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Heart Full of Soul

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B-side  "Steeled Blues"
Recorded  20 April 1965
Format  7-inch 45 rpm record
Released  4 June 1965 (1965-06-04) (UK)
Studio  Advision Studios, London
Genre  Psychedelic rock, raga rock

"Heart Full of Soul" is a song recorded by English rock group the Yardbirds in 1965. Written by Graham Gouldman, it was the Yardbirds' first single after Jeff Beck replaced Eric Clapton as lead guitarist. Released only three months after "For Your Love", "Heart Full of Soul" reached the top ten on the charts in the United Kingdom and the United States.


The Yardbirds' first recorded the song with an Indian sitar player performing the distinctive instrumental figures. However, the group was dissatisfied with the results. Consequently, Beck developed the part on electric guitar using a fuzz box distortion unit. Music writers have described his contribution as introducing Indian-influenced guitar stylings to rock music.

As one of the Yardbirds' most popular songs, it was frequently performed in concert. There are a number of live recordings, the earliest of which feature Beck, while later ones feature guitarist Jimmy Page. "Heart Full of Soul" appears on several of the group's compilations and renditions have been recorded by other musicians.


Guitarist Eric Clapton left the Yardbirds in March 1965 because of a perceived shift in musical direction. Inspired in part by Jeff Beck, who replaced Clapton, the group began to experiment with different musical styles. Beck had more varied influences and used electronically enhanced guitar effects, such as fuzz and feedback, which he brought to the group's sound. When preparing for a follow-up single to their first record chart hit, "For Your Love", the song's writer Graham Gouldman provided a demo for a new song. Music critic Richie Unterberger described Gouldman as "a genius at effectively alternating tempos and major/minor modes", which are used in "Heart Full of Soul". The shift in tempo and use of double-time was also a feature of the Yardbirds' live performances and was known as a "rave up".

At the time, popular music at large was seen as becoming more experimental. Gouldman's arrangement was perceived as creating an exotic sound. Yardbirds' drummer Jim McCarty explained that "the riff on the [Gouldman's] demo suggested a sitar" and that the group's manager, Giorgio Gomelsky, hired a sitar and a tabla player for a recording session. Beck biographer Martin Power notes that "For Your Love" had been made more memorable by a prominent harpsichord part (played by Brian Auger) and that may have influenced Gomelsky's decision. Beck also notes this parallel. The use of sitar was a new approach. Several months later, the Beatles recorded "Norwegian Wood", which is often recognised as the first rock song released to incorporate a sitar part. Session guitar player Jimmy Page, who later joined the Yardbirds, was working in an adjacent studio and attended the session.

Composition and recording

The Yardbirds' first attempt to record "Heart Full of Soul" was on 13 April 1965 at Advision Studios in London. The session began with the sitar player playing the distinctive instrumental hook or riff. However, he was unfamiliar with the type of rock sound the group was trying to achieve – "It just didn't have any groove to it", Beck felt. McCarty added: "It was fine in principle, but while the tablas sounded OK, the sitar just wasn't up front enough. It just didn't cut through." Beck developed a riff on guitar to replace the sitar line. He elaborated in an interview:

The sitar player couldn't get the 4/4 time signature right; it was a hopeless waste of time. So I said, 'Look, is this the figure?' I had the fuzz machine, a Toneblender [sic], going. We did one take, it sounded outrageous. So they kept the tabla player, who could just about make it work. They rushed that out, and the rest was a rollercoaster ride.

According to McCarty, Beck developed the riff after borrowing Page's prototype fuzz box, designed for him by Roger Mayer. When he played the lick for the band, they felt that it was a perfect fit: "this great sounding riff emerged ... I mean Beck just nailed it", rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja recalled. The group returned to Advision on 20 April to complete the song. Beck was able to achieve the sitar-like hook by bending the higher notes on his guitar in an Eastern-sounding scale while also using his own Tone Bender unit to get the distinctive tone. While simultaneously sounding the open D string, he also added a droning quality reminiscent of the sitar's sympathetic strings.

Music writer Alan di Perna describes Beck's playing as a milestone and helped introduce "the psychedelic subgenre known as 'raga rock'", which became popular during 1966 and 1967. Unterberger commented, however, that the song does not rely on gimmicks and has other aspects that make it compelling. He added that the vocal parts by Keith Relf, backed by atmospheric harmonies, provide contrasting melancholic and upbeat sections. The song is partly propelled by a strummed acoustic guitar by Relf, giving it an element of contemporary folk music. McCarty and session bassist Ron Prentice (who also played bass on "For Your Love") comprise the rhythm section. Yardbirds' bassist Paul Samwell-Smith, who assumed the role of producer for "For Your Love", is listed as "Musical Director" on the Columbia 45 rpm single. Gomelsky received the credit as the song's producer.


Less than three months after "For Your Love", "Heart Full of Soul" was released as the Yardbirds' first single since Clapton's departure. In the UK, Columbia issued it on 4 June 1965, with Epic Records following on 2 July 1965 in the US. In an ironic twist, the picture sleeve used by Epic included a photograph of the band posing with Clapton; Epic's For Your Love album, released the month before, included a photo of Beck, but no image nor mention of Clapton. Epic released the group's next single, "I'm a Man", without a picture sleeve; Columbia did not use images for their 45s. In the UK, "Evil Hearted You", another Gouldman song, was the follow-up single. "Steeled Blues", a blues instrumental featuring Beck on slide guitar and Relf on harmonica, is included as the single's B-side.

"Heart Full of Soul" saw its first album release on the Yardbirds' second American LP record, Having a Rave Up (1965). In Canada, Capitol Records included the song on both their first album, titled Heart Full of Soul (1965, also known as Presenting the Yardbirds), and second album, Having a Rave Up (1965). It was also chosen for the popular American compilation The Yardbirds Greatest Hits (1967). In the UK, the earliest album appearance was on Remember ... The Yardbirds, a collection of pre-Yardbirds (also known as Roger the Engineer) material released in 1971 after the group disbanded. Numerous later compilations include it, such as Ultimate! (2001), the comprehensive career retrospective released by Rhino Records.

Broadcast and concert performances

The Yardbirds performed the song for broadcast on several occasions. Five days after the single was released, they taped it for the Ken Dodd Show, which aired on BBC Radio 20 and 23 June 1965. The recording later appeared on the album Yardbirds ... On Air (1991, re-released in 1999 as BBC Sessions). During the group's second American tour, they played "Heart Full of Soul" (and "I'm a Man") for Shivaree, a pop music variety television series. It was filmed at the KABC-TV studios in Hollywood on 3 January 1966 and aired on 8 January.

The song was part of the Yardbirds' concert repertoire and several live recordings have been issued. Three versions with Beck are included on Glimpses 1963–1968, a boxed set released in 2011. Versions with Page as the group's sole guitarist appear on the short-lived Live Yardbirds: Featuring Jimmy Page (1971), Last Rave-Up in LA (1979), and Glimpses. These include the song as part of an extended medley with "You're a Better Man Than I" (also written by Gouldman).

Chart performance and influence

A variety of musicians have recorded renditions of "Heart Full of Soul". In 1986, American roots rock artist Chris Isaak adapted the song using his own style. It was released as a single in 1987 and was included on his self-titled second album. Canadian rock band Rush recorded it for their 2004 album of cover songs, Feedback. Their version retained the psychedelic quality of the original, but with an updated sound. Metal band Trouble recorded a hard rock version for their Unplugged EP (2010).

The Yardbirds' original song was used in the soundtrack of the 2010 film noir-ish crime thriller London Boulevard. The song plays as the protagonist (played by Colin Farrell) is driving through London in a black convertible. Stephen Holden, writing for The New York Times, notes, "Enhancing the tarnished '60s ambience is a soundtrack that juxtaposes rock classics like 'Heart Full of Soul' from the Yardbirds [with current music]".


Heart Full of Soul Wikipedia