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A BECK OF ALL TRADES, MASTER OF SEVERAL.

Byline: Fred Shuster Music Writer

Jeff Beck likes to talk about music, but he really comes alive discussing cars.

The life of the British rock guitarist -- responsible for some of the most thrilling sounds ever to come from a Fender Stratocaster and a stack of Marshall amplifiers -- has long been balanced between a love of automobiles and music.

At home in his manor house outside London, he builds and refurbishes hot rods, particularly classic Ford roadsters, sometimes letting years pass between releases and tours. He says he would have become an auto restorer or mechanic if not for the guitar.

``The '07 Corvette,'' Beck answers instantly when asked which new car he'd get today. ``It's just silly. Beautiful car.''

The need for speed

BMW's Z4 gets a rave. ``The last time I was in L.A., a friend of mine picked me up in one. We went down La Cienega past Wilshire one night at something like 140 mph. It was just sick.''

In interviews over the years, Beck has good-naturedly put up with exasperating questioning from this guitar-playing reporter on subjects ranging from what size his low E string is to his exact memories of filming the famous club scene with the Yardbirds in Michelangelo Antonioni's 1966 mod- London classic, ``Blow-Up.''

This time, we stuck to cars, housing insulation and the fact that he looks essentially the same today as he did on stage at London's Roundhouse in the early '70. David Gilmour of Pink Floyd calls him ``the most consistently brilliant'' guitarist around.

It's the real deal

``People can't understand it,'' Beck, 62, said of his full head of shaggy black hair. ``The last time we were in Tokyo, a jazz drummer I know asked if he could pull it to make sure it's not a wig. I told him he could pull it once, and if he tried it a second time, I'd give him a good kick you know where.''

Beck's guitar has provided kicks for five decades, starting in 1965, when he replaced Eric Clapton in the Yardbirds, then in the first Jeff Beck Group with Rod Stewart, considered the blueprint for Led Zeppelin. In the mid-'70s, Beck changed directions and recorded the groundbreaking jazz-fusion albums ``Blow by Blow'' and ``Wired,'' both produced by Beatles collaborator George Martin.

Future projects saw Beck veering into straight-ahead rockabilly, funk, techno, electronica and pastoral soundscapes, always marked by jaw-dropping fretwork and white-knuckle conviction.

``It's very hard to just stick to one thing,'' said Beck, who appears in three area dates in the coming week, including a special Greek Theatre show Thursday in which Martin will oversee a 14-piece string section performing ``Diamond Dust'' and other material from ``Blow by Blow,'' Beck's landmark 1975 album. ``I want to feel excited by what I'm playing, not just going out there and playing something that's tired.''

The hands-on type

Along with auto restoration, another endeavor of Beck's is his house. It's on a U.K. registry of historic homes and has been put back to its original form, which meant tearing out the insulation and putting on a new roof. Beck helped with much of the manual labor.

``We have a huge fireplace, which we need because it gets so cold here,'' he said. ``It was an unbelievable amount of work. That's how I keep in shape. I don't do a lot of sitting around.

``People think I'm some kind of multimillionaire. But I'm not. At the same time, I'd probably be exactly the same anyway. I've always been this way. I like doing things myself.''

Fred Shuster, (818) 713-3676

fred.shuster(at)dailynews.com

JEFF BECK

Where: Greek Theatre, 2700 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles.

When: 8 p.m. Thursday. (Also Monday at the Grove of Anaheim and Tuesday at the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara.)

Tickets: $25 to $80. (213) 480-3232.

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``It's very hard to just stick to one thing. I want to feel excited by what I'm playing,'' says guitarist Jeff Beck, who performs at the Greek Theatre on Thursday night.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 24, 2006
Words:677
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