The End?

November 28, 2012

As a kid in the ’70s and a teenager in the ’80s, I lived in that world of limited entertainment options unfathomable now.

Our small town in the hinterlands had an old movie theater and the movies of the day usually made it to the screen, but it might take a month or two.

Most of the movies that I watched were ones that I’d catch on one of our half-dozen television channels late at night or on Saturday afternoons. These were often flicks from the ’50s and ’60s and, at the conclusion of the movie, “The End” appeared on the screen.

The message might be in a block-like font or perhaps some more sweeping script.

If it was science-fiction or horror flick the notification might be accompanied by a question mark.

(of course, depending on the hour, I might have missed that exit sign, waking to a television full of snow)

At some point over the recent holiday, I watched some old movie – it might have been something on Mystery Science Theater 3000- and, at its conclusion, “The End” appeared on the screen.

Movies no longer end with “The End.” It’s straight to the credits.

(and, if you’re watching a flick on ‘TBS, the credits scroll by in a dizzying, time-compressed fashion in a fraction of the screen as the announcer is queuing up the next film – it’s like they’re rushing an unwanted house guest out the door )

At some point, during my lifetime, filmmakers no longer felt the need to inform the audience that the movie was over.

But was such a message ever necessary? Did people simply sit in the theater, confused by the credits and unsure of what to do, not knowing whether or not the characters which they’d been watching would return?

So some innovative mind invented “The End” and, from that point on, there was no confusion.

And somewhere in the last few decades, we as a species have advanced enough that, when a movie ends, we no longer need to be told.

And that’s a small step forward on the evolutionary trail that we all should feel good about.

Here are four movie songs…

Elton John – I’ve Seen That Movie Too
from Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)

Elton John produced a staggering amount of amazing music in the ’70s and his classic album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road has a little bit of everything that made him a superstar for the ages.

It’s not difficult to picture Elton playing the resigned I’ve Seen That Movie Too in some piano bar at an hour when the crowd has dwindled. Personally, I connect the song to Guns N’ Roses’ as Axl Rose has claimed Elton as an influence and “I’ve seen that movie, too” popped up as a line in the band’s You Could Be Mine.

The Auteurs – Underground Movies
from Now I’m A Cowboy (1994)

The Auteurs received kudos and even moderate success in their UK homeland but little notice in the States. It’s unfortunate as the quartet garnered comparisons to The Kinks and The Smiths for their literate pop.

Underground Movies is a lovely song with a light, baroque pop feel accented by cello.

The 6ths – Movies In My Head
from Wasps’ Nests (1995)

I snagged a copy of The 6ths’ debut as a promo when it came out in ’95. The album was a collection of songs written and performed by Stephen Merritt of The Magnetic Fields with an array of guests handling the vocals.

Movies In My Head is a perky bit of twee pop featuring Yo La Tengo founding member and percussionist Georgia Hubley who finds the visual vignettes showing widescreen in her head to be more interesting than a would-be suitors’ efforts to gain her attention.

Stan Ridgway – Beloved Movie Star
from Holiday in Dirt (2002)

You might not know the name, but, if you’re familiar with ’80s music, the adenoidal vocals of Stan Ridgway might be recognizable. A founding member of the band Wall Of Voodoo, he sang lead on a trio of albums including Call Of The West, which spawned the iconic Mexican Radio.

(and I still think Wall Of Voodoo is one of the coolest band names ever)

Following Call Of The West, Ridgway opted for a solo career. He’s never equaled the success of Mexican Radio, but he’s produced some engaging, offbeat music often with a strongly cinematic vibe such as the noirish Beloved Movie Star, a song about a faded film star which evokes both sympathy and amusement.