"The End" is a song by The Doors, the lyrics of which are written by Jim Morrison. He originally wrote the song about breaking up with his girlfriend Mary Werbelow, but it evolved through months of performances at Los Angeles' Whisky a Go Go into a nearly 12-minute track 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. Two takes were done and the second take is the one that was issued.
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.
Interviewed by Lizze James, he pointed out the meaning of the verse "My only friend, the End":
Sometimes the pain is too much to examine, or even tolerate... That doesn't make it evil, though – or necessarily dangerous. But people fear death even more than pain. It's strange that they fear death. Life hurts a lot more than death. At the point of death, the pain is over. Yeah – I guess it is a friend...
Shortly past the midpoint of the nearly 12-minute long album version, the song 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).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!
In John Densmore's autobiography Riders on the Storm, he recalls when Morrison explained the meaning:
At one point Jim said to me during the recording session, and he was tearful, and he shouted in the studio, 'Does anybody understand me?' And I said yes, I do, and right then and there we got into a long discussion and Jim just kept saying over and over kill the father, fuck the mother, and essentially boils down to this, kill all those things in yourself which are instilled in you and are not of yourself, they are alien concepts which are not yours, they must die. Fuck the mother is very basic, and it means get back to essence, what is reality, what is, fuck the mother is very basically mother, mother-birth, real, you can touch it, it's nature, it can't lie to you. So what Jim says at the end of the Oedipus section, which is essentially the same thing that the classic says, kill the alien concepts, get back reality, the end of alien concepts, the beginning of personal concepts.
Comprehensively wrecked, the singer [Morrison] wound up lying on the floor mumbling the words to his Oedipal nightmare, 'Fuck the mother, kill the father.' Then, suddenly animated, he rose and threw a TV at the control room window. Sent home by (producer Paul A.) Rothchild like a naughty schoolkid, he returned in the middle of the night, broke in, peeled off his clothes, yanked a fire extinguisher from the wall and drenched the studio. Alerted, Rothchild came back and persuaded the naked, foam-flecked Morrison to leave once more, advising the studio owner to charge the damage to Elektra.
The genesis and the use of the word "fuck" is described by Michaël Hicks as follows:
During this period, Morrison brought vocal ideas into the instrumental solo section. Between the organ and guitar solos he approached the microphone and intoned two brief lines from the middle of the song "When the Music's Over": "Persian night, babe / See the light, babe." More strikingly, when the retransition motive began, he held the microphone against his mouth and screamed the word "fuck" repeatedly, in rhythm, for three measures or more (the barking sound that one hears during this passage on most live recordings). This was probably not a spontaneous vulgarism, but rather, a kind of quotation from another Doors song, "The End." Paul Rothchild explains that in the Oedipal section of the studio recording of "The End," Morrison shouted the word "fuck" over and over "as a rhythm instrument, which is what we intended it to be." That "rhythm instrument" was buried in the studio mix of "The End." Now, forcefully superimposed on "Light My Fire", it shocked many a fan who had come to hear the group's most famous song.
A sketch in a 1979 episode of Saturday Night Live, hosted by Martin Sheen, satirized the troubled production of Apocalypse Now uses "The End" in a similar manner as the actual film. A sketch in a 2004 episode involved John McCain driven to madness while campaigning for George W. Bush as a parody of Apocalypse Now.
The song was used in the final episode of The Dennis Miller Show during another Apocalypse Now parody sequence, in which Dennis Miller was airlifted by (we are led to believe) a helicopter out of the set.
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.
Norwegian pop rock singer Marion Raven sampled lines from "The End" in her song "For You I'd Die", written about Jim Morrison and his longtime girlfriend Pamela Courson. In it Raven sings the lines "Oh, this is the end / My only friend, the end / Are words from my favorite band."
The Venture Bros.season 2 episode 3, "Assassinanny 911", parodies the Oedipal verse. Hank is pricked by a stiletto in Molotov Cococktease's boot and begins to see trails, as if a psychedelic trip, etc. He walks into a lab with Dr. Venture and says "Father.." to which Dr. V replies "Yes Hank?" Hank: "I want to kill you." Cocktease enters and Hank says "Molitov! I want to... AHHHH-come on baby."
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 film 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!".
German dance music band Tube Tech made a tech-house version of this song in 2003.
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 straight 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 lyric "Mother, I want to fuck you" can be heard clearly, instead of the unintelligible screaming of the studio version.
^a: In one of his Vietnam War poems, William Caughly mentions a "blue bus" in relation to the military draft: "But when they called (the draft board), I answered./ NO Vietnam for me/ NO blue bus./ And I knew they'd never use the nukes./ Right?/ They just never got the chance./ Day before I leave for basic training, anti-war rally in Los Angeles,/ in front of the Century Plaza Hotel ...").