Saturday, December 18, 2010

349 Roger the Engineer. Sort of a Yardbirds album a bit.

Artist: The Yardbirds
Album: Roger the Engineer
Year: 1966
Genre: Rock

  1. Lost Woman
  2. Over, Under, Sideways, Down
  3. I Can't Make Your Way
  4. Farewell
  5. Hot House of Omagarashid
  6. Jeff's Boogie
  7. He's Always There
  8. Turn into Earth
  9. What Do You Want
  10. Ever Since the World Began

Okay I'll do this slowly and we'll all try and keep up... This album was originally released in England only it wasn't called Roger the Engineer it was called The Yardbirds. It was re-released in America with a different track listing and different mix... Only it wasn't called The Yardbirds. It wasn't called Roger the Engineer either it was called Over Under Sideways Down. It was re-released in Germany and Japan only it wasn't called Roger there either. Or The Yardbirds. Or Over Under. It was called Yardbirds without the definite article. It was also another mix. The more observant (and persistent) among you might have realised that we have three different albums with three different titles, none of which is Roger the Engineer, the album that all this fuss is supposed to be about. Silly isn't it? But that's what they did in the sixties. Different countries were entirely different markets and there was no need for anything to be consistent. Who knows, maybe they saw ahead a few decades and realised that one day there would be people who would call themselves collectors and want to buy every version of an album they could find.

Anyway the point is that Rolling Stone magazine have decided to include an album that technically doesn't exist in it's countdown. The first appearance of Roger the Engineer as a title came in the eighties when the album had a rerelease with further track additions and alterations. For the purposes of reviewing I'll stick to the tracks which are common to every incarnation of this enigmatic album. Which is a pity because most of them are pretty bad.

The Yardbirds started as a blues band full of blues purists who wouldn't touch a song unless it was written by an impoverished black American. They were led by Eric Clapton who was the sort of guy who would never write a pop ballad for a movie soundtrack or release a watered down, acoustic version of a big hit in order to cash in (at least he wasn't back then). Sadly the only people who were interested in buying white-boy interpretations of blues classics were members of the Rolling Stones so The Yardbirds were pressured to "Write songs like them Beatles fellas." The end result is this album (or these albums) which the Yardbirds recorded with their new guitarist Jeff Beck who was no slouch with an electric guitar. In fact if the band could write songs as well as Beck could play this would be a belter of a release. Instead it's a pretty tepid affair. Most of the songs are the sort of things that John and Paul wouldn't even have considered selling to other people. He's always there, Lost Woman, I can't Make Your Way etc and the rest of the album are just lame psychedelic songs that sound pretty feeble when removed from their home decade. Two songs stand out from the rest of the mediocrity. The first is Hot House of Omargarashid which is staggeringly awful. It's two minutes and forty seconds that sounds like a theme song to a justifiably forgotten children's cartoon. It's annoyingly bouncy and the only lyrics are "Ya ya ya", which is sung over and over again until even the singers sound bored. It's so bad it even features a wobble board. Thankfully the other exception is a magnificent song called Over Under Sideways Down which is one of the forgotten gems of the sixties. It's got a beat, a riff, a chorus, a bassline and some great lyrics. OUSD could happily take a place in the track listing of any album released that year by any band.

The Yardbirds released some great singles in their time and had some fine moments on their albums but I wouldn't reccomend this release in any of it's multiple formats. Instead I'd suggest you get your hands on any one of a million compilations which will include Over Under Sideways down and therefore the only thing here worth hearing.

Influenced by: The Blues and a desire to make more money than the people who usually played it.
Influenced: Aerosmith, The Black Crowes and lads like them.

Highlight: Over Under Sideways Down
Lowlight: Hot House of Omagarashid and the cover art.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Unfortunately, almost all of the songs have extremely weak melodies, and the trippy sentiments, poorly thought out to begin with, have aged very badly, reminding me of something that Neil from "The Young Ones" might sing."

-Brilliant. The Neil comparison is perfect.

So are you Over this album or Under it's influence? Let me know below.


  1. Hard to keep up. Wow. Haha.

    Hey, I'd hate to steal your thunder sir, but I have a question. Rolling Stone has a list, the 500 Greatest Songs.

    But, there's a similar list by now-defunct magazine Blender, 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born. Perfect for someone my age and limited understanding of classic rock music.

    If I were to do a blog based on that, would you be mad at me?

  2. Ryan,

    Go for it. I wouldn't be mad at all and I'd enjoy reading whatever you came up with.

  3. I love lists!!! Can I do a list on my top 100 lists of all time?? I mean it really.