The Yardbirds are an English rock band formed in London in 1963 that had a string of hits during the mid-1960s, including “For Your Love”, “Heart Full of Soul”, “Shapes of Things” and “Over Under Sideways Down”. The group launched the careers of guitarists Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck, all of whom ranked in the top five of Rolling Stone magazine’s list of 100 greatest guitarists.
A blues-based band noted for their signature “rave-up” instrumental breaks, the Yardbirds broadened their range into pop, pioneering psychedelic rock and early hard rock; and contributed to many electric guitar innovations of the mid-1960s, such as feedback, distortion and “fuzztone”. The bulk of the band’s most successful self-written songs came from vocalist and harmonica player Keith Relf, drummer Jim McCarty and bassist and producer Paul Samwell-Smith, who, with rhythm guitarist and bassist Chris Dreja, constituted the core of the group.
The band’s influence on both the music of the times and genres to come was great, and they inspired a host of imitators such as the Count Five and The Shadows of Knight. Rock critics and historians credit the Yardbirds with heavily contributing to, if not inventing, “the birth of psychedelic music”and sowing the seeds of punk rock, progressive rock and heavy metal, among other genres.
After the Yardbirds broke up in 1968, lead guitarist Jimmy Page founded what became Led Zeppelin, while Relf and McCarty formed Renaissance. The Yardbirds reformed in the 1990s, featuring McCarty, Dreja and new members. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. They were included in Rolling Stone’s list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”, and ranked No. 37 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock.