This article first appeared in The Oxford Student on 11 June 2015. This was another entry into the music section’s ‘Four Columns’ feature, and this time the theme was ‘songs for an ending’, so I cracked this one out. Terribly sentimental, but I’ve always felt it’s a song that never quite gets its due.
Well, this is cheating, isn’t it? This is the endiest song imaginable. On the Beatles’ last album. At the end of almost a decade of earth-shattering pop. And it’s called ‘The End’, for God’s sake.
But what’s most remarkable about ‘The End’ is the extent to which it belies its own premise. It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for. There’s a visceral sense that this may be the end, but it’s by no means the finish. “You’re gonna be in my dreams tonight”- these songs will stay with their listeners, and, as long as they are still heard, they will never properly end. Something big and important may be ending, but that’s OK- the Beatles are ending, but there are a whole bunch of new things coming along to take their place.
‘The End’ is the perfect type of ending, which is to say, not an ending at all. Not only did the world of popular music continue producing top quality stuff, the album itself goes on to the sweetest thirty seconds in pop, ‘Her Majesty’, and then the Beatles themselves go on to Let It Be. Because that’s the thing about endings; all they mean is that something else is starting.