The 10 albums that changed Gerry Beckley’s life

Founding member of the band America, Gerry Beckley is known for writing and singing many memorable songs. Here are 10 albums that influenced his life.
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Beckley 2016. Photo by Joe Beckley

Gerry Beckley 2016. Photo by Joe Beckley

By Patrick Prince

Founding member of the band America, Gerry Beckley is known for writing and singing hits like “I Need You,” “Sister Golden Hair” and “Daisy Jane.” But Beckley was a natural to songwriting and becoming a multi-instrumentalist. He grew up in a household surrounded by music.

“My mom had the classics playing constantly in our home outside of London in the 50s,” Beckley recalls. “She favored the romantics: Tchaikovsky,Rachmaninoff andProkofiev. They were a wonderful early education about melody. ‘Swan Lake’ is probably my earliest memory of any music.”

And listed here are the other artists who have influenced Gerry Beckley’s life.

Lionel Bart, Oliver! Soundtrack

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My family would often attend musicals in London’s Shaftesbury Avenue — London’s Broadway. “Oliver!” has always been my favorite. Lionel Bart wrote the music and the lyrics, which is rare in stage productions. The songs are incredible: “Where Is Love” and “Who Will Buy,” and I love the whole score.

The Beach Boys, Surfin’ Safari

Beach-Boys-Safari-LP

This was the first album I personally bought with my own money. I transferred this album to 1/4” tape on our home hi-fi system and learned to play the guitar by starting and stopping the tape after each section of the songs. Dewey (Bunnell) and I became very close friends with all of The Beach Boys but probably the closest with our dear friend Carl (Wilson) who was responsible for a lot of that guitar work.

The Beatles, Meet The Beatles! 

meet-beatles

When The Beatles came to the U.S. in 1963, this album was the first we heard. The album recorded before this called “Introducing The Beatles” came out about the same time but it was “Meet the Beatles!” that really changed my life. People probably tire of hearing just how big a deal it was but I’ll never tire of the memory or of the music.

The Beatles,Hard Day’s Night

beatles-hard days

The Beatles were releasing numerous albums per year so it can be hard to fathom just how many great songs they were writing. I particularly love the songs from both of the films, “Help” and “Hard Day’s Night.” I remember thinking that this was their turn towards a more acoustic approach in their writing. There was a lot of strumming on Gibson J-160s... I loved it.

The Beatles,Help

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“Help” ... a much sillier film but an equally great album. We’ve all read since that they were smoking pot through the entire production. Whatever they were doing, it worked.

The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds 

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Who doesn’t think that this is one of the best albums of all time?! The leap that Brian (Wilson) made on this recording rewrote the rules, raised the bar ... pick your own cliché but I can tell you that popular music was never the same. From George Martin’s quotes about how heavily it influenced The Beatles to Leonard Bernstein’s own accolades upon hearing it, “Pet Sounds” was groundbreaking.

The Beach Boys, Smiley Smile 

Smiley-smile

Most of us didn’t hear even a rough assemblage of “Smile” until years later but what we did have was still wonderful. I personally think that what Brian and Van Dyke Parks were working on was, is and shall remain the high watermark of popular music in the 20th century. When we signed with Warner Bros. U.K. in 1971, Derek Taylor had on his office wall a large hand-inked, framed copy of the lyrics to “Surf’s Up” including lines like “columnated ruins domino.” We’ve never got close since.

Kate Bush, Hounds Of Love 

bush-hounds

I had missed the phenom that was Kate Bush before this album. Fans of “Wuthering Heights” please forgive me but it was “Hounds of Love” that converted me. We were touring Australia at the time and from the opening bars of “Running Up That Hill” I listened to that album, and only that album, for the entire tour. It’s a shining example of how good a concept album can be. I don’t go to many live shows anymore but I truly regret missing her run of comeback shows in London recently.

Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot 

Wilco-Yankee-Hotel-Foxtrot

There are so many great Wilco records but it’s this one that I hold as a reminder that great music is still being made. Great tunes, great quirky production and the documentary, “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” is equally good. I’ve only been to two shows other than our own in the last two years and they were both Wilco!

The Beatles, Abbey Road

beatles-abbey road

I guess it’s the ultimate summation, this album. We all know the stories. Dew and I had the honor multiple times to work with both George Martin and Geoff Emerick but it’s still hard to wrap your head around the immensity of The Beatles. “And in the end...” well it was the end, but what a finalé!

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