Monday 6 March 2023

Goodbye (Pork Pie Hat)

It can’t help but be noticed that there is a long running connection between guitars and cars. From Rockabilly hotrods, to Heavy Metal Ferrari’s, it seems many guitar players share their love of guitars with their love of cars or motorcycles. 

Jeff Beck, Seattle 2016
Photo: Shannon KringenCC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

It's often only when someone famous dies that their interests outside of their field of fame becomes known. In 2020, I wrote about the cars of Eddie Van Halen, the late, great guitar virtuoso who had a, perhaps, lesser-known passion for American classics, and the occasional 911 GT3. 

Earlier this year, I heard of the sad passing of yet another guitar legend, the eponymous Jeff Beck, aged 78. Beck has long been considered 'the guitar player’s guitar player' (Rolling Stone voted him the 5th Best Guitarist of All Time), but he was also well known for his lifelong love of cars. 

Beck’s musical CV is exemplary, his first big break coming in 1965 when he succeeded Eric Clapton in the Yardbirds, on the recommendation of none other than fellow player Jimmy Page. During the following decades, Beck continuously worked with producers, writers and producers of the highest calibre and across genres including jazz, opera and punk – and of which there are way too many to name here. Unsurprising, then, that he acquired so many accolades over his career, including 8 Grammys.

Continually pushing his playing techniques, Beck forged a unique style and aesthetic that’s a source of wonder for guitarists today, and puzzlement: Beck could generate tones and dynamics that defy traditional techniques using just his fingers, volume control and whammy bar – no array of electronic devices here. You're likely familiar without knowing it with Beck's playing: he's appeared on countless classics, from artists including Tina Turner, Jon Bon Jovi, Stevie Wonder, The Pretenders … the list goes on. You can get a small idea of Beck's fluid style and soaring tones in this video from 2009, where he riffs (pun intended) on the classic track Goodbye Pork Pie Hat (which also features the superbly talented Tal Wilkenfeld on bass).

Beck’s love of guitar is well documented, yet whilst no secret, his love of cars may not be quite so well known. His passion was first ignited aged 9, when in an effort to while away the time on a trip to London in 1953, his Dad gave him a copy of Rod & Custom magazine. A decade or so later, Beck was making ends meet working in a body shop between gigging jobs. Beck spent many weekends as a kid with his uncle (also a petrolhead) – driving around in an MG TC. As late as 2010, in an interview with, he described working on cars as his main job – more so than playing guitar!

Unlike his Ferrari-driving peers (you know who you are), Beck preferred cars that were a little more 'bespoke' – hand-built hotrods – cars that he could work on himself. He was just as happy scouring magazines and auto jumbles for spare parts, as he was working on and driving his cars, or playing the guitar. Beck was first to admit that his auto mechanic skills were, at best, amateur, so many of his cars received detailed restoration and specialist repair from custom specialists in the US. But, if he could fix it himself, he did.

His collection featured some gorgeous examples of automotive Americana. A 1932 three-window coupé, five-window coupé, Deuce coupé, Deuce Roadster… the theme is obvious. But Beck wasn’t a retro purist; his later purchases encompassed a 6th gen Corvette Z06 which, even for a man no stranger to fast cars, he once happily described as 'a hurricane on wheels'.

They may 12 years old, but two videos by Car Crazy Central provide a fantastic insight into the man and the cars;

We may have lost yet another music legend, but at least Beck’s music and cars live on. A quick Google of "Jeff Beck’s car collection" will keep you glued to the screen for hours. Or better still, stick some Jeff Beck on your stereo, and go for a drive!

Jeff Beck