Break Away (The Beach Boys song)

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"Break Away"
Beach Boys - Break Away.jpg
Single by The Beach Boys
B-side "Celebrate the News"
Released June 16, 1969[1]
Format Vinyl
Recorded March 31; April 23, 1969
Genre Rock
Length 2:56
Label Capitol
Songwriter(s) Brian Wilson, Reggie Dunbar
Producer(s) Brian Wilson, Murry Wilson
The Beach Boys singles chronology
"I Can Hear Music"
"Break Away"
"Add Some Music to Your Day"
"I Can Hear Music"
"Break Away"
"Add Some Music to Your Day"

"Break Away" is a song written by Brian and Murry Wilson for American rock band the Beach Boys, released as a single in 1969. Murry was credited as lyricist under the pseudonym "Reggie Dunbar". The single was relatively unsuccessful compared to the group's releases, and charted at #63 in the US Billboard 100 (top 40 in the Cash Box and Record World charts). "Break Away" sold better abroad, reaching #6 on the United Kingdom charts, #10 in Ireland, #17 in the Netherlands, #20 in New Zealand, and #29 in Germany.

It was the last release (aside from the single "Cool, Cool Water") on which Brian was named as producer until "Child of Winter (Christmas Song)" in 1974.[citation needed]


According to Brian Wilson, his father Murry came up with the idea from watching The Joey Bishop Show on television while it proclaimed, "We're gonna break away for a minute and we'll be right back!". Brian, at his piano, then composed the song with Murry as they "plunked and plunked and plunked" and "finally got a song going." When asked why Murry used a pseudonym, Brian responded: "I don't know. He was nutty. He was crazy, that was his fictitious name."[2] At another time, Brian has said that The Monkees inspired him to write this song.[citation needed]

"Break Away" features Carl Wilson singing verses and Al Jardine on the chorus; some[who?] have stated that Murry Wilson (who co-wrote the song) recorded the bass part of the song while Mike Love was away. Initially, the song was planned to be released with Brian Wilson singing the first verse, as included on the 2001 compilation, Hawthorne, CA and bootlegged rough mixes of the song.

Some commentators[who?] have suggested that the title of the song contains a hidden message of relief, as The Beach Boys were "breaking away" from Capitol Records with their final single for the label. Capitol had been under-promoting The Beach Boys (not knowing how to change from publicizing them as a purely street-surf-summer band) and under-documenting their sales. Having sued their record company, The Beach Boys were glad to break away from that relationship.

Single release[edit]

The "Break Away" single backed with "Celebrate the News" was released through Capitol Records in the United States in June 1969. It was the band's final single of the 1960s and its penultimate single with Capitol Records before moving on to Warner Brothers. The single peaked at the number 63 spot on the Billboard charts; number 35 in Record World and number 38 in Cash Box. The single was also released through Capitol Records in the same month in the United Kingdom, being the band's final single of the 1960s there. Capitol re-released it in Britain in June 1975, although on that occasion the single failed to make any impact on the charts.

On regional US charts the single made the Beach Boys' weakest showing in major markets since the Christmas single "The Man with All the Toys" five years earlier. Notable success was seen in Council Bluffs-Omaha (#4), Indianapolis (#10), Columbus (#11), Hannibal MS (#12), Calgary (#14), Hartford and Fargo (both #16). Settling on the bottom rung of top twenty in Los Angeles and Fresno, it stalled in the top thirty in Chicago, Sacramento, and minor playlists of New England (Manchester, New Haven, Cape Cod). It made only scattered showings on playlists of the Southern United States but for its emergence at a joint #18 in Jacksonville, Ft Lauderdale and Valdosta across Florida-Georgia; low top 30 in Tampa and Sarasota (and in Cleveland, Omaha and Kansas City); top 40 in Atlanta (and New York and Seattle elsewhere).

Typically for that era, the single fared much better in Britain, peaking at the number 6 position. It was number 10 in Malaysia and Ireland, number 17 in The Netherlands, number 20 in New Zealand, number 29 in Germany and number 38 in Canada. It would be the band's last single to chart in Germany until 1987.

Neither side of the single appeared on a regular Beach Boys LP. "Break Away" made its album debut in 1975 as part of the Spirit of America compilation, and then the UK compilation 20 Golden Greats, in 1976. "Celebrate the News" also appeared on Rarities with an alternate version. Both later appeared as a bonus track on the two-in-one CD for Friends and 20/20.

Live versions[edit]

The song was played live following its release in 1969 but has not been played since. However Brian Wilson did perform the song regularly during his 2005 solo tour, with Wilson taking over the lead voice originally provided by his brother Carl. The group lip-synched this tune on the German TV show "Beat Club", in black and white with psychedelic production. Episode #43, near the show's finish. This clip was later used on American cable shows such as Radio 1990 and VH1.


  1. ^ Badman, Keith. The Beach Boys. The Definitive Diary of America's Greatest Band: On Stage and in the Studio Backbeat Books, San Francisco, California, 2004. ISBN 0-87930-818-4 p. 250
  2. ^ Sharp, Ken (January 2006). "Christmas with Brian Wilson". Record Collector. United Kingdom: 72–76. 

External links[edit]