Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton have never done a joint interview — until now. On the eve of their historic first-ever co-headlining tour, Rolling Stone's David Fricke sits in with the two guitar legends as they discuss old rivalries, blues heroes and the secrets of their craft in our new issue, on sale at newsstands today.
The pair chat about their experiences with Jimi Hendrix, possible set lists for their upcoming shows (compositions by Charles Mingus and Albert Collins are on the table) and the intricacies of each other's technique (Beck cites Clapton's timing and phrasing; Clapton praises Beck's "multitasking" right-hand work). They also explain why it took four decades for their current team-up. "We were all trying to be big bananas," Beck says. "Except I didn't have the luxury of the hit songs Eric's got." Clapton tells Fricke they couldn't have collaborated in the Sixties or Seventies for one major reason: "Because we were enemies, basically."
The pair don't shy away from frank talk about the cause of their rift — their relationship to the Yardbirds, the psychedelic R&B band that featured Clapton, Beck and Jimmy Page on lead guitar (in that order). Clapton admits he expected the band to collapse without him, and was surprised when they became more successful. "I wanted to be as critical of him as I could," he says. "It hurt me bad because I could see they were getting, with Jeff, at something beyond what I was capable of." Beck stuns Clapton by insisting that the band revered Eric's playing: "They were in awe."
Clapton also reveals he has a new album in the works, possibly titled Whiplash — and the diverse covers project may become a double LP. "I covered anything I ever longed to do," he says. For more on the project, plus Beck's comments on the darker moments of his career and Clapton's "unfinished business" with Blind Faith, check out the full story in the new issue. Plus, read about Clapton's 2010 Crossroads Guitar Festival.
Also in this issue: Matt Taibbi on how Goldman Sachs and other big banks are re-creating the conditions for another crash; Jason Gay on Tracy Morgan, TV's biggest superfreak; Peter Travers shares his Oscar picks; after the Super Bowl, are the Who done?; and Rob Sheffield on the current season of Lost.