The night they recorded “The End” would always remain a significant moment for Jim Morrison. After everyone finally went home for the night he couldn’t stop thinking about. He climbed an eight-foot-high wooden gate, somehow got back into the studio. He was breathing hard as he took off his shoes and jeans and shirt. Naked he grabbed a large sand ashtray and threw it. Then he pulled a fire extinguisher from a wall and sprayed the foam all over. He hosed the whole place down, especially in the area where the band was. Jim Morrison knew he would get no rest that night until he quenched the fire he had lit in the studio. He was drunk but he knew enough about himself to know it was the only way he would get any peace. What he may not have known is that the real fire he started that night was on the inside, where it could never be put out.
“The End” tells of the impending end of a love affair quite possibly by murder. Its an eleven minute psychosexual epic done entirely in one chord (E). The song is an incredible achievement in music, there’s nothing that can even come close to what was done with “The End”, in terms of the rhythmic and melodic variation backing a complex story line. It builds to an effect of mood rather than a sequence of events. Morrison’s masterpiece was almost pure poetry, which probably remains the single most astounding track the doors ever recorded.
Jim Morrison uses words as much for their emotive effect as their meaning. The song suggests rather than states a mind filled with fears of sex, violence and death. Its the imagery more than the meaning of the words themselves that gets the message across. The imagery is terrifying-“the snake is long” and he’s “old and his skin is cold.” A symbol of evil if combined with images of sex and death. After a “Roman wilderness of pain” we take on an even more treacherous journey. The journey to paradise where all things are possible can be accomplished by giving your final destination to the driver of the “blue bus”. The promise of wisdom for those who are willing to go to the “ancient lake.” But the wisdom is sad, hopeless forbidden knowledge-the knowledge of evil. Violence, guilt, misguided love and most of all death.
To forbidden fantasy of incest and patricide is to where the bus travels. The Oedipal section says, “Kill the father” it means kill all of those things in you that are drilled in you and not of yourself. Those things must die. “Fuck the mother” means get back to the essence, get back to reality. Nature can’t lie to you. “The End” contains dark and alluring secrets. The long hall is reminiscent of the womb and the ancient gallery of masks is a reference to Greek tragedy. The primal scream that follows, links the casually delivered lyrics to the inner rage that promoted them. Then these images are followed by the bluesy “come on baby, take a chance with us”. “And meet me at the back of the blue bus” indicates that there are even more bizarre journeys waiting for those who dare travel on the blue bus. Apparently, Morrison feels that no one is likely to go back with him on the bus or maybe the “set you free” is a reference to the murder of those who would dare to try such an adventure. In any case, when the end comes he is alone.
Of course the real value of a piece like “The End” is its freedom of imagery that lets the listeners come up with a bunch of different meanings. So any kind of formal interpretation is meaningless in the attempt. Jim Morrison and The Doors’ lyrical thrusts were designed to penetrate our minds and souls first and then the analytical part of us. “The End” deals with myths. The Greek tragedy….the Oedipal love…patricide, or maybe just a simple goodbye song to some girl or goodbye to a kind of childhood. I really don’t know. Its sufficiently complex and universal in its imagery that it could be almost anything you want it to be.