The Soft Parade

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Although thought of as The Doors “problem” album, The Soft Parade is perhaps my favourite album by the band. The Soft Parade was their fourth album, released in 1969 and reached #6 in in the US album charts. Critics and fans denounced the album as too “pop”, due to the inclusion of horns and strings as opposed to the more pared back blues-influenced songs of The Doors’ earlier albums.

It makes sense that the album would have a new sound though, as the album was made during a transitional period for the band. Morrison’s alcoholism got worse during this period, and due to his increasing disinterest in music, Robby Krieger supplied more of the lyrics. The Doors had always pursued a unanimous approach in their public persona-all albums previously had simply been credited to “The Doors”-but on The Soft Parade due to disagreements over some of the lyrics, Krieger and Morrison were both credited separately for their individual songs.

As Morrison deteriorated into alcoholism, the quality of his voice on the album appeared to be suffering as much as his lyrical input. He continuously showed up drunk to rehearsals, which he had somehow avoided for the most part up until this album. From once being able to complete an album in just two takes, it now took several for each song.

I am not personally a huge fan of Krieger’s writing style. Despite staying true to The Doors overall musical style, it is Morrison’s extravagant, eccentric  lyrics that truly make The Doors for me, and so therefore even such hits as “Light My Fire” and “Touch Me” are not, in my humble opinion, their best works. Perhaps this is why I find The Soft Parade appears as equally captivating as the other albums by The Doors, in it’s own unique way-as the songs became differentiated, the Morrison work truly continued to shine on in perhaps an even darker more morbid way than his previous youthful work.

By the time The Soft Parade was being written, Morrison had hit the zenith of his fame and was becoming increasingly disillusioned with it. Prior to the recording of the album he had retreated from the public eye, and emerged having gained weight and grown a large beard. The Jim Morrison who sings Shaman’s Blues appears a more tired, world weary one than the leather clad “Lizard King” who roared his way through Break On Through. Morrison had swapped rebellion, fame and psychedelics, for poetry, philosophy and above all, alcohol.

Track Listing for The Soft Parade

Side one

  1. Tell All the People” (Robby Krieger) – 3:21
  2. Touch Me” (Krieger) – 3:12
  3. “Shaman’s Blues” (Jim Morrison) – 4:49
  4. “Do It” (Morrison, Krieger) – 3:08
  5. “Easy Ride” (Morrison) – 2:43

Side two

  1. Wild Child” (Morrison) – 2:36
  2. Runnin’ Blue” (Krieger) – 2:27
  3. Wishful Sinful” (Krieger) – 2:58
  4. The Soft Parade” (Morrison) – 8:36
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No One Here Gets Out Alive

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Although there have been several books written about Jim Morrison and The Doors, the first still remains the best in my opinion. No One Here Gets Out Alive, published in 1980, was written by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman, and accredited with reknewing The Doors’ image in popular culture for the next generation. Sugerman had been working as an assistant in The Doors office since he was thirteen and had also eventually became their manager following the death of Morrison. Due to his inside connections, No One Here Gets Out Alive is privy to a viewpoint expressed by someone who personally knew many of the people mentioned in the book.

Although Hopkins later released another larger book around the subject, which included transcripts from many original interviews with Morrison and those around him (The Lizard King), No One Here Gets Out Alive remains, in my humble opinion, the definitive book on Morrison. The book is set into three sections, spanning all three major sections of Morrison’s life. The Bow Is Drawn details Morrison’s formative years and the build up to the success of The Doors, The Arrow Flies deals more with the Morrison’s success with the band and his spiraling ascension as the “original rock star”, and finally The Arrow Falls writes about his fall from glory and eventual death.

I would highly suggest this book for any fan, be they already well informed, or just a passing one interested in learning more about the life of one of the most enigmatic characters in musical history.

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Jim Morrison’s Grave

Initially following Morrison’s death, his entire state was left to Pamela and following her death soon after, her parents. Although there were several court case controversies over who really had a right to his estate and Courson’s family won, Morrison’s grave in Père Lachaise has been in possession of the Morrison family since the ’90s. Up until that time, the grave had been adorned with graffiti left by fans-song titles and lyrics, messages to Jim-and upon possession of the plot, the grave was completely remodeled and since has been under heavy security in attempt to keep the site pristine. Of course, they haven’t managed to keep everyone away from it though!

I would highly suggest a visit Père Lachaise to any Doors fan. The place is surreal. Probably one of the only places in the world where you can visit on any given day, even early in the morning, and after a small crowd of people sitting around playing Doors music, usually drinking in the spirit of Jim herself. I visited earlier this year, with my mother who having visited in the early ’90s, was fortunate enough to see the grave in it’s original state. It was probably the high light of my year in all honesty, and I’d say will always be a formative memory for me. As you approach the grave, you start to see small bits and pieces of Doors associated graffiti on the tombs surrounding it, until you reach the actual grave itself, which is surrounded by (flimsy) fences and gravestones that are absolutely covered in Doors lyrics.

I find it disappointing that the family decided not to keep the grave the way it initially I was. I think, knowing what we do about Jim and his disregard for rules and authority, he would have loved the idea of his grave being covered in his poetry and lyrics. A pristine, rule abiding “normal” grave would not have been something I imagined he’d have wanted. However, that was the family’s request, and still fans manage to scrawl the odd lyric or two around the grave when no one’s looking.

Here are some pictures from of the grave-before, after and during my own visit.

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A Photo Tour of Jim Morrison’s (Restored) House On Love Street

I found this article earlier about Jim Morrison’s house with Pamela Courson and how it looks today. The owner of the house is a Doors fanatic and following the damage which occurred during a series of arson attacks in LA, has restored the house to how it would have looked when Morrison and Pamela lived there. It’s incredibly interesting to see the inside of the house, and how they had it decorated. 

The house on Rothdell Drive was supposedly the place where Morrison enjoyed some of his most peaceful, almost domesticated years. He and Pamela lived there as a near normal couple…aside from the fact that he had another lover not so far away, and would run around the house singing and shouting poetry. Even so, these were perhaps the most settled years of Jim’s life and that time is immortalised in the song “Love Street”, from the album Waiting for the Sun. They referred to their street as Love Street because they would sit on their balcony and watch the numerous hippies on the street walk by.

From the pictures, Morrison’s house looks like a piece of musical history. In his secret bathroom, members of The Doors have signed the tiles (see Manzarek’s one featured in the article) and song ideas and poetry are also scrawled all over the bathroom. Morrison wrote his lyrics for Waiting in the Sun, and a large part of The Soft Parade, while living at this house. 

It is sad that Morrison’s life did remain as settled as his attempt here portrays. He and Pam appear most happiest during this time, but of course, it being Jim Morrison, the domestic life of one house and one woman did not last for very long.

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Oliver’s Stone’s 1991 biopic “The Doors” is perhaps the best known and most popular move about Jim Morrison and The Doors. Although intended to be based around all four members, the movie is primarily based around Morrison’s life, even more so than the music the band created. “The Doors” has come under fire from several critics and contains several historical inaccuracies. Perhaps the most amount of criticism has come from Ray Manzarek, The Doors keyboard player. Although all the remaining members of The Doors were consulted during the making of the film, Manzarek did not approve of Stone’s depiction of the band, or of Morrison himself and has publicly stated that he does not believe the film to be accurate at all. Manzarek’s comments on the film are harsh, “Jim with a bottle all the time. It was ridiculous . . . It was not about Jim Morrison. It was about Jimbo Morrison, the drunk. God, where was the sensitive poet and the funny guy? The guy I knew was not on that screen.”

I personally enjoyed the film. Of course, as a dramatization, it extremely exaggerates certain incidents, and perhaps makes Morrison into more a myth like figure than he already is. Val Kilmer, who plays Morrison, does an excellent job playing the Jim Morrison, “Lizard King”, that appeared on stage with The Doors and who the press were so enthralled with. Although I can see why those who knew him would be less impressed by the depiction as Morrison is already a figure that does appear human in someways, even for a die hard fan of the band I believe it is enjoyable and that Kilmer is remarkable in his portrayal of Morrison.

Yet another new Jim Morrison documentary has recently been announced. It will be interesting to see what slant these particular film makers make, as people continue to try and pin down the enigma that was the man.

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/jim-morrison-documentary-begins-production-20130314

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Clip from an interview with Jim Morrison on what he believed was the future of music.
Listening to Morrison interviews are always interesting. He’s most famous for grandiose quotes and bizarre stories. Jim was known to put on a “front” for interviewers, and rarely liked displaying what he really meant to them. This is part of the reason why listening to his interviews is so interesting, it’s like digging for the truth and the real human being behind the drunken rambling, the philosophical insights and the tall tales. I believe that perhaps often Jim didn’t really know what he truly thought, or what the truth really was, that somehow the front he displayed for those around him intermingled with the human being beneath it all.

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An up until recently unpublished photo of Pam. Probably taken during the last few months the couple shared together, the shot is one of their rented apartment in Paris.

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Peace Frog

Probably my favourite song by The Doors, Peace Frog is track four on their 1970 album “Morrison Hotel”. Peace Frog is a song that originated from a collection of different Morrison poems, one of them being “Abortion Stories”.
The spoken part during the song “Indian’s scattered on dawn’s highway bleeding/Ghosts crowd the young child’s fragile eggshell mind” makes references to a childhood incident Jim spoke of in various interviews. Although Jim claimed seeing the truckload of Indians crashed at the side of the road as a seminal moment in the formation of his young mind, “this was the first time I tasted fear”, several members of his family have said they don’t recall the incident so if it did happen, Jim probably exaggerated it.

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Some of my favourite Jim quotes…

“We fear violence less than our own feelings. Personal, private, solitary pain is more terrifying than what anyone else can inflict.”

“Whoever controls the media, controls the mind.”

“It may have been in pieces, but I gave you the best of me”

“The future’s uncertain and the end is always near”

“This is the strangest life I’ve ever known”

“Where’s your will to be weird?”

“Music is your only friend, until the end.”

“I like any reaction I can get with my music. Just anything to get people to think. I mean if you can get a whole room full of drunk, stoned people to actually wake up and think, you’re doing something.”

“All our lives we sweat and save,

building for a shallow grave.”

“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.”

“No eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn.”

“I think in art, but especially in films, people are trying to confirm their own existences.”

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I’m so fascinated by Pam and Jim’s relationship. Their fighting, their infidelity, but also the claims by everyone around them that they were soul mates. I’m not entirely sure if I would ever want to be involved with someone like that but it truly has to be one of the more beautiful “famous” relationships you hear of. It makes me wonder, did they really feel that intensely about each other or was it just the drugs and their own issues? Or did those things cause them to fight as much as they did, and maybe they would have been perfect otherwise. I don’t know, it just fascinates me.
And this is one of my favourite pictures.

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