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The Marquee Club

Roger the Engineer: An Appreciation

I don’t care that the album Yardbirds fans have come to know as Roger the Engineer didn’t include “Happening Ten Years Time Ago,” or the B side, “Psycho Daisies” on it originally.  I don’t care either that Epic called it Over Under Sideways Down in the U.S. when it was called The Yardbirds in England. It’s the Jeff Beck Yardbirds album, because whatever style is happening, going down, transpiring and/or taking place, Beck is nearly without exception at his all-time experimental best in a group format on this record.

There I said it, hedgingly. You can come after me if you like. I’ll make you tea and scones. Beck had set a tone, more accurately a fuzz tone on the psychedelic/blues single “Shapes of Things” earlier in 1966. And that's a mystery too: why was the Yardbirds’ biggest stateside hit left off?  “Shapes” came out in the winter of 1966, Roger in the summer. Go figure. But nothing about the Yardbirds’ legitimate recorded output and its subsequent marketing makes a whole lot of sense. No, not a whole lotta sense.

See, I’m not going to argue with Tom Henderson, Frank Portman’s rock savvy teenage protagonist in the wonderful King Dork when he says, “Now Led Zeppelin is all right (good  drums and guitar anyway, though that lead singer should have been silenced or muzzled or something—frankly, I prefer it in Yardbird form to be honest).” Me too. And I’m inclined to think of the Marquee and Giorgio Gomelsky’s Crawdaddy club as cauldrons of cool. From 1964-1966, the Yardbirds held forth famously at both.