“I can die happy”: The riff that Jimi Hendrix “swiped” from Jeff Beck

n the realm of guitar virtuosity, there are several criteria by which to rank the all-time heroes. When you reach the very top in the electric rock category, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page are all fairly well-acquainted with the ceiling. Deciding between these guitarists will tend to come down to personal preference: how much value you put on speed, tone, composition, creativity and so on.

To save an argument, let’s just agree that the above-listed guitarists and your personal favourites, whom I forgot to mention, were experts in their respective fields. Nevertheless, Jimi Hendrix is often hailed as the greatest among them because of his effortless flair, compositional prowess and perfect tone. He certainly had Clapton and Beck on the ropes, but he also learned a thing or two from his contemporaries.

When Hendrix arrived in London from the US in 1966, he entered a fiercely competitive scene but exuded quiet confidence from the off. “When I saw Jimi, we knew he was going to be trouble,” Beck told Louder Sound in 2021. “By ‘we’, I mean me and Eric [Clapton] because Jimmy [Page] wasn’t in the frame at that point.”

Continuing, Beck remembered seeing Hendrix perform at one of his early London gigs. “It was quite devastating,” he enviously remarked. “He did all the dirty tricks – setting fire to his guitar, doing swoops up and down his neck, all the great showmanship to put the final nail in our coffin. I had the same temperament as Hendrix in terms of ‘I’ll kill you,’ but he did in such a good package with beautiful songs.”

Beck recognised his and Hendrix’s similar degree of ability but felt he couldn’t measure up to the American’s songwriting flair and showmanship. “There was a period in London when I went to visit him quite a few times,” Beck recalled. He later revealed that he gave Hendrix a special gift ahead of his second studio album. “I gave him a bottleneck. That’s what he plays on Axis: Bold As Love,” he added.

Beyond supplying the gift of slide to Hendrix’s second album, Beck’s innovative approach to the guitar seemed to rub off on the ‘Purple Haze’ singer too. “It’s nice to remind these people, ‘Hey… Jimi Hendrix wouldn’t have played the same way if it hadn’t been for that guy,’” Johnny Depp said in a 2022 interview alongside Beck on SiriusXM. “I mean, that’s a really strange concept to put into your head.”

Indeed, Hendrix followed Beck’s late ’60s career enthusiastically and even borrowed one of the Brit’s riffs. When writing ‘In From the Storm’ for his ill-fated fourth album, Cry of Love, Hendrix used the main riff from Beck’s 1969 song ‘Rice Pudding’. Beck once recalled that Hendrix admitted that he had “swiped” the riff.

After realising Hendrix was interested in his music, Beck felt they could truly connect as peers. “This is really incredible,” Beck recalled. “We can talk music now. It’s not like he’s an immoveable force and I can get some inspiration… And he was a great source of inspiration.” Suddenly, the mystique that Hendrix had created with shimmering flair seemed to fade and revealed a creative man like any other behind it.

Beck could now see him as a contemporary. This proved truly humbling. “I mean, I can die happy when I know that he played that,” Beck added, discussing the riff in 2022.

Sadly, Beck passed away in January 2023, several months after his interview with Depp. His only regret regarding Hendrix is that there wasn’t a single photo of them together. “Unless there’s someone out there who’s got one?” Alas, while that might not have materialised, the musical link is a bond gilded into history.

Jeff Beck’s influence on Jimi Hendrix lives on in ‘In From the Storm’. Hear ‘In From the Storm’ and ‘Rice Pudding’ below.

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