The Beatles

The End

Composed by John Lennon / Paul McCartney

Song Review by

"The End" is an aptly titled song, coming at the end of the medley that (almost) finishes Abbey Road, and the end of the last album the Beatles recorded, though that neat ending was spoiled when Let It Be (begun and recorded for the most part before Abbey Road) became the last Beatles album actually released. Like several of the songs that had preceded it in the medley, it might have been viewed as a throwaway if issued as a stand-alone album track, but worked extremely well within the segued-together songs that occupied most of the last half of Abbey Road. Immediately preceded by the ominous guitar tag of "Carry That Weight," that guitar lick suddenly cuts off mid-phrase to explode into the far more uplifting, energetic "The End." After a brief instrumental intro of upward-flicking guitar riffs and a memorable Ringo Starr drum fill, principal composer Paul McCartney comes in to sing, in his best upper-register rock & roll voice, just one brief enigmatic lyric: "Oh yeah, all right, are you gonna be in my dreams tonight" (the last part of which has been frequently misheard as various other phrases). Perhaps it's a sly reference to the sweet dreams anticipated just a few minutes earlier in the medley by "Golden Slumbers." Then comes a real surprise: the first and only Starr drum solo on a Beatles record, though a pretty brief one by the standards of the psychedelic era. In fact, much of "The End" could be viewed as the group's take on the improvised jamming common to heavy rock of the late '60s, though as usual the Beatles did it with far more economic precision than anyone else. For after the drum rolls stop, the Beatles vamp around a two-chord riff, chanting exuberantly in the background as McCartney, John Lennon, and George Harrison all take turns on lead guitar, spitting out a variety of riffs that are both terse and powerful, not to mention with an imaginative variety of slightly distorted textures. The jam, if it could even be called that, doesn't last too long, as a stuttering guitar riff suddenly stops on a dime to be replaced by a staccato repeating piano note. That leaves the way clear for McCartney to come in with one sweet final lyric, and one of the most famous and most quoted of all the Beatles wrote: that in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. It wasn't always a sentiment practiced by the Beatles as they bickered through much of 1969 and broke up in 1970, granted, but it's a nice ideal with which few could argue. That in turn glides into a grand muted orchestral fanfare that's typical of the production flourishes found throughout the Abbey Road album. It's not quite "The End" of the album itself, though, as after a long band of silence, the 23-second "Her Majesty" comes in as a surprise finale. "The End" was too idiosyncratic (and had too few lyrics) to garner many cover versions, though the Everly Brothers did it on a 1970 album.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Abbey Road 1969 EMI 2:22
No Image 1984 MGM
No Image 1992 Toshiba EMI
The Ultimate Box Set 1995 Capitol 2:19
Anthology 3 1996 Apple/Capitol 2:50
The Beatles: Stereo Box Set 2009 EMI 2:06
The Beatles Christmas Pack Emd Int'l
blue highlight denotes editor's pick