Sunflower (album)

Studio album by The Beach Boys
Released August 31, 1970
Recorded sporadically from
January 9, 1969 to
July 21, 1970
Genre Rock, jazz fusion, sunshine pop, pop ballad, chillwave, avant garde
Length 36:55
Label Brother/Reprise
Producer The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys chronology
Surf's Up

Sunflower is the sixteenth studio album by American rock group The Beach Boys, their first on Reprise Records. The album achieved number 151 on the US albums chart during a four week stay, becoming the lowest charting Beach Boys album until 1978's M.I.U. Album equalled it. It reached #29 in the UK.

The album's critical reputation has grown since its original appearance. In 2003, the album was ranked number 380 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[1] Sunflower is now paired on CD with Surf's Up. In 2009, it was re-released on LP by Capitol Records.



Early Sessions

After their last album, 20/20, Dennis Wilson was the first Beach Boy to head back into the recording studio, producing 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 up Dennis's "Forever".

On April 12, The Beach Boys sued Capitol Records for unpaid royalties and unpaid production fees in the amount of two million dollars. This was the second time that they had sued Capitol (the first being in the spring of 1967), and it may have contributed to a lack of promotion of The Beach Boys' final Capitol releases.

They then turned their attention to "Break Away", written by Brian Wilson and his father Murry, who used the pseudonym Reggie Dunbar. At the time, it was thought that it would be their last single for Capitol and was a very small hit in the U.S., where it reached number 63. It did much better overseas, peaking at number six in the UK. "Celebrate the News" was the b-side, and neither song was released on a Beach Boys album.

After they were done recording "Break Away", the band went on a tour of Europe. When they got back, they recorded two more Dennis Wilson songs, "Slip on Through" and "I'm Going Your Way". Next on the agenda was a rerecording of "Cotton Fields", a Lead Belly song that was released on The Beach Boys previous album, 20/20. Al Jardine was the producer for this recording of the song.

A new record label

After giving Live in London to Capitol, the band began to work seriously on a new album. In October and November 1969, they started recording "Walkin'", "Games Two Can Play", "Add Some Music to Your Day", "When Girls Get Together", "Soulful Old Man Sunshine", "Raspberries, Strawberries", "This Whole World", and "Tears in the Morning". They also continued work on Dennis's "Slip on Through".

In fall of 1969, The Beach Boys intensified work on their new project. Their reputation had fallen sharply in the US since 1967, but Mo Ostin decided to sign them to Reprise Records in November (reportedly on Van Dyke Parks' urging) despite Brian Wilson's personal attempts at sabotage by painting his face green before meeting with label executives. Part of the deal was to revive their 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.

Add Some Music sessions

After signing their new contracts, The Beach Boys redoubled their efforts in the studio, finishing up "Tears in the Morning" and "Add Some Music to Your Day", the latter of which was going to serve as the title of the new album. In addition, they recorded nine new songs: "Susie Cincinnati", "Fallin' in Love", "Carnival", "I Just Got My Pay", "Take a Load Off Your Feet", "Good Time", "Back Home", and "Our Sweet Love". A rough piano run-through of The Beatles' "You Never Give Me Your Money" was also taped.

After the final session (on February 2, to add car sound effects to "Susie Cincinnati"), they started to assemble the album, and released the lead single, "Add Some Music to Your Day". Reprise was so excited about the single that they convinced retailers to carry more copies of it than they ever had for any other Reprise single. Unfortunately for the band, the single (with the B-side "Susie Cincinnati") did not sell as well as they had hoped, only reaching number 64 on the Billboard top 100 chart.

After the Reprise single failed, Capitol Records released their last Beach Boys single, "Cottonfields". While it failed to chart in the US, the song hit #1 in Australia, Sweden, and Norway, and hit #5 in the UK. Before leaving for a tour of Australia and New Zealand, they finished putting the album together and submitted it to the label. Called Add Some Music, the album was rejected by Reprise. After listening to it, and after the failure of the lead single, Mo Ostin suggested that they come up with 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.


After returning from an extended tour of Australia and New Zealand, the band assembled an album from unused Add Some Music material which would finish their commitment to Capitol. It had working titles of Reverberation and The Fading Rock Group Revival. Although 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. The Beach Boys fulfilled their contract with 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. That business decision forced fans around the world into record stores to 'special order' the import version. The live album finally appeared as an official American release in 1976.

Final Sunflower sessions

The Beach Boys recorded the last two Sunflower songs in July 1970. The first, recorded at the behest of Lenny Waronker, was "Cool, Cool Water". Waronker, then an A&R executive at Warner Music, 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."

The other song that they recorded was "It's About Time", a rocker that briefly became a concert staple for them. Bruce Johnston also rerecorded his vocal to "Tears in the Morning". After recording over 30 different songs, and going through several different album titles, The Beach Boys' Sunflower was finally released in August 1970.


The picture of the band on the front sleeve, featuring all six group members, was taken on the golf course at the family ranch owned by Dean Martin (named The Hidden Valley Ranch) near Thousand Oaks in Ventura County, CA. Dean's son Ricci Martin, a friend of the band, took the photograph, also featuring Brian's daughter Carnie, Alan's first son Matthew (later an auxiliary Beach Boy himself), Mike's children Hayleigh and Christian (the latter a current touring member of the Beach Boys Band), 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 Brothers studio backlot.

Critical reaction

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[2]
Pitchfork Media (8.9/10)[3]
Robert Christgau (A-)[4]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[5]
RS Album Guide 5/5 stars[6]
Blender 4/5 stars[7]

Despite not being the hit it was expected to be, Sunflower has been received well by critics. Rolling Stone magazine gave the album four stars, saying it is one of the Beach Boys' best albums. Music critic Robert Christgau gave it an A-. The album has gained more popularity since its release. In 2003, Rolling Stone named it the 380th Best Album of All Time in its 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.

Track listing

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Lead Vocals Length
1. "Slip on Through"   Dennis Wilson Dennis Wilson 2:17
2. "This Whole World"   Brian Wilson Brian and Carl Wilson 1:56
3. "Add Some Music to Your Day"   B. Wilson/Joe Knott/Mike Love Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, C. Wilson, B. Wilson, and Al Jardine 3:34
4. "Got to Know the Woman"   D. Wilson D. Wilson 2:41
5. "Deirdre"   Bruce Johnston/B. Wilson Johnston 3:27
6. "It's About Time"   D. Wilson/Carl Wilson/Bob Burchman/Al Jardine C. Wilson 2:55
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Lead Vocals Length
1. "Tears in the Morning"   Johnston Johnston 4:07
2. "All I Wanna Do"   B. Wilson/Love Love and B. Wilson 2:34
3. "Forever"   D. Wilson/Gregg Jakobson D. Wilson 2:40
4. "Our Sweet Love"   B. Wilson/C. Wilson/Jardine C. Wilson 2:38
5. "At My Window"   B. Wilson/Jardine Johnston 2:30
6. "Cool, Cool Water"   B. Wilson/Love B. Wilson and Love 5:03

European 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.


  • "Add Some Music to Your Day" b/w "Susie Cincinnati" (Brother 0894), 23 February 1970; US #64
  • "Cottonfields" b/w "The Nearest Faraway Place" (Capitol 2765), 20 April 1970; US #103, UK #5
  • "Slip on Through" b/w "This Whole World" (Brother 0929), 29 June 1970
  • "Tears in the Morning" b/w "It's About Time" (Brother 0957), November 1970
  • "Cool, Cool Water" b/w "Forever" (Brother 0998), February 1971

Production notes

  • Producer: The Beach Boys
  • Chief engineer and mixer: Steve Desper
  • Cover photo: Ricci Martin
  • Other photos: Ed Thrasher

The vast majority of the album was recorded at Brian Wilson's home studio in Bel Air.


  • Badman, Keith; Bacon, Tony. The Beach Boys: The Definitive Diary of America's Greatest Band on Stage and in the Studio (San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2004) ISBN 0-87930-818-4
  • Bush, John. 'Sunflower', All Music (2005) Retrieved July 24 2005.
  • Elliott, Brad. Surf's Up: The Beach Boys On Record (1981)
  • Whitburn, Joel. "Top Pop Albums 1955-2001", (Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research, 2002) ISBN 0-89820-147-0
  • Whitburn, Joel. "Top Pop Singles 1955-2001", (Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research, 2002)
  • White, Timothy. The Nearest Faraway Place: Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys and the Southern California Experience (1994)
  • White, Timothy. CD booklet notes, Sunflower/Surf's Up (2000)
  • Wilson, Brian; Gold, Todd. Wouldn't It Be Nice - My Own Story (1991).


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