The other day this song came on while I was driving and it really made me think about why Jeff Beck is so often named as the greatest guitarist of all time. I think I figured it out.
It’s not his left hand. He doesn’t play any faster than Clapton or Hendrix and he’s not using strange tonalities that any other guitar great wouldn’t use. It’s his right hand. Nobody, and I mean nobody, works a whammy bar quite like Jeff Beck and that’s where so much of the innovation and soul of his playing comes from. At some points in this recording it sounds like he’s trading phrases with someone on pedal steel but it’s just him.
His right hand technique, whether it be picking, tapping, or using the whammy is beyond compare among the guitarists of his generation and probably most guitarists since. I think that’s why he gets praised so heavily, and rightly. When you’re bound to the same guitar neck as everyone else, the only place to go is to change the attack and that’s what he does brilliantly.