The Marquee Club - A tribute site dedicated to the history of the legendary Marquee club at London's 90 Wardour street.


the Yardbirds

Gigs at the Marquee club: 43
Period of performances: 1964/1966
Formed in: London, UK, 1962
Members who played at the Marquee:
Keith Relf (vocals, harmonica)
Paul Samwell-Smith (lead guitar, bass)
Jim McCarty (drums)
Laurie Gains (rhythm guitar)
Chris Dreja (rhythm guitar)
Tony Topham (lead guitar)
Eric Clapton (lead guitar)
Jeff Beck (lead guitar)
Jimmy Page (lead guitar, bass)

The Yardbirds were one of the pioneering British bands of the transition from rhythm and blues to pop and psychedelic music and one of the most representative bands at the Marquee club during the mid 60's.

The Yardbirds were originally formed in London in 1962 under the name of the Metropolitan Blues Quartet, including Keith Relf (vocals, harmonica), Paul Samwell-Smith (lead guitar), Jim McCarty (drums) and Laurie Gains (rhythm guitar). Soon later Laurie Gains was replaced by Chris Dreja and also lead guitarist Paul Samwell-Smith decided to switch to bass guitar when a young Eric Clapton told him after a gig that he should never play lead guitar again. This way Samwell-Smith was replaced by guitarist Tony Topham. The Metropolitan Blues Quartet soon found a spot in the new born London blues scene, and played along with the Rolling Stones at venues such as the Crawdaddy Club in Richmond with a set made mainly of Delta and Chicago blues classics from artists such as Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf and rock 'n' roll material from Chuck Berry, and Eddie Boyd.

In late 1963, Anthony Topham, who was only 16 years old, quit the band forced by his parents to concentrate in his studies, and was replaced by young art student and guitarist Eric Clapton, from the Roosters. Eric Clapton's presence would turn the band into one of the most accomplished rhythm and blues bands in UK. During this period, Giorgio Gomelsky, who was manager of the Crawdaddy Club and the Rolling Stones, started managing the band. At this stage the band changed it's name to the Yardbirds.

The Yardbirds performed for the very first time at the Marquee club on the 6th of February, 1964, starting a four month Friday residency that placed them as the most popular band at the club, since everyone in the city was talking about the wonders of the young guitarist called Eric Clapton. The band was also the last one to play ever at the old premises of the club at 165 Oxford Street, on the 5th of March, 1964. At the same time, they signed a record deal to EMI Columbia label that lead them to record live their legendary debut album "Five Live Yardbirds" at the opening night of the new Marquee club at 90 Wardour street on 13th of March, 1964. The night also featured Long John Baldry and the Hoochie Coochie Men (featuring Rod Stewart) and American blues legend Sonny Boy Williamson, who a few months later invited the band to support him on a UK and German summer tour. "Five Live Yardbirds" was released in December that same year and it was the very first album that Eric Clapton ever recorded. The Yardbirds also performed in August that same year at the 4th National Jazz & Blues Festival in Richmond, which was organized by the national Jazz Federation and the Marquee club.

After the tour, the Yardbirds returned to the Marquee for a new one month residency on the 4th of September, 1964 and released a number of successful singles, including the pop international hit "For Your Love", released in the US in 1965. In August that same year they performed at the 5th National Jazz & Blues Festival in Richmond.

The Yardbirds at the Marquee club

The Yardbirds at the Marquee

The move of the band's style to pop provoked the disagreement of Eric Clapton who quit the band that same year to join the most important British blues act at the moment, John Mayall's Blues Breakers, whom have had a Monday residency at the Marquee since 1963. The big hole left from Clapton's departure, being the most reputed English guitarist at the time, was fixed with a revolutionary guitarist called Jeff Beck. In the first place, Clapton had recommended the band to get Jimmy Page, a talented studio guitarist who had worked with him in a series of blues guitar duets. But Jeff Beck was the one to get into the picture to lead the band into the psychedelic territories, with his wild, powerful and fresh guitar style and pioneering experimental techniques with fuzz tone, feedback and distortion.

In 1966, the live album "The Yardbirds with Sonny Boy Williamson II", recorded originally in 1963, was released. That same year was also released the second album "The Yardbirds" (also known as "Roger the Engineer"), which entered the band into new fields of experimentation, including influences from Indian music, early psychedelia and chamber music. Paul Samwell-Smith quit the band before the album sessions to start a reputed career as a music producer.

The Yardbirds played for the last time at the Marquee club on the 21st of June, 1966, although they also appeared in August that same year at the 6th National Jazz & Blues Festival in Berkshire. At this point Jimmy Page joined the band eventually as a bass player until guitarist Chris Dreja could get comfortable with the instrument. A unique document of this period of the band was captured in Michelangelo Antonioni's 1967 film "Blow Up", which is considered as one of the seminal pop-art movies of the time and features the Yardbirds, including Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck playing at a club.

Soon later, Jeff Beck was fired from the band and he pursue a reputed solo career and was replaced by Jimmy Page, who at this stage was investigating on different techniques of guitar playing by using violin and cello bows and the use of the wah-wah pedal. After a period of record company pressures and drug-related problems the Yardbirds recorded their final album "Little Games" in 1967 and split in early 1968.

On October the 18th 1968, Jimmy Page's new band, featuring Robert Plant (vocals), John Paul Jones (bass, keyboards) and John Bonham (drums), debuted at the Marquee club under the name of the New Yardbirds. The band started their first American tour under the legendary name of Led Zeppelin.

In 1980, Jim McCarty, Paul Samwell-Smith and Chris Dreja rejoined in a band called Box of Frogs, occasionally including Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. The band returned to the Marquee on the 22nd of June 22 1983 for one show, coinciding with the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the club.

The Yardbirds were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. In 2003, a new reunion of the Yardbirds, including Chris Dreja, Jim McCarty, and new members Gypie Mayo (lead guitar, backing vocals), John Idan (bass, lead vocals) and Alan Glen (harmonica, backing vocals) released the album "Birdland", which also featured Jeff Beck on one track.

After the Yardbirds' split, Paul Samwell-Smith became a reputed producer who worked for artists such as Cat Stevens, Renaissance, Claire Hamill, and Amazing Blondel.

Chris Dreja became a professional photographer after turning away the offer to join Jimmy Page's Led Zeppelin . He actually photographed the band for the back cover of their debut album.

Keith Relf formed the reputed folk rock band Renaissance in 1969, recording several studio albums, including "Renaissance" (69), "Illusion" (71), "Prologue" (72), "Ashes Are Burning" (73), "Turn of the Cards" (74), "Scheherazade and Other Stories" (75). Renaissance played at the Marquee club between 1969 and 1972 and in fact in 1969 they had a Monday residence at the club. In 1975, after having worked with Medicine Head, Relf formed the band Armageddon, featuring Martin Pugh (guitar), Bobby Caldwell (drums, vocals) and Louis Cennamo (bass) and releasing their debut album that same year. Sadly, Keith Relf, who had a poor health and suffered from emphysema, he died a few months after quitting the band in May 14, 1976 when he was electrocuted at his home studio in London while playing guitar during the sessions for Jim McCarty's new band, Illusion.

Jim McCarty was founding member of Renaissance in 1969. He has also worked with the bands Stairway in 1988 and Illusion in 1990. In 1994 he released the solo album "Out of the Dark".

Jeff Beck formed the Jeff Beck Group in 1967, featuring Rod Stewart, Ron Wood, Mick Waller and Nicky Hopkins, producing the albums "Truth" (68) and "Beck-Ola" (69) and performing at the Marquee several times between 1967 and 1969. In 1972, Beck formed the power trio Beck, Bogert, and Appice, featuring Carmine Appice on drums and Tim Bogert on bass. He later developed a reputed solo career as one of the most talented guitarist in rock music and has released more than 10 studio albums, including "Rough and Ready" (1971), "Blow By Blow" (75), "Wired" (76), "There and Back" (80), "Beckology" (91), and "Jeff" (2003). He has also worked with artists such as Jan Hammer, Rod Stewart, Les Paul and Cindy Lauper. He has also won four Grammy Awards throughout his career.

Jimmy Page became one of the most legendary and influential guitarists in the history of rock music with Led Zeppelin , recording eight legendary studio albums with the band. In 1981 he was part of a project called XYZ with ex-Yes members Chris Squire and Alan White, which never saw the light. In 1985 Page took part of Paul Rodgers' band, the Firm. Jimmy Page has also worked with artists such as Graham Nash, the Rolling Stones, Box of Frogs, David Coverdale, and the Black Crowes . With Robert Plant he has recorded the albums "No Quarter" (94) and "Walking Into Clarksdale" (98) and collaborated with Plant as the Honeydrippers.

Eric Clapton is considered today as one of the top guitarists in the world. After quitting the Yardbirds, he debuted with his legendary band Cream at the Marquee club in June 1966. He later formed the supergroup Blind Faith, featuring Ginger Baker, Steve Winwood and Rick Grech. Clapton later started a legendary solo career. In 1970 he formed the band Derek and the Dominoes to record the celebrated album "Layla and Other Love Songs". He has collaborated with uncountable artists, including the Beatles, John Lennon, Howlin' Wolf, Stevie Ray, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and Stephen Stills.

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Jeff Beck
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The Yardbirds gigs at the Marquee Club


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