Famous last words: the best final songs by artists

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Whilst for many acts the concluding chapter of their career is closed by the release of a press statement citing ‘creative and personal differences’ or death, the true send off usually lies in their last ever work. When the time comes for a group or act to call it a day they are more than likely tired, resentful and or emotionally damaged, a set of circumstance which occasionally leads to some of their greatest material. So, to dig deeper into this phenomena and also partly pay tribute to My Chemical Romance releasing their final ever song this month, the writers of The Edge have decided to team together Avengers-style and trawl through some of their favourite sonic eulogies.

‘New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down’ – LCD Soundsystem

Okay, I’ll admit that I’m partaking in a minor bending of the rules. Whilst this track is by far not the final song that Murphy wrote under the Soundsystem moniker – This Is Happening, the last album by LCD Soundsystem, was still to come – it was the final goodbye at their three-hour long, sold-out farewell show at Madison Square Garden, and what a goodbye it was. Documented in the fantastically moving film Shut Up and Play the Hits, Murphy sings his intimate ode to the duplicitous personality and coldness of his hometown with every moment savoured and held onto for as long as possible by audience and band alike, slowly crescendoing and culminating in an explosion of sound and cascading balloons from the Garden’s ceiling.

‘If it’s a funeral’, the band’s breakup announcement said, ‘let’s make it the best funeral ever’. It most certainly was.

Words by Lewis Cato

Queen – ‘Mother Love’

Queen lost their flamboyant frontman Freddie Mercury to AIDS in November of 1991, but earlier that year he had been working hard to get as much new material recorded with the band as he could while he still had time left. According to guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, during these sessions Freddie would be drinking shots of vodka in between takes to give him the strength to get through another. ‘Mother Love’ features the singer’s last ever vocal performance; recorded over a few days in May of ’91, Freddie said that he needed to go home ‘for a rest’. Unfortunately he would never feel well enough to return to the studio to finish the song; the third verse is sung by Brian May. As the song fades out, a short clip of the band’s classic ‘Live At Wembley’ performance and a few seconds of every song they ever recorded jumbled into one can be heard, as well as a few lines of ‘Goin’ Back’ (a song recorded by Freddie’s first band ‘Larry Lurex’), reflecting on their past and everything they achieved with their late, great frontman. ‘Mother Love’ appeared on the posthumous Made In Heaven album alongside the rest of the material to come from these final sessions and some of Freddie’s older, solo tunes re-worked by the remainder of the band, thus bringing closure to this one legitimate period of their career.

Words by Seb Male

the-smashing-pumpkinsUntitled – ‘The Smashing Pumpkins’

‘Untitled’ was the final single recorded by The Smashing Pumpkins, released in 2001, before their break up post-Machina/The Machines of God. The fuzzed lead and cheery clean rhythm guitar makes ‘Untitled’ sound like it could have been recorded by the Siamese Dream-era Pumpkins. According to Corgan, this was entirely the point; they wanted to write a song to show all their disillusioned ex-fans that they still had it and that they hadn’t ‘lost [their]minds and weren’t able to come home’. However, the song was actually recorded in the space between the exit of legendary first bassist, D’arcy Wretzky and before her replacement, Melissa Auf der Maur, which resulted in frontman, Billy Corgan recording bass parts. Although Corgan has partially resurrected the Pumpkins with a completely new group of musicians, there are still moments in their most recent album, 2012’s Oceania, which serve as a reminder that he hasn’t gone entirely mad.

Words by Aniruddh Ojha

The Beatles – ‘The End’

Before anyone points it out, yes I realise ‘The End’ is not the final song The Beatles ever released. That dubious honour goes to 1996’s ‘Real Love’. Further ‘The End’ was not even the last song on ‘Abbey Road’ as the original hidden track ‘Her Majesty’ came directly after. This said, of the many final songs of the Beatles this is perhaps the one that does justice to their craft and justifies their status as one of the most innovative acts of the 20th century. The track illustrates many of the Beatles strengths, the ‘less is more’ drum style of Ringo, the melodic and imaginative playing of Paul McCartney, the blues-influenced lines of George Harrison and the harsh skiffle-y twang of John Lennon. This is capped by the soothing and slightly elegiac finale focused round the couplet ‘And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.’ No other band has synthesized all of these influences to such a great degree, and in this way ‘The End’ is evidence of the Beatles enduring appeal.

Words by Aaron Gordon Mulford

The Libertines – ‘What Became of the Likely Lads’

The infamous duo of Pete Doherty and Carl Barat – the lead singers of one of rock’s most original outlets of the twentieth and early twenty-first century The Libertines – are as well known for their drug-induced spats as they are for their catchy choruses and rowdy parties in their Bethnal Green flat. Although The Libertines were a four-piece band, with John Hassall on bass guitar and Anthony Powell on drums, much of the lyrical genius and melody writing stemmed from the Doherty/Barat relationship, thus much of their turbulent relationship  can be chartered through their songs. ‘What Became of the Likely Lads’ was the last single ever released by the band as a four-piece, reaching number nine in the UK charts in August 2004, in which Barat laments ‘Oh what became of forever/Though, we’ll never know’.  Doherty’s ongoing drug addiction makes these lyrics particularly affecting, as his inability to keep clean lead the fracturing and eventual dissolution of the band as it was known. ‘I tried to make you see/but you don’t want to know’ suggests at the frustration faced by Barat as he attempted to reconcile with his musical partner and ultimately best friend; this reunion didn’t occur until 2010, when The Libertines headlined Reading and Leeds festival. Their final single released together is poignant in its intimacy. Although it was preceded by the commercially more successful and arguably better ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’, nothing sums up the sadness of such a raw, energetic and downright talented band – and friendship – dissolving over a sad drug problem than Barat asking: ‘what became of the likely lads?’

Words by Amy Sandys

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I write about music. When not at gigs I like to spend my time being annoyed that I'm not at a gig. UPCOMING // Takedown Festival

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