes, who opened for The Yardbirds in August 1967, originally wrote the song.
I'm dazed and confused, Hanging on by a thread, Come on baby, Do you want me dead? I can arrange that for a dollar or two. I can't remember, Anything about you.
First Appearance: This daring dirge didn’t make its way onto an official record until September 1971. It’s listed as I’m Confused, track 3, on Live Yardbirds: Featuring Jimmy Page.
#1 For Your Love
About the Song: This song is by far the most well-known hit from The Yardbirds. Reaching the top ten in both the U.K. and the U.S. in 1965, it boldly stepped far away from their early blues beginnings.
Written by Graham Gouldman, the song features time signature changes and unusual chord progression. It was a truly unique love song. Ironically, this smash-hit caused Eric Clapton to leave the band – he hated it!
I'd give the moon if it were mine to give For your love I'd give the stars and the sun for I live For your love
First Appearance: For Your Love was released as a single in March of 1965. It was the title track for The Yardbirds’ first studio album under the same name, released later that year.
Which Song by The Yardbirds is Your Favorite?
The Yardbirds’ reputation is probably that of a mid-60s English R&B crossover band who looked a lot cooler than they sounded. But if you give their catalog a good listen, you might be amazed.
They truly were brilliant and highly innovative musicians, way ahead of their time. Their 60s hits still grab hold of inspiring guitarists and rock composers to this day.
Which Yardbirds song do you think is the greatest?
Friday 7th of January 2022
Love The Yardbirds!! Great article!
Friday 14th of January 2022
Thank you! And thanks for reading.