‘It’s hard to describe what that music did to me’: Jeff Beck explains his unlikely connection with the Beach Boys

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As Jeff Beck wraps up a well-received fall tour this month with Brian Wilson and several other members of the Beach Boys, he’s reflecting on what brought him to this admittedly offbeat place.

After all, Beck emerged from his stint in the Yardbirds playing a much different variant on the rock template. Yet, the free-form guitarist says much of his inspiration originally came from Wilson and Co.

“When you say ‘Beach Boys,’ the immediate picture that’s conjured up is ‘California Girls,'” Beck admits, in this WSJ Live talk. “But the Brian Wilson side of it is Pet Sounds, Smiley Smile, 20/20 and all of those great albums which contain songs that are not surf songs. And those are the songs that really grabbed hold of me in the ’60s — especially Pet Sounds.

Beck performs tonight in Toronto, then Sunday, October 27, 2013 at Akron, Ohio, Tuesday in Chicago and then finally on Wednesday in Milwaukee, on a slate that has also included original Beach Boys members Al Jardine and David Marks, as well as one-time band member Blondie Chaplin.

In some ways, it sounds like Beck is still coming to grips with the majesty of songs composed and performed by the Beach Boys more than four decades back.

“It’s hard to describe what that music did to me,” he says. “It gave me the vision to make wild sounds on the guitar — because if people could have pop singles that changed key, that were long and drawn out when two-and-a-half-minute was the max in those days, that really opened up the whole ball game for me.”

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