Category Archives: Life

The beloved 213-song discography of The Beatles has inspired many a barstool argument.  Who was the better songwriter, John or Paul?  Which of the group’s albums best captured them at the peak of their talent and creativity —  Rubber Soul, Revolver or Sgt. Pepper?  What was their best single?  Their most underrated song?  The most obscure?  And so on.

A relatively rare topic of Beatles debate, as measured by Google/Bing search results, is that of their song endings.  Those who, like me, battled their acne listening to Top 40 Radio will recall that most 1960s pop songs ended either by: (a) repeating the chorus and fading out, or (b) building to a climactic finale on the home key.  The Beatles mostly adhered to this formula in their early years, but their creative restlessness led them to explore other ways to end their songs — some for better, some not.  Since you asked, I here offer my take on the nine most regrettable and the nine strongest song endings by the Fab Four.

In the spirit of Fair Use, I have included a sample of each ending to serve as a memory jog.  And for the sake of shorter page-load time, I have split this article into two parts, the first of which (below) deals with the unhappy endings. 

9 Most Regrettable Beatles Song Endings

A regrettable ending to a Beatles song is one that detracts from or is discordant with an otherwise respectable work.  While one could argue that their “bad” songs, by definition, must have “bad” endings, I prefer to make a cleaner distinction.  So this list is mostly a chronicle of dashed expectations in Beatles songs when one compares their beginnings to their ends.

9 • Revolution 9

Revolution 9, from the White Album, is not one of my better-liked Beatles tracks, not by a long shot.  But its ending is on my regrettable list because — even after one accepts Rev 9 as the Lennon/Ono indulgence that it is — its endlessly-repeated-to-fade “block that kick” (with stereo panning no less) is just so boring and anticlimactic after the eight minutes of chaos that preceded it.

I think John and Yoko lost interest in the song and just ended it this way in a drug haze, thinking it was great.  By that time, producer George Martin was not in a mood to argue.

8 • Long, Long, Long

George Harrison’s Long, Long, Long, one of the last tracks recorded for the White Album, was another example of an unconventional song paired with an odd ending.  Recalling that ending, George Martin’s assistant Chris Thomas said:  “There’s a sound near the end of the song which is a bottle of … wine rattling away on top of a Leslie speaker cabinet.  It just happened.  Paul hit a certain note and the bottle started vibrating.  We thought it was so good that we set the mikes up and did it again.”

Okay, a vibrating bottle might qualify as “found music” but the bizarre sonic melding of locomotive effects and siren-like moans in the final 30 seconds all but destroyed the mood that Long, Long, Long had laboriously tried to establish.  No figuring this one.

7 • Dig It

In which the Beatles no longer take making good music seriously.  Hard to imagine that the ending of this John-led jam (from the 1969 Let It Be sessions) could possibly be worse than the crap that preceded it, but the Beatles were just great enough to pull that feat off.  Hearing this one always makes me cringe.

Regarding endings, the Let It Be album was overall a lousy way to end their career.  I have the 2009 box set, and the only time I have played the Let It Be disc was to record this clip.

6 • Her Majesty

It’s not so much the ending of this song  — “an A-natural on the second beat of the final measure” according to Alan W. Pollack — that I dislike, but the fact that a solo snippet of Paul’s would conclude the Abbey Road album and, as such, the group’s recording career.

Besides, everything about this ditty — including the ending — is too cute by half.

5 • Another Girl

Another Girl, a McCartney song from the 1965 Help! album, served as a pleasant-enough addition to the film’s soundtrack, in spite of Paul’s all-too-intrusive lead-guitar noodling.   The dashed-expectations part, and the reason this ending makes this list, is Paul’s insisting on noodling along aimlessly well after the others have stopped playing.  Sure, it’s different, but it wrongly puts emphasis on the weakest part of the song.

4 • I’m A Loser

I’m very partial to I’m A Loser, recorded in August 1964 and released on Beatles for Sale, especially its opening vocal and the driving chorus.  John’s refrain “…and I’m not what I appear to be…” presaged his later introspective works Help!  and Nowhere Man.  But a song of such strength deserved a better ending.  Its relatively weak instrumental bridge, with harmonica wails and country guitar stylings, was simply carried over to the fade-out.  A lost opportunity in retrospect.

Plus: George Harrison hits a note (B-flat) in his solo that, in its musical context (G major), just doesn’t work.  It always sounds jarring and amateurish to me, like something I would have played in college.  I suppose, being that I’m A Loser was recorded in 1964 and George was 21 at the time, maybe I should cut the guy a break.

3 • Tomorrow Never Knows

The old-timey piano part that closes Tomorrow Never Knows (from Revolver, 1966) just doesn’t belong.  Nowhere in the song until the very end does a piano part appear.  And the style of the playing — well, maybe if the piano had been played backwards?  Overall, this was a slapdash way to end such a work, maybe the first example of the Beatles effectively declaring, “Don’t take anything you’ve just heard seriously.”

2 • Within You, Without You

If the Tomorrow Never Knows ending was the first example of the Beatles undermining their own work, then the canned laughter that concluded Within You, Without You (from Sgt. Pepper) was clearly the next.  As to the laughter, I never bought into the explanation  that George Harrison offered Hunter Davies: “Well, after all that long Indian stuff, you want some light relief.  You haven’t got to take it all that seriously.”  My guess is that the group was, at that time, more interested in avoiding pretension than allowing their songs to be what they were.

1 • Glass Onion

The most regrettable Beatles song ending, based on my stark disappointment in how the song grabs you but then drops you like a rock, is the death-march string section tacked onto Glass Onion.  I still find it hard to swallow this act of sabotage.  You ask, how else could they have ended it?  Well, they were The Beatles.  They could have and should have thought of something… else.

So those are my nominees for The Beatles nine worst song endings.  I’ll share my choices for their best endings in the next few days.  Stay tuned — and in the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts.

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Mon Évasion

(My Escape)

Creativity — or in essence, artsy-thing-making — has served as my escape, mon évasion, during this pandemic, if not my lifetime.  It is what I am compelled to do when I want to bend the rules, feel more alive, venture beyond the gray world of homo economicus.  I am fortunate at this point in my unknowable lifespan to be able to seek escape in my artwork, to explore, to slightly remold the clay of what it is to be at this nearly-cured stage of me.

• • •

Samian (Samuel Tremblay) is a 37-year-old Algonquin-Quebecois rapper, whose songs mostly deal with the apartheid-like treatment of Canadian indigenous peoples.  He told the Guardian, “For a few years I flitted from town to town in Quebec province, working in restaurants on minimum wage because I had no education.  I mined the pain from that hard part of my life for my songs.”  One of those that he wrote in 2oo8 was “Mon Évasion“:

mon évasion !!
ma façon de prendre l’air
ma façon de m’en sortir en essayant de l’écrire
yo je veux partir….
faire sortir le méchant
je tourne pas ma langue sept fois
mais je reste méfiant!
c’est juste de la poésie!
c’est plus qu’une rime, c’est une émotion
un mode d’expression, c’est une passion!
j’ai pas choisi de faire du rap, c’est le rap qui m’a choisi
la vie c’est une chanson, pis c’est elle qui m’a écrit!

In English, with license:

my escape !!
my way of getting some air
my way of trying to get it all down
yo, I want to go….
let that bad guy out
I don’t turn my tongue seven times
but I’m still suspicious!
it’s just poetry!
it’s more than a rhyme, it’s emotion,
a mode of expression, it’s a passion!
I didn’t choose to do rap, it was rap that chose me
life is a song, and she’s the one who wrote me!

My life has hardly been hard, and I haven’t had much to mine except everyday white angst. Nonetheless, with respect to the urgency and rewards of art, j’identifie.

• • •

I had never heard what it means to “turn one’s tongue seven times” and so I looked it up.  This aphorism, the origin of which may either be French, Chinese, or Yoruba, advises that attempting this near-impossible act gives one’s brain sufficient time to control the tongue and avoid making some inopportune utterance.  But I say, go ahead — turn it six times and take a chance that you may speak art.

• • •

We just watched Camille Claudel, a 1988 film about the French sculptor and lover-muse of Auguste Rodin.  The film portrays Claudel (1864-1943) as a passionate and talented artist, fortunate to study under Rodin but ultimately falling victim to his artistic jealousies and sexual dominance.  The film’s most powerful scene shows Claudel closely embracing, while desperately clawing, one of her works-in-progress then finally toppling the mound of clay to the floor.  While this scene was undoubtedly meant to presage her descent into madness (Claudel spent her final decades, questionably, in a sanitarium), it also served to convey her deep and intimate struggle with her art.   Which begs: must all worthy artistic pursuits be so fraught?  Must real artists be so volatile?

Claudel’s art was her évasion but also the entrance to her own labyrinthe, her escape without escape.

“Ce cordon de phrases est un fil d’Ariane parce que je suis dans un labyrinthe, parce que j’écris pour m’y retrouver.” 

“This string of words is Ariadne’s thread, because I am in a labyrinth and I write to find my way around.” —  Michel Butor, French poet

There is a Camille Claudel museum an hour-or-so drive east of Paris.  We hope to go there once we are confident enough to travel again, and when the people who live in the places we would like to visit are equally as confident.  This trip may be a long way down the road.

• • •

It has almost been a year to the day since we last dined in a restaurant or went to a movie.  Our life since then has been a labyrinthic string of trips to the grocery store, the ABC store, the gas station (albeit far less often than before), the library (after a long shutdown) and my retina doctor — all overlaid with countless Netflix-soaked hours and interspersed with weekly family video chats.  We have had exactly three in-person visits with our children and grandchildren in the past year.

(My children cannot possibly appreciate the wonders and capabilities of 21st-century tech as I do.  The internet, speedy chips and high-speed broadband have created so many more possibilities — for better and, vis-à-vis The Proud Boys, worse — than existed in my youth.  Video calls were just a space-age dream in the 1960s.  Reddit was what your mom told you to do when your room was a mess.)

I have tried to turn this past year-of-seclusion into an opportunity of sorts, my chance to do artistic spring-cleaning, where I free myself to spend whatever time is needed to make something out of nothing — which is how I define art.

As a result, I spent many months last year writing, orchestrating, polishing and mixing my song “Company Man” for purposes that defy 21st-century logic.  It didn’t get me a million followers (the currency of the internet) let alone a hundred, let alone one.  Expanding my circle wasn’t the point.  (In that, I seem to have succeeded.)

And now I’m putting in nearly the same kind of time orchestrating one of my decades-old piano compositions.  The process has been equal-parts fun, intellectual and compulsive; and sometimes it brings tears to my eyes, hearing virtual cellos and violins playing parts that I only imagined in my head sitting at the piano bench years ago.  21st-century tech is pretty amazing when put to benign purposes.

Composing and recording music has been mon évasion for most of the past year.  It gives me the impression that I’m accomplishing something, even though most of humanity will never hear it or even know of it.  My escape from the wave of sickness and stasis that has swept over us all.  Mon évasion… before la vaccination.

My second vaccination is, at last, today.  An end to escaping, an embrace of embracing.

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Both of these are “after” photos… after almost a month of clean-out and sorting, that is.

I’m not sure how all those books (13 boxes, left) ever fit on these shelves (right) together with those that remain.*  May the old books find new readers via Habitat for Humanity.

Don’t worry, we did not drink all the liquor that was originally in those liquor boxes — not last month, anyway.

_______________

* Authors whose name appears multiple times on our shelves, post-cleanup: Asimov, Coetzee, Cohen, Eliot, Ferlinghetti, Franzen, Fromm, Gibran, Hamilton, Hardy, Hemingway, Hesse, Hitchens, Hofstatder, Kafka, Lamb, Maugham, McCann, Morrison, Munro, Oates, Sandburg, Silverstein, Undset, Vonnegut.   I’ve read at least one work by maybe half of these authors.  Your multiple-book author list?
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