Closing Time

Album: Feeling Strangely Fine (1998)
Charted: 25 11


  • This song has a very literal meaning - being asked to leave a bar - but it goes much deeper than that. Semisonic lead singer Dan Wilson wrote the song when his wife was pregnant with their first child, which turned out to be a daughter named Coco. Halfway through writing the song, he realized it had a double meaning. "It's all about being born and coming into the world, seeing the bright lights, cutting the cord, opening up into something deeper and more universal," Wilson told Mojo.

    Shortly before recording was scheduled to begin, Wilson's wife experienced complications with her pregnancy, and Coco was born three months premature, weighing just 11 ounces. Wilson's bandmates offered to postpone the sessions, but he asked to move forward with them, since there was very little he could do in the hospital. This song took on a new meaning with the line, "I know who I want to take me home," as Wilson was looking forward to the day he could bring Coco home.

    That day finally came nearly a year after Coco was born; she left the hospital in February 1998 on the same day "Closing Time" was released as a single. According to Wilson, the ambulance driver who transported them home asked if he was the same Dan Wilson from the band. That's when the full gravity of the song hit him, and he realized how much Coco influenced it.
  • This remains a popular song at bars when they are ready to pack it up. There is no mistaking the message: "You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here." Semisonic vocalist and songwriter Dan Wilson told The Hollywood Reporter in a 2010 interview: "I really thought that that was the greatest destiny for 'Closing Time,' that it would be used by all the bartenders, and it was actually. It still is. I run into people all the time who tell me, Oh I worked in this one bar for four years and I heard your song every single night."
  • "Closing time!" is something bartenders would often bellow at the end of the night to not-so-gently encourage patrons to leave. It's something Dan Wilson heard often in Minneapolis drinking establishments, which provided the title.

    "You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here" is a line Wilson remembered being shouted at one particular bar. After this song came out, that line got a lot more popular.
  • The line, "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end," sounds like it could be a zen proverb or part of a famous poem, but it's an original line. In a Songfacts interview with Dan Wilson, he said: "The phrase does have a kind of timeless, proverbial vibe about it. It does seem to be literally tattooed on people's arms and reprinted in thousands of places. And it's been falsely attributed to ancient Roman philosophers, actually. So I guess there's definitely something about it. If it's been useful to people, I can only be grateful for that."
  • Semisonic formed in 1995 and released their debut album, Great Divide, in 1996. During these years, many of their gigs were at bars, so when Dan Wilson set out to write a closing number for their sets, it made sense to write one about closing the bar.
  • Wilson told The Hollywood Reporter how he wrote this song in 20 minutes: "My bandmates were tired of ending our sets with the same song, so there was kind of an uprising where they demanded something different to end our nights with. So I thought, 'OK, I'll write a song to close out the set,' and then boom, I wrote 'Closing Time' really fast.

    There was one little adjustment later, which I credit to our A&R guy, Hans Haedelt. He said, 'It's too simple. You need to break up the rhythm of the verses.' So that line, 'Gather up your jackets, move it to the exits, I hope you have found a friend' is the first time it deviates from the rhythmic pattern. He was right - it's a great moment in the song."
  • Semisonic kept their setlists pretty consistent and closed every show with a track from their first album called "If I Run." Dan Wilson was fine with this ("I can eat the same breakfast every morning for a year and be perfectly happy," he said), but his bandmates wanted a different song to end their shows. Wilson obliged by Writing this song.
  • Much of the song is pretty clearly about a bar, but there is a line in the second verse that has nothing to do with that storyline, but goes along with the birth meaning:

    This room won't be open
    'Til your brothers or your sisters come

    According to Wilson, the "room" is a womb, waiting for brothers or sisters.
  • In America, this wasn't released as a single (except to radio stations for promotional purposes), which forced listeners to buy the album if they wanted the song. The strategy worked - Feeling Strangely Fine sold over a million copies in the US. Withholding single release meant the song wasn't eligible for the Hot 100, but it did reach #11 on the Billboard Airplay chart.
  • The band was pretty sure this song was a hit, but when the album was mixed by Bob Clearmountain and delivered to MCA Records, the label told them they didn't hear a single and told them to record more songs until they had one. Dan Wilson was happy to spend the label's money recording more songs, but their manager, Jim Grant, warned against it, since it meant "Closing Time" and the other songs would have no shot. Grant told Wilson how to deal with it: Don't answer the phone for a few months. Indeed, the label called, and Wilson let his answering machine handle it. Eventually, the label gave in and released the album as delivered.

    The band got a break around this time when a new promotions woman named Nancy Levin went to work for MCA and championed "Closing Time," making sure it got out there. Her instincts were right - the song became a huge hit.
  • This was Semisonic's only hit in America, although in the UK, "Secret Smile" charted higher.
  • The video was directed by Chris Applebaum, who came up with the idea for the split-screen look where Dan Wilson and his leading lady (an actress - he real-life wife does appear in the "Secret Smile" video) keep just missing each other.
  • The song features in the 2011 romantic comedy movie Friends with Benefits in a scene where Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake are having sex. She asks him to distract her with what she calls, 'A Third Eye Blind song' and he proceeds to sing this tune.

    Dan Wilson told The Hollywood Reporter that seeing the scene in the trailer made him laugh. He said: "It is kind of funny to be looking at it from another perspective. And while I really like Justin Timberlake's music and singing, when he's doing a Dan Wilson impression, I'm not sure I like that. But it's very cute. I enjoyed that slight mockery. And the thing about Third Eye Blind is really funny."
  • This was also featured in the comedies American Reunion (2012) and Due Date (2010). In the latter movie, Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis get assaulted by a wheelchair-bound Western Union employee (Danny McBride), who sings a variation of the tune after he delivers the beatdown. Wilson wasn't a fan of its usage in the violent scene. "I would've said no to that,” he told Grantland, "though I'm not bummed about it."
  • This was used on Friends in the 2001 episode "The One With Rachel's Date." It plays as Rachel leaves the Central Perk after seeing Ross talking to Mona. It was also included on Friends: The Ultimate Soundtrack (2005).

    It also shows up on these TV shows:

    Kevin (Probably) Saves The World ("Listen Up" - 2017)
    The Office ("Doomsday" - 2011): Andy attempts to use the song to signify the end of the workday.
    The Simpsons ("That '90s Show" - 2008)
    Cold Case ("That Woman" - 2007)
    Daria ("Ill" - 1998)

Comments: 18

  • Fanograss from IllinoisAlso in an American Dad episode
  • King Bazaar from Maryland Heights, Mo"You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here" was cliche long before this song came out
  • Tom Smith from New York, NyYou could not be more wrong about the 'double meaning'. Dan told an audience - very famously - what the song was about. He even kept his bandmates in the dark.
  • AnonymousPlease update the fourth line of the lyrics to "Turn all of the lights up over ev'ry boy and every girl". This lyrically follows the first line of 14 beats - with the stutter of the word "and". Makes this most beautiful song eve more melodious
  • Brian from Clio, MiThis is an amazing song! What is even more amazing is that anyone could say they don't like it! My guess is that those who claim not to like it are not yet parents. The song was originally written with the birth of the songwriters first born child. The lyrics came from different sources all relating to him in someway. One line in the refrain makes complete sense and all of the others just seem to fill in. That line says"every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end." Listen to the song carefully and you will understand the lyrics involving birth and being parents. You will also understand the bar scene, but think about those lyrics and the entire meaning of life! I am not sure if Dan Wilson meant for these lyrics to mean so much and be so strong, but don't those nine words relate to every single thing that happens in our lives everywhere. Everything has a beginning and everything has an end. Everything! Including life and death. Think of every beginning and every end in your life. Did Dan Wilson mean for it to be that deep? I don't know and he might tell, but if nothing else it is deep and truthful! I know in my life that "every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end." That applies to happy and sad. Life and death! That isn't so deep, or is it???
  • Don from Manville, NjMoron that I am, I heard this song when I was thinking about leaving my first wife for someone I'd been attracted to for years. The every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end, convinced me that as one relationship ended another could begin. What an f.....g mistake that turned out to be.
  • Justing from Orlando , FlI think it has to do with both. It's about a bar in a literal sense and birth in the metaphorical sense.
  • John from Missoula, MtThis song gained some popularity at Major League ballparks for a while when the 9th inning pitcher, aka "the Closer", would come into the game to try and save the game. It didn't last long in this role as most closers want a rockin' song to pump them up ("Enter Sandman" for example) as they warm up and this song doesn't fit that bill.
  • Emera from Syracuse, NyIt actually does make sense if you have any desire to look into the lyrics. Not to mention this lyric: "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end". The new beginning being birth and the 'other beginning's end' being death. There's an old saying/wive's tale/whatever you want to call it that when one person dies, another is born, so this line makes sense.
  • Richard from Avon, InAs a late baby boomer/cusper, I don't listen to a lot of music from the 1990s or 2000s. But this was one I really liked. I thought I'd read it was a metaphor for graduating from college. Makes much more sense lyrically that way.
  • Kevin from Lexington, OhOk people. Some of you obviously don't fully understand this song......Open all the doors and let you out into the world means exiting the womb. Secondly turn all of the lights on over every boy and every girl means the begining of life. ONE LAST CALL FOR ALCOHOL SO FINISH YOUR WHISKEY OR BEER MEANS WHEN PREGNANT ITS BEST FOR THE CHILD IF THE MOTHER FINISHES (STOPS) CONSUMING WHISKEY OR BEER. The Child doesn't have to go home but he/she can't stay here (as in the womb). Time for you to go out to the places you will be from means exactly that. This room won't be open till your brothers or your sisters come (as in the womb won't be open till another pregnancy). DUH! any questions?!?!?!?!?!
  • Brennan from Westhampton, NyYo wtf? Number 1 this is a good song. Number 2 how can you say what it was inspired by is weird? Having a kids is one of the biggest things that happens to a person, you try having a kid and see if it phases you at least a little bit. Number 3 maybe if you tried really listening to it you'd get it. Its deeper than just a song. I mean c'mon have some class and sum balls!
  • Jenny from West Hills, CaThis is one of the worst songs to ever hit the radios! Instant radio change when this comes on!
  • Madalyn from Greensburg, Payea what song was inspired from is kinda weird...but you can't deny its a good song....huge hit of the 90's
  • Darrell from EugeneThe ONLY good thing about this song is that it was covered, albeit in part on Weird Al Yankovic's polka track on "Running with Scissors". One more thing: What does last-call time in a bar have to do with some guy's kid being born? I don't get it.
  • Jack from Hamilton, New ZealandThis has got to be one of the most pathetic songs I've heard. Nothing makes me switch to ipod quicker!
  • James from Bridgeport, CtPerhaps Semisonic is technically a one hit wonder, but this is certainly not their only good song.

    "Chemisty" "Over my Head" and "Singing in my Sleep" are some of their other great songs.
  • Joshua from Twin Cities, MnWhy is this listed as a hidden track? It was the first song on the disc, for crying out loud!
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