Sunflower (The Beach Boys album)
|Studio album by|
|Released||August 31, 1970|
|Recorded||June 1967 – July 21, 1970|
|Studio||Sunset Sound Recorders, Gold Star Studios, and Beach Boys Studio, Los Angeles|
|Producer||The Beach Boys|
|The Beach Boys chronology|
|Singles from Sunflower|
Sunflower is the 16th studio album by American rock band the Beach Boys, released in August 1970, and their first on Reprise Records. Despite being met with largely positive reviews, the album suffered unexpectedly poor sales, reaching number 151 on U.S. record charts during a four-week stay, and becoming the lowest-charting Beach Boys album to that point. In the UK, the album performed better, peaking at number 29.
Unlike their previous albums, Sunflower was composed entirely of original songwriting contributions from every member of the band. Its sessions began in the midst of legal battles with Capitol Records in January 1969 and ended 19 months later, by which time the group had signed with Reprise. Over 30 songs were written for the album, and the label had to reject numerous revisions of its track listing before the band presented enough formidable material deemed satisfactory for release. It was preceded by the similarly unsuccessful singles "Add Some Music to Your Day" and "Slip On Through"; later followed up with "Tears in the Morning" and "Forever". Only "Add Some Music" charted in the US, peaking at number 64.
In 2003, Sunflower was voted 380 in Rolling Stone's "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". In 1997, it was voted 66 in The Guardian's "100 Best Albums Ever". The track "All I Wanna Do" has been retrospectively cited as one of the earliest manifestations of chillwave, a microgenre that developed in the 2000s.
The Beach Boys' previous album 20/20 (1969) sold better than Friends (1968), peaking at number 3 in the UK and reaching number 68 in the US. Following its completion, the band engaged in recording sessions for what would have been their final album owed to Capitol Records. By 1969, Brian Wilson had begun using cocaine and was increasingly known for his reclusiveness and eccentric behavior, which affected his reputation within the music industry. On April 12, the group filed suit against Capitol for unpaid royalties and production duties in the amount of $2 million (equivalent to $13.7 million in 2018). Weeks later, Brian told the music press that the group's funds were depleted to the point that they were considering filing for bankruptcy at the end of the year, which Disc & Music Echo called "stunning news" and a "tremendous shock on the American pop scene". Brian hoped that the success of a forthcoming single, "Break Away", would mend their financial issues. He wrote the song with his father and ex-band manager Murry Wilson. It was released on June 16 with the B-side "Celebrate the News", a Dennis song, and peaked at number 63 in the US and number 6 in the UK. Brian's remarks in the press ultimately thwarted long-simmering contract negotiations with Deutsche Grammophon.
The group's contract expired on June 30 with one more album still due, after which Capitol deleted the Beach Boys' catalog from print, effectively cutting off their royalty flow. The lawsuit was later settled in their favor and they acquired the rights to their post-1965 catalog. In November, Murry sold the Sea of Tunes publishing company (including the rights to the majority of Brian's songs) to A&M Records' publishing division for $700,000 ($4.78 million in 2018). That same month, Charles Manson and his cult of followers were apprehended by police for the August Tate–LaBianca murders, and his former connections with Dennis Wilson and the Beach Boys became the subject of media attention. Manson was later convicted for several counts of murder and conspiracy to murder.
Since 1967, the group's reputation had fallen sharply in the US, but Warner Bros. executive Mo Ostin agreed to sign them to Reprise Records in 1970. This deal was brokered by Van Dyke Parks, a former collaborator of Brian's who was then employed as a multimedia executive at Warner Music Group. The contract dealt by Reprise stipulated Brian's proactive involvement with the band in all albums. Another part of the deal was to revive the Beach Boys' Brother Records imprint, initially founded during the Smile era and used only for the Smiley Smile album, and the "Heroes and Villains" and "Gettin' Hungry" singles before becoming dormant.
In chronological order, the working titles for the new album were Reverberation, Sun Flower, and then Add Some Music before finally reverting to the name Sunflower. After 20/20, Dennis was the first Beach Boy to head back into the recording studio, and the other members followed suit.[nb 1] Over this period, the Beach Boys worked on about four dozen studio tracks.[nb 2] By late 1969, the Beach Boys accumulated enough material for a new studio album, initially entitled Sun Flower, and assembled a provisional 14-song acetate shortly before achieving a record contract with Reprise. Its track listing follows:
|1.||"Slip On Through"|
|4.||"Games Two Can Play"|
|5.||"Add Some Music to Your Day"|
|6.||"When Girls Get Together"|
|7.||"Our Sweet Love"|
|8.||"Tears in the Morning"|
|10.||"Fallin' in Love"|
|11.||"I Just Got My Pay"|
The project was then renamed Add Some Music with the subheading An Album Offering From The Beach Boys while they finished several more songs.[nb 3] In early 1970 before leaving for a tour of Australia and New Zealand, they assembled Add Some Music and submitted the album to Reprise, which the label rejected. The track listing was as follows:
|Add Some Music, side one|
|3.||"Our Sweet Love"|
|4.||"Tears in the Morning"|
|5.||"When Girls Get Together"|
|6.||"Slip On Through"|
|Add Some Music, side two|
|1.||"Add Some Music to Your Day"|
|2.||"Take a Load Off Your Feet, Pete"|
|3.||"This Whole World"|
|4.||"I Just Got My Pay"|
|5.||"At My Window"|
|6.||"Fallin' in Love"|
Around this time, the band assembled an album for Capitol with some tracks that would later be placed on Sunflower. It had working titles of Reverberation and The Fading Rock Group Revival. Although a master tape (dated June 19, 1970) of songs was put together, this album was never released. It is unknown if Capitol rejected the album or if the Beach Boys never submitted it. Instead, they fulfilled their contract with the May 1970 album Live in London. Capitol had such little faith in the album that they chose to release it only where the Beach Boys' records were still selling respectably well—the UK.[nb 4]
|"Last Capitol Album" (Reverberation)[nb 5]|
|1.||"Cottonfields" (single version)|
|2.||"Loop de Loop"|
|3.||"All I Wanna Do"|
|4.||"Got to Know the Woman" (mono mix)|
|5.||"When Girls Get Together" (track only)|
|8.||"Celebrate the News"|
|10.||"The Lord's Prayer" (stereo remix)|
After consideration of Add Some Music and the failed Reprise single, "Add Some Music to Your Day", Mo Ostin suggested that the group offer a few stronger tracks or their days at Reprise Records would be short-lived. The band was unhappy, but went into the studio one last time. During February 1970, they started to assemble what would subsequently be known as Sunflower and finished its last two songs in July 1970: "Cool, Cool Water" and "It's About Time".
The album begins with "Slip On Through", written and sung by Dennis. Brian later recalled "It was a really dynamic song. Dennis, I was very proud of, because he really rocked and rolled on that one. Dennis did really interesting energetic things on that." "This Whole World" was composed and written by Brian, who noted inspiration from "[his] love of the world, how [he loves] people, and how people should be free." Carl sings lead vocals while Brian sings in the background; their voices were double-tracked, as was common practice for many of their recordings. Brian also recounted the writing of "Add Some Music to Your Day", saying: "I think we wrote it my house in Bel Air. It was written by me and Mike and Joe Knott, who was a friend of mine who wasn't a songwriter but he contributed a couple of lines. But I can’t remember which ones! The lyrics are wonderful." "Got to Know the Woman" is another Dennis composition, which White noted was "one of the few Beach Boys songs that could honestly be called funky, its tinkly Dixieland piano a perfect foil for the coarse frivolity of the verses, which contain a boorish come-on to the object of one’s lowest bump-and-grind fantasies. "Deirdre" was primarily written by Bruce Johnston with lyrical contributions from Brian. Side one concludes with "It's About Time", an autobiographical rocker written by Dennis, Al Jardine, and outside writer Bob Burchman about the pitfalls of stardom and fame.
Side two opens with Johnston's second original, "Tears in the Morning", a melodramatic song with strings, horns, and accordions. The Brian Wilson–Mike Love song "All I Wanna Do" was referred to by AllMusic as "possibly one of the most beautiful and unusual songs and recordings" on Sunflower with an arrangement consisting of synthesizers, rotating organ, and pronounced reverb. "Forever" is the album's final original from Dennis, co-written with friend Gregg Jakobson; Brian praised the song saying: "'Forever' has to be the most harmonically beautiful thing I've ever heard. It's a rock and roll prayer." Jardine wrote the lyrics to "At My Window" about a bird, for which Brian also received a songwriting credit. "Cool, Cool Water" was an outtake extracted from 1967 Smiley Smile sessions, later attempted for Wild Honey. Lenny Waronker, then an A&R executive at Warner Music Group, heard the unfinished tape, and convinced Wilson to finish the track for Sunflower. Waronker was so impressed with the song's inspired simplicity, that he noted, "If I ever get the opportunity to produce Brian, I'd encourage him to do something that combined the vividness of 'Good Vibrations' with the non-commercial gentleness of 'Cool, Cool Water.'"[nb 6]
After the release of Sunflower, Stephen Desper assembled a collection of songs consisting mostly of Sunflower outtakes deemed suitable for a follow-up album, named Landlocked.[nb 7] Landlocked eventually evolved into Surf's Up. It was long thought that Landlocked was a complete album that was scrapped by the Beach Boys in between Sunflower and Surf's Up, but according to Beach Boys writer Andrew Doe, it was proven that such an album never existed.
Several songs which were cut from Sunflower eventually saw release in other formats. In 1970, Dennis' "Fallin' in Love" was renamed "Lady" and released as an A-side single credited to "Dennis Wilson & Rumbo". In 1972, "Good Time" was released as a single with new vocals by American Spring. Later, "Good Time" was placed on The Beach Boys Love You (1977) with its original vocals. In 1980, "When Girls Get Together" was released on Keepin' the Summer Alive.
The picture of the band on the front sleeve, featuring all six group members, was taken on the golf course at Dean Martin's Hidden Valley Ranch near Thousand Oaks in Ventura County, California. Dean's son Ricci Martin, a friend of the band, took the photograph, also featuring Brian's daughter Wendy, Al's first son Matthew, Mike's children Hayleigh and Christian, and Carl's son Jonah. The inner gatefold spread on the original vinyl LP featured a series of photographs taken by designer/photographer Ed Thrasher at the Warner Bros. studio backlot.
Release and legacy
|Christgau's Record Guide||A–|
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
|Pitchfork (Sunflower/Surf's Up reissue)||8.9/10|
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
The album was preceded by the singles "Add Some Music to Your Day" (B-side "Susie Cincinnati") and "Slip On Through" (B-side "This Whole World"). Reprise was so excited about "Add Some Music to Your Day" that they convinced retailers to carry more copies of it than they ever had for any other Reprise single, but disc jockeys refused to play it on the radio. "Add Some Music to Your Day" peaked at No. 64 during a five-week stay, while "Slip On Through" did not chart at all.
After recording over 30 different songs and going through several album titles, Sunflower was released in August 1970. The album received considerable critical acclaim upon release in both the US and the UK, with one British writer declaring it the Beach Boys' analogue to Sgt. Pepper. This was offset by the album reaching only No. 151 on US record charts during a four-week stay, becoming the worst selling Beach Boys album at that point. Jim Miller praised the album for Rolling Stone, calling it "without doubt the best Beach Boys album in recent memory, a stylistically coherent tour de force", but mused: "It makes one wonder though whether anyone still listens to their music, or could give a shit about it." In The Village Voice, Robert Christgau said that as a coming-of-age record from the Beach Boys, Sunflower is "far more satisfying, I suspect, than Smile ever would have been". He added that the "same medium-honest sensibility" and Southern California ethos of their 1960s music remains, "only now they sing about broken marriages and the pleasure of life. Still a lot of fun too."
Pitchfork later called the album "perhaps the strongest album they released post-Pet Sounds", while Keith Phipps from The A.V. Club said "the album features one of The Beach Boys' most coherent and lovely selections of music." Paste wrote that the album "was, in many respects, their Abbey Road—a lush production that signaled an end to the 1960s, the decade that gave them creative flight. Sunflower was, in fact, largely produced by the youngest Wilson brother, Carl. Dennis Wilson contributed four stellar new compositions as well. Brian Wilson also wrote a number of new tracks at the time, many of which embody the 'Bedroom' aesthetic at its most pure—sweet melodies set to intimate lyrics and tender falsetto vocals." Popdose declared that "it stands as the definitive post-Pet Sounds Beach Boys album". The A.V. Club believed: "Sunflower is like the band’s answer to the wave of 'sunshine pop' and 'bubblegum' acts that had emerged over the previous couple of years, showing that no one could write and record slick, melodic, harmony-drenched songs quite like The Beach Boys."
|1.||"Slip On Through"||Dennis Wilson||Dennis Wilson||2:17|
|2.||"This Whole World"||Brian Wilson||Carl Wilson||1:56|
|3.||"Add Some Music to Your Day"||Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, C. Wilson, D. Wilson, Brian Wilson, and Al Jardine||3:34|
|4.||"Got to Know the Woman"||D. Wilson||D. Wilson||2:41|
|5.||"Deirdre"||Johnston with B. Wilson||3:27|
|6.||"It's About Time"||C. Wilson with Love||2:55|
|1.||"Tears in the Morning"||Johnston||Johnston||4:07|
|2.||"All I Wanna Do"||Love with Johnston||2:34|
|4.||"Our Sweet Love"||C. Wilson||2:38|
|5.||"At My Window"||Johnston with B. Wilson||2:30|
|6.||"Cool, Cool Water"||B. Wilson and Love||5:03|
European and South-American track listing
This variation of the album was released by EMI subsidiary, Stateside Records, in November 1970. Its opening track was "Cottonfields." "Got to Know the Woman" and "Deirdre" were placed in inverse order on side 1. The contents of the individual tracks were unchanged. This track listing has been superseded with the regular Sunflower running order, now released worldwide.
The Beach Boys
Additional production staff
- Michel Colombier – arranger for "Tears In The Morning", "Deirdre", and "Our Sweet Love"
- Stephen Desper – chief engineer and mixer
- Ricci Martin – cover photo
- Ed Thrasher – original art direction and innerspread photography
|The Guardian||United Kingdom||100 Best Albums Ever||1997||66|
|Rolling Stone||United States||500 Greatest Albums of All Time||2003||380|
|Sunday Herald||United Kingdom||The 103 Best Albums Ever, Honest||2001||N/A|
Chart information courtesy of Allmusic and other music databases.
|1970||Dutch Album Chart||10|
|1970||UK Top 40 Album Chart||29|
|1970||US Billboard 200 Albums Chart||151|
- US Singles
|1970||"Add Some Music to Your Day"||US Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart||64|
- He produced five tracks in the first two months of 1969: "Forever", "San Miguel", "Got to Know the Woman", "What Can the Matter Be?", and "Celebrate the News". Bruce Johnston's "Deirdre" was also recorded during these sessions. In early March the entire band went into the studio to record "Loop de Loop" and "All I Wanna Do", and also finish Dennis's "Forever".
- Many were outtakes: "Loop de Loop (Flip Flop Flyin' in an Aeroplane)" was a Brian Wilson/Carl Wilson/Jardine composition completed by Jardine in July 1998 for the Endless Harmony Soundtrack; "San Miguel" a Dennis Wilson/Gregg Jakobson composition released in 1981 for Ten Years of Harmony; and "What Can the Matter Be?" After they were done recording "Breakaway", the band went on a tour of Europe. When they got back, they recorded two more Dennis songs, one of which being "Slip On Through", and the other was the outtake "I'm Going Your Way".
- "This Whole World", "Tears in the Morning" and "Add Some Music to Your Day". In addition, they recorded "Our Sweet Love" and several more tracks reduced to outtakes.
- The live album finally appeared as an official American release in 1976.
- Every outtake associated with this master tape has seen an official release in subsequent years.
- In 1988, Waronker realized this wish in "Rio Grande", a song he co-produced for Brian's debut solo album.
- The songs were "Loop De Loop", "Susie Cincinnati", "San Miguel", "H.E.L.P. Is on the Way", "Take a Load Off Your Feet", "Carnival" (aka "Over The Waves"), "I Just Got My Pay", "Good Time", "Big Sur", "Lady", "When Girls Get Together", "Lookin' at Tomorrow", and "'Til I Die".
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- "Song Premiere: The Bright Light Social Hour "All I Wanna Do" (Beach Boys Cover)". Relix. March 14, 2016.
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- Love 2016, pp. 161, 292.
- Carlin 2006, pp. 165, 172–175.
- Gaines 1986, p. 221.
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- Badman 2004.
- Carlin 2006, p. 149.
- Badman 2004, p. 238.
- Carlin 2006, p. 145.
- Carlin 2006, p. 169.
- Love 2016, pp. 213–214.
- Carlin 2006, p. 150.
- White, Timothy (2000). Sunflower/Surf's Up (CD Liner). The Beach Boys. Capitol Records.
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- Carlin 2006, p. 153.
- Wilson, Brian (May 1977). "I'm a Pooper, Not a Buzzer". Crawdaddy!: 63.
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- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-06-30. Retrieved 2008-02-29.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
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- The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Concise (4th Edition), Virgin Books (UK), 2002, ed. Larkin, Colin.
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- Brackett, Nathan; with Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). New York, NY: Fireside/Simon & Schuster. p. 46. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
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- Carlin, Peter Ames (2006). Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson. Rodale. ISBN 978-1-59486-320-2.
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