Song Of The Month August 2011: “The End” by The Doors
Recorded in the last week of August 1966, The Doors’ self-titled debut album has been heralded by many as a key moment in the progression of stellar rock music. The band’s frontman Jim Morrison has become something of a cultural icon since and it was this album that began such a trajectory in the pantheon of popular music legends. Jim Morrison did not last long and is one of the fabled 27 Club. A club that has recently inducted a new number in the form of soul songstress Amy Winehouse but ultimately such an idea is a crass way of simplifying individuals and grouping them according to a media’s drive of label application to any given individual. The band have carried on in their own way in some guise or other but in the same way as the current carnation of Thin Lizzy, they are a group that will forever be defined by one man.
“The End” is (fittingly) the final track on the group’s debut album and as this day is transfer deadline day in the world of football, it’s a track made all the more fitting for its intended purpose here.
As a track, “The End” can effectively serve as a microcosm of the Doors’ entire identity, musically and to a degree, culturally. Morrison’s poetic nature is abundant on this track as is the musical spacing that is often utilised on any given Doors record. The meaning of the song is ambiguous as even Morrison himself claimed that every time he heard it, it meant something different to him. “The End” was originally intended as a simple break-up song but transformed into an 11-minute opus.
Of course, as in keeping with the created sex-symbol identity of Morrison, the song is full of sexual representations and it can often detract from what is a band-defining track. The Doors may have had an exceptional frontman in Jim Morrison but to focus solely on him is to undermine the talents of the group itself. Robby Krieger’s guitar-playing on the track adds a raga vibe to the track in places and this in itself is something that illustrates the influences on the band’s musical dynamic. The musical structure of “The End” utilises space as in the phrasing of certain motifs and connotes a dreamy quality to the track. While far from a wistful dream, it’s more a psychedelic leaning-back rather than a complete closed-eyes approach.
“The End” has not and will not be left alone by time. Its use in Francis Ford Coppola’s epic motion picture Apocalypse Now has played a big part in the song being used and referenced on many occasions throughout the platforms of creative media. From parodies (Animaniacs), simple usage (Cold Case to name one) to references (The Simpsons), “The End” has been used frequently and only serves to enhance its standing as a signature piece of the Doors and indeed as a stellar standout track on its own accord. Indeed, just parts of the track in particular what has been called the oedipal sequence in the original track has been ripe for countless parodies with Half Man Half Biscuit’s being a fine if not the finest example of this (on the “This Leaden Pall” album). Many acts have referenced the song in performances and there has even been some cover versions with Nico’s probably being the most notable.