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How Did an Airplane Help Inspire One of The Yardbirds Greatest Hits and Send Them on Their First World Tour? – Rayman’s Trac Two

The Yardbirds
(Photo Flickr)

I saw the Yardbirds on two different occasions. The first time was unusual as they were playing in the basement coffee shop of one of the stores in Minneapolis. There were maybe  half a dozen people there, obviously their appearance wasn’t advertised much. The whole thing was weird. They played maybe twenty minutes, then packed up their stuff and left.

The second occasion was ten or fifteen years ago when I got to host a show where they were on the same bill as the Animals and Steppenwolf. I’ve always been a fan of the Yardbirds, and was lucky enough to spend some time with them before the show. I had been particularly interested in one of their songs, and they explained to me how it came about.

Simon Napier Bell was managing the Yardbirds at the time. They had three strong selling singles under their belt, and he had no reason to believe things would change. Change they did though, as the boys confronted Simon one day saying they had no place to live, and each wanted a house of their own. Simon bought them each a house. A rival band had just shown them their new plane. Guess what they wanted next?… Simon bought them an airplane. In order to recoup his losses, Simon suggested a world tour. They nixed that idea saying they  wanted more time in the recording studio.  A date was set to record a single, agreement being a world tour would follow release of the song.

Once in the recording studio, the Yardbirds assumed Simon would provide them with song material, as they had never written their own songs. He suggested that the boys take bits from their past three hits and form them in to one. After much much arranging, they came up with a great rhythm, sound, and backing track. All they needed now were vocals. Round and round they went, chewing up precious studio time, and each getting on the nerves of  one another, not to mention Simon who was ready to blow a gasket.  Alright, alright Simon says, “this ain’t rocket science, just put something simple together, I don’t care how you do it, whether it be over under sideways down, backwards forwards square or round…just do it.”

Simon stepped outside awhile to cool off , and upon returning, was pleased to hear the boys had something resembling a song. He suggested they add a “Hey” once or twice at the beginning of the song, which they did. A few days later a demo was sent to his office. He was very pleased with the overall sound of  “Over Under Sideways Down” and went ahead with its release.  The Yardbirds had another hit on their hands, thanks to Simon. The boys kept their word, and shortly after a world tour was arranged. I wonder if Simon ever got his money back for the houses and airplane? It’s a crazy world of rock n roll isn’t it?

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