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When The Music's Over

by

The Doors



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

During live performances, Jim Morrison usually ended up flopping around on the floor. The Doors performed it live many times in 1966 when they were the house band at the Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles. It was not released on an album until a year later.
The theme is music being the fire of life. When it stops, so does life's spirit.
Arguably, one of the most beautifully intense moments of any Rock song is when Morrison screams, "Persian Night! See the Light! Save Us! Jesus! Save Us!" The first 2 lines reference the wise men from the Bible, often referred to as The Magi. The Magi is a priestly caste from ancient Persia. On that Christmas night the Persian Magi looked into the night and saw the Star of Bethlehem. (thanks, Jim - St. Paul, MN)
The lyric "scream of the butterfly" is a reference to a porno film.
Two guitar solos were played simultaneously. They were improvised by Robby Krieger in the studio.
Krieger: "That solo was a real challenge because the harmony is static. I had to play 56 bars over the same riff."
Ray Manzarek's organ intro to this song was based on the intro to another Doors song, "Soul Kitchen." (thanks, Sam - Lincoln, NE)
Sublime sampled this song's opening in their song "Cisco Kid" from the album Robbin' The Hood. (thanks, Johnny - San Antonio, TX)
The Doors
The Doors Artistfacts
More The Doors songs
More songs inspired by The Bible
More songs about music

Comments (52):

Jim didn't die of an heroin overdose, he died of a heart failure Hanna form Pretoria
- Hayden , Newcastle, Australia
Just before the guitar solo starts, if you listen very carefully you will hear Jim scream " F--k him up the ass!! You can really hear it on one of the live CD recordings. So he is probably referring to the movie Scream of the Butterfly which we know is a porn film.
- mojo, toronto, ON
I dont know what "The scream of the butterfly" was for Jim.I gott it as the death of beauty,for it has no more meaning(it dies)when there is noone more to admire it.Jim may died,but that does not exclude the possibility that he might reached his goal and has breaken trough.It may just mean that the price for the ultimate goal,the absolute truth,is the ultimate sacrifice,life.
- Dorian, VaraĹždin, Croatia
A true poet, unafraid to unveil his raw emotions...even if it meant ugliness, shocking and most times ridicule. A lonely road to travel on, but he took it anyway. Indeed, we need to take heed and cleanse the doors of perception, end our slavery or die as one. Jim lived and died on his terms...an inspiration to my very being.
- Bob Minelli, Milwaukee, WI
Nady from Australia, Jim's excessive use of heroin in the last month or so of his life (he thought it was cocaine) was what finally drove him over the edge. According to "Life, Death, Legend" Pam got it from some French/Moroccan dealer who told her it was coke, but it was actually China White, a white powdery form of heroin that doesn't need to be injected with a needle.

That being said, this is probably the most powerful song the Doors did. Not as haunting as "The End" or as epic as "The Celebration of the Lizard", but it packs more energy than them.
- David, Woburn, MA
To me "I want to hear the scream of the butterfly" means: I want to experience every possible experience (however rare) life has to offer (before I die).
"When the Music's over turn out the lights" means to me that when the joy of life (music) is gone, life is no longer worth living.
- Bill, Sacramento, CA
I Agree... "Jim"
- Reese, Some Were In Texas, TX
The other day i started reading Jane Ellen Harrison's
"Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion," which was actually a book Jim Morrison hadn't finished before his death. Right when i read this line in it i felt as if i finally understood what he means by "a feast of friends, alive she cried, waiting for me outside". This book deals with the religious aspects of ancient greek culture as well as Dionysus. in the opening pages she describes an athens male perspective on sacrificing, worshiping etc. as "the whole state accordingly at the common cost sacrifices many victims while it is the People who feast on them and divide them among themselves by lot." there is a more elaborate description in the book. however this is what i think the symbolic message of that line is. A Feast of Friends meaning when sacrifices were preformed for the gods it was the subtle tranquility of the murdering "sacrifice" of people with the end outcome being a celebration to the people who were sacrificed. Alive she cried i think is referring to a girl before she is about to be sacrificed and waiting for me outside is in essence jim referring to himself as Dionysus. Just my thoughts about it. PS even though i would love for jim to still be here with us i think its fortunate that all his material left behind is open for our interpretation. i think jim would have much rather loved this than if he was still around being bothered by the media about what the meaning of his work is and what it means exactly in its literal sense. Symbolism its of course more present in his work.
- Jim, Orlando, FL
Some times insted of singing the normal lyrics of "Cancel my subscription to the Resurrection, Send my credentials to the House of Detention I got some friends inside" James(jim) would sing "Something wrong, Something not quite Right x2 touch me baby out through the night" Those lyrics you can hear on Live At The Matrix or Live In Philly 1970
- Jesse, San Antoino, TX
What a song huh! From The Doors second album "Strange Days". Seems that they were one of the first rock bands to have such long songs on their albums. Well for bands at the start of the mid-60's that is. Because they already had "Light My Fire" and "The End" from their first album. Ray does a hell of a job on the organ. And most definitely when you listen to it on their "Absolutely Live" album.----"What have they done to the earth,yeah.What have they done to our fair sister.Ravaged and blundered and ripped her and bit her.Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn and tied her with fences and dragged her down". To Thomas from Chicago,IL---"No offense intended. But how can you confuse this song with "Soul Kitchen"? They sort of have the same intro and kind of move along the same.At the start of each one that is. But "Soul Kitchen"(another good early Doors song)moves along at a faster pace.Great stuff!,Glad that everyone likes it as much as I do. My favorite song from Strange Days is "I Can't See Your Face In My Mind".
- wayne, Salem, VA
I have two things to say to two people:
1.) Clair from Vancouver: That was a very good analysis of the song and makes me see the song in a whole new light now. The song is actually a coherent poem instead of a composite of many unrelated ones (like Celebration of the Lizard).
2.) Ernie from Dover: I don't know what people like you have against Jim Morrison...I mean why insult the lyrics of a song calling them "uninspired metaphors" when you couldn't do any better yourself? It's almost like you're jealous of him or are in competition with him somehow. You didn't even know him! However, I realize you are entitled to your opinion. My main beef with your comment anyway is that you keep implying that Jim died on the toilet, when he was in fact in the bathtub. I suggest you get you facts straight before you badmouth someone as well-liked as Jim, or else the authority of what you say will be greatly diminished.
- Roy, Granbania, MA
"The Resurrection" is an evangelical Christian magazine/paper that came in the mail. Possibly he is refering to not only literally canceling his subscription, but also abandoning his belief in the second coming and expects to go to hell (House of detention). He hung around with sinners and has some friends in hell.

Having abondoned that religion he seeks comfort in sex. "I want to hear the scream of the butterfly" He takes pleasure in her screams of pleasure.

The verse that begins "What have they done to the earth" : A lament concerning the destruction of it via mining and pollution -- "Ravaged and plundered..etc" High rise buildings -- "Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn"

Laments all kinds of fences. EG restriced mobility of persons by the invention of nation states and their borders -- "Tied her with fences..." The earth is tied and dragged down by unnatural borders.

Christian, western culture is often blamed for plundering and scaring the earth. Hence, cancel my subscription to the resurrection. Having abandonded that religion, he needs a new religion but doesn't know what it is.

Natives and other hunters put their ear to the ground to listen for heards of buffalo they could not see. Too, people sometimes put their ear on the railroad track to try and hear the train coming. It's about listening for something you can not see. He is listening for the earth they way it was before it was ripped open and plundered. We want the world (the way it was) and we want it NOW! (Counter culture & adolescent impatience).

In the absence of a new religion, he makes a final appeal to Jesus to save us from our destruction of our fair sister, and implicitly, ourselves.

That appeal doesn't work, sexual pleasure doesn't fix it, and in the end music is his his only friend.

Signed: Everyman
Location: Earth
- Clair, Vancouver, BC
Jim didnt die of a heroin overdose (he was afraid of needles), he died of heart failure due to poor lifestyle, not on the loo but in the bath
- nady, adelaide, Australia
this song means the world to me. i couldnt find better words to describe how i feel about music. without it i would die. what a beautiful mind Jim had, I wish i could've met him just once and it pains me to know that I never will. But i thank you for your words Jim, 'I hope you went out smiling like a child, into the cool reminant of a dream.' May you rest in peace xxx
- nady, adelaide, Australia
iv always thought this was about the second coming of christ( come back baby/ were gettin tired of hangin around), "cancel my subscription to the resurrection" seems to say that were pissed and losing faith cause you havnt returned, " a feast of friends" is a hard lyric to make look like the last supper, but who knows. " i hear a very gentle sound, very near yet very far, very soft yet very clear, come today, come today" i gave spent some time pondering what the sound is. i think that the come today referance is again speaking to jesus, then he tells jesus of the misfortunes instowed upon us since his leaving and finally begs jesus with a powerful scream to save us, this might be a little obvious to go into so much detail with but i hadnt seen anyone write it yet
- bellow, jacksonville, American Samoa
Truly one of the most mezmorizing, deep, and meaningful songs that I have ever heard. Full of metaphors, leading us to believe that they mean something, which creates a mystery to this song.
- Kris, Houston, TX
I always get this and Soul Kitchen mixed up.
- thomas, Chicago, IL
what did jim want us to do ?listen to the WORDS.AFTER ALL THIS TIME WE STILL HEAR THEM!luv ya jim RIP!!!!
- rose, philadelphia, PA
To avi, PT, Israel. To hear the scream of the butterfly is a Sexual metaphor for either A.) too see that flick before he dies (which I highly doubt) or B.) before he dies he wants to make the butterfly (women) scream. Hope that clarifies!
- jb, Tustin, CA
Haven`t you ever thought that maybe he meant "When the music`s sober" instead of "When the music`s over"(or maybe double sense of course)? i think of that every time i hear it. Epic song and really dark.
- Pedro, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Awesome song, but very, very dark one.Hitler,porns and Jim- it`s great combination. "We want the world and we want it ..now..Now ...", before it`s to late."When the music's over, turn out the lights", he knew what`s next-his own the end... Songs like this one made Jim be timeless
- Vanja, Novi Sad, Serbia
This is one of the greatest rock songs ever! No matter how many times I hear it I always get chill bumps when Morrison sings "We want the world and we want it ..now..Now .....NOW!!!!!!!!!That last screamed "NOW" is one of the purest spine tingling moments in music history.
- Mark, byrdstown, TN
I agree,Patrick!Doors songs are trips!
- Bella, Pretoria
Yes,Hanna,Jim is dead.He died in 1971 of a heroin overdose in Paris.He was 27.A few years later,his girlfriend,Pamela Coursen did the same.She was also 27
- Bella, Pretoria
1968 Sacramento Ca,Ray played the intro to the music's over for 12 minutes.Jim leaned on the mike stand the whole time.He finally burped for a minute and went into the song.

No one complained.
- Bob, Roseville, CO
To jb, Tustin, CA
i didnt understand something... "the scream of the butterfly" is a porn film
so what does it mean to hear it? just hearing the voices?

before i knew it refers to porn i thought it ment that he want to literally hear a butterfly scream before he dies... and because butterflys cant scearm he will never die... or something like that
it's just amazing... i cant explain
- avi, PT, Israel
Was "the girl" "waiting for [Jimbo]...outside" while he was busy dying on the crapper? Did she wonder what was taking him so long? Did she ask him if he fell in and then venture in only to find his fat corpse?
- Ernie, Dover, DE
Did Jim Morrison hear the scream of the butterfly--(what a phony, uninspired metaphor)--before he sank into the Big Sleep on the toilet?
- Ernie, Dover, DE
This is one apocalyptic song. They say that the phrase: "When the music's over turn out the lights" was actually Hitler's last words. There's also references to religion and war in here. Now, all together now: WE WANT THE WORLD AND WE WANT IT...
NOW, NOW
- andrew, adelaide, Australia
What have they done to the earth?
- Dubravko, Kakanj, Bosnia
Is Jim Morrison dead? And I trust that was his prayer... :)
- hanna, Albany, NY
Jim's lyrics were nailed in one take, but separate from the band's take
- Eric, Maastricht, Netherlands
I have a question. Didn't the band do the backing track first because they couldn't find Jim, but when Jim came in he nailed his performance in one take? If that is true it is simply amazying, when you consider the improvised parts where it is really he and John feeding off of one another!
- Scott, Green Bay, WI
Yo Dmytro, chech this: "the scream of the butterfly" was an old porno. Jim saw this in an advertisement on a billboard or sign or something while on Sunset st. Hence the line in the song, "before I sink into this big sleep, I want to hear, I want to hear the Scream of the Butterfly." Who wouldnt want to hear that!!! Cool huh???
- jb, Tustin, CA
I am not sure, but as for me Morrison sings: I WANT YOU HERE - I WANT TO HEAR (THE SCREAMS OF THE BUTTERFLY... etc). I don't know exactly but this version are more pleasing for me.
- Dmytro, Kharkiv, Europe
Really good Doors tune. The Doors are timeless, like Steely Dan.
- Ray, Memphis, TN
The second best ending of any album. The first being "The End", of course.
- Jimi, Reno, NV
To Matthew, from Downer's Grove, IL: Songfacts generally checks the accuracy and credibility of its postings, because these are "a big deal" to most of us. For the record, they did review the facts, and they have corrected the information I spoke of, so there..............Merry Christmas anyway, Matty!!
- Deanne, Harrisonburg, VA
hehe Patrick earns a lol from me. And that is expensive. SH*T, I forgot from now on I would say Laugh Out Loud. DAMN
- Johnny, Los Angeles, CA
Just when he screams "Save us!Jesus! Save us!"
- Ashley, Moncton, Canada
By, far the best Doors song ever. The lyrics are great, the bass line is classic, and when done live, it explodes with energy.
- Douglas, Melbourne, FL
To Deanne from Harrisonburg, VA. Songfacts does not state there being 3 wise men. Tradition as well as early literature tells us that there were 3 wise men, which is really not a big deal anyway. This song is great to end a mixed cd, or use "the end".
- Matthew, Downers Grove, IL
The firs of two Doors performances featured in the documentary film MESSAGE TO LOVE about the Isle of Wight Festival. Unfortunately the version in the film is cut and incomplete. However you can see how Jim sang it, never opening his eyes except for the "NOW!!!!" What a scream he gives!!
- Barry, New York, NC
I would just like to correct an item posted in the Song"facts" of "When the Music's Over": according to Matthew 2 in the Bible, there is NO SPECIFIC NUMBER of wise men noted who came to worship the baby Jesus. It could have been 3, 25, or 100 for all we know: there is absolutely NO reference to there being 3 wise men. People make that assumption either because of the 3 gifts the wise men brought with them, or because of the song "We Three Kings", which was probably written based on the gifts as well. This is probably the most commonly accepted inaccuracy of all quoted scripture.
- Deanne, Harrisonburg, VA
i agree with james... that was "the end"
- Bethany, LA, CA
Hey Patrick. Pretty funny! Great song though
1
- Stefanie magura, Rock Hill, SC
The them when he says "when the musics over, turn out the light" Refering to when he had no more music to give, tun out the light or die on another song he says "the death of rock is the death of me"
- james, pacific, MO
According to wikiquote (http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler) Hitler's last words were "When the music's over, turn out the lights"
- kurt, ., Norway
This song;s rights were offered to be purchased for a microsoft campaign. The ad promoter wasnt necessarily interested in the words but the more than awesome organ intro
- Peter, Providence, RI
At the Whiskey, during the Doors' set, the owner once said "When the music's over, turn out the lights." Which became the famous line from the song
- Chad, orlando, FL
awesome song, really has a mood about it. Absolutely dateless piece of music.
- jojo, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand
The second best doors trip...I mean song hehe...
- Patrick, Durham, NC
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