The Doors

The End

Song Review by

There are few Doors songs that can lay claim to the same level of both musical and cultural significance as “The End”. Although the lengthy and conscious-shattering track rounds out the band’s eponymous debut, its’ concert life actually pre-dates the long player. Legend has it that early performances -- particularly during the “Oedipus section” -- were not only greeted with stunned silence, but ended up costing the band one of their first live gigs.

Lead vocalist and lyricist Jim Morrison’s poetic brilliance rarely, if ever, surpassed this slow, languid and scarily psychedelic tale that simultaneously draws on aspects of both love and hate. The narrative proved to be far more complex than most concurrent pop/rock at the time. As such, it requires the listener to ultimately surrender to the complexity of the multiple layers woven into the story line. In keeping with Morrison’s lyrical capacity for ambiguity, an analysis often begs more questions than it ultimately answers.

The tale of incestuous lust and murder comes full-circle and is framed by the ultimate finality in Morrison’s statement that “This is the end.”

Although “The End” was often included as part of the Doors early live sets, it became a real rarity in the wake of the litigious situations that Morrison found himself mired in during 1969. One of the last concert performances is available on the posthumously issued live Doors In Detroit (2000) CD set.

Arguably the most notable cover version is by Nico, as the title track from her 1974 release. Although it might seem impossible, she turns the song into an even more torrid and wrenching musical maze of madness. Her version is often dismissed by Doors fans as ‘unlistenable’, however her rendering on the seminal June 1, 1974 LP is perhaps more what Morrison actually intended.

Another notable use of this song was by Francis Ford Coppola during the commencing sequence of his Vietnam epic Apocalypse Now (1979). The marriage of sound and image has rarely been as cinematically memorable. To quote Marlon Brando -- “the horror … the horror”.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
The Doors 1967 Analogue Productions 11:52
Strange Days 1967 WEA
Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine 1972 Elektra / Rhino 11:45
Doors/Strange Days 1975 WEA International 11:50
No Image 1982 Elektra
The Best of the Doors [1985] 1985 Elektra 11:42
No Image 1987 Elektra
Light My Fire 1988 Duchesse Records
In Concert 1991 Elektra 15:42
The Doors [Original Soundtrack] 1991
Original Soundtrack
Elektra 11:42
No Image 1992 Warner Bros.
Apocalpyse Now 1994 Kiss the Stone
Greatest Hits 1996 Elektra 6:31
The Doors Box Set 1997 Elektra 17:58
The Oliver Stone Connection 1998
Various Artists
Hip-O 11:41
No Image 1999 A*Vision Entertainment / Atlantic
The Complete Studio Recordings 1999 Elektra 11:43
Essential Rarities 2000 EastWest 17:46
Bright Midnight Records Sampler 2000 Elektra 16:16
The Best of the Doors [2000] 2000 WEA / WEA International
Live in Detroit (Cobo Hall, 05/08/1970) 2001 Elektra / Rhino 17:35
The Very Best of the Doors [2001] 2001 Rhino 6:30
Box Set, Pt. 1 2002 Elektra 17:58
Bright Midnight: Live in America 2002 Rhino 16:15
No Image 2002 Eagle Vision
Legacy: The Absolute Best 2003 Warner Bros.
L.A. Woman/Morrison Hotel/The Doors 2003 Warner Bros. 11:50
Boot Yer Butt! 2003 Rhino 17:01
Soundstage/No One Here Gets Out Alive 2004 Eagle Vision
Love Death Travel 2006 Rhino 11:44
Perception 2006 Elektra
Set the Night on Fire: The Doors Bright Midnight Archives Collection 2006 Elektra 17:35
The Very Best of the Doors 2007 Elektra 11:40
Doors Vinyl Box 2007 Rhino / Rhino/Warner Bros. / Warner Music 11:39
The Future Starts Here: The Essential Doors Hits 2008 Elektra 6:28
Classic Albums: The Doors [DVD] 2008 Eagle Rock
Live at the Matrix '67 2008 Rhino 13:54
Live in New York 2009 Elektra / Rhino 19:50
When You're Strange: A Film About the Doors 2010 Rhino 11:25
Live in Vancouver 1970 2010 Bright Midnight / Doors Music Company / Rhino 17:57
A Collection 2011 DMC Records / Rhino / Warner Music 11:39
Live at the Bowl '68 2012 Elektra / GC / Rhino 17:31
Live at the Matrix, Los Angeles, March 1967 Kiddinx
No Image Elektra / Rhino 11:34
blue highlight denotes editor's pick