‘Til I Die – Beach Boys ::Jonathan Phillips

“Until I Die” begins like a particular kind of film. All the colours are drained and the actors dialogue doesn’t go anywhere; the camera just drifts through a series of lonely conversations with quiet people who want to be somewhere different. There is such a maudlin feeling it’s almost unbearable; it’s sunk in a mire of empty diners and restless nights on unfriendly beaches. There is no resolution in the song. The focus on loneliness and preoccupation with death marks a considerable shift for the Beach Boys, there is no innocence in this song or optimistic reflection on summer love. Brian Wilson wrote that “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 about one and half minutes of uneasy restlessness, a chorus emerges but, unlike the familiar melodies of the early Beach Boys it is entirely beguiling. Brian Wilson repeatedly sings the line “These Things I’ll be Until I Die”. It emerges amongst waves of unbearably beautiful vocal harmonies, moonlit waves that eventually fade away like you are driving away from the beach and can hear the distant reverberation of the sea. Everything is cradled in that sad melody and, for its duration, there is nothing else that matters in the world. Just don’t listen to it when drunk, you will probably kill yourself or something.

:: Jonathan hosts Throwing Shapes on RDU 98.5 FM and writes music as Mount Pleasant. He also enjoys romantic nights with wine and cheese, and controversy.