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Never Learn Not to Love

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"Never Learn Not to Love"
Never Learn Not to Love.jpg
Single by The Beach Boys
from the album 20/20
A-side "Bluebirds over the Mountain"
Released December 2, 1968
Format 7" single[1]
Recorded September 11 and 16–18, 1968,
Brian Wilson's home studio, Los Angeles, California
Genre Psychedelic pop[2]
Length 2:08 (single version)[3]
2:31 (album version)[2]
Label Capitol
The Beach Boys singles chronology
"Do It Again"
"Never Learn Not to Love"
"I Can Hear Music"
"Do It Again"
"Bluebirds over the Mountain"
"I Can Hear Music"

"Never Learn Not to Love" is a song recorded by the American rock band the Beach Boys, credited to Dennis Wilson, and released as the B-side to the group's "Bluebirds over the Mountain" single on December 2, 1968. In 1969, "Never Learn Not to Love" was included on the Beach Boys' 15th studio album 20/20. The song was actually an altered version of "Cease to Exist", composed by aspiring folk singer-songwriter and later convicted murder-conspirator Charles Manson. Musically, Wilson deviated from Manson's blues influence, reworking it to fit the band's pop-oriented approach.

A level of intrigue surrounds the song chiefly because of Manson's hand in its creation and his brief relationship with Wilson. Soon after the release of "Never Learn Not to Love", Manson, along with his "Family", was infamously convicted of several murders. Manson himself recorded the original arrangement of the song for his debut album Lie: The Love and Terror Cult, released in March 1970. Reception toward "Never Learn to Love" is often mixed, considering its sinister background, but music critics credit Manson's rendition as his most accomplished work. Since its original distribution, the song appears on several compilation albums by the Beach Boys.


As a result of a chance encounter in late spring 1968, according to some accounts, drummer Dennis Wilson was driving through Malibu when he picked up two hitchhiking women of the Manson Family, Patricia Krenwinkel and Ella Jo Bailey, and brought them to his house in Pacific Palisades for a few hours. Returning home in the morning of the following day from a night time recording session with The Beach Boys, Wilson was unexpectedly greeted in the driveway of the residence by the Family's leader, Charles Manson.[4][5] At first, Wilson was frightened by Manson, but Manson assured him he came with no intent to harm Wilson and began kissing his shoes.[6] The two struck a friendship and, over the next few months, members of the Manson Family – mostly women who were treated as servants – were housed at Wilson's Sunset Boulevard household, reportedly costing him approximately $100,000 (U.S.).[7][8]

An aspiring folk singer-songwriter, Manson discussed and presented Wilson some of his self-penned material. Convinced of Manson's talents, Wilson paid for studio time to record songs performed by Manson and introduced him to his acquaintances in the music industry, including Gregg Jakobson, Terry Melcher, and Rudi Altobelli.[6] Manson began utilizing Brian Wilson's home studio with co-productions by Brian and Carl Wilson.[9] Much of the recordings were not demos, but rather polished studio productions of songs, including perhaps "Cease to Exist", which was re-recorded for Manson's only studio album, Lie: The Love and Terror Cult.[10][11]

According to writer Peter Ames Carlin, Manson penned "Cease to Exist" specifically for the Beach Boys to record.[12] In exchange for his rights to "Cease to Exist", Manson received a sum of cash and a BSA motorcycle which he later gave to Family member "Little" Paul Watkins.[13] When Wilson acquired the song from him, for the most part, he abided Manson's original specifications. However, in an attempt to better accomandate the group's trademark vocal harmonies, Wilson reworked the song's bluesy structure and added another bridge. In addition, "Cease to Exist"'s lyrics were also partially altered (most notably the opening lyric "Cease to exist" to "Cease to resist"), and the title of the song was changed to "Never Learn Not to Love" as a result, much to Manson's indignation.[12][14] The Beach Boys recorded the track at Brian Wilson's home studio on September 11 and 16–18, 1968.[15]

Release and reception[edit]

"Never Learn Not to Love" was released as the B-side to "Bluebirds over the Mountain" on December 2, 1968.[16] The A-side reached number 61 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 33 on the UK Singles Chart.[2] The song was later featured on the Beach Boys' album 20/20 on February 10, 1969.[17] When Manson discovered he was uncredited on the single, he was furious and threatened Dennis Wilson with murder. Beach Boys collaborator Van Dyke Parks recalled "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'".[18] Wilson confronted Manson about the incident, realizing Manson's growing erratic behavior, and ended their friendship soon after.[7]

During Manson's trial for the conspiracy-murders of seven people, he released his debut studio album, Lie: The Love and Terror Cult, on March 6, 1970. Consisting of 13 tracks recorded between 1967 and 1968, it included Manson's original arrangement of "Cease to Exist". Approximately 2,000 copies of Lie were distributed, but only 300 albums were reportedly sold.[19][20]

Music critic Bruce Eder, in a review for the AllMusic website, wrote the Beach Boys "brush up against the dark side of the '60s, in the form of 'Never Learn Not to Love'".[21] In his assessment of the song, Richie Unterberger commented "Never Learn Not to Love" is far more notorious for its relation to Manson, not the music itself which he describes as "average".[22] Author Carl Larkin, in his book The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, wrote the track "had the ironic distinction of putting Charles Manson in the charts".[23] Journalist Nathan Jolly called the song "softer but still eerie", also noting how fans of the Beach Boys who listened to the song over the years "had no idea of the inherent evil of its actual composer".[24] Throughout the years, "Never Learn Not to Love" has appeared on several other Beach Boys compilations, including Capitol Years, Goodbye Surfing, Hello God, Ah, Feel Like Acid, and Endless Bummer: The Very Worst of the Beach Boys.[25]

In a review of Manson's album, his rendition of "Cease to Exist" was regarded as "one of Manson's signature performances, and has justifiably invited comparison with Jim Croce and José Feliciano".[19] Critic Michael Little considers Manson's version superior to the Beach Boys', having praise especially for Manson's vocals. Naturally, Little attests, "you expect a tattered, raw, and raggedy voice, with a touch of lunatic rage, but what you get is a smooth-voiced folk singer".[26] He also wrote that Manson's raw, stripped-down take "gives the song an impressive lo-fi immediacy that is a million miles away from the Beach Boys' treatment".[26]



Production staff[edit]

Note: Credits adapted from the liner notes of Friends/ 20/20, released on Capitol Records.[2]


  1. ^ "The Singles: 1961–2012". The Beach Boys. Retrieved February 2, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d Leaf, David (1990). Friends / 20/20 (liner notes). Capitol Records. CDP-7-93697-2. 
  3. ^ "The Beach Boys Never Learn Not to Love". Swiss Charts. Retrieved February 4, 2017. 
  4. ^ Hewitt, Paolo (2011). Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky. Hachette Book Group. pp. 124–125. ISBN 978-1-62365-223-4. 
  5. ^ Sanford, Christopher (2008). Polanski: A Biography. St. Martin's Press. p. 134. ISBN 978-0-230-61176-4. 
  6. ^ a b Bugliosi, Vincent (1994). Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders 25th Anniversary Edition. W.W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-08700-X. 
  7. ^ a b Webb, Adam. "The Lonely One". The Guardian. Retrieved January 8, 2017. 
  8. ^ Pelisek, Christine. "How Beach Boy Dennis Wilson Spent $100,000 Supporting Charles Manson's Family". People. Retrieved January 8, 2017. 
  9. ^ Manson, Charles (1994). Manson in His Own Words. Grove/Atlantic, Incorporated. p. 167. ISBN 978-0-8021-3024-2. 
  10. ^ Doe, Andrew. "Unreleased". Endless Summer Quarterly. Retrieved January 8, 2017. 
  11. ^ Nolan, Tom. "The Beach Boys: A California Saga, Part II". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 8, 2017. 
  12. ^ a b Carlin,Peter Ames (2006). Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall Redemption of the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson. Rodale Inc. p. 138. ISBN 1-59486-320-2. 
  13. ^ Sanders, Ed (2002). The Family. Da Capo Press. p. 64. ISBN 1-56025-396-7. 
  14. ^ McKinney, Devin (2003). Magic Circles: The Beatles in Dream and History. Harvard University Press. p. 284. ISBN 978-0-674-01202-8. 
  15. ^ "Recordings sessions: 1968". Endless Summer Quarterly. Retrieved January 8, 2017. 
  16. ^ Badman, Keith (2004). The Beach Boys. The Definitive Diary of America's Greatest Band: On Stage and in the Studio. Backbeat Books. p. 232. ISBN 0-87930-818-4. 
  17. ^ Schmidt, Arthur. "The Beach Boys: 20/20". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 8, 2016. 
  18. ^ Sanders, Ed (2002). The Family. Da Capo Press. p. 261. ISBN 1-56025-396-7. 
  19. ^ a b "Lie: The Love and Terror Cult – Review". AllMusic. Retrieved January 7, 2017. 
  20. ^ Lofton, Daniel. "How Charles Manson's Music Finally Saw the Light of Day". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved January 8, 2017. 
  21. ^ Eder, Bruce. "Friends/20/20 – Review". AllMusic. Retrieved January 9, 2017. 
  22. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "20/20 – Review". AllMusic. Retrieved January 9, 2017. 
  23. ^ Larkin, Carl (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Omnibus Press. p. 125. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8. 
  24. ^ Jolly, Nathan. "The Beach Boys and Charles Manson". Retrieved January 9, 2017. 
  25. ^ "Never Learn Not to Love – Appearances". Allmusic. Retrieved January 9, 2017. 
  26. ^ a b Little, Michael. "Graded on a Curve: Beach Boys "Bluebirds over the Mountain" b/w "Never Learn Not to Love"". The Vinyl District. Retrieved January 9, 2017.