And In The End....20 great closing songs on albums
Just as the opening song can set out the stall for a great album, its closing number can leave you exhilarated and wanting more, or it can be the signpost for what's coming next. Closing tracks can be riotous epics, or gentle, even soporific end pieces. The hidden end track remains a personal favourite. Here are 20 of my favourites...
1. Tomorrow Never Knows - The Beatles (Revolver)
I first heard Revolver in the late 80s - it was brilliant, but Tomorrow Never Knows sounded like nothing I had ever heard before - I can't imagine how it must have sounded to people who played it in 1966. Revolver was the sound of The Beatles and George Martin moving away from producing songs you could play live to albums that could not be recreated on stage - they were free. It signposted things in Beatle-land would change forever.
2. Eclipse - Pink Floyd (The Dark Side Of The Moon)
Taking mental health as its theme, The Dark Side Of The Moon remains the apex of the partnership between David Gilmour and Roger Waters (and no matter what Waters may think, neither were as good without each other).
When they first put the album together, they struggled to find an end piece, Eclipse pulls the whole album together into a neat end, its lyrics referencing earlier songs on the album and revisiting the soulful voices that had backed earlier track Time. And when you think the song has reached its swelling end, then after 41 seconds of silence, the kick drum pulse actually fades back in and there's one last spoken rumination ("There is no dark side in the moon really, Matter of fact it's all dark"). Class.
3. Dream Brother - Jeff Buckley (Grace)
Jeff Buckley was the son of Tim Buckley, but Tim left his mother when she was pregnant and only met his son as a child for a few days before he overdosed and died. The ghost of his estranged father would hang heavy over Jeff's career, but also open doors for him.
His incredible voice mirrored his father's, and this song was a plea to a friend not to walk out on his pregnant girlfriend - "Don't be like the one who made me so old". Like much of the album it shows his influences of Scott Walker, Cocteau Twins and Led Zeppelin pulled together into one perfect moment. It remains my favourite of his songs and it's truly epic.
4. Gouge Away - Pixies (Doolittle)
The retelling of Samson and Delilah, Gouge Away is a perfect finish to their greatest album, its mix of Black Francis' howl and Kim's sweet vocals create a perfect screaming moment to end the album.
5. Rock’N’Roll Suicide - David Bowie (Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars)
Bookending the album with two of his more avant garde pieces gave Ziggy its sense of grandeur. Five Years and Rock'N'Roll Suicide to me are sister songs, both influenced by Brel and Baudelaire, both with death and the fleetingness of time at their core. The latter ends the album with its cinematic sweeping strings and Bowie's voice screaming until it suddenly crashes to an end. It's magnificent - it had to end the album, how on earth could you follow this?
6. Street Spirit - Radiohead (The Bends)
Thom's vocals were influenced by Jeff Buckley and on The Bends, you could really see him stretch and test them to the limit. Street Spirit was the final big push on an album filled with fantastic performances, but the "Immerse your soul in love" ending still gives me the shivers. Perfection.
7. Train In Vain - The Clash (London Calling)
The hidden track on London Calling, it was not listed on the album as it was a last minute addition, too late to make the sleeve and too good to be left for another day. It doesn't mention the words in its title at any point, a name simple given so it would not be mixed up with Ben E King's Stand By Me (I would have loved to hear them cover that, btw).
It's a wonderful, joyous ending to a brilliant, eclectic record. My favourite version is by the Manic Street Preachers, who declare "Annie Lennox stole this song from The Clash, we're stealing it back", mimicking U2's declaration about Helter Skelter and Charles Manson. Lennox's version is appalling...
8. When The Levee Breaks - Led Zeppelin (IV)
Zeppelin's version of the country blues song by Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy is Zeppelin at their bluesiest, but Jon Bonham's drums are amazing, giving it an almost hypnotic feel. The song is apocalyptic and the perfect end to their finest album.
9. You Can’t Always Get What You Want - The Rolling Stones (Let It Bleed)
Schoolboys, choirs, horns, kitchen sinks - it's had everything thrown at it and it's enormous.
10. I Am The Resurrection - The Stone Roses (The Stone Roses)
Its killer instrumental outro, with its backwards version of Taxman's bass line is the footloose jam-tastic ending for an album that's tight as fuck. Shame Ian Brown is such a twat these days...
11. This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) - Talking Heads (Speaking In Tongues)
An unusually warm and comforting ending for a band more used to jagged, polyrhythmic experimental songs. At its core, it's a simple, personal love song, probably the most open thing David Byrne has ever put to words. Obviously it's still quite ambiguous but for Byrne "I guess I must be having fun" and "If someone asks, this is where I'll be" are as romantic as he will get.
12. Heavy Seas Of Love - Damon Albarn (Everyday Robots)
Brian Eno leads the verses, while Damon leads the chorus, backed by The Leytonstone City Mission Choir. Eno's voice is deep and sonorous, a contrast to Albarn's voice which is endearing but lacks technical skill (he is himself permanently dissatisfied by his voice, which is a shame as I think it can be rather lovely, especially on Badhead).
The song itself ends with a gentle handclap sound, an understated to a wild, varied and experimental album. Lovely.
13. Gold Dust Woman - Fleetwood Mac (Rumours)
Cocaine enthusiasts finish their most successful album with a song that's clearly about the perils of the stuff, though it also alludes to the end of her relationship with Lindsay Buckingham. It's a subdued and experimental - Mick Fleetwood broke sheets of glass to accentuate her vocals as she sang "pick up the pieces and go home". It's Fleetwood Mac at their most poignant and folky. And for an album full of allusions to the end of their various relationships, this was the song where you were left in no doubt she and Lindsay were over...
14. The Chauffeur - Duran Duran (Rio)
Inspired by The Night Porter, its bubbling synth line and almost pan pipes solo are a long way from the pop classics that made them pin ups on teenagers' walls. It's arty, weird and shows there is so much more to them than the hits.
15. Cat-Scan Hist'ry - The Blue Aeroplanes (Swagger)
An hypnotic, trance like song that swells as Gerard Langley, their strange, genius poet sings repetitively "Burn Land, bought land, animals sink, animals stand" - it's mesmeric and wonderful.
16. Speedway - Morrissey (Vauxhall & I)
Moz's greatest solo album ends with his strangest moment, its intro suddenly cut short by the sound of a chainsaw kickstarting. It's wildly different for Moz, and the song builds and builds...I always thought it was a paean to Johnny - "In my own strange way, I'll always stay true to you"...
17. The Beach II - Wolf Alice (Blue Weekend)
The Beach II is the calm after the storm, Ellie finding herself with her mates, somewhere calm and relaxed – “Of the girls on the beach, my girls on the beach, happy ever after”, as the twanging guitars, hand claps and swirling Pink Floyd keys drift to a close.
18. Fight The Power - Public Enemy (Fear Of A Black Planet)
A call to action, it's an unstoppable rebel-rousing song - Spike Lee apparently took them out and asked them to write a civil rights anthem. They more than delivered, its killer lyric being "Elvis was a hero to most, but he never meant shit to me". It's storming and angry as fuck, and as relevant today as it was 30 plus years ago.
19. Ocean Rain - Echo & The Bunnymen (Ocean Rain)
Ian McCulloch proclaimed Ocean Rain the greatest album ever made (not a modest man), and whilst I wouldn't go that far, it's definitely up there and this is its epochal moment.
20. A Day In The Life - The Beatles (Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band)
Sprawling, it sounds like a wall being built - we get to hear each brick being added as the song progresses until the wall is smashed to pieces at the end by the cataclysmic roar of the orchestra. Wow.