The Yardbirds formed in London in 1963. The band’s core lineup featured vocalist and harmonica player Keith Relf, drummer Jim McCarty, rhythm guitarist/bassist Chris Dreja and bassist/producer Paul Samwell-Smith. The band is known for starting the careers of three of rock’s most famous guitarists, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck.
Original lead guitarist Anthony “Top” Topham had left the group and was replaced by Eric Clapton in October 1963, who played on this record.
Shortly after its release by Columbia, it became a hit in the UK. When it was released a month later by Epic Records in the US, it became the group’s first charting single.
The song was a departure from the group’s blues roots in favour of a commercial pop rock sound. Guitarist Eric Clapton disapproved of the change and it influenced him to leave the group. Frustrated by the commercial approach, Clapton abruptly left the band on 25 March 1965, the day the single was released in the US. Soon Clapton joined John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, but not before he recommended Jimmy Page, a prominent young session guitarist, to replace him.
Jimmy Page had already turned down the Yardbirds … twice. The first time was in 1964, when Yardbirds manager Giorgio Gomelsky had asked Page to temporarily replace guitarist Eric Clapton because he was going on holiday. Page, who was friends with Clapton, refused out of loyalty to his friend, who was not looking to leave the band yet.
The second occasion came in 1965, when Clapton did want to leave the band to pursue more pure blues music. At that point, Page was enjoying his work as a studio musician too much to join the Yardbirds. He also had concerns about the British blues-rockers’ rigorous touring schedule, which he thought might affect his health. So instead he suggested another friend, Jeff Beck, to fill Clapton’s shoes.
One more year meant one more change in the Yardbirds’ lineup. This time, it was bass player Paul Samwell-Smith, who was done with touring (and with singer Keith Relf’s antics). Page, who often attended Yarbirds shows because of his friendship with Beck, was backstage at a gig in Oxford when Samwell-Smith declared his immediate intentions to leave the band.
“Jeff had brought me to the gig in his car, and on the way back I told him I’d sit in for a few months until they got things sorted out,” Page explained to Trouser Press in a 1977 interview. “Beck had often said to me, ‘It would be really great if you could join the band.’ But I just didn’t think it was a possibility in any way. In addition, since I’d turned the offer down a couple of times already, I didn’t know how the rest of them would feel about me joining.”
Seeing as they were stuck, the Yardbirds didn’t seem to have a problem with Page coming aboard. For his part, Page was (finally) excited to join the band. He had grown tired of playing as a studio guy, especially when he had to contribute to muzak recordings. “[Yardbirds Drummer] Jim McCarty says I was so desperate to get out of the studio that I’d have played drums,” Page later told Rolling Stone.
Instead, for the short term, Page would play bass. On June 21, 1966, at London’s Marquee Club, the Yardbirds took the stage for the first time with Page as a member. After that, rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja learned the bass guitar and Page played second guitar to his buddy Beck.
Sadly, the Page-Beck lineup was short-lived, with only a few recordings featuring their twin guitar style (including “Stroll On” and the psychedelic “Happening Ten Years Time Ago”). Beck was booted from the band later in 1966. Page remained the band’s lead guitarist until the Yardbirds took on new members and morphed into Led Zeppelin a couple of years later.
Here’s Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page with the Yardbirds in the movie “Blow Up” doing an alternate version of “Train Kept A’Rolling” they called “Stroll On”.
And a studio version:
As for “For Your Love”, Graham Gouldman wrote the song at the age of 19 while working by day in a gentlemen’s outfitters near Salford Docks and playing by night with the semi-professional Manchester band The Mockingbirds. He played in a number of Manchester bands from 1963, including the High Spots, the Crevattes, the Planets and the Whirlwinds. He was also a songwriter and wrote a string of hit songs, many of them million sellers. Between 1965 and 1967 alone he wrote “For Your Love”, “Heart Full of Soul” and “Evil Hearted You” for the Yardbirds, “Look Through Any Window” (with Charles Silverman) and “Bus Stop” for the Hollies, “Listen People”, “No Milk Today” and “East West” for Herman’s Hermits, “Pamela, Pamela” for Wayne Fontana, “Behind the Door” for St. Louis Union (covered by Cher), “Tallyman” for Jeff Beck and “Going Home”, which was a 1967 Australian hit for Normie Rowe (not the song “I’m Going Home”, a blues classic later recorded by Alvin Lee and Ten Years After, among many others).
He explained: “I was sleeping most of the time because I’d been gigging with the Mockingbirds the night before, and then during the day when I’d got any spare time I’d write in the shop. I used to shut up the shop at lunch time and sit in the back writing.”
Gouldman cited the Beatles as his influence, “We went down to Denmark Street and went round all the publishers trying to find a song … we didn’t get any songs that we liked or we weren’t given any songs period and the Beatles had started and I thought ‘well, I’m gonna really have a crack at song-writing.’ I had dabbled a bit, but they were really my inspiration and gave me and I think a lot of other people the courage to actually do it. We all wanted to be like the Beatles. I wrote two songs and the record company we were with turned down one of the songs. The song they turned down was ‘For Your Love’, which eventually found its way to the Yardbirds.”
Gouldman’s manager, Harvey Lisberg, was so impressed by the song he told Gouldman they should offer it to the Beatles. “I said, ‘I think they’re doing alright in the songwriting department, actually”, Gouldman recalled. Undeterred, Lisberg gave a demo of the song to publisher Ronnie Beck of Feldman’s, who took it to the Hammersmith Odeon, where the Beatles were performing. By coincidence the Yardbirds were also performing on a Christmas show at the venue and Jeff Beck played the song to their manager, Giorgio Gomelsky, and the band.
In 1965, the Mockingbirds began a regular warm-up spot for BBC TV’s Top of the Pops, transmitted from Manchester. Gouldman recalled:
“There was one strange moment when the Yardbirds appeared on the show doing ‘For Your Love’. Everyone clamoured around them – and there I was just part of an anonymous group. I felt strange that night, hearing them play my song.”
The Yardbirds recorded “For Your Love” at the IBC Studios in London on 1 February 1965. The majority of the song was recorded with singer Keith Relf and drummer Jim McCarty backed by session musician Ron Prentice on bowed bass, Denny Piercy on bongos, and organist Brian Auger on harpsichord. Guitarists Eric Clapton and Chris Dreja only perform during the song’s double-time middle break section. Bassist Paul Samwell-Smith assumed the production duties and is listed as musical director on the 45. At the conclusion of the session, Auger wondered, “Who, in their right mind, is going to buy a pop single with harpsichord on it?”