20/20 is the fifteenth studio album by American rock group the Beach Boys, released on February 10, 1969 and their last studio album released with Capitol Records that contained new material for the next seventeen years. Produced by the Beach Boys, the album includes songs that span across variety of different genres including hard rock, country and psychedelic pop. The lead single "Do It Again" was the band's first attempt at revisiting the surf sound they abandoned eight albums prior and it charted at number one on the UK and Australian charts.
20/20 got its name from being the Beach Boys' twentieth album release when compilations were included in the tally. A collage inside the gatefold depicts Brian Wilson behind an eye examination chart as a play on the title. It reached number three in the UK and number 68 in the US.
A short time after the release of Friends in June 1968, Brian Wilson, due to growing mental instability and addiction to cocaine entered a psychiatric hospital for a brief period of time. Though Brian held writing credits on over half of 20/20, and occasionally contributed during recording sessions, large portions of his writing were sourced from material worked on prior to June 1968.
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 for the production of 20/20. Carl produced a version of Phil Spector's "I Can Hear Music," giving the band their last US 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 featuring a fade-out of Dennis and an unknown woman having sexual intercourse. "Never Learn Not to Love" derives from a Charles Manson song given to Dennis by Manson originally titled "Cease to Exist". Dennis reworked the track and Manson was reportedly infuriated by the alteration of his original work, and he made threats toward Dennis in response.
Bruce Johnston had been waiting to contribute to the band after years in a supporting role. 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. His second contribution was a cover of Ersel Hickey's "Bluebirds Over the Mountain". Begun in September 1967 as a potential solo single, it was completed with Carl Wilson's help during the album's late 1968 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.
"Cabinessence" was recorded October-December 1966 except for Carl Wilson vocal on verses, which was recorded November 1968. "Our Prayer" was tracked October 4, 1966, but as it was recorded in a single microphone, the track was in mono; because of this, overdubs were recorded November 1968 to create a stereo mix. Both of these tracks and the "Workshop" tag on the album version of "Do it Again" derived from the Brian Wilson led Smile sessions; "Time to Get Alone," begun during the Wild Honey sessions but according to engineer Stephen Desper, was newly recorded for 20/20. Initially intended for Three Dog Night, when they were known as "Redwood", it has been cited by reviewers as a highlight of 20/20.
Released in February 1969, 20/20 sold better than Friends, charting as high as number three in the UK and reaching a moderate number 68 in the US. It was followed up by the single-only release of "Break Away" (co-authored under a pseudonym by Murry Wilson with son Brian), which only succeeded in the UK.
The 20/20 album has had many of its songs performed live at some point or another with some becoming concert staples. 8 of the songs have been played by either The Beach Boys or Brian Wilson with Do It Again becoming a concert staple and often being played as the opening song as it was on the bands 50th Anniversary Tour. I Can Hear Music was also a regularly played until Carl WIlson's death in 1998. Cotton Fields was also performed many times over the years by The Beach Boys as well as by Brian Wilson when he has been joined by Al Jardine on tour.
The Beach Boys never performed Our Prayer live until their 50th anniversary reunion tour; at the June 24, 2012 show, "Our Prayer" was performed as an intro to "Heroes and Villains", however it was only performed several times. Brian Wilson has performed the song live on may of his tours. Wilson has also performed Cabinessence many times however it has mainly been done in its SMiLE arrangement. Bluebirds over the Mountain has been played several times by The Beach Boys and also regularly by the Mike Love and Bruce Johnston led Beach Boys on their European tours.
All I Want to Do was performed several times following the albums release and a live version is featured on The Beach Boys "Made in California" box set. Time to Get Alone was performed for the first time in 2002 by Brian Wilson and has been played a handful of times since.