Coffee and Rockin’ is For Closers

Over at The Dish, Keith Law is asking readers for a favorite last line from a novel (you can read the post here).  Personally I like first lines better but it made me wonder about other types of endings, the last songs on albums. If you’re like me and you still believe in the album as cohesive artistic statement the last song can make or break a record.  It good closing song can be the difference between a good or a great album or it can redeem a so-so record (more on this idea below).

I love albums but over the last several years I’ve listened to full albums less and less often.  The convenience of MP3 players have allowed me to pick and chose the songs I want to hear when I want to hear them.  Also, many of my favorite albums have been re-released with additional tracks, while these are a nice addition they make it harder to hear a record in it’s original context.  Sometimes I have to go back to the original album and hear it from start to finish and I always play close attention to the last song,

If you’ll allow me a brief music nerd moment I’d like to share my completely unscientific and deeply personal top five favorite album closers of all time.

Here Comes a Regular – The Replacements- Tim: Tom Waits once joked that he writes two types of songs “grim reapers and grand weepers” and this song, from my favorite Replacements album the ultimate in grand weepers to close out a record.  Here Comes a Regular brings all  the anthemic bombast of Tim down to a sadly beautiful crawl to closing time.

That Feel – Tom Waits – Bone Machine: This fits into the grand weeper category as well.  The closer to Bone Machine is love song to the spirit of rock and roll, co-written by none other than the spirit of rock and roll himself Keith Richards who also supplies some backup vocals.

A Day in The Life – The Beatles- Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band: Day in the life set the bar for closing songs and it’s so good that more than 40 years later I we forgive its little flaws, like the fact that it’s really two completely unrelated songs cleverly edited by George Martin and the part where you can hear engineer Mal Evans counting off time in the background.  Minor details.

Straight to Hell – The Clash – Combat Rock: As an album Combat Rock is disappointing but Straight to Hell makes it all worthwhile.  For an even better version check out The Clash Live: From Here To Eternity.

Sister Ray – The Velvet Underground – White Light White Heat: The final song on While Light/White Heat, Sister Ray is a feedback drenched epic of drug use and violence with a stomping guitar riff and Stooges-like back beat that absolutely fucking kills for 17 and a half minutes. When I used to find myself feeling down I’d get in my old VW with White Light/White Heat and on and roll through the Hollywood Hills late at night with Sister Ray until the guitar, drums and keyboard literally pounded the bad mood out of me.

That’s my top five.  Feel free to chime in with your own favorites.

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14 Comments

Filed under General Tomfoolery

14 responses to “Coffee and Rockin’ is For Closers

  1. Maybe this outs me as a Clash geek, but after all this time, I’ve grown to LOVE the B-side of Combat Rock. It’s not what you would think of traditionally as “The Clash.” But I find myself blown away by ambient moodiness of “Sean Flynn,” the proto-hiphop of “Overpowered by Funk” and I adore the Ginsburg-rapping “Ghetto Defendant.”

    If you haven’t heard it, there’s a bootleg of the original, double-album mix that Mick Jones originally turned in, before Strummer freaked out and had a big producer guy come in and “fix” it. With a few exceptions, this version, “Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg,” is a much better album. It’s rougher, messier, but more Clash-y, less slick. But what do I know, I still adore “Sandinista.”

  2. betheboy

    I’m a Clash nerd too although I have not heard the bootleg you mentioned. As for Clash records I’m a Give em Enough Rope guy, Samdanista has it’s moments bu I always hear it as two excellent sides stretched over six.

  3. I wish there was bootleg of the Give ’em Enough Rope demos, before they were fiddled with by whatsisname from Blue Oyster Cult.

  4. Criteria: had to be one of my favorite albums. Had to be one of the top 3 songs on that album.

    The Replacements – Answering Machine – Let It Be
    The Who – Won’t Get Fooled Again – Who’s next
    Pretenders – Mystery Achievement – Pretenders
    Soft Boys – Underwater Moonlight – Underwater Moonlight
    Drive-by Truckers – Angels and Fuselage – Southern Rock Opera
    The Dream Syndicate – The Days of Wine and Roses – The Days of Wine and Roses
    Aimee Mann – It’s Not Safe – I’m With Stupid
    The Clash – Garageland – The Clash
    Neil Young – Natural Beauty – Harvest Moon
    Nirvana – All Apologies – In Utero
    The Hold Steady – How A Resurrection Really Feels – Separation Sunday
    Close Lobsters – Knee Trember – Headache Rhetoric
    Bruce Springsteen – Jungleland – Born to Run
    R.E.M. – Superman – Lifes Rich Pageant

  5. Lenny Kravitz – Are You Gonna Go My Way: Eleutheria

    Fleetwood Mac – Rumours: Gold Dust Woman

    Bob Marley – Exodus: One Love/People Get Ready

    Dr. Dre – The Chronic: Bitches Ain’t Shit

  6. betheboy

    Jim- excellent choices all round although I’m not familiar with Close Lobsters. I’ll have to look that one up.

    Karen- Solid Choices especially the Dre. I think that too many hip hop albums start out stronger than they finish but the Chronic is a notable exception. Actually most albums in any genre start stronger then they finish.

  7. Close Lobsters were a late-80s jangly guitar band from Scotland, I believe.

    Kinda the missing link between The Church and The Stone Roses, but not nearly as epic as either.

  8. Just a few… similar criteria BFJim used.

    Rush – Presto: Available Light
    the cranberries – No Need To Argue: No Need To Argue
    B-52’s – Good Stuff: Bad Influence
    The Beastie Boys – To The 5 Boroughs: We Got The
    Blue Man Group – The Complex: Exhibit 13
    Cocteau Twins – Heaven or Las Vegas: Frou-Frou Foxes in Midsummer Fires
    Depeche Mode – Playing the Angel: Waiting for the Night

  9. Mike B.

    Similar criteria to BFJim and vmpyrdavid

    The Hold Steady-Killer Parties
    The Hold Steady-Slapped Actress
    The National-Mr. November
    The Clash-Train in Vain
    Elvis Costello and the Attractions-(What’s so Funny Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding (U.S. release of Armed Forces)

  10. I’d like to second the motion for “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” I really loved “Who’s Next” when I first got into The Who. Over the years, FM radio has spoiled my enjoyment of that album. But still, it always seemed like the perfect punctuation to that bombastic record.

    And “Love, Reign O’er Me” finishes out the next Who album, “Quadrophenia.” Also a fine closer to that frenetic concept album.

    “Wendell Gee” by R.E.M. is one of my favorite final tracks. The last cut on “Reconstruction Of The Fables,” a simple ballad for an Athens, GA car dealership. The band recorded the album during a bleak winter in the U.K. and they were clearly feeling homesick for their southern roots.

    One more: The last song on “Whatever And Ever Amen” by Ben Folds Five is “Evaporated,” but to me the combination of that song and the previous track “Missing The War” is fantastic. The two songs are kinda short, so in my mind, they just meld into each other.

  11. CORRECTION:

    Recording commenced in studio two at Abbey Road on February 1 1967. Album version mixed from take ten. Producer: George Martin. Recording engineer: Geoff Emerick. Second engineer: Richard Lush.

  12. betheboy

    I stand corrected, at least in part. While Mal Evans was not the engineer that is still his voice counting time after the alarm clock rings. He also, I believe, played one of the five pianos on the last note of the song.

  13. Sra

    Nice article. I have experienced purchasing a re-released album with additional tracks tacked on the end, and I agree that this compromises the original feel of the album. I’m with you that album enders are very important. Song choice and order as a whole is also very important.

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