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The 10 greatest closing minutes in pop

What’s the best way to sign off in song? Four key changes and a slow fade? A desolate, crashing downbeat? Or what about an on-the-nose, unashamed comedy sound effect?

Seeing as how you take your leave in music is just, if not more, important than how you make your entrance, here are 10 examples of what TV Cream considers to be the finest final 60 seconds in pop.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want THE ROLLING STONES

Sing it to me!How to keep the same two chords sounding enduringly interesting when you’re well into the seventh minute of a song?

Slap on a church choir singing progressively higher chords, add a runaway honky-tonk piano and a titanic pair of maracas, then top it all off by suddenly shifting up a further gear by switching the drums into double time. Fade before matter fuses with anti-matter and Mick Jagger explodes.

Titanic Days KIRSTY MACCOLL

It's sink or swimA stoically bittersweet ballad whips itself into a perfect storm of expertly-harmonised (as you’d expect) rage.

Proceedings then sink down into a cruel lullaby of tolling bells, lapping waves, cawing gulls and statuesque strings.

One by one the sounds disappear, until just an echo of melody remains. *Sniff*.

Slave to the Rhythm GRACE JONES

"And now..."Yes all right, it’s basically one big shameless slice of sonic sexual congress, climaxing in, er, a climax. But what a denouement.

Great fuck-off slabs of synthesiser pop and parp all over the place while strings swoop, brass squeals, the bass burps, an audience bursts into applause, the drums declare World War Three, and suddenly: “here’s Grace”. Cue a post-coital coda of strangely poignant keyboard seepage.

Left to my Own Devices PET SHOP BOYS

Should I write a book, or should I take to the stage?Another masterpiece masterminded, like Slave to the Rhythm, from behind the regal recording console of Trevor Horn.

After musing on the practicalities of Che Guevara and Debussy to a disco beat, our hero Neil vows to “sit up all night and day, waiting for the minute I hear you say…” Cue ENORMOUS orchestral crescendo, a similarly seismic drum roll, and a final, triumphant charge through the chorus with flags and bunting a-flying. “Come on baby!”

The Message GRANDMASTER FLASH AND THE FURIOUS FIVE

Why are there seven of them?After six minutes of jaundiced jive-talking and belligerent boogie, our crew cuts loose with a bit of harmless chit-chat. “So what’s up for tonight, y’all?” “D’ya know tha’ girl Betty?”

But just as the conversation is flowing, sirens are heard, the NYPD arrive and a spectacular miscarriage of justice unfolds. “We down with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five!” pleads one. It’s no good. “I doan wanna hear yer mouth!” growls a cop, and slaps on the cuffs. Message well and truly sent.

Some Girls are Bigger Than Others THE SMITHS

"Yes, it's autobiographical"A case of triumph being snatched from four square Salford jaws of defeat. Morrissey forswears his hitherto pen portraiture of pan-generational breastage for the plaintive instruction: “Send me your pillow, the one that you dream on – and I’ll send you mine.”

Cue a cycle of lush, magical, Marr-coated refrains of ever-evolving guitar noodlery, which seem, and really ought, to go on forever.

Lovely Rita THE BEATLES

Took her home - I nearly made it!One of McCartney’s “deceptively simple” (© every Beatles scholar ever) and masterfully-crafted (ditto) classics, that you know he dashed off in five minutes between baking an acid pie and learning the French horn.

It ends with a demented but fantastic bit of nonsense comprising, among others, a bluesy piano, some hissing, groaning, heavy breathing, someone yelling as if being repeatedly prodded, a ghostly wail (not, for once, Yoko) and Lennon telling someone to “leave it” (ditto).

New Life DEPECHE MODE

Circulating, generatingThe boys have already treated us to a textbook pop recipe of singalonga-harmonisable-toetapping tunesmithery, when they suddenly break into a Twist and Shout-esque sandwich of “ahhhhs” audaciously piled one on top of each other.

These build and build until joyously erupting into a shower of synthetic squeaks, sizzles and farts, as if a bomb has just gone off in an especially handsome electronics shop.

The Downtown Lights THE BLUE NILE

How do I know you feel it?There’s a heartbreaking surge of sound.

Paul Buchanan looks around him, notes “the neons and cigarettes, rented rooms and rented cars… the crowded streets, the empty bars…  chimney tops and trumpets… the golden lights, the loving prayers… the coloured shoes, the empty trains…”

He then concludes: “I’m tired of crying on the stairs.”

Nobody Does it Better CARLY SIMON

That keeps me from running, but just keeps me comingPerhaps the greatest ending of the lot.

The best Bond theme of all time signs off with a truly fabulous coda comprising an evermore alluring fugue of swaggering strings, angelic trumpets and an entire battery of Carly Simons all harmonising with each other. Yes, we’re going to say it: double-oh heaven.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Palitoy

    July 12, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Kudos for mention of the fascinating Grace Jones’ ‘Slave To The Rhythm’. A masterpiece of construction by Trevr Horn. It is transgressive, transports the listener, is epic, triumphant and both embraces and mocks eighties excess. Does everything folk claim ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ does.

  2. Jimmy McC

    July 14, 2011 at 11:13 pm

    “New Life” by Depeche Mode? I honestly thought it was John Barry’s “Howard the Duck” soundtrack LP. Maybe I need glasses…

    Agree completely with #1, “Slave to the Rhythm”, a most excellent record.

  3. wilberforce

    August 17, 2011 at 12:25 am

    re: “slave to the rhythm” – i third that emotion (if you see what i mean)… but don’t forget the pinging sound near the end! was that inspired by the then new-fangled microwaves? there’s another one at the beginning, and i’ve now heard this track so many times that whenever my microwave pings, in a pavlovian-style response i feel compelled to “do a grace” and sing the title line in a melodramatic manner…

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