At the End

Background and Commentary

A piece about suicide by a man who’s lost his way now that he’s lost his wife. On the Fly by Night album, when Neil included small illustrations on his pages of hand-written lyrics, the album closer “In the End” included a humorous drawing of two tombstones with “RIP” inscripted on them, even though the piece wasn’t about death and had an uplifting theme. The narrator’s significant other could make him smile “in the end.” Alex’s “At the End,” by contrast, is the “RIP” tombstone story fleshed out.

In the piece, Alex takes a spoken-word approach to paint a vivid portrait of a man who can’t pull himself together in the aftermath of his loss. “He opens the books—looks at the scenes from yesterday / How they laughed and loved and lived before they grew old and grey / Now he sits alone in his room, and the clock ticks away.”

His “calling out to death” is beautifully illustrated with an emotive blues guitar. The line “Pluck out my eyes” is vaguely reminiscent of the line in Act II, Scene II of Macbeth in which Macbeth, having murdered the king and fearful at every noise and sight, looks at his blood-stained hands and fears they’ll do to him what they did to Macbeth.—Rob Freedman, Rush Vault

“My solo work in ‘At the End’— all of that bluesy stuff, especially at the end of it—is really emotion-packed. Actually, there’s a really good story behind that one. I had a rough day that day. I’d had a couple of meetings that didn’t go so well, and I was feeling uptight. I was really pissed off. So I plugged the guitar straight into the amp, said, ‘Screw this,’ and started working. It got really edgy. Bill Bell [guitarist on ‘Strip and Go Naked’] was there, and I said to him, ‘We need a drink.’ I went upstairs and got half a bottle of Jack Daniels and a sixpack of beer, and we sat there and drank the stuff down in a matter of minutes. Then we did some more takes. The next day, I came back downstairs to listen to it and I’m thinking, ‘Well, we had quite a bit to drink last night, so maybe this one didn’t turn out so well.’ But I listened to it and went, ‘Wow, this is great!'”— Alex in Guitar For The Practicing Musician, Februrary 1996

“The mellow, groovy riffing and crescendo in ‘At the End’ distinguishes itself nicely for its composition and artistic playing.”—Prog Leviathan on Prog Archives.

“‘At the End’ is a quirky track that is a bit dreary in message. It continues the pessimistic theme that the album has, and it really takes it to a whole new level.”—Cygnus X-2 on Prog Archives.

“‘At the End’ has a monologue throughout reminding me of Robbie Robertson [of The Band]. Some vocals after four minutes end the song.”—Mellotron Storm on Prog Archives.

Lyrics

He opens the books—looks at the scenes from yesterday
How they laughed and loved and lived before they grew old and grey
Now he sits alone in his room, and the clock ticks away

Together they enjoyed all life’s beauty and all its fears
The lonely cry of his soul falls only on his ears
Each page’s photo marked with the stain of his tears

He didn’t know what to do
He didn’t know what might come
Nothing was all that was left to him
Nothing was left when she was gone

The heart has a memory so strong
It remembers every right and every wrong
On those pages of his long, lonely life
He can only see his wife

He said ‘Pluck out my eyes’
He said ‘Plug up my ears’
He said ‘Silence my tongue’
He said ‘Take away my empty years’

One last wish
To see her face
One last breath
He’s calling out to death
One last look up at the sun
As he picks up the gun
As he steadies the gun
As he finally aims the gun

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~ by rvkeeper on March 21, 2011.

 
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