When was it recorded? Jul. 23–Aug. 18,1969
When was it first released, and on which album? Sept. 26, 1969 on “Abbey Road”
Who wrote it? McCartney
Have I heard this song before? Probably but I can’t remember when exactly
What my research dug up:
I mentioned “The End” on Day 33: “Carry That Weight” because (refresher) “Carry That Weight” segues into “The End” on the Beatles album “Abbey Road.” It is the second-to-last song on the album and the last song recorded for the album, making “The End” the final song recorded by all four Beatles together. (Commence sobbing now.)
Quoth the Beatles Bible, “It was unlikely that any other Beatle than Paul McCartney would end up writing The Beatles’ epitaph. John Lennon generally disliked the Abbey Road medley… and at one point wanted his and McCartney’s songs to be on separate sides of the album.” Ouch. Furthermore, “George Harrison… had grown tired of McCartney’s dominance within of the group, and was beginning to devote his energies to other projects. Apart from the generally amenable Ringo Starr, McCartney was the only one fully dedicated to The Beatles until the end, and he recognized that they deserved a proper send-off.”
“The End” closes with arguably the Beatles’ most famous lyrics – “And in the end the love you take / is equal to the love you make.” Paul noted he was attempting to quote Shakespeare and his couplet habit there.
The song started demo life titled simply, “Ending.” According to the Beatles Bible, “On this first day the song was only 1 [minute] 20 [seconds] long – it was later increased to 2 [minutes] 20 [seconds] with extra overdubs including the sparring guitars, piano, more drums and the orchestral finale.”
Being the band’s grand send-off, each member has a solo (whether they life it or not). English audio engineer Geoff Emerick (who helped produce “Abbey Road,” obviously) has given a lot of insight into how things fell into place.
“The idea for guitar solos was very spontaneous and everybody said, ‘Yes! Definitely’ – well, except for George, who was a little apprehensive at first. But he saw how excited John and Paul were so he went along with it. Truthfully, I think they rather liked the idea of playing together, not really trying to outdo one another per se, but engaging in some real musical bonding… You could really see the joy in their faces as they played; it was like they were teenagers again. One take was all we needed. The musical telepathy between them was mind-boggling.” — Geoff Emerick (MusicRadar.com)
If you’re listening, this happens right before the piano and “And in the end…” comes in. Here’s how it breaks down – Paul plays two measures, then George plays two measures, then John plays two measure, then it repeats. You can tell by their styles, too. To quote Wikipedia, “McCartney’s playing included string bends similar to his lead guitar work on ‘Another Girl’ …Harrison’s solo incorporated the melodic yet technically advanced slides that were becoming his trademark; lastly Lennon’s contribution was rhythmic, snarling, and had the heaviest distortion, echoing his lead work in ‘Revolution.’” Neato!
Ringo required more persuasion than the other three on the solo.
“Ringo would never do drum solos. He hated drummers who did lengthy drum solos… And when he joined The Beatles we said, ‘Ah, what about drum solos then?’, thinking he might say, ‘Yeah, I’ll have a five-hour one in the middle of your set,’ and he said, ‘I hate ’em!’ We said, ‘Great! We love you!’ And so he would never do them. But because of this medley I said, ‘Well, a token solo?’ and he really dug his heels in and didn’t want to do it.” — Paul McCartney (Mark Lewisohn, The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions)
[Tangent: I think that’s where the great “Ringo is a bad drummer” debate arises from — Ringo doesn’t enjoy showy drum solos. Most casual listeners expect bombastic drum solos, which Ringo ‘fails’ to deliver, ergo Ringo is a bad drummer. Most Beatles fans I know disagree heartily (as do I), but the sentiment persists.]
While recording “The End,” what became Ringo’s drumming was accompanied by guitar and tambourine parts. These were then edited out, resulting in what sounds like a solo. Ta da!
The “rough draft remix” of “The End” (the version with the guitar and tambourine that were supposed to accompany Ringo’s ‘solo’) is the final song on “Anthology 3.” Wikipedia tells me it’s “followed by a slow fade-in and fade-out of a piano chord, which acts as a mirror to the long chord that ends ‘A Day in the Life,’” which I didn’t pick up on at all (the significance, I mean. I definitely heard the piano).
I’m so psyched for the day I finally get to “Golden Slumbers” and can post the entire “Abbey Road” finale medley. Soon! Looking only at “The End,” I really do appreciate how the last true Beatles song featured solos from all four members plus some lovely parting words. Would that all bands on the brink of collapse could record a final message so sweet.