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(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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Williams: On interpreting "The End," I considered for the first time the other day, that the lines "This is the end my only friend," and particularly the lines, "It hurts to set you free but you'll never bother me …" at that point, when I heard that, it occured to me that the song was about a murder, and not just a guy leaving a girl. I didn't decide that, but the possibility opened that the whole thing was the murderer's mind and ah, the stream of consciousness starting from and leading back to … Rothchild: It's interesting that you say that, because Jim is fascinated with the concept, not only as physical death, this is my interpretation, we haven't really discussed it, he's interested in spiritual deaths, conceptual deaths, more than physical deaths actually, you'll find this theme in many of his songs, uh, the line in the song, "The end of nights we tried to die …" Williams: That goes right back to "Crystal Ship." Rothchild: Exactly.

Uh, I'm not sure if this is what Jim has in mind but it's almost as if Jim is saying … realize this is my interpretation, and not Jim's cause I've never asked Jim, he presented it to me and said it's for your head, interpret it as you will, Jim's saying almost as a friend, okay, my friend and I take an acid trip, and then I say to my friend this is the end my friend, my only friend, the end of laughter and soft lies, the end of nights we tried to die ah, the line, the end of nights we tried to die, to my mind is a direct reference to the concept that most psychedelics are a form of physical poisoning, that chemicals are a means of reorienting the body through a kind of poison …

Williams: You're saying this is the end, during the trip or before it? Rothchild: The way I feel it, the trip has started and he's saying this is the end. Williams: As a beginning. Rothchild: Right. This is the end. He has had a realization concerning a relationship, now this can be far more universal than a statement to this theoretical friend who is right there, this could be the end of world, the end of laughter and soft lies, or the end of—Williams: Himself.

Rothchild: Precisely. He's saying okay here's a trip, everytime we take a trip there's a death—, of concepts, of bullshit, a death of laughter and soft lies, let's get real with ourselves, let's get real with each other, um … there's one thing Jim used to say during the song which is just a stark death image. It was the blue bus theory, but it was stated in a different way, and he used to use them both, he used the blue bus thing and he'd also say, uh, "Have you seen the accident outside, seven people took a ride and something something something and seven people died," which is really very groovy, "have you seen the accident outside"—the world—seven people took a ride, this trip, looked at the world, and died. All of that that they saw in themselves which before lived, in other words the bullshit concept of the world which had been burned into their brains since childhood, had to die. And with every end there is a beginning, it is a cyclical thing, the end always has in it inherent a beginning, uh, trying to remember … "Can you picture what will be so limitless and free, desperately in need of some stranger's hand in a desperate land." Things are very wrong out there so let us kill ourselves or those things in ourselves that are false…. (pp. 103-04)

[Rothchild:] Of the other imagery in the song, the little poetic bits between the double verse section in the beginning and the double verse section in the end, you have things like the snake—well there he's saying just get down to reality, the snake thing of course is just pure sexual imagery (to my mind), ride the snake to the ancient lake, that comes right out of Negro imagery, blues imagery, which Jim is very familiar with, "the snake he's old and his skin is cold," what he is saying is okay let's get down to the realities of life, there are very few realities and one of the few truly real realities is...

(The entire section is 1,720 words.)