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There was Keith Relf, one of the founders and frontman of the band, and yet another art student. While some have criticised his vocal prowess, others have praised it, along with his songwriting and harmonica skills. The fact is that he was instrumental in getting the group off the ground (even naming it, according to Jim McCarty) and leading the cross over into the early psychedelic-rock/blues influenced music which allowed the group to flourish financially.
Like others, he went on after The Yardbirds to form groups. With Jim McCarty, he set up Together, then Renaissance which also included his sister, Jane. Then he set up Armageddon, hard rock outfit. His death came from electrocution at his home from an improperly grounded guitar. He was just 33. His entry in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame came in 1992, posthumously.
Jim McCarty was recognised as an innovative drummer, if without the exaggerations and excesses of Keith Moon. Nonetheless his influence was significant. He experimented with a train beat in Train Kept A-Rollin’, a martial beat on Shapes of Things and a proto speed metal beat on I’m A Man.
Of all of the band, he has written the most coherent and full account of their early days: "We got our break when we played at The Beatles’ Christmas Show in 1964 in Hammersmith Odeon in London. A publisher was in the audience and thought that a good song for us would be For Your Love, newly written by Graham Gouldman. We went into the studio and did a version using harpsichord, bongos and stand-up bass, Paul having had the idea to do this arrangement."
Paul Samwell-Smith is described byAll Music as: "something of the odd man out in the lineup, with relatively short, neatly combed hair in most photographs and the most conventional good looks for the time (which, in many ways, made him the most unconventional looking member of the band). While the others had the mod-ish, long straight-haired look of most British rock 'n' roll musicians of the time, he resembled more of a pre-Beatles-era musician, or even a blues or jazz enthusiast of the previous decade."
Feted for being as ‘much an architect of their music as anyone’, he created a distinctive bass that was almost the lead on Smokestack Lightning and then the foundation of You’re A Better Man Than I, a foil for Beck’s break. It was once they started writing their own material that Samwell-Smith came into his own and took on more production. Still I’m Sadbroke every rule going, becoming a three minute masterclass in '60s experimentation and eclecticism.
Chris Dreja always had an interest in photography (one of his pictures of Led Zeppelin was the back cover of their debut album), and it was to that field he moved after music, although he still plays in the contemporary Yardbirds line-up.
He switched from rhythm to bass guitar and took on song writing duties by the time the Roger The Engineer album was in production. He was rated enough by Jimmy Page to be offered a place in his new band (to become Led Zeppelin), but he turned that one down.
Anthony ‘Top’ Topham was The Yardbirds’ first lead (blues) guitarist, and his departure before the band really took off enabled Clapton to join. School friends with Chris Dreja, the pair frequented the Railway Hotel in Norbiton in south London to enjoy trad jazz. There they met Samwell-Smith, Relf and McCarty, and decided to form a new group.
Topham was only 15, younger than the others, and both he and his parents were anxious about his art (and other studies), so he decided not to turn professional as a musician. In the years between, he has pursued a number of different musical styles.
Most famous for leading successful '70s group 10cc, Graham Gouldman was first a song writer. Caught up and taken to the States to write ‘bubblegum pop’, he progressed from that ‘creative lowpoint’ to work with other artists in creating new and successful songs.
It was in 1965 while he worked in a men’s clothing store that he wrote a string of hits, which included For Your Love, Heart Full of Soul and Evil Hearted You for The Yardbirds.
In 1967 he wrote for producer Mickie Most, who achieved success with The Animals, Herman’s Hermits, Donovan, Suzi Quattro and the Jeff Beck Group. Most produced The Yardbirds’ album Little Games, and because it was not a commercial success swore he’d steer clear of rock groups from then on.
There was a deal of artistic difference, as he insisted every song should be three minutes and albums were an ‘afterthought from the singles’. This flew in the face of the rising success of concept albums in their own rights (such as The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band; Pink Floyd’s The Wall; The Beach Boys'Pet Sounds and Jethro Tull’s Thick As A Brick).
Some later observers have likened the Mickie Most-Yardbirds collaboration to Phil Spector producing Leonard Cohen’s 1977 Death Of A Ladies’ Man - highly unlikely and improbable!