Disappointing Albums, Music 51 Disappointing Albums: ‘Little Games’ by The Yardbirds By Tony Thompson | February 20, 2020 | I’m fascinated by the late Yardbirds. If there was ever a band that should have broken out of the singles market and become a serious long player proposition it was The Yardbirds. Roger The Engineer promised so much but, alas, the follow up, Little Games is a disappointment. Jeff Beck was gone and the new bass player and the guitarist had just swapped places. This rather odd turn of events would only be possible if the bass player was, say, Jimmy Page. So now it was just Jim McCarty on drums, Chris Dreja on bass, Keith Relf on vocals and Page on guitar. A tight little unit, overflowing with talent. The next album should have been one for MOJO’s twice annual best albums ever list. I doubt it has ever appeared on one of those lists and here’s why: In two words, Mickie Most. Like so many of these disappointing albums, it will deliver if you are patient with it. Most was the man behind Donovan and Herman’s Hermits. Obviously, Jimmy Page knew the guy pretty well but why anyone thought the brains behind Mrs Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter would somehow sprinkle pop magic on a band fronted by Keith Relf is a mystery. The Yardbirds might be the most mishandled band of the sixties. Everyone wanted them to be a pop band. They lost Eric Clapton early on trying to be The Beatles but managed to find some solid ground with the mercurial Jeff Beck. Two albums later, they had both Beck and Page on board. They should have become the greatest band ever. Instead, Beck leaves and they hire the last of the great English pop music hustlers in Mickie Most. He pushes them to record a whole bunch of unimpressive singles and then rushes them through the recording of an album. Let’s make a LP like it’s 1964. It was 1967 and The Yardbirds should have been making THE album of that year, instead of Little Games. And yet, like so many of these disappointing albums, it will deliver if you are patient with it. It’s not going to change your life on the first listen but keep playing it and see what rises to the surface. Glimpses, for example, is a four minute psychedelic piece that sounds like an English Velvet Underground hanging out with Brian Jones and his Moroccan pals. Mickie Most must have hated it. More of this and The Yardbirds might have become the Freakbeat kings. On headphones it’s a big experience. Try it. There are other psychedelic moments on the album but none are quite as a successful. Tinker Tailor is too fast, and too bland. The vocals sound phoned in but at least they are better than those on Little Soldier Boy where the drummer’s guide vocals were used to save time. No Excess Baggage is one of the band’s least interesting moments. It’s written by the kind of Brill Building second-raters that Mickie Most loved. They’d also written It’s My Life for The Animals, another band mishandled by Most. That’s a pretty good song. This one stinks and is only slightly redeemed by Page’s guitar solo. Little Games was The Yardbirds’ final album and this is where things begin to get interesting. Keith Relf and Jim McCarty went on to form a duo called Together and record a 45, Henry’s Coming Home backed with Love Mum and Dad. Then they formed Renaissance with Relf’s sister and recorded one album under that name before departing and leaving the band to a long career without them. Only The Black Rose on side two points directly at the folkier road they would soon head down. And then there is Led Zeppelin, briefly known as The New Yardbirds. For Zep fans, Little Games is a fascinating document of the band as it began to form in Page’s imagination. Dazed and Confused, which you can hear the Yardbirds playing badly on YouTube, is not on this record. The guitar solo is though – on Think About It. But that’s not all. The Lemon Song appears as something called Smile On Me, followed by Page’s Davey Graham rip off White Summer, with tablas and everything he needed for Black Mountain Side on Zep 2. Tinker Tailor shares something with The Song Remains The Same, according to Page himself. It’s a Led Zeppelin record! Drinking Muddy Water is just Rolling and Tumblin with Page bowing his guitar. It’s very easy to imagine Plant on vocals here and that’s what Page thought, clearly. Why is it disappointing? Mickie Most’s dumb suggestions, lousy sound quality, and the unforgivable lack of cohesion on a post Pepper record. It’s a frustrating record because certain songs promise so much. Except for No Excess Baggage. That don’t promise shit. Why should you hear it? White Summer is sublime and the psychedelic Glimpses is a treat. The blues workouts are a reminder of earlier days and the combination of Page’s fiery guitar with Relf’s vocals are an interesting glimpse of what might have been had Page persisted with this line up. For Zep fans, this pre flight stuff is absolutely essential. The expanded edition is no less disappointing for including a bunch of singles that were recorded mostly without Page after these sessions but probably worth picking up. For the rest of this series click here. Facebook Twitter Pinterest LinkedIn Email About the Author: Tony Thompson Tony Thompson lives in Melbourne and is the author of Summer of Monsters, a novel about the early life of Mary Shelley.