The Beatles’ “The End” was the last song recorded collectively by all four Beatles, and is the final song of the medley that comprises the majority of side two of the LP version of the album. All the isolated tracks are below in one handy YouTube video.
All four Beatles have a solo in “The End”, including a Ringo Starr drum solo. Starr disliked solos; he preferred to cater drumwork to whoever sang in a particular performance. The take in which he performed the solo originally had guitar and tambourine accompaniment, but other instruments were muted during mixing giving the effect of a drum solo. The additional instruments were restored for a remix on the Anthology 3 compilation album. The drum solo was also later used at the beginning of “Get Back” on the 2006 album Love.
McCartney, Harrison, and Lennon perform a rotating sequence of three, two-bar guitar solos. The solos begin approximately 53 seconds into the song and end just before the final piano part. Lennon described it in his 1970 interview with Rolling Stone: “There’s a nice little bit I played on Abbey Road. Paul gave us each a piece, a little break where Paul plays, George plays and I play.” The first two bars are played by McCartney, the second two by Harrison, and the third two by Lennon, then the sequence repeats. Each has a distinctive style which McCartney felt reflected their personalities: McCartney’s playing included string bends similar to his lead guitar work on “Another Girl” from the Help! album and the stinging style he had first perfected on “Taxman” from Revolver; Harrison’s solo incorporated the melodic yet technically advanced slides that were becoming his trademark; lastly Lennon’s contribution was rhythmic, snarling, and had the heaviest distortion, echoing his lead work in “Revolution”. Immediately after Lennon’s third solo, the piano chords of the final line “And in the end…” begin. Then the orchestration arrangement takes over with a humming chorus and Harrison playing a final guitar solo that ends the song.
The song commences in A Major, with an initial I-IV-II-V-I structure matching the vocals on “Oh, yeah, All right!” This is followed by a #ivdim-I pattern (D#dim chord to A chord) on “dreams tonight.” During this, the accompanying bass and one guitar move chromatically from A to B and D#, while the second guitar harmonises a minor third higher to reach F#. The sequential three guitar solos rotate through I7 (A7 chord)-IV7 (D7 chord) changes in the key of A in a mix of “major and minor pentatonic scales with slides, doublestops, repeated notes, low-bass string runs and wailing bends”. The final “Ah” is in C with a spiritually evocative Plagal cadence IV-I (F-C chord) on piano while the voices do an F to E shift. “And in the end the love you take” is in A major, but the G/A chord supporting the word “love” begins to dissolve our certainty that we are in A, by adding a ♭VII. The next line shifts us to the fresh key of C, with a iv (F) chord that threatens the dominance of the departing A key’s F#: “Is eq-ual” (supported successively by iv (F) -iii (Em) chords with an A-G bass line) “to the love” (supported successively by ii (Dm) vi (Am) ii7 (Dm7) chords with a F-E bass line) “you make” (supported by a V7 (G7) chord). The final bars in the key of C involve a I-II-♭III rock-type progression and a IV-I soothing cadence that appear to instinctively reconcile different musical genres.