12.19-'TIL I DIE (Beach Boys)

Brian Wilson
Brian Wilson


I'm a cork on the ocean
Floating over the raging sea.
How deep is the ocean? (2x)
I lost my way.
Hey hey hey

I'm a rock in a landslide
Rolling over the mountainside.
How deep is the valley? (2x)
It kills my soul.
Hey hey hey

I'm a leaf on a windy day.
Pretty soon I'll be blown away.
How long will the wind blow? (2x)
Until I die (2x)

     These things I'll be until I die (8x)

Surf's Up albumThe album Surf’s Up is the last of the albums included in this study that I consider, in the majority, a classic psychedelic album. Four cuts from the album are included here. Except for the song Surf’s Up, all cuts on the album were recorded in the early 1970s, but it appears that the 1966 song challenged members of the Beach Boys to come up with complimentary material. Noting the social commentary that had been successful in selling recent songs like Ball of Confusion written by Norman Whitfield & Barrett Strong, the new manager of the Beach Boys, named Jack Rieley, advised that the group to write songs relevant to the moment. Many of the songs included on the album deal with issues that were current at the time, such as student demonstrations, air pollution, and vegetarianism. However, none of the songs included here as examples of psychedelia conform to Rieley’s advice. Instead, they have spiritual content that makes no reference to the news.

‘Til I Die was a new Brian Wilson composition, and was the opposite of his recent sunshine pop. It seems to communicate depression, especially that part about “it kills my soul”, but it also contains spiritual awareness of each person’s insignificance as an individual in the universe. The song seems to me more the practice of painful humility than a sad song. Though Wilson never said the song was influenced by hallucinogens, ‘Til I Die lyrics speak from a place that someone familiar with LSD would recognize. The lyrics seem the sadder side of being sublimely overwhelmed by awe that John Lennon had expressed more positively in his Beatles song Because.

Bruce Johnston, who was at this time a member of the Beach Boys, is noted as saying that ‘Til I Die was the last of the great Brian Wilson songs [The Beach Boys and the California Myth, David Leaf, 1978, p. 144]. I agree with him. It is one of the few songs by the Beach Boys in which both the words and music were solely written by Brian. I also think the rich harmonies that the Beach Boys use on the short contrapuntal song and the use of a Moog synthesizer make it an interesting companion piece for Because, the Beatles’ last great psychedelic recording.