In terms of their UK audience, the Beach Boys’ 20/20 album was the gift that kept on giving. Released in early 1969, it had been introduced the previous summer by “Do It Again,” which married modern production with nostalgic lyrics and, while it peaked at No.20 in the US, went all the way to No.1 across the Atlantic.
That was followed by a modest No.33 success in the UK with the December 1968 release, “Bluebirds Over The Mountain,” but that still outdid its best US position of No.61. For the third single, the group turned to the catalog of one of their biggest heroes.
The Beach Boys’ version of ‘I Can Hear Music,’ produced by Carl Wilson and featuring his beautiful lead vocals, was a masterful adaptation of Phil Spector’s co-write with Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich. Inexplicably, the 1966 original by the Ronettes had only reached the anchor position of No.100 on the US chart, and that as the group’s last appearance there.
The California group’s cover version would only reach No.24 in America itself, but by then it had given the Beach Boys their ninth UK Top 10 single. Its popularity spread across Europe, as it made the same grade in Holland, Sweden and Poland. It entered the British chart on February 26, 1969 at No.47. In April, the single peaked at No.10, rubbing shoulders with another arrival in the Top 10, The Who’s “Pinball Wizard.”
The song was one of several big hits for the Beach Boys in the UK that didn’t perform anywhere near as well for them back home. Their British fans took the non-album single “Break Away” to No.6, before the “Cottonfields” (re-recorded from 20/20) hit No.5 across the Atlantic but didn’t make the American chart at all.
“I Can Hear Music” is on the Beach Boys’ 20/20 album, which can be bought here.
Follow the official Beach Boys Best Of playlist.