Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published June 16th 2020
Endings can be awesome
I mentioned in my column on opening tracks on rock albums that whereas the opener sets the tone and is often the drawing in point of an album, the closing track, the final track, is almost as important, as it is the last thing a listener hears, and that is the impression that a listener is left with. Truth be told, it's the same as a writer you either want to be first in an anthology or last for the same reasons. So, I went through my albums and found the best closing tracks to go with the best openers!
Again, the concept of a 'closing track' is possibly lost on the modern music listener. With that so-called "curated listening experience" and people just downloading individual tracks as opposed to whole albums or getting their music from YouTube playlists, even the concept of "albums" is dying. Worse, albums today are often released in several different versions. I am guilty of buying the "deluxe" versions because you get a few extra tracks thrown onto the end. So that makes working out what a "closing track" is really hard.
Thus, most of the albums here are older ones, when there was a definite "last song" on the album. And I have deliberately gone with the original versions of said albums. No "bonus tracks", "live versions" or "demo recordings" thrown in here just the album as it was originally intended. I hope. Sometimes, especially with older albums and owning them on CD after my original version has died, I can only hope I've made the right choice.
Some rules! 1) I have to like the album. So a closing track that is the only song on the album I like is not going to make the cut. That does include 'Rock And Roll All Nite' by Kiss; Dressed To Kill I find a bit same-y. 2) One song/album per artist in the main list. This was done so this list was not way too long and did not consist of mainly Beatles tracks. 3) Rock albums. By whatever definition pop-rock, punk-rock, pop-punk, southern-boogie, blues-rock if it's rock, I'll consider it. Not pop, so Human League's 'Don't You Want Me' from Dare misses out. And no comedy albums. 4) Studio albums only not greatest hits albums, live albums, compilation albums. And all studio, so an album like ZZ Top's Fandango which is half live, half studio, despite its awesome closer ('Tush') doesn't qualify.
So, first, here are the honourable mentions:
'Twist And Shout' by The Beatles from Please Please Me, 1963
'A Day In The Life' by The Beatles from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, 1967
'Space Truckin'' by Deep Purple from Machine Head, 1972
'In The Hall Of The Mountain King' by Electric Light Orchestra from On The Third Day, 1973
'Fame' by David Bowie from Young Americans, 1975
'Open Arms' by Journey from Escape, 1981
'Rock And Roll Is King' by Electric Light Orchestra from Secret Messages, 1983
'Brothers In Arms' by Dire Straits from Brothers In Arms, 1985
'Rock And Roll Hero' by Meat Loaf from Blind Before I Stop, 1986
'Sling Shot' by Jeff Beck with Terry Bozzio and Tony Hymas from Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop, 1989
'Hurt' by Nine Inch Nails from The Downward Spiral, 1994
'Quantum Flux' by Ace Frehley from Spaceman, 2018.
One last one before the main list. 'Brain Damage/Eclipse' by Pink Floyd from Dark Side Of the Moon, 1973 The reason I put this not on the main list despite being frankly brilliant is that it is technically two songs that merge into one on the album. To my mind, one does not work without the other. Shame, otherwise this would be there with bells on.
The list! Now, you will see the word "favourite" here a bit. While it is a coincidence, a lot of my favourite tracks happen to be last ones on albums. Sorry.
'Tomorrow Never Knows' by The Beatles from Revolver, 1966
I've mentioned more than once that this is my favourite Beatles track. That still stands, and has stood for many years. I don't know what it is about the song that just gets into me, but it does. This is so unlike any other Beatles song up to that point, maybe any song in pop music up till then. This one track could have been the game changer that led to psychedelia. And the fact it closes out such a magnificent album is just a bonus.
'You Can't Always Get What You Want' by The Rolling Stones from Let It Bleed, 1969
My favourite Rolling Stones track closes out what is one of their best studio albums. It's the lyrics that get me, and the fact it just has a sound that is so different from other Stones' recordings, with the choir and the gradual build. Just a superb track.
'Won't Get Fooled Again' by The Who from Who's Next, 1971
Of course, this had to be here! From The Who's best album, this closing track is just a monumental drive of instruments with Daltrey's soaring voice topping it all off. I've talked about this track before and there is very little I can add just great.
'Free Bird' by Lynyrd Skynyrd from Lynyrd Skynyrd (Pronounced 'Lĕh-'nιrd 'Skin-'nιrd), 1973
What a track to close out their debut album (but that title is a pain to type)! Some really good music here, but this final track set a benchmark that Lynyrd Skynyrd did not reach again. They had other great songs several on this very album but this one track defines them to me, and I love the guitar solo at the end. One of my favourite solos ever.
'Rock And Roll Ain't Noise Pollution' by AC/DC from Back In Black, 1980
I have not mentioned this album much, the one where Brian Johnson took over from Bon Scott, but it is my favourite out of an incredible catalogue of albums. And it closes with this driving track, an up-yours to the growing tide of Christian evangelism railing against heavy metal and hard rock. Their influence wouldn't see out the end of the millennium; AC/DC most definitely would. Great way to close out a great album.
'Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through' by Jim Steinman from Bad For Good, 1981
Is this a cheat? On the original album version, this is called the "epilogue" and was available as a separate 12", but on the cassette (and eventually the CD) it was the last track. No matter; in writing, the epilogue is last, so that's it. This is my favourite song of all time. Nothing has come close to it in my mind for over thirty years, since I first heard it in the mid-80s. It reminds me of Clare and it reminds me of the good times and it is my calming song. And it is the last song on a strong album.
'Purple Rain' by Prince And The Revolution from Purple Rain, 1984
Ostensibly the soundtrack to the film of the same name, but what an album this is! Prince at the peak of his powers, with ballads, rockers, experimental, you name it. And this closing track, full of emotion and great musicianship, just caps it off so very well.
'Rime Of The Ancient Mariner' by Iron Maiden from Powerslave, 1984
This track that closes out a really good album is a retelling of the Coleridge poem, done in a way that only Iron Maiden could. Iron Maiden are my favourite NWOBHM bands and this is one of their best tracks, closing out one of their best albums. And live this is wow!
Another track that has come up more than once here at Weekend Notes. There is little more I can say except it is an amazing track for those who love drumming like me, closing out a wonderful, if unfortunately forgotten, album. Just superb.
'Road To Nowhere' by Talking Heads from Little Creatures, 1985
I got into Talking Heads through the live concert film Stop Making Sense, but this was the first studio album of the band I bought. I even own the 12" extended mix of this track! Yeah, I really like this and the video is bonkers. The idea that the album has led to nowhere, and that our lives mean nothing in the long run is a little depressing, but this is still such a great track.
And there you are, the ten best closing tracks from rock albums. In my opinion. There's an interesting mix of music styles here and in the honourable mentions, and there is more than enough music to make anyone rock out.
And to the few who asked why rock and not pop I simply do not know enough about pop music out of the 60s to 80s beyond some very narrow stuff I am introduced to by other people to make any decisions either way. Sorry.
Still, I hope you enjoyed this list. And remember albums, especially in the "old(er?) days" were designed to be listened to from beginning to end. So give it a go. Who knows what hidden gems you will find, and who knows what great openers and closers you will discover?