Music to Celebrate Life Playlist Home Page
Music to Celebrate Life
Follow this playlist:
Listen on Spotify Music Listen on Apple Music Listen on Deezer Listen on YouTube Listen on Soundcloud

Real difficulties can be overcome; it is only the imaginary ones that are unconquerable.

–    Theodore N. Vail (former president of A T & T)

Very seldom do I run into a quote that’s as true as the one above. In a way, it’s ridiculous how vulnerable we are to our own thoughts. No matter how we slice it, we are at their mercy. As a younger man with fewer problems, I would have most likely laughed at Mr. Vail’s wisdom. Why? Well, I wouldn’t have understood what’s so difficult about just letting go of negative thoughts. Then again, the truth is that the thoughts I once considered negative would probably seem pretty damn positive to me now. I guess the point I am trying to make here is that it’s all relative. One thing though that isn’t relative is the power of the mind. Depending on you mindset, it can either heal you or kill you bit by bit. I bet everybody reading this will now say, “Okay, cool! We’ll focus on positive things in life then.” If only it were that simple.

Our happiness has a lot to do with the choices we make. And the unfortunate thing about bad choices is that they usually lead to more bad choices – it’s a vicious circle, an amusement park ride that restarts itself and is next to impossible to exit. If you’ve ever been down this road, you know this, just as you know that it’ll take a while before you even realize you’re on the wrong ride. Usually, by the time you become aware of any problems, you’ve either already built a fancy career for yourself or find yourself married with a dozen kids. In any case, there’s nowhere to go, nowhere to turn.

Brian Wilson found himself in a similar situation in the early seventies. The shelving of Smile had ended his tenure as the Beach Boys’ resident genius. He had lost control of his group, his marriage was on the rocks, depression had set in and his mind was preoccupied with death. “’Til I Die” was born out of this desperation. Explains Brian in his now largely discredited autobiography from 1991 Wouldn’t It Be Nice:

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.

Even though the track is now a celebrated Beach Boys classic, when Brian first played it to the group in 1969, the reception he got was not a very welcoming one. Quite a few members of the band though it rather heavy for a Beach Boys album and Mike Love, especially, downright disliked it. This didn’t stop Brian from pursuing the song and finally, in 1971, “’Til I Die” was released on the Boys’ brilliant Surf’s Up album. 

“’Til I Die” is easily one of the best tracks Brian ever wrote and produced for his group. It’s haunting vibraphone, pulsating organ bed and breathtaking harmonies serve as valid proof that Mr. Wilson, although down and out by the end of the sixties, was still capable of making indescribably magnificent records, tracks that would later earn him the nickname “Rachmaninov of Pop” – and quite deservedly so. “’Til I Die” is also one of the very few Beach Boys tracks, in which both the music and the lyrics were solely written by Brian. The lyrics do a fantastic job describing that moment when nothing really makes sense to you anymore, that moment when you realize you are completely and utterly lost and even though it’s killing your soul and your mind, you know the feelings you are experiencing are way too all-encompassing to fight.

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?

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

 
How do we then become “corks in the ocean” and “leaves on a windy day”? I guess the old wisdom that life hits you harder than you’d ever expect is true. Some say having a support net to lean on and talk to helps. Not everybody agrees. My grandfather, for one, felt that keeping things to yourself was always the best policy. “Talking will just take you deeper,” he’d say.

He also believed that whoever is happy or miserable should conceal how he is feeling. I once asked him why. He looked at me, smiled and said, “If you show the world you are happy, people will become jealous and they’ll try to mess things up for you.” I nodded and argued that in the light of that piece of wisdom, I couldn’t understand why showing people you are miserable is dangerous in any way. My granddad shook his head and stated firmly, “It’s even more dangerous.” Once again I asked why, aren’t people just glad you are miserable. “Most are, “my granddad explained. “But the ones that aren’t,” he continued, “will either hate you for cramping their style or find some insane and sick way to add to your misery.”

I must say I don’t share my grandfather’s pessimistic view entirely but I do think he was right about people’s capacity to help and understand. 

I’ll tell you one thing. It’s inspirational and consoling that Brian Wilson ultimately found his way out of the depression and went on to have an amazing solo career after the Beach Boys. Here’s to you Brian, I wish you all the best. I will remain a super fan of your music…‘til I die.


Track Sponsor Of The Month: Effigy by The Impersonators

“Effigy” describes that moment in all our lives, when we realize that we‘ve grown tired of protecting our ego, that moment when we are done worrying about how we appear to others. Rather than wanting to be cool or important, we want to be happy and discover our true identity. And the best way to achieve this is to kill our ego.


Follow us on social:
Music to Celebrate Life on Twitter Music to Celebrate Life on Facebook Music to Celebrate Life on Instagram

You can learn more about In The Beach Boys here:

Spotify Website Twitter Facebook YouTube soundcloud

About the curator - Tommi Tikka

Tommi Tikka - Music to Curator

Tom Tikka is a linguist, poet, professional songwriter, recording artist and a music aficionado. He started playing guitar when he was four and writing songs when he was six. Consequently, he doesn't remember a time when he wasn't playing or writing. It's fair to say, music and lyrics are not just something he loves to engage himself in; to him, they are a way of life.

 

Comment