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 two 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.
Pj from MidwestSome people got things wrong here. Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek saw the title Scream Of The Butterfly on a marquee. They didn't watch the picture but Jim liked the title and incorporated it into When The Music's Over. Also the movie is from 1965 and is a noirish type thriller. It is not a porn film, although there is a bit of nudity in the unedited version. Also, by all accounts Morrison did die from heroin which he supposedly snorted a few times. His girlfriend Pam Courson was a regular user. Most accounts have an inebriated Jim dying in the bathtub after snorting heroin which probably caused him to puke and he choked to death on it. This is most likely how he died in spite of others trying to create fiction. Pam was the one who found him dead. One other fact about Morrison's songwriting style. Morrison didn't play any instruments but, unlike a typical poet, he came up with vocal melodies to his words. These he would sing to the other guys who would work out the music parts. He really was a very talented guy and died way the hell too young.
Alfredo Gonzalez from Los AngelesThe song THE END Jim is describing some of the horrors and torture of the mind control programing victims of the mk ultra, montouk and monarch dark projects that occur in deep underground military bases. all victims were kidnap young innocent children. Do the research first then go back and compare the meaning of the lyrics and then your mind will be blown.... might make you shed a tear or two.
Clair from VancouverAnd Update, and expansion of a previous post by Clair.
Persian Night: - As another poster noted is a reference to the three Wise Men, apparently guided by the light of the Star of Bethlehem, to find and visit the recently born Jesus. Morrison commands, "See the light". Light is what guides, as the Magi were guided. Light is was reveals truth. Light is almost the same as insight. Now Morrison is, in this song, telling us his insight. He is shedding light on a truth by his words, and the music of the Doors. The name Jesus, is Greek for Joshua. Joshua led God's people into the Promised Land. So when Morrison sings, Jesus save us, he is saying Jesus take us on a trip to the promised land, the land that is not ravaged, plundered, ripped, bit, stabbed, and tied with fences. The promised land is natural, pristine, pure - like the Garden of Eden. It's the way things were before the fall into a broken earth.
And speaking of trips, the psychedelic guitar work, itself an allusion to a mind expanding drug trip, and the name "The Doors" an allusion to Huxley's "The Doors of Perception", namely, mind expanding drug trips, we seem to have competing paths to the promised land. One path is Jesus, save us, and the other is enlightening music inspired by drugs, presumably Leary's favorite, LSD.
Light as meaning revelation, insight, and guidance seems to be one of the main themes of the song. The big sleep, and lights out, suggest death. That is not necessarily literal death, but if you have no light revealing truth to you, you are in some sense dead. When the music's over, there is no more revelation, no more guidance, no more light. Near the beginning of the song, he sings, "music is your special friend". He's telling us what he's going to tell us. Then at the end, he sings again, the music is your special friend. So Jesus, isn't your special friend, its drug inspired music, spiced up by the occasional scream of the butterfly. After all, "Alive! she cried" and he wanted to hear her scream before the darkness of the big sleep.
Since Jesus isn't his special friend, he cancels his subscription to the Resurrection, spices life with sex, and implicitly proclaims music is the way, the truth, and the life.
It is as if music is life itself. When it's over, the lights go out, and some kind of death is one's fate. That's his faith. In the '60's that's how I felt. Even though it is unlikely that drug inspired music is guaranteed to contain ultimate enlightenment, this is one song that continues to appeal to me. Despite his implicit lack of faith in the resurrection, and the second coming, Morrison borrows from that religion the concept of a fallen misguided people who broke the world. Now they, and it, is in need of redemption. Nothing wrong with that faith. In fact, it makes perfect sense. A pure pristine perfect world got broken, now lets fix it.
Hayden from Newcastle, AustraliaJim didn't die of an heroin overdose, he died of a heart failure Hanna form Pretoria
Mojo from Toronto, OnJust 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.
Dorian from Varaždin, CroatiaI 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.
Bob Minelli from Milwaukee, WiA 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.
David from Woburn, MaNady 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.
Bill from Sacramento, CaTo 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.
Reese from Some Were In Texas, TxI Agree... "Jim"
Jim from Orlando, FlThe 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.
Jesse from San Antoino, TxSome 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
Wayne from Salem, VaWhat 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".
Roy from Granbania, MaI 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.
Clair from Vancouver, Bc"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
Nady from Adelaide, AustraliaJim 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 from Adelaide, Australiathis 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
Bellow from Jacksonville, American Samoaiv 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
Kris from Houston, TxTruly 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.
Thomas from Chicago, IlI always get this and Soul Kitchen mixed up.
Rose from Philadelphia, Pawhat did jim want us to do ?listen to the WORDS.AFTER ALL THIS TIME WE STILL HEAR THEM!luv ya jim RIP!!!!
Jb from Tustin, CaTo 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!
Pedro from Buenos Aires, ArgentinaHaven`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.
Vanja from Novi Sad, SerbiaAwesome 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
Mark from Byrdstown, TnThis 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.
Bella from PretoriaI agree,Patrick!Doors songs are trips!
Bella from PretoriaYes,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
Bob from Roseville, Co1968 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.
Avi from Pt, IsraelTo 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
Ernie from Dover, DeWas "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 from Dover, DeDid Jim Morrison hear the scream of the butterfly--(what a phony, uninspired metaphor)--before he sank into the Big Sleep on the toilet?
Andrew from Adelaide, AustraliaThis 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
Dubravko from Kakanj, BosniaWhat have they done to the earth?
Hanna from Albany, NyIs Jim Morrison dead? And I trust that was his prayer... :)
Eric from Maastricht, NetherlandsJim's lyrics were nailed in one take, but separate from the band's take
Scott from Green Bay, WiI 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!
Jb from Tustin, CaYo 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???
Dmytro from Kharkiv, EuropeI 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.
Ray from Memphis, TnReally good Doors tune. The Doors are timeless, like Steely Dan.
Jimi from Reno, NvThe second best ending of any album. The first being "The End", of course.
Deanne from Harrisonburg, VaTo 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!!
Johnny from Los Angeles, Cahehe Patrick earns a lol from me. And that is expensive. SH*T, I forgot from now on I would say Laugh Out Loud. DAMN
Ashley from Moncton, CanadaJust when he screams "Save us!Jesus! Save us!"
Douglas from Melbourne, FlBy, far the best Doors song ever. The lyrics are great, the bass line is classic, and when done live, it explodes with energy.
Matthew from Downers Grove, IlTo 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".
Barry from New York, NcThe 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!!
Deanne from Harrisonburg, VaI 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.
Bethany from La, Cai agree with james... that was "the end"
Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScHey Patrick. Pretty funny! Great song though 1
James from Pacific, MoThe 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"
Kurt from ., NorwayAccording to wikiquote (http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler) Hitler's last words were "When the music's over, turn out the lights"
Peter from Providence, RiThis 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
Chad from Orlando, FlAt 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
Jojo from Hawkes Bay, New Zealandawesome song, really has a mood about it. Absolutely dateless piece of music.
Patrick from Durham, NcThe second best doors trip...I mean song hehe...