"The End" is a song by The Doors. Originally written by Jim Morrison as a song about breaking up with girlfriend Mary Werbelow, it evolved through months of performances at Los Angeles' Whisky a Go Go into a nearly 12-minute opus on their self-titled album. The band would perform the song to close their last set. It was first released in January 1967. The song was recorded live in the studio with no overdubbing.
"The End" was ranked at #336 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2010).
The song's guitar solo was ranked #93 on Guitar World's '100 Greatest Guitar Solos of All Time'.
Robby Krieger's slinky, haunting guitar lines over D drone in DADGBD (double dropped D) tuning using a harmonic minor scale recall Indian drone and raga-based music, as has often been noted, and the rolling and dramatic crescendoes of John Densmore's drums recall Indian tabla rhythms. The music as a whole, though, does not sound entirely or even particularly "Indian". The sharp, ringing edge of the guitar recalls the 50s to provide an inconspicuous bass line (I-V-I-V-I-V…) and fills. One may find a strong similarity to Chopin's "Funeral March" theme and also to Sandy Bull's guitar instrumental "Blend"—but this may be more to do with the quality of the melodic minor scale than with any conscious influence. The song begins in common time (4/4), and starts alternating with the unusual meter of 6/4, right before Morrison sings the line "…of our elaborate plans, the end…", until he sings "I'll never look into your eyes…again", when it returns to 4/4, and stays in that meter for the remainder of the song.
Structurally, the song crescendos to three separate mini-climaxes separated by slower sections of half-spoken, half-sung lyrics before building to an enormous psychedelic climax right after Jim Morrison sings the "meet me at the back of the blue bus" verse. Previously, the song had been weaving along on its melodies to an encounter with the ruling powers of the mind. The sexual representation seems more likely given the similar crescendo apex very much along the lines of Ravel's 'Bolero". Afterward, "The End" departs on a wistful note when Morrison sings, "It hurts to set you free, but you'll never follow me. The end of laughter and soft lies, the end of nights we tried to die." In the context of Morrison's first interpretation quoted above, this lyric and the associated music that softly reiterates themes from the opening may mean that the comfort of childhood will be sacrificed for freedom.
In 1969, Morrison stated:
Everytime I hear that song, it means something else to me. It started out as a simple good-bye song probably just to a girl, but I see how it could be a goodbye to a kind of childhood. I really don't know. I think it's sufficiently complex and universal in its imagery that it could be almost anything you want it to be.
Shortly past the mid-point of the nearly 12-minute long album version, the song suddenly enters a spoken-word section with the words, "The killer awoke before dawn…" That section of the song reaches a dramatic climax with the lines, "Father/Yes son?/I want to kill you/Mother, I want to…" (with the next words screamed out unintelligibly). This is often considered a reference to the Oedipus complex. Ray Manzarek, the former keyboard player for the Doors explained:
He was giving voice in a rock 'n' roll setting to the Oedipus complex, at the time a widely discussed tendency in Freudian psychology. He wasn't saying he wanted to do that to his own mom and dad. He was re-enacting a bit of Greek drama. It was theatre!
The Pop Chronicles documentary reports that critics found the song "Sophoclean and Joycean."
Usage in film and television
The Apocalypse Now Sequence
"The End" was used in Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 film Apocalypse Now, both in the opening sequence and during the killing of Kurtz.
This usage has led to other, often satirical usages for the song's appearance:
- A 1979 Martin Sheen-hosted Saturday Night Live sketch satirizing the troubled production of "Apocalypse Now" uses "The End" in a similar manner as the actual film.
- A Saturday Night Live sketch in which John McCain is driven to madness while campaigning for George W. Bush as a parody of Apocalypse Now.
- The final broadcast of Toonami, specifically Tom's last message, references the song.
- It was used in the final episode of The Dennis Miller Show, during another Apocalypse Now parody sequence, in which Dennis was airlifted by (we are led to believe) a helicopter out of the set.
- The song was also referenced in a 2006 episode of The Venture Bros. entitled "Assassinanny 911", in a scene which also parodied the Apocalypse Now usage, when Hank (under the influence of poison) quotes the Oedipal section of the song and tries to kill his father with a papier-mâché machete while a Doors-influenced score plays in the background.
- The song was parodied in an episode of Animaniacs, the plot of which was partly a parody of Apocalypse Now. At the start of the episode, a voice actor sings in a Morrison-like voice, "This is the beginning… the beginning of our story… the beginning…". At the middle of the story, the word "beginning" is replaced with the word "middle". At the end of the episode he says "This is the ending… the ending of our story… the ending… the ending… the ending… the ending." and a Jim Morrison character is seen being run over by a golf cart.
- Director Martin Scorsese once used the song in a sex scene montage in his early student film Who's That Knocking at My Door (1968).
- The song was also used in Oliver Stone's 1991 film The Doors, where it plays while the band explored drugs in the desert.
- The early 90s Fox Kids cartoon show Eek! the Cat had an episode based on Apocalypse Now. In the beginning of the episode, the title character sings "This is the beginning of the story."
- The song is used in an episode of Supernatural as a title which features Dean Winchester traveling five years into the future and discovering a post-apocalyptic world.
- It was played during a promo for the Lost episode, "What They Died For".
- The song was used in one of an episode's final scenes in the TV series Cold Case.
- 21 Jump Street episode, "Old Haunts in a New Age", referenced this song when a character fakes a trance to deride a phony medium. The trance seems believable enough as he drones "the killer put his boots on" but by the time he recites "father, I want to kill you", using his fingers as puppets, the medium realizes he's being mocked.
- Used in the movie "Sinners and Saints" produced in 2010 at the moment of Reily's confession about his family.
Usage in other music
- "Tiny Sick Tears", from Frank Zappa's You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 4, parodies the song's Freudian imagery, and Jim Morrison's portentous delivery;
You take a mask from the ancient hallway, and you go down, to your father's room. And you open the door, and your father, your tiny sick father, is beating his meat to a Playboy magazine—he's got it rolled into a tube and he's got his tiny sick pud stuffed in the middle of it, right flat up against the centerfold! And you say, "Father, I want to kill y—" and he says, "Not now, son, not now!"
- Nirvana parodied the song live with Kurt Cobain singing normally (although with different lyrics) and Krist Novoselic drunkenly doing improvised spoken word parts about the killer awaking in Belgium and craving waffles.
- In the March 1, 1997 version of the Phish song "Weekapaug Groove", recorded on Slip Stitch and Pass, vocalist Trey Anastasio starts out by indirectly quoting the Oedipal section of this song, saying, "He walked on down the hall… He said, "Father, I want to kill you… Mother… I want to cook you breakfast… Then I wanna… I wanna borrow the car… Then I wanna… Ooooooooooh."
- During the Zeitgeist tour, The Smashing Pumpkins used a tease of "The End" as an intro to "Silverfuck".
- Rap group Three 6 Mafia sampled this song for their song "I'm So Hi" on their album When the Smoke Clears.
- Chris Cornell, both solo recently and while fronting the band Soundgarden, would tag portions of "The End", among other songs, onto the breakdown of the Soundgarden opus "Slaves & Bulldozers" during live performances.
- Metal group Bloodsimple sampled lines from "The End" in their song "Ride With Me".
- Norwegian Pop/Rock singer Marion Raven sampled lines from "The End" in her song, "For You I'd Die", written about Jim Morrison and girlfriend Pamela Courson. In it she sings the lines "Oh, this is the end/My only friend the end/Are words from my favorite band."
- Morrison's one-time lover Nico covered the song for her fourth album, which shared the title.
- Marilyn Manson's cover version of "Five to One," also by The Doors, ends in him referencing the "Mother, I want to fuck you" lyrics.
- Even touted as one of the best covers of the song by the surviving members, Travis Meeks of the rock band Days of the New covered the song with the remaining members on VH1 Storytellers. The song was later recorded for the Doors tribute album, Stoned Immaculate: The Music of The Doors.
- Butthole Surfers vocalist Gibby Haynes parodied the "Walk down the hall" section as a sort of speech on their live album Double Live.
- Half Man Half Biscuit parodied the "Walk down the hall…" section on "Footprints", the final track of the 1993 album This Leaden Pall. The droning, raga influenced song concludes with the lyrics "The teenager awoke at mid-day. He walked into the back-garden, everything was peaceful except for the complaining note of a Woodcrest dying in the leafy thickness. He walked up to the patio chair where his father sat. 'Father?', 'Yes son', 'I want to borrow your golf clubs'".
- The Box Tops In their cover version of You Keep Me Hangin' On takes the line "And he walked on down the hall"
- Hungarian Alternative/Metal group Subscribe used "The killer awoke before down…" section in their song Oidipus Abortion Clinic.
While the 1967 release of the song is the best known version, there are other, slightly different versions available.
A significantly shorter edit, sometimes erroneously referred to as a "single version", was released on the Greatest Hits album. The edited version is almost half the length of the original.
The version used in Francis Ford Coppola's movie Apocalypse Now is different from the 1967 release, being a remix specifically made for the movie. The remixed versions emphasizes the vocal track at the final crescendo, highlighting Morrison's liberal use of scat and expletives. The vocal track can partly be heard in the 1967 release, although the expletives are effectively buried in the mix (and the scat-singing only faintly audible), and Morrison can only be heard clearly at the end of the crescendo with his repeated line of "Kill! Kill!".
A new 5.1 mix was issued with the 2006 box set Perception. The new 5.1 mix has more sonic details than the original 1967 mix.
While it is officially recognized that the 1967 version is an edit consisting of two different takes recorded on two consecutive days—the splice being right before the line "The killer awoke before dawn", and easily pinpointed by cut cymbals—the full takes, or the edited parts, have yet to surface.
In the version recorded live in Madison Square Garden, the controversial lyric "Mother, I want to fuck you" can be heard clearly, instead of the unintelligible screaming of the studio version.
- March 1967 (13:54), released on Live at the Matrix
- July 5, 1968, Los Angeles Hollywood Bowl (15:42), released on In Concert
- January 17, 1970, New York, Show 2 (17:46), released on Live in New York
- May 8, 1970, Cobo Arena, Detroit (17:35), released on Live in Detroit
- June 6, 1970, Pacific Coliseum, Vancouver BC, Canada (17:58), released on Live in Vancouver 1970