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.