The Doors’ “The End” Lyrics Meaning
It should be noted that The Doors’ “The End” was composed while the iconic Jim Morrison (1943-1971), who sings and co-wrote “The End”, was highly intoxicated. Thus it is a bit incoherent, as in being centered on a number of diverse topics, as well as utilizing terminology which we have to conclude was part of the writers’ personal lingo. Even Morrison himself stated that that ‘every time he hears the song, it means something else to him”. Indeed it deals with so many different subject matters that a listener can discover new meanings embedded in the track that he may not have picked up on before.
Morrison also stated that when originally conceptualized, “The End” served as “a simple goodbye song”, as in a breakup track. This is the narrative which the chorus and the first two verses in particular seem to be focused on – the singer abruptly disassociating himself from his closest “friend” and in the process anticipating that person will face a troubled future (the latter in reference in the second verse).
The succeeding verses are heavily-symbolic and once again are open to interpretation. In other words, trying to make too much sense out of them may prove to be a fool’s errand. Indeed “The End” has attracted scholastic attention in terms of its meaning like few songs in American history. Yet there still has not been a consensus on what it is saying.
However, there are some general themes which can be derived from the latter part of the song. For instance, it has an ominous tone, with the singer referring to “children [who] are insane”, “danger on the edge of town”, “weird scenes” and even recounts the tale of some dude who seemingly murders his own family. So it can be concluded that the singer finds himself in a challenging environment and is dealing with mental issues. It can also be theorized that what he is actually doing in these passages is negatively critiquing American/Western society, i.e. the lines “the west is the best”, which is obviously (within the overall context of the fourth verse) sarcastic in nature as well as the statement “lost in a Roman pain of wilderness”, which is the line that kicks off the third verse.
Theme of Death
It is also arguable that despite the various directions this song takes the listener in, its main theme is actually death. This theory is based on an interview which Morrison gave in 1969 in which he insinuates that the term “the end” is synonymous with death and also “is a friend” (the singer refers to “the end” as “beautiful friend” and his “only friend” in the chorus of the song). And while he was led into making that statement, it is obvious in the latter stages of the track that death is one of its major themes.
Conclusively, there are many different elements embedded in “The End”. Morrison also stated that he “could see how it could be goodbye to a kind of childhood”, which again likely alludes more to its latter sections. But he concluded by saying that he thinks the song is “sufficiently complex and universal in its imagery” and “that it could be almost anything you want it to be”. Or looking at this statement from another angle, the song is intentionally vague. And trying to derive a specific, concrete meaning from it may take away from it its ideal function of serving as an exercise in creative thinking.
Famous Live Performance of “The End”
The Doors performed “The End” live at California’s iconic Hollywood Bowl in 1968. Many regard that performance as one of the most remarkable live performances of the song.
One of Rock Music’s Greatest Songs
“The End” is one of the most-celebrated tracks in the history of rock music. For instance, Rolling Stone placed it on its list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”, ranking it at 336. Guitar World also gave it the distinction of being one of the “100 Greatest Guitar Solos of All Time”, where in that regard they placed it at number 93.
Accordingly the track has been used extensively in pop culture, most-notably by Francis Ford Coppola in classic war film Apocalypse Now (1979).
Another Version of “The End” Exists
There is another version of this song where Jim Morrison concludes the last verse by stating “mother, I want to [expletive] you”. This alludes to a Freudian concept called “the Oedipus complex”, which influences this particular section of the song, where an individual hates his father and has abnormal desires for his mother (or vice versa).
The Creation of “The End”
The Doors developed “The End” over a period of months while performing it live at a bar in Los Angeles called “Whisky a Go Go”. But ultimately, the song proved so controversial (specifically in reference to the aforementioned Oedipal section) that it got them fired from the gig. This occurred on 21 August 1966, after they had been playing there for approximately three months.
The members of The Doors – Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore and Robby Krieger – are credited with writing this song.
And “The End” was produced by their regular collaborator, Paul A. Rothchild.