20/20 is the fifteenth studio album by American rock group the Beach Boys, released in February 1969. It reached number three on UK record charts and number 68 in the US. 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.
As the fourth-consecutive album not to be produced by Wilson alone, the album includes songs that span across variety of different genres including hard rock, country and psychedelic pop. Wilson was absent during most of the album's recording after admitting himself into a psychiatric hospital, requiring Carl and Dennis Wilson to retrieve several outtakes he had recorded years earlier.
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.[need quotation to verify] 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.