I am nothing if not unoriginal. I must admit that the idea for this listing of “My Top 11 Best Closing Song Lines In Rock” was a natural and obvious outgrowth of Rodney Welch’s “Greatest Opening Lines in Rock and Roll.” And regarding the “top eleven” quirk factor, I’m going to rationalize my indecisiveness and inability to edit as a somehow-fitting homage to Spinal Tap.
In a more discerning frame of mind, I regard the closing lines of a song as elements that sustain the mood or meaning of the song. Couched in cold stops or fade-outs, they may be put into different words to startle or to punctuate the themes. Or, contained in reiterations or rephrasings, they may be designed to drive home the message.
In any case, the ending lines’ main purpose in evocation or resonance serves more than just an arbitrarily-fashioned finalizing aim to get the song ended somehow, anyhow–they must be part of the well-considered craftsmanship that is part and parcel of an effectual and thought-provoking piece of music. So, as Richie Valens once concluded, “C’mon, let’s go”:
11. Sometimes I almost feel just like a human being
(“Lipstick Vogue” by Elvis Costello)
For me, emphasis on “sometimes.”
10. Yes, I wish that for just one time/ You could stand inside my shoes/ You’d know what a drag it is to see you
(“Positively 4th Street” by Bob Dylan”)
Perhaps forced and calculated anger, post-“Rolling Stone,” but I still–in generic and rhetorical righteous indignation–turn this up whenever it comes on the radio. Quintessential Dylan-esque voice like “sand and glue,” as Bowie put it.
9. I remember how the darkness doubled, I recall lightning struck itself/ I was listenin, listenin’ to the rain, I was hearin’, hearin’, something else.
(“Marquee Moon” by Television)
Coming right after a blistering, mesmerizing and crescendoing dual-guitar duel is this open-ended promise of harrowing haunts ahead.
8. Meet the new boss/ Same as the old boss
(“Won’t Get Fooled Again” by the Who)
This one’s obvious.
7. And even alongside old sad eyes, who says/ ‘Opportunity knocks once then the door slams shut’/ All I know is that I’m sick of everything that my money can buy/ A fool who wastes his life God rests his guts.
(“Here Comes A Regular” by the Replacements)
I’m cheating here–these are close-to-the-end lines in a devastating song about lost hopes, dead ends and self-disgust: “Am I the only one who feels ashamed?”
6. Oh well, whatever, never mind/ … a denial, a denial, a denial …
(“Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana)
Most memorably stark lines are perahps “And I swear that I don’t have a gun” or “I’m not gonna crack,” but this near-primal, inarticulate shriek speaks volumes more. And unless they have ice water in their veins, everybody plays this really loud when this comes on the radio.
5. Could I ever find in you again/ Things that made me love you so much then/ Could we ever bring ’em back once they have gone?/ Oh, Caroline no …
Wouldn’t it be nice? Doesn’t always work out that way.
4. I’d like to send this one out for Lou and Rachel/ And all the kids at P.S. 192/ Coney Island baby/ Man, I’d swear, I’d give the whole thing up for you.
(“Coney Island Baby” by Lou Reed)
Plain spoken but still aching and yearning in the blind faith that maybe the “glory of love might see you through.”
3. And in the end/ The love you take/ Is equal to the love you make.
(“The End” by the Beatles)
Forgetting for the moment the unofficial snippet about getting “a belly full of wine” for a royal visit, this apt capper to the Beatles final recorded album remains a heartfelt epigrammatic summation of an era, and incidentally conjures up Chris Farley on Saturday Night Live charmingly and clumsily asking Paul MaCartney, “Um, is that true?” We all hope so.
2. Oooooh I wish I was your mother
I wish I’d been your father
’n then I would have seen you
Would have been you as a child.
Played houses with your sisters
And wrestled with all your brothers
And then who knows
I might have felt a family for a while.
(“I Wish I Was Your Mother” by Mott The Hoople)
An even more emotionally resounding longing when heard with the plaintive music.
1. So toll the bell or rock the cradle
Please don’t let me fear anything I cannot explain
I can’t believe, I’ll never believe in anything again.
(“Couldn’t Call It Unexpected No. 4” by Elvis Costello)
When put in full context of the song about solace (a beginning vignette of a girl who’d “found her consolation”) and serendipity (“I’m the lucky goon who composed this tune from birds arranged on a high wire”) this expression of faith and acceptance–and the desire to transform ineffable concepts into reality — clinches the thematic messages of the song, while capturing the more personal relevance and significance.