20/20 (The Beach Boys album)

20/20 (The Beach Boys album)
Studio album by The Beach Boys
Released February 10, 1969 (1969-02-10)
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 Rock, hard rock, baroque pop, country rock
Length 29:46
Label Capitol
Producer The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys chronology
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3.5/5 stars[1]
Blender 4/5 stars[2]

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.



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 hit in the summer of 1968, 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 "Never Learn Not to Love", a Charles Manson song originally titled "Cease to Exist" that was reworked by Dennis.

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. Initially 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
No. Title Writer(s) Lead Vocals Length
1. "Do It Again"   Brian Wilson/Mike Love Mike Love/Carl Wilson 2:25
2. "I Can Hear Music"   Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich/Phil Spector C. Wilson 2:36
3. "Bluebirds Over the Mountain"   Ersel Hickey Love/C. Wilson/Bruce Johnston 2:51
4. "Be with Me"   Dennis Wilson Dennis Wilson 3:08
5. "All I Want to Do"   D. Wilson/Steve Kalinich Love 2:02
6. "The Nearest Faraway Place"   Bruce Johnston instrumental 2:39
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Lead Vocals Length
1. "Cotton Fields"   Huddie Ledbetter Al Jardine 2:21
2. "I Went to Sleep"   B. Wilson/Carl Wilson Brian Wilson/C. Wilson 1:36
3. "Time to Get Alone"   B. Wilson C. Wilson/B. Wilson/Jardine 2:40
4. "Never Learn Not to Love"   Charles Manson/D. Wilson D. Wilson 2:31
5. "Our Prayer"   B. Wilson group 1:07
6. "Cabinessence"   B. Wilson/Van Dyke Parks C. Wilson/Love 3:34


  • "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 #5

20/20 is now paired on CD with Friends, with bonus tracks from that period. Bonus tracks include their hit single "Break Away", also "Celebrate the News", "We're Together Again", "Walk on By" and a medley of "Old Folks at Home / Ol' Man River" were included.

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

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