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Save Us!!! When The Music's Over Essay

The song itself presents the band at the peak of its powers

Steven Cotgreave

Save Us!!!

by Steven Cotgreave

“When The Musics Over” has often mistakenly been portrayed by fans and critics as a song which was created as follow up to the final track on the Doors first album, a kind of “The End Part 2.”  Actually, in its earliest form the song predates “The End” by a few months, Morrison confirmed in interviews at the time. The song contains many different poetic elements that Morrison had been working on over the months since graduating from UCLA film school and prior to starting the band with Manzarek.  The song then evolved in the bands practise sessions and when performed live as part of a long improv. The opening line “When the music's over Turn out the lights” was a line Morrison borrowed from the London Fog club owner, Jessie James, in 1966.  When the band would be playing their last set of the night and often to an empty house, James would shout “When the music's over Turn out the lights” and leave the club before the band had finished.

The song itself presents the band at the peak of its powers, all the “Doors” main ingredients can be found here.  The band slowly pulses along, punctuating and underlining the thick pungent imagery of Morrison’s lyrics.  The topics are various, at first it seems be going in one direction, a call for calm, to listen carefully and understand. Then Morrisons mind soon runs to fear, anger, protest, revolt, pleading and in the end resignation.

As the song begins Krieger’s guitar weaves in and out, Manzarek’s keyboard sets the rhythm and Densmore’s drums snap and pop as Morrison eases into his first verse:-

When the music's over

When the music's over, yeah

When the music's over

Turn out the lights

Turn out the lights Turn out the lights, yeah

As the song moves along the first few verses, the direction slows and then changes as Krieger’s guitar solo begins. A slightly distorted sound emanates, that gently drifts and swings, building into peak which produces a very cool cosmic psychedelic section as Manzarek and Densmore maintain the rhythm.

Toward the middle of the song the band slows again to an eerie cadence as Morrison pauses, readying himself to unleash one of the first forays in ecological and anti war rock. Images of vietnam the war, capitalist greed and industrial waste land are conjured up as Morrison proceeds with his decry:-

What have they done to the earth?

What have they done to our fair sister?

Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her

Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn

And tied her with fences and dragged her down

Morrison speaks, half asking, half demanding “We want the world and we want it... Now” as the band then picks up pace, the rhythm builds again as Kreiger’s guitar begins to throb.  Manzarek follows as Densmores drums run, dropping bombs, the sound explodes into a crescendo as Morrison screams his demands:-


The band is now is full flow, as Kreiger’s guitar thrives as the drums and keyboards drive the tempo.  Morrisons disposition changes again, no longer demanding, now shrieking and pleading like a frenzied disciple:-

Persian night, babe

See the light, babe

Save us!


Save us!

The song now slows again and is is now in its death throes, both lyrically and musically. Morrison, despite his protest and pleading, is resigned to the fact he can’t change the world around him, is still alone and death is the final outcome:-

Music is your only friend

Until the end

Until the end

Until the end!

The song itself presents the band at the peak of its powers

Steven Cotgreave

In this Article

Strange Days
Release Date: 
Monday, September 25, 1967 (All day)

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1 year 7 months ago
Check it out at Save Us!!! When The Music's Over Essay

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1 year 7 months ago

k. I like that one...when the music's over... turn out the light.

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