20/20 (The Beach Boys album): Wikis


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This is an article about The Beach Boys' album 20/20. For other albums with the title 20/20, see 20/20 (disambiguation).
Studio album by The Beach Boys
Released February 10, 1969
Recorded June-November 1968
Except "Our Prayer": Basic track recorded October 4, 1966, Overdubs recorded November 1968; "Cabinessence": Recorded October & December 1966 except for Carl Wilson vocal on verses, which was recorded November 1968; and "Bluebirds over the Mountain": September 1967 with 1968 overdubs.
Genre Baroque Pop, Rock, Classic Rock, Waltz
Length 29:46
Label Capitol
Producer The Beach Boys
Professional reviews
The Beach Boys chronology

20/20 is the sole 1969 album release by The Beach Boys, and their last studio album to be released with Capitol Records for the next seventeen years. As a mixed bag of recent singles, new studio recordings and two exhumed Smile tracks, 20/20 turned out to be one of The Beach Boys' most artistically interesting albums, and - in retrospect - can now be seen as a dry run for the creative re-birth that resulted in Sunflower the following year.



20/20 got its name from its distinction of being The Beach Boys' 20th official album release (counting the three "Best of..." packages and Stack-O-Tracks). Brian Wilson poked fun at the title by hiding behind an eye examination chart inside the gatefold cover's photo. Otherwise, Wilson's involvement in the album was far less than perceived at the time.

With increasing emotional problems, Brian Wilson began to withdraw from the band's recording sessions. He did participate on over half of the songs, but Wilson's only "new" contributions to 20/20 was a soothing waltz entitled (rather prophetically) "I Went to Sleep" and his and Mike Love's "Do It Again". It had been a summer of 1968 hit and was added on as commercial insurance, although a small snatch of the Smile-era "Workshop" session was hidden at the track's fade-out.

In the wake of the elder Wilson's partial absence, younger siblings Dennis Wilson and Carl Wilson began to take the helm both inside and outside of the studio's control room. Carl produced a version of Phil Spector's "I Can Hear Music," giving The Beach Boys their last original Top 40 US hit for the next seven years. Dennis progressed from his contributions on Friends to deliver the dramatic and dynamic "Be with Me" and the somewhat racy "All I Want to Do," sung by Mike and featuring a quick X-rated interlude at the fade-out. Undeniably, the most controversial moment on 20/20 is Dennis' "Never Learn Not to Love".

Before the album commenced recording, Dennis had befriended a struggling musician named Charles Manson and decided to help him in the music industry by recording his song "Cease to Exist" for the Beach Boys, under the new title "Never Learn Not to Love". Manson explicitly told Wilson that the words were not to be altered, though he could do what he liked with the music (in the event, the basic melody was largely unchanged). When "Never Learn Not to Love" was first released by the Beach Boys as a B-side in late 1968, and credited solely to Dennis Wilson—with altered lyrics and a new bridge—Manson threatened Wilson with murder. According to Brian's collaborator Van Dyke Parks, when Manson once showed up to make good on his threat, Dennis beat him up. The Manson incident gave everyone a scare in the Beach Boys' camp—especially after his well-known crimes came to light. Some fans have also suggested that Charles Manson wrote "Be with Me", but this is likely due to a simple misunderstanding: "Never Learn Not to Love" has a line containing the words, "be with me". Furthermore, unlike "Never Learn Not to Love", the Beach Boys' "Be with Me" does not resemble any of Manson's own recordings.

Bruce Johnston had been waiting for his moment after years of supporting the others on stage and in the studio. He was finally able to release one of his compositions on 20/20, the lush instrumental "The Nearest Faraway Place." The composition was reportedly inspired by Brian Wilson's work on Pet Sounds, and its title was based on an article found in Life magazine. His second contribution was a cover of Ersel Hickey's "Bluebirds over the Mountain". Begun in the Fall of 1967 as a potential solo single, it was completed with Carl Wilson's help during the album's sessions. Perhaps reflecting on "Sloop John B" and feeling that lightning could strike twice, Al Jardine suggested to Brian that they work on another folk standard, "Cotton Fields." Wilson produced a recording, but feeling that Brian was holding back again, Jardine went ahead and rerecorded the song six months after Brian's version was released on 20/20. Al's instincts were on the ball, as it turned out, for while the retitled "Cottonfields" (the last Capitol Records single) was a US flop, it became a huge hit internationally in the Spring of 1970.

After all the admirable work by his bandmates, it was ironic that Brian Wilson would steal the show with three older compositions. "Cabinessence" (re-spelled as one word on 20/20) and "Our Prayer" derived from the mythical Smile sessions. "Time to Get Alone," begun during the Wild Honey sessions but was newly recorded here. Initally intended for Three Dog Night, when they were known as "Redwood", it became a major highlight of 20/20 (Although Stephen Desper claims the song is a complete re-recording and not the original late 1967 track).

Released in February 1969, 20/20 sold better than Friends, reaching a still underwhelming #68 in the US, but it went as high as #3 in the UK. It was followed up by the single-only release of "Break Away" (co-authored under a pseudonym by Murry Wilson with son Brian), a serious attempt at a hit, which only succeeded in the UK. Undeterred, and booming with confidence and the sense that they were on the verge of a major creative renaissance, The Beach Boys began formulating what would prove to be one of the most acclaimed albums of their career.

Track listing


Side one

  1. "Do It Again" (Brian Wilson/Mike Love) – 2:25
    • Features Mike Love and Carl Wilson on lead vocals
  2. "I Can Hear Music" (Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich/Phil Spector) – 2:36
    • Features Carl Wilson on lead vocals
  3. "Bluebirds Over the Mountain" (Ersel Hickey) – 2:51
    • Features Mike Love [verses] and Carl Wilson / Bruce Johnston [choruses] on lead vocals
  4. "Be with Me" (Dennis Wilson) – 3:08
    • Features Dennis Wilson on lead vocals
  5. "All I Want to Do" (Dennis Wilson/Steve Kalinich) – 2:02
    • Features Mike Love on lead vocals
  6. "The Nearest Faraway Place" (Bruce Johnston) – 2:39
    • Instrumental

Side two

  1. "Cotton Fields (The Cotton Song)" (Huddie Ledbetter) – 2:21
    • Features Al Jardine on lead vocals
  2. "I Went to Sleep" (Brian Wilson/Carl Wilson) – 1:36
    • Features Brian Wilson and Carl Wilson on lead vocals
  3. "Time to Get Alone" (Brian Wilson) – 2:40
    • Features Carl Wilson [verses] and Brian Wilson / Al Jardine [choruses] on lead vocals
  4. "Never Learn Not to Love" (Dennis Wilson/Charles Manson (uncredited)) – 2:31
    • Features Dennis Wilson on lead vocals
  5. "Our Prayer" (Brian Wilson) – 1:07
    • Features group vocals
  6. "Cabinessence" (Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks) – 3:34
    • Features Carl Wilson and Mike Love on lead vocals


  • "Do it Again" b/w "Wake the World" (from Friends) (Capitol 2239), 8 July 1968 US #20; UK #1
  • "Bluebirds over the Mountain" b/w "Never Learn Not to Love" (Capitol 2360), 2 December 1968 US #61; UK #33
  • "I Can Hear Music" b/w "All I Want to Do" (Capitol 2432), 3 March 1969 US #24; UK #10
  • "Break Away" b/w "Celebrate the News" (Capitol 2530), 16 June 1969 US #63; UK #6 (Non-LP single)
  • "Cottonfields" (Single Version) b/w "The Nearest Faraway Place" (Capitol 2765), 20 April 1970 US #103; UK #2

20/20 is now paired on CD with Friends, with bonus tracks from that period.

20/20 (Capitol SKAO 133) hit #68 in the US during a chart stay of 11 weeks. It reached #3 in the UK.

  • In May 1970, EMI issued Live in London, a live album that captured 1968 performances in the UK. It wouldn't surface in the US until the Fall of 1976 as Beach Boys '69 released by Capitol Records. It never charted in the UK, but reached #75 during its US release. Live in London has been paired up with 1964's Beach Boys Concert on CD.


  • Friends/20/20 CD booklet notes, David Leaf, c.1990.
  • "The Nearest Faraway Place: Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys and the Southern California Experience", Timothy White, c. 1994.
  • "Wouldn't It Be Nice - My Own Story", Brian Wilson and Todd Gold, c. 1991.
  • "Top Pop Singles 1955-2001", Joel Whitburn, c. 2002.
  • "Top Pop Albums 1955-2001", Joel Whitburn, c. 2002.
  • Allmusic.com

External links


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