1.10-YOU'RE A BETTER MAN THAN I (Yardbirds)



Can you judge a man
By the way he wears his hair?
Can you read his mind
By the clothes that he wears?
Can you see a bad man
By the pattern on his tie?

        Well then mister you’re a better man than I. (4x)

Could you tell a wise man
By the way he speaks or smells?
Is this more important
Than the stories that he tells?
And call a man a fool
If for wealth he doesn’t strive?



You condemn a man
If your faith he doesn’t hold?
You say the color of his skin
Is the color of his soul?
Could you say that men
For king and country all must die?


You’re a Better Man Than I was originally written by members of the group Manfred Mann, of Do Wah Diddy Diddy fame in 1964, though there doesn’t seem to be a Manfred Mann version available. This lyric loosely references Gunga Din by Rudyard Kipling, but reverses the social order. Gunga Din was a servant better than the people he served; he proved the prejudices of the ruling class were wrong. Here we have the youth aesthetic addressed to a prejudicial person, who quite possibly mirrors the parental attitudes of audience's parents. The chorus is sarcastic. Long hair and body odor is an issue, as is the lack of materialism among the young people The whole song is a series of questions with the only statement being in the chorus. In the last verse, the singer questions the religious and racial strife of history, and finally questions patriotic duty to one's country. What would previously have been seen as a bit of exaggeration, "all must die!" is no longer seen as such with the possibility of nuclear warfare. Staying among the civilians is hardly a defense against modern weaponry.

I would consider You’re a Better Man Than I to be a disgruntled song rather than one of protest, but certainly one that questions the values of the previous generation. In this, the song was not particularly indicative of a psychedelic aesthetic; the generation gap had the subject of rock and roll music since the 1950s (e.g. Summertime Blues by Eddie Cochran; or Get a Job by the Silhouettes). What makes You’re a Better Man Than I a precursor to psychedelic music is the Jeff Beck solo on fuzz box guitar against a rhythm guitar that rhythmically strums a single chord, making the kind of drone that would later become known as raga rock, after a similar form in Indian music. In Jeff Beck’s guitar solo can be heard one of the earliest inklings of the hard rock contingent of psychedelic music as later popularized by Jefferson Airplane, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream. The song was released on the Yardbirds’ second album, Having a Rave Up, the same month as The Who released another foundational hard rock song (ironically also about the generation gap), a single called My Generation. However Pete Townshend’s guitar work in My Generation has none of the exotic grace of Beck’s early psychedelia, but rather represents more specifically what became known as garage rock built out of feedback noise.