Out of the ditch and onto the beach.
I am not sure if the album references the Neville Shute novel or the 1959 movie or is more literal than that. The beach is after all as far as you can go, unless you walk out into the waves. It’s a place of contemplation or finality. Young stands there with his shoes off as if he is ready to step into the ocean, maybe say goodbye to L.A. and all it signifies, who knows.
I have never really been one to spend a whole lot of time trying to understand what is going on with the songs, yes we get the Mansons in Revolution Blues and the rape of the earth for oil in Vampire Blues and who really knows what Ambulance Blues is about apart from pissing in the wind. I really enjoy Walk On and See the Sky About To Rain but my favorite is For The Turnstiles, maybe it’s the pianos and banjo’s.
Many automatically name this their favorite album. What makes it stand out I think from other albums is the seemingly personal nature of the songs, they are however all a little distant, maybe that’s the honey slides. It’s as if the songs are Young looking back, getting ready to look forward. There is also the mystery of the album, barely available for 20 years it became a cult. Who really knows the real reason but it did manage to raise it’s mystique over more readily available records.
It’s for sure a bleak record but it is at times more bitter than despairing, maybe it’s the hangover record at the end of the day. The bleary eyed look back after the chaos of Tonights the Night and Time Fades Away.
The weird thing is I find it pretty easy to get excited about the two other albums in the Ditch Trilogy, they are polarizing, perverse, unsettling albums. On the Beach is just weary, yes it’s a good listen that exhausts you. Time Fades Away rakes you into the depths of despair, Tonights the Night is the wake and then there is the inevitable hangover.