‘That’s where we differed’: Jim McCarty explains why Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck left the Yardbirds

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For Jim McCarty, beating heart of the Yardbirds, the eventual departures of both Eric Clapton and then Jeff Beck only made sense. They were headed, McCarty realized even then, for their own greatness.

“When Jeff and Eric were in the band, we had more problems because they were destined to be their own men, really,” he tells the Dallas Observer. “They wanted to be solo artists and they found it very difficult working in a band.”

The Yardbirds did find some continuity, McCarty adds, during Jimmy Page’s pre-Led Zeppelin era from 1966–68. “We went up and down,” he admits. “It was all about the fact that we were on the road the whole time. In the last lineup, the one with Jimmy Page, that was kind of calm. That worked very well. Even though we were traveling around in a Greyhound bus and we didn’t have much time off, it did seem to go quite smoothly.”

Of course, legend says that Clapton departed after his 1963–65 stint because he didn’t approve of the Yardbirds’ No. 6 U.S. pop hit “For Your Love.” In truth, McCarty says there was a general issue with Clapton’s focus retro, or retro-inspired, material. Subsequent lineups with Beck (in the band from 1965–66) and Page would add more contemporary flourishes to the Yardbirds’ bed-rock rootsy sound.

“He left,” McCarty says, “because his idea for the band was to cover blues songs. He would rather do a Motown song than something like ‘For Your Love.’ We all thought it was a good song and it was commercial. We all liked it. That’s where we differed and he left.”

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