20/20 Album

  • US Release: February 10th, 1969
  • UK Release: March 1968
  • Chart High: US #68; UK #3
  • Singles: Bluebirds Over The Mountian b/w Never Learn Not To Love
  • I Can Hear Music b/w All I Want To Do


By March 1969, the 20/20 album is released worldwide. The album’s title originates from it’s distinction as the 20th Beach Boys album released by Capitol – and for the eye chart that Brian Wilson hides behind in a photograph inside the gate fold LP cover. It will outsell Friends in the US, peaking at number 68 – a fair position considering recent chart performance – and in the UK will peak at an impressive number 3.

The disc successfully combines impressive new material, recent singles, and re-recordings of tracks from SMiLE. The new recordings mark the emergence of Carl and Dennis Wilson as producers  and of Steve Desper as the group’s engineer. Desper is now part of the Beach Boys’ fold and remains as chief engineer of their work early into the next decade.                                                                           

Pictured:  Brian Wilson behind an eye chart, inside the gatefold of the original LP.

Arthur Schmidt will write in Rolling Stone, dated April 19th, 1969         

“The current 20/20 album is a collage of several different phases of the group’s career. “Do It Again” is the best California rock song they’ve done since “Help Me Rhonda”, an authentic lyric, fine hand-clap drum, lush in a more disciplined way than on Pet Sounds. “I Can Hear Music” has an interesting alto chorus, a balance of strong vocals rather than, as on most of the other cuts, a solo with backing. “Bluebirds Over The Mountain” is distinguished by subtle, driving piano. The psychedelic guitar is seemingly out of place, but undeniably good.”

“Be With Me” by Dennis Wilson, uses woodwinds effectively, with heavy emphasis on brass. This is a bit reminiscent of Pet Sounds. The fade out on this piece is a highlight, a Space Odyssey-like distortion of strings and vocals. “All I Want To Do” with fine piano and a simple but perfect bass line, uses electric guitar better than anywhere else on the album. Next side is “Cotton Fields” on which piano gives depth to harpsichord, the vocal is superb and the arrangement tight. “I Went To Sleep” is pop well-arranged. “Time To Get Alone” resolves the contradictions between pop and rock with a real balancing. “Never Learn Not To Love” is a fine vocal, with a mixture of pop and soul influences. “Cabinessence”, the last cut, is one of the finest things Brian Wilson has ever done, a product of the SMiLE collaboration with Parks. A good album, flawed mainly by lack of direction, more a collection than a whole”

Pictured: 1969 promo poster


20/20 Sessions
October 1st 1968, Bel air, CA

Today’s session sees The Beach Boys covering the Barry/Greenwich/Spector classic “I Can Hear Music”. The first attempts today feature Carl Wilson singing a vocal accompanied by just his occasional guitar and light drums from Dennis Wilson, while the second shot features a heavier drum sound, tambourine, sleigh bells and Carl’s acoustic guitar. Once a satisfactory guide vocal has been completed, several attempts are made to add vocals by the group, and Carl’s first serious lead vocal. Additional backing vocals are then taped but these are deemed not good enough, so a fresh backing vocal is is recorded.

Carl then records a new double-tracked and quite breathtaking lead vocal after several attempts. Carl and the full Beach Boys line-up then begin a series of insert vocal recordings for the song. Next Carl takes charge of a series of guitar, drums, piano and keyboard inserts designed to pad out the sound. After watching and listening to brother Brian intently over the past six years, Carl emerges today having completed his first released session as a sole producer. His developing expertise in the studio bodes well for the future, with Brian set to remove himself from recordings as well as the concert stage.

Pictured: 1969 “I Can Hear Music” Promo Ad

20/20 Sessions
Early August 1968, Los Angeles, CA

Early this month, during a small break in the the recording sessions for 20/20, Dennis Wilson moves out of his home and begins living with his friend Gregg Jakobson in a basement apartment at Gregg’s home in the Palisades near Santa Monica. Dennis has left his Sunset Boulevard home to get away from Charles Manson and his “Family”. He is too afraid to ask them to leave, so three weeks before the lease is set to expire he takes off for the new place, conveniently leaving the Family to be evicted by the landlord, coincidentally Dennis’s manager.

Beach Boys business manager Nick Grillo tells US radio that Manson and the Family “stayed at Dennis’s house for six months. During this time Dennis was on the road with The Beach Boys, and Charlie or one of his girls would come up to The Beach Boys’ office and pick up a check for food or an allowance, because they were supposedly looking after Dennis’s home while he was away. They were always driving Dennis’s Ferrari, which really annoyed me.”

“He would come up to the office, serenade the office staff, and we’d have to shout him out of the office because it was interfering with us while we worked during the day. I believe Dennis was under a great deal of pressure from Charlie who was getting into a much heavier drug situation, which Dennis became concerned about. Charlie was taking a tremendous amount of acid and Dennis wouldn’t tolerate it”.

Pictured: The entrance to Dennis’s former home on 14400 Sunset Blvd.


20/20 Sessions
Fall 1968, Bel air, CA

The sessions this autumn produce an interesting array of new and exciting songs from almost every member of the band, but a song taped on September 11th comes from Dennis’s erstwhile friend Charles Manson. It’s original title was “Cease To Exist” and was a bluesy number, but with a slight re-wording of the lyrics, and a more pop oriented arrangement, it’s title has been reverted to “Never Learn Not To Love”. The song is released as a B-side to the “Bluebirds Over The Mountains” single in the US on December 2nd. Although not credited as such, “Never Learn Not To Love” is a Charles Manson song, which Dennis bought the rights to, along with giving Manson a BSA motorcycle, according to biographer Steven Gaines. When Manson hears the new version he is angered by Dennis’s decision to change his lyrics and is threatening murder.

According to Beach Boys collaborator Van Dyke Parks: “One day, Charles Manson brought a bullet out and showed it to Dennis, who asked, ‘What’s this?’ And Manson replied, ‘It’s a bullet. Every time you look at it, I want you to think how nice it is your kids are still safe.’ Well, Dennis grabbed Manson by the head and threw him to the ground and began pummeling him … I heard about it, but I wasn’t there.”  In 1971, when asked why he did not credit Manson, Dennis answered: “He didn’t want that. He wanted money instead. I gave him about a hundred thousand dollars’ worth of stuff.”

Post 20/20 Release – August 12, 1969:

Two days after sending his Family to the former home of Terry Melcher, where they committed the first of two murder sprees, later known as the Tate-LaBianca murders, Charles Manson arrives at Dennis’s new home in Los Angeles with a crazed look on his face. Dennis’s friend Gregg Jakobson is quoted in a police report as saying, “The electricity was almost pouring out of him, his hair was on end.” Dennis casually asks Manson where he has been. He replies, “To the moon”, and then asks for $1,500,000 in order to drive out into the desert. Dennis refuses. Manson is incensed and snaps back, “Don’t be surprised if you never see your kid again.” A few days later while Dennis is away in Canada, Gregg Jakobson is handed a .44 caliber bullet by Manson, who says to Jakobson, “Tell Dennis there are more where this came from”. Jakobson keeps this statement to himself, knowing how upset Dennis was about Manson’s first threat. Vincent Bugliosi, the DA instrumental in getting Manson and his followers convicted and locked down for life, calls Dennis in 1970 and asks him to testify against Manson after having received death threats, but Dennis cannot agree. He fears for his life and that of his son. Dennis tells Bugliosi, “I’m the luckiest guy in the world, because I got off only losing my money.”

Pictured: Various covers for the “Bluebirds Over The Mountain” single.

ON TOUR - London
Saturday, may 31st, 1969

David Hughes writes in Disc & Music Echo:

“At the sedate Hammersmith Odeon on Saturday, the world’s most popular active group turned an uncommonly apathetic first-house audience into rousing cheers with 50 non-stop minutes, taking in no less than 18 hits. The Beach Boys all looked happy, well fed and affluent. On stage they are an interesting mixture of personalities and temperaments. Bruce, as always, is the crowd-conscious one, always anxious to tell the audience how great it is to be in England again. Bruce is very versatile, switching from organ to bass guitar frequently with great agility.”

“Carl is still the leader, his voice missing the high notes just slightly on loud numbers, but still becomes quite overwhelmed by the reaction to “God Only Knows”. Mike Love has grown a beard, grown his hair (on the parts where it still grows, that is) and has acquired  an incredible white tunic/mini habit. Al Jardine keeps to himself and looks slightly worried when his amplification equipment stops working momentarily. His song on 20/20 was “Cotton Fields”. And Dennis Wilson, maybe because he never says anything, and always looks so wild and unpredictable, gets the bulk of the fan screams. Yet there were screams, plenty of them, and it will be a sad day when they stop”. 

Pictured: 1969 Tour Program


On Tour - Edmonton, Canada
December 2nd, 1969

The Beach Boys 7th Annual Thanksgiving Tour is on going and started on November 25th in Sioux Falls, SD. It will run until December 7th when the tour ends in Canada. What was once an enjoyable and highly profitable jaunt has turned into a miserable, low key operation with audience numbers struggling to reach even a couple hundred at some shows (Mitchell Corn Palace show in South Dakota for example). It is a dismal farewell to an otherwise memorable decade for the group.

To make matters worse, Dennis is still in fear over his and his sons’s life after recent threats from Charles Manson, and this comes to a head while The Beach Boys are away in Canada on December 2nd. Beach Boys co-manager Fred Vail receives a call telling him that Dennis’s son Scott is missing. Dennis wants to fly home immediately but this proves impossible. The news comes that Scott has been at a friend’s house throughout the day. “The friend’s Mom just assumed that [Dennis’s wife] Carole knew where Scottie was,” says Vail. “It was all an innocent mistake, a simple breakdown in communication. Denny was so relieved, he was a great dad, despite all the negative stories that have been told about him. He loved his family, first and foremost. When we got back to LA, the whole Manson thing broke. It dominated the news. I’m certain to this day that Denny felt Manson might have been involved in Scottie’s disappearance, thank God it was merely a coincidence.”

The Wilson’s mother Audree tells Rolling Stone: “When the horrible story came out about Manson’s arrest for the Sharon Tate murders, Annie, Carl’s wife, called me and said, “Ma, do you realize?” I did not connect at all that that was the same person and the same family that had been with Dennis. When she told me, I just totally froze. The next day, Dennis was at Carl and Annie’s home. I went there and we had dinner and we were all very quiet. Then, somebody said something, and Carl said “I don’t think we should talk about it.” So we just watched television and had a very quiet evening. We were totally terrified. I remember Carl saying, “Mom, lets all go back and stay at your house,” and I said, “Carl, everybody knows where I live. What good would that do?” So I stayed at their house a couple nights.” Thankfully, the new year and fresh decade will bring better luck for The Beach Boys. The Group’s love affair with their homeland is about to be rekindled. – Next Release

Pictured: (Top) Dennis Wilson rehearsing in Norman, Oklahoma May 2, 1969. (Bottom) Performing for French TV on June 16, 1969.