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notes on ...

Notes on "The End"


Notes on ... Series #191 (TE)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: A Major -» C Major
     Meter: 4/4
      Form: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 (Finale) with complete ending
        CD: "Abbey Road", Track 16 (Parlophone CDP7 46446-2)
  Recorded: 23rd July 1969, 5th August 1969, Abbey Road 3;
            7th, 8th August 1969, Abbey Road 2; 15th August 1969,
            Abbey Road 1; 18th August 1969, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 26th September 1969 (LP "Abbey Road")
US-release: 1st October 1969 (LP "Abbey Road")

General Points of Interest


Style and Form

  Next note The already exceedingly fervent mood of the "Golden Slumbers" / "Carry That Weight" pairing is taken up yet one more euphoric notch in "The End", providing "Abbey Road" with what is likely the single grandest finale gesture on any album of The Beatles.
  Next note The form here is a mini-medley of three parts in which the loose relationship between the first two parts adds some sense of unity, and the proportional division of time by all three parts creates some feeling of A-B-A symmetry despite the fact that the two outer parts are based on separate materials. By parsing the long drum solo as still part of the first part we find the following budget of time on the track:
   Part 1     34
   Part 2     55
   Part 3     35

   Total     124 seconds (2:04)

Melody and Harmony

  Next note The melodic content of the first two parts is more in the realm of booster chanting than they are of a "tune", though the final part features one nice extended and outstretched melodic arch.
  Next note The home key of the track is A Major with a last minute shift, in the second half of the final part, to the key of C. This gambit of a migrating home key goes against the entire philosophy of more traditional "tonal" music, though it does have its ample precedents in so-called "classical" early twentieth century music, and is arguably something very much at the technical and emotional core of the Beatles' "Huge Melody" we've been studying.


  Next note Most of the track is backed by the rock ensemble of guitars, bass, and drums, with the small small orchestra joining in at the end, just around the same time the music modulates to C Major.
  Next note The large amount of showy solo instrumental work is unusual if not outright unique for the Beatles, as is the funky stereo imaging of the drum solo.
  Next note Paul is nominally the vocal soloist for the two outer parts. The middle part uses a group choral chant as part of the background. The final part features a novel effect where Paul's solo is gradually refracted like light through a prism into three-part vocal harmony that includes John and George.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough


Part 1: Oh yeah, all right

  Next note Notation-wise, I've backed myself over the past few articles into a pattern where the quarter note beat from here to the end is very fast. I'll grant that some (many?) would be more comfortable with my treating my quarter notes as eighths, and thus dividing the number of measures in half. Please bear with me for now.
  Next note "The End" begins with a pickup that springboards right off the ending of "Carry That Weight". The first part of the song is based around the following eight-measure phrase which establishes the home key by unusual means:
       3   4   |1  2  3  4  |1  2  3  4  |1  2  3  4  |1  2  3  4  |
       A       |D           |-     B     |E           |-        A  |
   A:  V-of-IV  IV                 V-of-V V                     I

               |1  2  3  4  |1  2  3  4  |1  2  3  4  |1  2  3  4  |
               |-           |-        B#7|-           |-        A  |
                                 #ii dim. 4/2                   I

   [Figure 191.1]
  Next note The harmonic shape on paper appears to be closed at both ends, but the opening A chord sounds much more like V of D than like I of A, and it makes the phrase sound much more harmonically convergent than closed.
  Next note I'm fussy about labeling the diminished seventh chord above as rooted on the apparently unusual note of B# because it's the clearest/cleanest way to denote the neighbor tone voice leading that underlies its resolution to A Major in the following measure:
   F#  -» E
   D#  -» E
   B#  -» C#
   A      -

   [Figure 191.2]
  Next note The heavily syncopated effect of changing chords on the fourth beat of the measure in this very fast tempo is a not at all unpleasantly wrenching effect that runs straight through the next part of the song, with the way in which the backing vocal of "love you" is handled.
  Next note The first iteration of the above phrase is entirely instrumental and is followed by a four-measure drum solo, the last measure of which loops back to repeat the phrase, this time with a screaming double tracked Macca vocal:
   |1  2  3  4  |1  2  3  4  |1  2  3  4  |1  2  3   4  |
   |-           |-           |-           |-     A      |

   [Figure 191.3]
  Next note The second iteration is followed by a longer drum solo of sixteen full measures. The solo heads toward a unique point of climax which coincides with the beginning of "The End"'s second part, though that sense of strong undertow is cleverly and effectively held back until relatively late in the proceedings.

Part 2: «Instrumental solos»

  Next note The second part of "The End" is built on a fourteen-fold repeat of the following four-measure frame which has the harmonic shape of a plagal cadence:
    Love            you             Love            you
   |1   2   3   4  |1   2   3   4  |1   2   3   4  |1   2   3   4  |
   |A              |-              |D              |-              |
    I                               IV

   [Figure 191.4]
  Next note The series of fourteen iterations sorts out like this:
   1 -  2   Instrumental backing, only.

   3 -  5   Add choral "Love you," which stays through
            for the duration.  The instrumental backing
            gets noticeably thicker in frame #5.

   6 - 14   Dueling guitar solos.  The first one sounds
            like it spans two frames of the backing,
            but the rest of them more obviously rotate
            on each successive frame boundary.
  Next note Much has been written about how the three guitar playing Beatles participate round robbin in the series of solos, with detailed speculation as to which Beatle plays which segments. I'm neither going to replicate this material here nor take sides on points of dissention. For now, let's just note generally that the effect they apparently were after was one in soaring melodic effects alternate with others more grungy and rhythmic in character.

Part 3: And in the end

  Next note The third part begins where the fifteenth frame of part two would otherwise have started. It is made up of one unusually long phrase which navigates two modulations of meter and tempo (not to mention home key) before it is finished.
  Next note This part of the track is introduced by four measures of plain piano simply vamping on the A-Major chord. The momentary change of texture is so dramatic that your ears need a few beats to get used to it; kind of like what happens to your eyes when bright lights are suddenly dimmed way down.
  Next note Paul's lead vocal starts off by filling eight measures of this vamping tempo. The second line of four measures superimposes a G-Major chord in the treble against that unchanging A-natural in the bass line. Your ear digests this as a pedal point with no grammatically significant root change of chord.
  Next note The words in both four-measure lines are scanned in the syncopated 3 + 3 + 2 pattern we saw elsewhere on this album; e.g. "Here Comes The Sun". Paul's single thread is spread out into three part harmony starting in the second line and continues through to the end. The high point of the overall melodic arch of this section coincides (quel suprise!) on the word "love":
          And         in       the end         **
         |1   2   3   4   |1   2   3   4   |    *
 Chords: |A               |-               |    *
   Bass: |A               |-               |    * 
          I                                     *
                                                * 2X 
                                       the      *
         |1   2   3   4   |1   2   3   4   |    * 
 Chords: |-               |-               |    *
   Bass: |-               |-               |    *

          love        you          take
         |1   2   3   4   |1   2   3   4   |
 Chords: |G               |-               |
   Bass: |A               |-               |

         |1   2   3   4   |1   2   3   4   |
 Chords: |-               |-               |
   Bass: |-               |-               |

   [Figure 191.5]
  Next note The next line of music makes a metrical modulation, shifting to 3/4 for just four measures, keeping the quarter value constant.
  Next note Harmonically this line features an unusual kind of pedal point in which the two inner voices are held constant (instead of the bass note), while the outer two voices descend in parallel sixth:
        3/4 (where quarter == quarter)

          e-         qual         to           the
Soprano: |F         |e           |d           |a           |
   Alto: |C         |-           |-           |-           |
  Tenor: |A         |-           |-           |-           |
   Bass: |A         |G           |F           |E           |
      A:  flat-VI
      C:  IV

   [Figure 191.6]
  Next note The pedal effect again allows you to hear the above line as being without significant root chord change. The fateful pivot to C Major occurs at the start of the line with the F-Major chord.
  Next note The next (and final) line of the section makes yet another metrical/tempo modulation; back to 4/4 but with the tempo made much slower by setting the value of the new quarter note equal to a full measure of the previous 3/4 meter.
  Next note The impending ending of the track is now clearly forecast by the setup of a ripe full cadence, and the partial thickening of the backing track by the reappearance of strings. The syncopation motif appears again in the way the final word, "make", is sung just before the next downbeat:
       4/4 (where 3/4 == quarter)

         love                    you make
         1       2       3       4   &
Chords: |d7              G7              |
  Bass: |D               G               |
         ii              V

   [Figure 191.7]
  Next note The texture is further thickened back to "tutti" for the last four measures with drums and brass. The reappearance of the high pitched, singing lead guitar at this point is a deft unifying effect with the middle part of the track.
  Next note Harmonically the final stretch contains yet another pedal point which at least partially disguises the stepwise chord stream of Major triads used. In fact, if you ignore the interpolation of the E-flat chord (think of it as being in parenthesis), you can actually discern here what is none other than a Beatles signature progression found at the start of the likes of "Eight Days A Week" and the title track of "Sgt. Pepper's".
Chords: |C           |D           |Eb    F     |C           |
  Bass: |C           |-           |Eb    F     |C           |
         I            V-of-V      (flat  IV     I

   [Figure 191.8]
  Next note The manner in which the treble strings and winds are sustained a brief afterglowing instant after the voices and other instruments have ceased making sound is in my humble opinion sublime.

Some Final Thoughts

  Next note The mood of the very ending of this album is strangely reminiscent of what a decade or so later would appear from the pen of one composer for the cinema, John Williams, as his signature way of rolling the credits over a musical backing of ultimate, happy ending, philharmonic triumph. Almost any of his films will do for an example, though I think "ET", in particular, bears some direct comparison with "TE"; and even the letters of both acronyms are related :-)
  Next note Even more so, the dramatic ethos of this track is that of the curtain closing number you sometimes encounter on the musical "stage". The drama itself has already come to its formal conclusion, and now, the pit orchestra blazes on without missing a beat for however much time it takes for each of the lead players to come out and take his curtain call and maybe even squeeze in one seemingly impromptu and hammy last petit reprise, while the audience applauds its head off.
  Alan (013000#191)
  See also: The "Abbey Road" Medley
Copyright © 2000 by Alan W. Pollack. All Rights Reserved. This article may be reproduced, retransmitted, redistributed and otherwise propagated at will, provided that this notice remains intact and in place.