Roadrunner Records - Slipknot's hard-hitting, aggressive metal anthems are getting…
- Posted on Feb 8th 2008 5:00PM by James Sullivan
Yet Yardbirds frontman Keith Relf is little remembered today, largely because he departed this world prematurely, in 1976, when he was just 33. The manner in which he made his exit should alone have ensured him a measure of immortality: A singer and harmonica ace not known for his fretboard skills, Relf was electrocuted in his home by an improperly grounded electric guitar.
Like his better-known mates, Relf was a blues fanatic when he helped form the Metropolitan Blues Quartet in 1963. Quickly changing their name to the Yardbirds – Relf was inspired by Jack Kerouac's frequent mentions of Charlie "Yardbird" Parker – the band first concentrated on covering authentic American bluesmen such as John Lee Hooker and Howlin' Wolf. But they soon had a major hit with 'For Your Love,' an original song written by a contemporary, Graham Gouldman, who would later become a member of 10cc.
The song's success led to the swift departure of blues purist Clapton, who had no interest in pursuing pop stardom. A friend of EC's, Jimmy Page, turned down an offer to join but suggested another rising hotshot named Jeff Beck; Page eventually made his way into the fold as well. Besides their embarrassment of guitar riches, the Yardbirds are best remembered for such hits as 'Heart Full of Soul' and 'Shapes of Things' and the ways their distortion and well-amped rhythm section foreshadowed heavy metal.
Relf was said to be the band's most enthusiastic user of psychoactive drugs, and the singer was soon dabbling in folk and classical influences as well. When the Yardbirds broke up in 1968, he formed Renaissance, an early prog-rock group featuring singing by his sister Jane.
Suffering from emphysema and an asthmatic condition that caused more than a few health scares, Relf kicked around the music industry in the 1970s, producing bands and co-founding a prog-metal group called Armageddon, which debuted in 1975. Urban legend sometimes claims that his electrocution was caused by playing guitar in the bathtub; more accurate is the report that it was Relf's young son who discovered the body. Whatever the case, it was a particularly gruesome form of martyrdom for a forgotten rock star whose last session was for a song called 'All the Falling Angels.'