The Beach Boys – Surf’s Up Full Album Lyrics

March 28, 2016

DON’T GO NEAR THE WATER

(Written by: Mike Love/Al Jardine, sung by: Mike Love/Al Jardine/Brian Wilson)

Don’t go near the water
Don’t you think it’s sad
What’s happened to the water
Our water’s going bad

Oceans, rivers, lakes and streams
Have all been touched by man
The poison floating out to sea
Now threatens life on land

Don’t go near the water
Ain’t it sad
What’s happened to the water
It’s going bad

Don’t go near the water
Don’t go near the water

Toothpaste and soap will make our oceans a bubble bath
So let’s avoid an ecological aftermath
Beginning with me
Beginning with you

Don’t go near the water
To do it any wrong
To be cool with the water
Is the message of this song

Let’s all help the water
Right away
Do what we can and ought to
Let’s start today

 

LONG PROMISED ROAD

(Written by: Carl Wilson / Jack Rieley, sung by: Carl Wilson)

So hard to answer future’s riddle
When ahead is seeming so far behind
So hard to laugh a child-like giggle
When the tears start to torture my mind
So hard to shed the life of before
To let my soul automatically soar

But I hit hard at the battle that’s confronting me, yeah
Knock down all the roadblocks a-stumbling me
Throw off all the shackles that are binding me down

Sew up the wounds of evolution
And the now starts to get in my way
So what if life’s a revelation
If the mind speaks of only today
So real, the pain of growing in soul
Of climbing up to reality’s goal

But I hit hard at the battle that’s confronting me, yeah
So knock down all the roadblocks a-stumbling me
Throw off all the shackles that are binding me down

Long promised road
Trail starts at dawn
Carries on to the season’s ending
Long promised road
Flows to the source, gentle force
Never ending, never ending

So hard to lift the jewelled scepter
When the weight turns a smile to a frown
So hard to drink of passion nectar
When the taste of life’s holding me down
So hard to plant the seed of reform
To set my sights on defeating the storm

So I hit hard at the battle that’s confronting me, yeah
So knock down all the roadblocks a-stumbling me
Throw off all the shackles that are binding me down

Hit hard at the battle that’s confronting me, yeah
Knock down all the roadblocks a-stumbling me
Throw off all the shackles that are binding me down

Hit hard at the battle that’s confronting me, yeah
Knock down all the roadblocks a-stumbling me
Throw off all the shackles that are binding me down

I’d love to see you
I’d love to see you
I’d love to see you
I’d love to see you
I’d love to see you

 

TAKE A LOAD OFF YOUR FEET

(Written by: Al Jardine/Brian Wilson/Gary Winfrey, Sung by: Brian Wilson/Al Jardine)

I do them when I’m down in the tub
With avocado cream they’ll take a rub
They wrinkle like a-raisins if I stay too long
I wouldn’t want to do it wrong

They’ll put you in the driver’s seat
And to the table when you want to eat
But when you go to sit down in your chair
Something else has got to put you there

Take good care of your feet, Pete
You better watch out what you eat, Pete
Better take care of your life
‘Cause nobody else will

They’ll twinkle when you fall in love
And put you there when you jump up above
When you’re on the spot, get them right under you
One, then the other too

If you want to do the right thing for them
Just take a walk in the grass
But don’t you catch yourself fallin’
Or steppin’ on a piece of glass
(Ouch glass)
Pete knows all the treacherous blows
The fallen arches and the cramp in the toes
He went to H. E. L. P. and got some sandals new
And dusty old saunas too

Take a load of your feet Pete
You better watch out what you eat
Better take care of your life
‘Cause nobody else will

Do do do do do do do do do do
Do do do do do do do do do do
Do do do do do do do do do do

 

DISNEY GIRLS

(Written by: Bruce Johnston, Sung by: Bruce Johnsson)

Clearing skies and dryin’ eyes
Now I see your smile
Darkness goes and softness shows
A changing style

Just in time, words that rhyme
Well bless your soul
Now I’ll fill your hands
With kisses and a tootsie roll

Oh, reality, it’s not for me
And it makes me laugh
Oh, fantasy world and Disney girls
I’m coming back

Patti Page and summer days
On old Cape Cod
Happy times makin’ wine
In my garage

Country shade and lemonade
Guess I’m slowing down
It’s a turned back world
With a local girl in a smaller town

Open cars and clearer stars
That’s what I’ve lacked
But fantasy world and Disney girls
I’m coming back

Love, hi Rick and Dave
Hi pop, good morning, mom
Love, get up guess what
I’m in love with a girl I found
She’s really swell ’cause she likes
Church, bingo chances and old time dances

All my life I spent the night
With dreams of you
And the warmth I missed
And for the things I wished
They’re all coming true

I’ve got my love to give
And a place to live
Guess I’m gonna stay
It’d be a peaceful life
With a forever wife
And a kid someday

Well, it’s earlier nights
And pillow fights
And your soft laugh
Fantasy world and Disney girls
I’m coming back

 

STUDENT DEMONSTRATION TIME

(Written by: Jerry Lieber, Mike Stoller, Mike Love, Sung by: Mike Love)

Starting out with Berkeley Free Speech
And later on at People’s Park
The winds of change fanned into flames
Student demonstrations spark
Down to Isla Vista where police felt so harassed
They called the special riot squad of the L. A. County Sheriff

Well there’s a riot going on
There’s a riot going on
There’s a riot going on
Student demonstration time

The violence spread down South to where Jackson State brothers
Learned not to say nasty things about Southern policemen’s mothers
Nothing much was said about it and really next to nothing done
The pen is mightier than the sword but no match for a gun

Well there’s a riot going on
Well there’s a riot going on
Well there’s a riot going on
‘Cause it’s student demonstration time

America was stunned on May 4, 1970
When rally turned to riot up at Kent State University
They said the students scared the Guard
Though the troops were battle dressed
Four martyrs earned a new degree
The Bachelor of Bullets

I know we’re all fed up with useless wars and racial strife
But next time there’s a riot, well, you best stay out of sight

Well there’s a riot going on
There’s a riot going on
Well there’s a riot going on
Student demonstration time

Stay away when there’s a riot going on
Student demonstration
Stay away when there’s a riot going on
Student demonstration
Stay away when there’s a riot going on
Student demonstration

Stay away when there’s a riot going on
It’s student demonstration
Stay away when there’s a riot going on
Student demonstration
Stay away when there’s a riot going on
It’s student demonstration

Stay away when there’s a riot going on
It’s student demonstration
Stay away when there’s a riot going on
It’s student demonstration, student demonstration
Stay away when there’s a riot going on
It’s student demonstration
Stay away when there’s a riot going on

 

FEEL FLOWS

(Written by: Carl Wilson, Jack Rieley, Sung by: Carl Wilson)

Unfolding enveloping missiles of soul
Recall senses sadly
Mirage like soft blue like lanterns below
To light the way gladly

Whether whistling heaven’s clouds disappear
Whether wind withers memory
Whether whiteness whisks soft shadows away

(White hot glistening shadowy flows)
Feel flows, feel goes
(Black hot glistening shadowy flows)

Unbending, never ending tablets of time
Record all the yearning
Unfearing, all appearing message divine
Eases the burning

Whether willing witness waits at my mind
Whether hope dampens memory
Whether wondrous will stands tall at my side

(White hot glistening shadowy flows)
Feel flows, feel goes
(Black hot glistening shadowy flows)

Encasing, all embracing wreath of repose
Engulfs all the senses
Imposing, unclosing thoughts that compose
Retire the fences

Whether wholly heartened life fades away
Whether harps heal the memory
Whether wholly heartened life fades away
Whether wondrous will stands tall at my side
Whether whiteness whisks soft shadows away

(White hot glistening shadowy flows)
Feel flows, feel goes
(Black hot glistening shadowy flows)
(White hot glistening shadowy flows)
Feel flows, feelings to grow
(White hot glistening shadowy flows)

White hot glistening shadowy flows
White hot glistening shadowy flows
White hot glistening shadowy flows

 

LOOKIN’ AT TOMORROW (A WELFARE SONG)

(Written by: Al Jardine/Gary Winfrey, Sung by: Al Jardine)

I’ve been laying on my back
Like a freight train off a track
Trying to find a job to fit my trade
With the morning sun come ’round
Well I’ll be covering plenty of ground
And I don’t need nobody to pay my aid
Mmmm pay my aid

Now Bess and me were feeling bad
And all the good jobs they were had
I had to take to sweeping up some floors
Well I don’t mind that so much
Or the changing of my luck
But you know I could be doing so much more

Ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba
Ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba
Bip bip bip bip bip bip bip bip bip bip

Well I’ll be coming home tonight
Everything will be all right
And we’ll be looking at tomorrow

 

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A TREE

(Written by: Brian Wilson/Jack Rieley, Sung by: Jack Rieley/Van Dyke Parks/Al Jardine)

Feel the wind burn through my skin
The pain, the air is killing me
For years my limbs stretched to the sky
A nest for birds to sit and sing

But now my branches suffer
And my leaves don’t bear the glow
They did so long ago

One day I was full of life
My sap was rich and I was strong
From seed to tree I grew so tall
Through wind and rain I could not fall

But now my branches suffer
and my leaves don’t offer
Poetry to men of song

Trees like me weren’t meant to live
If all this world can give
Pollution and slow death

Oh Lord I lay me down
No life’s left to be found
There’s nothing left for me

Trees like me weren’t meant to live
If all this earth can give
Is pollution

Trees like me weren’t meant to live
(Oh Lord I lay me down)
If all this earth can give
(My branches to the ground)
Is pollution and slow death
(There’s nothing left for me)

Oh Lord I lay me down
My branches to the ground
There’s nothing left for me

 

’TIL I DIE

(Written by: Brian Wilson, Sung by: Carl Wilson/Brian Wilson/Mike Love)

I’m a cork on the ocean
Floating over the raging sea
How deep is the ocean?
How deep is the ocean?
I lost my way
Hey hey hey

I’m a rock in a landslide
Rolling over the mountainside
How deep is the valley?
How deep is the valley?
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?
How long will the wind blow?
Ohhhh

Until I die
Until I die
These things I’ll be until I die
These things I’ll be until I die
These things I’ll be until I die
These things I’ll be until I die
These things I’ll be until I die
These things I’ll be until I die
These things I’ll be until I die
These things I’ll be until I die
These things I’ll be until I die
These things I’ll be until I die

 

SURF’S UP

(Written by: Brian Wilson/Van Dyke Parks, Sung by: Carl Wilson/Brian Wilson/Al Jardine)

A diamond necklace played the pawn
Hand in hand some drummed along, oh
To a handsome man and baton
(Bygone, bygone)
A blind class aristocracy
Back through the opera glass you see
The pit and the pendulum drawn
(Bygone, bygone)
Columnated ruins domino

Canvass the town and brush the backdrop
Are you sleeping?

Hung velvet overtaken me
Dim chandelier awaken me
To a song dissolved in the dawn
The music hall a costly bow
The music all is lost for now
To a muted trumpeter swan
Columnated ruins domino
Canvass the town and brush the backdrop
Are you sleeping, Brother John?

Dove nested towers the hour was
Strike the street quicksilver moon
Carriage across the fog
Two-Step to lamp lights cellar tune
The laughs come hard in Auld Lang Syne

The glass was raised, the fired rose
The fullness of the wine, the dim last toasting
While at port adieu or die

A choke of grief heart hardened, I
Beyond belief, a broken man too tough to cry

Surf’s Up, mm-mm, mm-mm, mm-mm
Aboard a tidal wave
Come about hard and join
The young and often spring you gave
I heard the word
Wonderful thing
A children’s song

Child, child, child, child, child
A child is the father of the man
Child, child, child, child, child
A child is the father of the man
A children’s song
Have you listened as they played
Their song is love
And the children know the way
That’s why the child is the father to the man
Child, child, child, child, child
Child, child, child, child, child
Na na na na na na na na
Child, child, child, child, child
That’s why the child is the father to the man
Child, child, child, child, child


 

BEACH BOYS – SURF’S UP ADDITIONAL ALBUM INFO

The artwork of Surf's Up is based on the sculpture "End of the Trail" by James Earle Fraser.

The artwork of Surf’s Up is based on the sculpture “End of the Trail” by James Earle Fraser.

“Don’t Go Near The Water”

beach boys 1970s

Composition

The Beach Boys hired Jack Rieley as their manager in 1970. In order to make the band more relevant, Rieley suggested that the band write songs that were more political. “Don’t Go Near the Water” is the first example of this. The song puts an ironic, ecological spin on the traditional Beach Boys beach- and surf- based songs: instead of enjoying surfing and other fun activities, this time the listener is advised to avoid the water for environmental reasons.

Recording

The song was recorded at the same session as “Long Promised Road” and “4th of July”, both also recorded for the Surf’s Up album. The lead vocals are by the song’s composers, Love and Jardine.  Brian Wilson contributed the dissonant piano part, according to Peter Ames Carlin’s book Catch a Wave (Rodale, 2006), page 159.

Releases

the_beach_boys-dont_go_near_the_water_s

The song was chosen to be the B-side of the “Surf’s Up”, released on November 8, 1971. It did not chart. Featured as an A-side in New Zealand, it peaked at #21 there. The song was also released as a single in several European countries, such as Britain and Germany.  It was later released on November 2, 1981 as the B-side of the “Come Go With Me” single. The single charted at #18 in the US but never charted in the UK.


 

“Long Promised Road”

Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys and Bobby, Agora Ballroom

Long Promised Road” is a song written by Carl Wilson and Jack Rieley for the Beach Boys. 

It was first released as a single in May 1971, and did not chart. It was then released on their 1971 album Surf’s Up, and was re-released as a single, with a different b-side, “‘Til I Die”, in October of the same year.

This time it made it to #89 on the Billboard Hot 100. 

Aside from a few guitar parts written in the early days of the band, the song is Carl Wilson’s first composition, he plays all of the instruments and handles the lead vocal on the track.

Personnel

  • Carl Wilson – Lead, harmony and backing vocals; electric guitar; moog, harpsichord, organ; percussion, drums


 

“Take A Load Off Your Feet”

al jardine beach boys

“Take a Load Off Your Feet” is a song written by Al Jardine, Brian Wilson and Gary Winfrey. It was projected to be released on Add Some Music, an album which was to be released in 1970. After that album was reworked into Sunflower, “Take a Load Off Your Feet” was released on the next Beach Boys album, Surf’s Up.

Composition

Gary Winfrey returned to California, after serving in the Air Force, in 1968.  He and Al Jardine quickly rekindled a friendship that had begun back when both were in high school. Winfrey’s wife Sandi was pregnant at the time, and her ankles were swollen.

With the song Hair being popular at the time, somebody suggested writing a similar song about ankles. That song turned into “Take a Load Off Your Feet”. Brian Wilson would later add some lyrics and help with the melody.

beach boys in chuck's living room

Recording

The first session for the song was during the Add Some Music sessions in January 1970. The song was then put on hold until the early part of the next year. All of the sessions were held at Brian Wilson’s home studio. Brian did the lead vocal on the first and third verse (though this verse not in falsetto and also sped up on the final mix-leading it to be confused with Jardine), alternating giving way to Jardine, who sang the second and fourth verse and also played bass guitar.

The Beach Boys, with help from Winfrey, sang the backing vocals, and Brian added sound effects including hitting an empty 5-gallon Sparkletts glass water container with a rubber mallet for percussion, footsteps and the horn of his Rolls-Royce Phantom V.

Live Versions

The Beach Boys performed the song live for the first time in 1975 and then again during their 1993 Box Set Tour.

Personnel

    Al Jardine – lead, harmony and backing vocals; acoustic guitar; bass
    Bruce Johnston – harmony and backing vocals
    Mike Love – harmony and backing vocals
    Brian Wilson – lead, harmony and backing vocals; percussion; sound effects
    Carl Wilson – harmony and backing vocals
    Dennis Wilson – harmony and backing vocals
    Gary Winfrey – harmony and backing vocals

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJAwoe-jYa0


“Disney Girls”

Disney_Girls_(1957) album cover“Disney Girls (1957)” is a song written by Bruce Johnston for the American rock band The Beach Boys. It was released on their 1971 album Surf’s Up. The lead vocals are by Johnston, who also plays keyboards, moog bass, and mandolin.

“Disney Girls (1957)” has proven to be one of Bruce Johnston’s most enduring songs, still occasionally performed by The Beach Boys in concert to this day.

It has been covered by many artists, including Art Garfunkel, Cass Elliott, Jack Jones, Captain & Tennille, and even Johnston himself, on his 1977 solo album Going Public. Cass Elliot’s version (from the album Cass Elliot) is notable for featuring both Johnston and Carl Wilson.

Bruce-Johnston beach boysDoris Day included a cover of the song on her 2011 album My Heart.

Violinist Alexander Rybak did a cover on his second album No Boundaries

The song has long been considered Johnston’s solo spot during Beach Boys live shows. It was performed during the band’s 50th Anniversary and, along with “Wendy” (on which he was not the original lead vocal) was Johnston’s only consistent lead during the shows.

Personnel

    Al Jardine – harmony and backing vocals
    Bruce Johnston – lead, harmony and backing vocals; upright piano, moog bass; mandolin
    Mike Love – harmony and backing vocals
    Brian Wilson – harmony and backing vocals
    Carl Wilson – harmony and backing vocals
    Dennis Wilson – harmony and backing vocals

Session musicians and production staff

    Ed Carter – acoustic and electric guitar
    Dennis Dragon – drums
    Kathy Dragon – flute


“Student Demonstration Time”

Student_Demonstration_Time

“Student Demonstration Time” is a song written by Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller and Mike Love, which was recorded by the American rock band the Beach Boys for the album Surf’s Up, released in 1971.

Composition

The song which “Student Demonstration Time” is based on – “Riot in Cell Block Number 9” – was originally written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in 1954, and was considered for inclusion on the Beach Boys’ 1965 album Party!, but was ultimately not included.

The song was subsequently performed live by the Beach Boys in concert starting in 1969. In mid-1970, Mike Love re-wrote the lyrics after learning of the Kent State Shootings where four unarmed college students protesting the Cambodian Campaign were killed by the Ohio National Guard on Monday, May 4, 1970. Stephen W. Desper, engineer of the Beach Boys during this period, explained the genesis and context behind the song:

berkeley free speech movement

“If you lived through the 60s, the civil riots, the unrest, the anti-war demonstrations, the crowds of unruly students in the streets, with hundreds of young soldiers dying every day — every day, and in-depth TV coverage of people being shot at close range coming into our living rooms every night, you might have more understanding of “the why and wherefore” of the song.

Michael was seeing all this going on in Santa Barbara, California, where he lived. It was in his front yard. It was in all our lives. It was a sick time. The country was sick. And much of it was needless. Michael was moved to write a song about war protest. His approach was to offer vocal advice to the listener as to what to do when you may be caught up in one of these civil unrests — so as not to get killed. Remember, Kent State was still in the news when the lyrics were written.

Other events referred to in the song include (in order of appearance):

    Autumn 1964 – Berkeley Free Speech Movement
    May 1969 – People’s Park
    June 1970 – rioting in Isla Vista, California
    May 14–15, 1970 – Jackson State killings
    May 4, 1970 – Kent State shootings

“Student Demonstration Time” (backed with “Don’t Go Near the Water”) was released as a single in the Netherlands — where it peaked at #21 — and Italy, as well as Australia, where it charted during 1972. However, for the British and German releases of the single, the A-side and B-side were switched, resulting in “Don’t Go Near the Water” being the A-side.

Personnel

    Al Jardine – harmony and backing vocals
    Bruce Johnston – harmony and backing vocals
    Mike Love – lead, harmony and backing vocals; tambourine
    Brian Wilson – harmony and backing vocals
    Carl Wilson – harmony and backing vocals; lead guitar
    Dennis Wilson – harmony and backing vocals; drums

Session musicians and production staff

    Stephen W. Desper – sound engineer; moog
    Daryl Dragon – bass; tack piano


 

“Feel Flows”

carl wilson beach boys

“Feel Flows” is a song written by Carl Wilson and Jack Rieley for American rock band the Beach Boys. It was released on their 1971 album Surf’s Up.

Recording

Carl Wilson’s lead vocals were recorded using reverse echo.

The song was used in the 1972 surfing documentary Five Summer Stories.  In 2005 it appeared on a compilation album of music that has inspired the Welsh indie-psychedelic pop band the Super Furry Animals titled Under the Influence.  In 2000, movie director Cameron Crowe used this song in the Grammy award winning Almost Famous soundtrack, and it played during the end credits of the film.

Madonna’s song “Swim” from the album Ray of Light uses the bass line/guitar solo of “Feel Flows” throughout the song, more prominently in the beginning and the end. However, this is not considered a cover of the song and none of the Beach Boys are credited in the liner notes of the Ray of Light album.

Personnel

Carl Wilson – lead, backing and harmony vocals; piano, organ; guitar, bass guitar, Moog synthesizer, percussion

Additional musicians and production staff

Charles Lloyd – saxophone, flute
Woody Thews – percussion

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqGcPlTItVM


 

“Lookin’ At Tomorrow (A Welfare Song)”

Written by Al Jardine.


 

“A Day In The Life Of A Tree”

a day in the life of a tree

“A Day in the Life of a Tree” is a song written by Brian Wilson and Jack Rieley.  The lead vocals were performed by Rieley, who was also the Beach Boys’ manager at the time.

The song’s lyric was inspired by Brian’s feelings toward environmental pollution. It was performed live only once by the Beach Boys, at the Long Beach Arena in Long Beach, CA on December 3, 1971. The band members reportedly coaxed Brian out from the side of the stage to play organ while Rieley sang it.

Composition

According to Rieley,

“Brian Wilson and I had been talking a lot about the sorry state of the planet back then. He was filled with questions and we went on for hours about it. Forests were dying, the air had turned brown, the earth’s future was beginning to appear hazardous to health. When Brian first played the chords and sang the tentative melody for me, he asked what the song should be about and I suggested a single tree as metaphor for the earth; that single tree as metaphor for more than ecology. I fell in love with the chords at once and loved the swelling tension of that droned bass line; the song seemed to lend itself to the lyrical concept. He went nuts for the lyrics when I showed them to him. Loved ’em, memorized the first verse and was singing around the house. Carl and I were positive that Brian had to sing A Day In The Life Of A Tree.”

beach boys surfs up

AllMusic interpreted the song’s subject to be autobiographical, calling it “one of Brian’s most deeply touching and bizarre compositions…lamenting his long life amid the pollution and grime of a city park while the somber tones of a pipe organ build atmosphere.”

Recording

The instrumental track was made in a few days. Rieley has also recounted that on the day they were to record the lead vocal, Rieley was with the engineer in the control room, and Brian and Carl Wilson were in the studio. Brian did a few warm-up takes and then, dramatically animated as was his wont, tore the headphones from his ears and exclaimed that he needed Rieley to help him. Rieley went out into the studio and he pleaded that Brian just wasn’t getting the feeling that he intended with the lyric. Brian insisted Rieley show him what to do, and handed Rieley the headphones.

brian wilson

Rieley did about 5 takes of the song. It was after one of those that Wilson burst from the control booth to the studio and, unexpectedly to Rieley, exclaimed that he had just done the final lead vocal. Although he initially presumed it to be “another Brian Wilson cop-out”, Carl explained that everybody had agreed Rieley was fit to sing the lead vocal, and had worked out a plan to trick him into singing it.

Stephen Desper recalled that Dennis Wilson was the first to record a lead vocal. Van Dyke Parks sings background vocals. He elaborated to Rolling Stone in 1971:

beach boys

“I went up there to congratulate them on acting like grown-ups. On continuing to push. Then they had me doing a vocal. I liked that song about the tree just fine. I was just called in to do some singing on one line. It worked out well.

Of course, I had to stumble out of the studio in pitch darkness. Brian turned out all the lights. Had to crawl out of there on the floor, clutching my wife. Most humiliating thing I’ve ever … Oh it’s a power trip all right. But I can get behind that. I can get behind the way Brian does it. It’s funny to watch him when he can’t find something he owns. It’s cute when he ignores someone else’s needs, because he can always plead insanity.”

Personnel

The Beach Boys

    Al Jardine – vocals
    Brian Wilson – harmonium

Additional musicians

    Jack Rieley – lead vocals
    Van Dyke Parks – vocals

Other musicians

Neil Young has briefly referred to “A Day in the Life of a Tree”, saying “Brian’s a genius…[It’s a] great song, man.” Andrew Van Wyngarden, member of MGMT has covered the song in live performances. In a 2010 interview with Rolling Stone, he stated “It came out of a period when they were doing a lot of drugs. I got to meet Al Jardine, and he told me that no one would sing it because it was too depressing, so the manager guy, Jack Rieley, sang it.”

Cover versions

    1996 – Matthew Sweet for an album benefiting the Honor The Earth campaign
    2004 – Suzzy & Maggie Roche, Why the Long Face?
    2013 – Yo La Tengo, “Super Kiwi” single

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcorwiADBeM


“’Til I Die”

brian wilson 1970s

“’Til I Die” is a song written by Brian Wilson for The Beach Boys, released on the band’s 1971 album Surf’s Up and subsequently chosen as the B-side of the “Long Promised Road” single. With autobiographical lyrics about death and hopelessness, it is one of the few songs in which both the words and music were written solely by Wilson.

Biographer Jon Stebbins wrote: “”Til I Die’ proves that Brian could not only write beautiful music, but that he had the ability to communicate honestly and artfully with his lyrics as well. The track is decorated with a haunting vibraphone and organ bed, which frames the strong harmony vocal arrangement perfectly.”

Composition

night time at beach

According to Brian in the press material for the Surf’s Up album, the song was inspired after a late night trip to the beach:

“Lately, I’d been depressed and preoccupied with death…Looking out toward the ocean, my mind, as it did almost every hour of every day, worked to explain the inconsistencies that dominated my life; the pain, torment, and confusion and the beautiful music I was able to make. Was there an answer? Did I have no control? Had I ever? Feeling shipwrecked on an existential island, I lost myself in the balance of darkness that stretched beyond the breaking waves to the other side of the earth. The ocean was so incredibly vast, the universe was so large, and suddenly I saw myself in proportion to that, a little pebble of sand, a jellyfish floating on top of the water; traveling with the current I felt dwarfed, temporary. The next day I began writing “Til I Die”, perhaps the most personal song I ever wrote for The Beach Boys…In doing so, I wanted to re-create the swell of emotions that I’d felt at the beach the previous night.

brianwilsonmickeymouse

The song was written over the course of several weeks as Wilson tried to express the feelings he had experienced on that night he had spent alone at the beach.

As he explains, “I struggled at the piano, experimenting with rhythms and chord changes, trying to emulate in sound the ocean’s shifting tides and moods as well as its sheer enormity. I wanted the music to reflect the loneliness of floating a raft in the middle of the Pacific. I wanted each note to sound as if it was disappearing into the hugeness of the universe.

After asking Brian how he came up with the chords, Don Was recalls that “he told me that he was sitting at a piano, creating geometric patterns with his fingers, trying not to move the fingers on the outside of the patterns, but limiting changes to internal movements. When he landed on a shape that both looked cool and sounded good, he wrote it down. So, essentially he created this masterpiece by contorting his fingers into really groovy shapes.” However, Was goes on to say “I’ve absolutely no idea whether this story has any basis in truth or whether he was just making it up on the spot to entertain me.”

vastness of ocean

Wilson has stated that the line “I’m a cork on the ocean” was the first thing lyrically that came to him. In the lyrics, Wilson compares himself to a cork on the ocean, a rock in a landslide, and a leaf on a windy day—seeing himself as a small, helpless object, being moved inconceivable distances by forces beyond his comprehension. “How deep is the ocean? How long will the wind blow?” The hopeless conclusion is given in the song’s title. At one stage, due to the criticism the song had received from the band, Wilson changed the lyrics from “It kills my soul” to “It holds me up” or “It fills my soul” and “I lost my way” to “I found my way”. Ultimately, the rest of the group insisted that the original lyrics be kept as the new lyrics contradicted the lyrics in the verses.

Bruce Johnston has praised the song on several occasions by calling it the last great Brian Wilson song as well as describing it as Wilson’s “heaviest song.” Johnston has also stated that “the words absolutely fit his mindset”. Wilson also felt this was the case when he stated that “the song summed up everything I had to say at the time.” He later recalled that Mike Love’s reaction to the song was: “What a fucking downer.” In 2015, Love named the lyrics of “‘Til I Die” his favourite of any written solely by Wilson, although he admitted, “I don’t like the line ‘it kills my soul’ but I understand what he’s saying.”


“Surf’s Up”

Surf's_Up_1971

“Surf’s Up” is a song written by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks for American rock band the Beach Boys. Its title is an ironic nod to the group’s earlier associations with surf music; nothing in the song is about surfing. Through its stream of consciousness lyric, the song details a man who experiences a spiritual awakening, resigns himself to God and the joy of enlightenment, and prophesies an optimistic hope for those who can capture the innocence of youth.

From 1966 to 1967, “Surf’s Up” was partially recorded for the group’s unfinished studio album Smile before being shelved indefinitely. After Wilson was filmed performing the song for a 1967 television documentary covering the 1960s rock revolution, the composition acquired relative mystique. In 1971, the original studio recording was completed and served as the title track for the group’s twenty-second official album. It was also released as a single, serving as the A-side to “Don’t Go Near the Water”, which did not chart.

beach boys with phil spector

In 1967 it was acknowledged by classically trained clarinetist David Oppenheim, who called it “too complex to get the first time around…’Surf’s Up’ is one aspect of new things happening in pop music today.

As such, it is a symbol of the change many of these young musicians see in our future.” Musicologist Philip Lambert named the song “the soul of Smile” for being the “sum total of its creators’ most profound artistic visions” with its “perfect marriage of an eloquent lyric with music of commensurate power and depth.”

In 2011, MOJO staff members voted it the greatest Beach Boys song.

Beach Baby Bob

About the Author

Beach Baby Bob