Few songs are as wholly ubiquitous with their creator as Jim Morrison’s incredible piece of pop music poetry ‘The End’. Written by the enigmatic frontman and released on their self-titled 1967 debut, the track has always been a point of contention for dedicated fans who can’t be sure of the track’s meaning. Since the sad loss of Morrison to an overdose, while he was escaping life in Los Angeles, the song has been woven into his mystique.
Despite being one of the most famous songs of the time, and so universally enjoyed for its artistry, the actual meaning of the track has been mused upon for decades. In 1969, Morrison himself set about putting the record straight in an interview with Rolling Stone where he explained the story behind the classic Doors song ‘The End’ and how it can really be anything you want it to be.
The track quickly became one of The Doors’ landmark numbers, and as Morrison’s stock continued to rise after the Summer of Love, the intrigue surrounding the song began to rise. Speaking with Rolling Stone, Morrison elucidated on the meaning of the track and how it was never a concrete theme. “Let’s see…Oedipus is a Greek myth. Sophocles wrote about it. I don’t know who before that. It’s about a man who inadvertently killed his father and married his mother. Yeh, I’d say there was a similarity, definitely.”
Adding: “But to tell you the truth, every time I hear that song, it means something else to me. I really don’t know what I was trying to say. It just started out as a simple goodbye song.”
It’s a common feeling for artists. Writing pop songs isn’t an exact science, and there has to be a fair deal of trial and error when penning the tracks. The singer describes the track as a “simple goodbye song”, but who was Morrison saying goodbye to? “Probably just to a girl,” he continues, “But I could see how it could be 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.”
While seemingly never interested in what the press would write about him, there was one person who tried to direct the song that really caught his attention. “I don’t care what critics write about it, or anything like that, but one thing that disturbed me…I went to a movie one night in Westwood, and I was in a bookstore or some shop where they sell pottery and calendars and gadgets, Y’know…and a very attractive, intelligent — intelligent in the sense of aware and open — girl thought she recognised me and she came to say hello. And she was asking me about that particular song.”
“She was just out for a little stroll with a nurse. She was on leave, just for an hour or so, from the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute,” the singer continued. “She lived there and was just out for a walk. Apparently, she had been a student at UCLA and freaked on heavy drugs or something and either committed herself or someone picked up on her and put her there. Anyway, she said that that song was really a favourite of a lot of kids in her ward.
“At first I thought: Oh, man…and this was after I talked with her for a while, saying it could mean a lot of things, kind of a maze or a puzzle to think about, everybody should relate it to their own situation. I didn’t realise people took songs so seriously, and it made me wonder whether I ought to consider the consequences. That’s kind of ridiculous because I do it myself; you don’t think of the consequences, and you can’t.”
Death, Freud, Greek mythology, family, childhood, love and lust are all themes that one can find in The Doors song ‘The End’. It can feel strange for a track so eternally etched into pop culture to escape our internal investigations. Even with the help of Jim Morrison, one can’t be sure of the exact meaning of the track. But perhaps, like all great poetry, the song permanently resonates within the public consciousness because it is wholly indefinable.