Ronnie Wood paid tribute to former bandmate Jeff Beck, saying he was untouchable when at his best.

The pair, along with Rod Stewart, were the backbone of the Jeff Beck Group from its formation in 1967 until just over two years later. In that time they developed a reputation as a force to be reckoned with, compared favorably with Led Zeppelin, as Wood discussed with Mojo in a recent interview.

“They were all in the front row of our gigs!” Wood said. “Rod was singing his arse off. Jeff was playing his arse off. I was taking the bass somewhere else. But a lot of the magic was in the drummers because Micky Waller’s shuffle was untouchable. Then we had Aynsley Dunbar; he taught me a lot. And Tony Newman – a wild man! Then Rod Coombes for a while.”

He noted that there “was always a missing link, where you couldn’t quite get through to Jeff. A distance. Whatever he was thinking, he wouldn’t really let Rod know. Although me and Jeff were always tight.”

He described Beck – who died in January – as “very shy,” adding, “If we were playing on the same bill as a guitarist he really respected, like B.B. King, he would do his disappearing act. Kind of an inferiority complex. … Anything to do with the spotlight, he’d be like, ‘You can take care of this,’ and he would be gone.” Despite that, Wood argued, “When the band was cooking, it was untouchable.”

Wood and Beck last gathered for Wood’s Chuck Berry live tribute album in 2018. “He came down with Johnny Depp, Imelda May was singing,” the guitarist and bassist said. “We played some bluesy jam. Onstage, he liked to take the foreground. He liked to be heard. I’m really gonna miss him.”

Wood, who joined the Rolling Stones in 1975, also commented on the rumor that Beck came close to being a member of that band, too. “He wouldn’t have kept up with the timetable!” Wood said. “Eric Clapton once said to me, ‘I could have joined that band.’ I said, ‘Yeah, but you gotta live with them, Eric!’”

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