Artist: The Doors
Title: The Soft Parade
Musicians: Jim Morrison – lead vocals, maracas, tambourine, Ray Manzarek – piano, Gibson G-101 organ, RMI Electra Piano, Hammond organ, harpsichord,Robby Krieger – guitar, chorus vocal on “Runnin’ Blue”, John Densmore – drums. Additional musicians:
Curtis Amy – saxophone solo on “Touch Me”, Reinol Andino – conga, George Bohanan – trombone, Harvey Brooks – bass guitar (tracks 1 to 4, 7 and 9), Jimmy Buchanan –fiddle on “Runnin’ Blue”, Douglass Lubahn – bass guitar (tracks 5, 6 and 8), Jesse McReynolds – mandolin, Champ Webb – English horn solo on track 8
Orchestral Arranger: Paul Harris (tracks 1, 2, 7, 8 and 10)
Producer: Paul A. Rothchild
The Soft Parade is the fourth studio album by the American rock band the Doors, and was released on July 18, 1969, on Elektra Records. It saw the group departing from the material that encompassed their past three albums. The Doors incorporated brass and string arrangements into their compositions at a point in which the group was experiencing personal issues, particularly related to Jim Morrison. In addition, the album fulfilled the band’s desire to feature more jazz and blues influences in their work.
From wikipedia: “By the end of 1968, the Doors had produced three hit albums and had successfully toured Europe for the first time. Despite the band’s success, however, vocalist Jim Morrison, who was drinking heavily, began to lose interest in the group and spoke of quitting to pursue poetry and film. He had also caused numerous delays for the recording of the group’s third LP Waiting for the Sun, with Krieger recalling in 1994, “He would take on all these assholes, who used him: ‘Hey, we’re hanging with Jimbo.’ And they wouldn’t care how fucked up he got – they’d leave him on somebody’s doorstep in his own puke.” As the Doors’ record producer Paul Rothchild explained, “Jim was not really interested after about the third album. It became very difficult to get him involved in the records. When we made The Soft Parade, it was like pulling teeth to get Jim into it”
Following rehearsals in June 1968, the Doors commenced a grueling nine month recording period which concluded in May 1969 at Elektra Sound Recorders in Los Angeles, California, in contrast to the six days their debut album required. Morrison became increasingly uncooperative and disruptive when recording for the album commenced, as he regularly missed sessions or was intoxicated when he managed to be present. The alcoholic dependencies caused Morrison to become estranged from his band mates, prompting Manzarek to name Morrison’s sometimes aggressive alcoholic state “Jimbo”. Morrison later reflected on the drawn-out sessions, saying in 1970, “It kinda got out of control, and took too long in the making. It spread over nine months. An album should be like a book of stories strung together, some kind of unified feeling and style about it, and that’s what The Soft Parade lacks”. In a 1999 profile of the album in Guitar World magazine Manzarek stated:
“I am a jazzer and have always love horns. I loved Cannonball Adderly and Miles Davis and John Coltrane…But what Al Kooper did with Blood, Sweat and Tears illustrated how those same ideas could successfully be applied to rock and roll”.
Manzarek added that drummer John Densmore, another jazz fan, was enthusiastic but Krieger “sort of muttered that he thought it was a bad idea but didn’t seriously object, and Jim said, ‘Great, sure man, sounds great. Let’s give it a try.'” In 1994 Krieger explained to Guitar World, “Actually, it does sound better with time. But I never thought it sounded bad – I just thought it didn’t sound like us. The Doors were lost. it was just Jim and an orchestra.” The guitarist added:
We spent more money on it than we did on any other album. And Jim was hard to find. All the mixing bored the hell out of him. But I think his drinking problem wasn’t as bad as it was on Waiting for the Sun, because he had started making a film, which kept him busy.
The Soft Parade album marked the first time in which each songwriter was credited under his own name, instead of the band name. This stemmed from Morrison not wanting to be associated with the lyrics of Krieger’s “Tell All the People”, as one line urges listeners to “grab your guns” while the hook implores listeners to “follow me down”. For the first time, the band were required to write their compositions in the studio, while past albums featured material derived from experiments in their live performances. The chart success of the “Touch Me” single likely convinced Rothchild and the group that augmenting their sound was an experiment worth pursuing. Written by Krieger, it was released as a single in December 1968 and reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 in the Cashbox Top 100 in early 1969 (the band’s third American number-one single).
For those of us who have noted an increase in litigious action regarding music (I’m thinking of calling it “the litigious industry” instead of the music industry), here is an example showing that sadly it’s always been around (just more prominent lately).
Manzarek borrowed the guitar riff from the 1967 Four Seasons’ “C’mon Marianne” on keyboards. The song is also noted for the last sung line, “stronger than dirt”, which was taken from a 1962 Ajax commercial. The Ajax company sued the Doors for plagiarizing the ad’s trademark tune. The Doors paid the financial damages in a settlement to the Ajax company.
The release of The Soft Parade was preceded by the band’s appearance on the PBS television show critique in New York in April 1969. As Densmore recalls in the liner notes of Box Set, the appearance came “at a time when the aftermath of Miami was still hanging in the air. Almost no one would book us live, so it felt womb-like to be in the confines of a public television soundstage, with no audience, playing for ourselves.” The band also sits down with the host to discuss music, poetry, and shamanism. Morrison, smoking a cigar and appearing sober and relaxed, makes some remarkably insightful comments about the future of music: “The new generation’s music…it might rely on electronics, tapes. I can kind of envision may one person with a lot of machines, tapes and electronic setups singing or speaking using machines.” (Author’s note: Talk about a vision of the future…bleak though it may be).
This is good spot for me to tell you how I met Robby Kreiger and John Densmore. I’m a Doors fan, yes.
The story of meeting Robby is pretty unremarkable though. It must have been at least almost 20 years ago. I was at a big park attending a little music festival. As a friend and I were walking back across the park to the car, my friend looks up and sees a couple of people walking towards us and recognizes Robby Kreiger. So as they get closer my friend stops them and we say hello and chat for a couple of minutes and that’s how I met Robby.
My meeting with John Densmore is more interesting. I used to work for a Jazz radio station as a Music Director/Associate Producer. Once in a while we would have guest artists in for interviews and such and part of my job was guest relations, I’d meet them outside to show them in to the studio and make sure everything was good. I also recorded the interviews, etc. (My boss did the interviewing of course as I was not “air talent” in spite of numerous attempts to promote me. I did not want the job).
Anyway, my direct boss knew I was a Doors fan (big on Ray Manzarek’s keyboard playing and John Densmore’s incredible drumming). About 2 months before I was to leave my position, John Densmore was doing a side project that fit in with the format of the station. One day I was told at the last moment that we were having a guest artist in and would I do my usual duties. I should have known i was being set up because I was usually told a week prior and told who it will be, but I thought nothing of it for some reason.
So the time comes and I’m asked to go out and meet the guest artist, so I go out and an unassuming car pulls up. The passenger side door opens and out comes John Densmore! I’m quite used to keeping my composure around celeb types (no reason not to), I stopped for a second and just said “what”?! I then approached the car and met John and he even had me carry one of his hand drums in for him. We got into the studio and it was about 30 minutes before interview, so I got to sit and talk with John for a bit. (Sorry, I will not say what was discussed, doing so is wrong).
After the interview, a bunch of other people from the station come pouring in including the station GM who hired me and liked me. I suddenly realized I had been set up when my direct boss came out of booth and said to me loudly, “Well, what did you think”? and everyone started applauding because of the look on my face while both my direct boss and the GM said “Gotcha!”! Then everybody started taking pictures. I remember John asked if it was my birthday or something and I recall telling him, “no, you have just also been part of a surprise because they know I happen to be a big Doors fan.” To which he just said “oh, cool, it was nice to meet you.” A few minutes later he was off.
Personally, I find this LP to have good production and nicely mixed, so let’s get to the breakdown. (The album was completely remixed and remastered for its 40th anniversary reissue. This practice extended to incorporating vocal and instrumental components which were not part of the original album. According to Ray Manzarek, “There are background vocals by Jim Morrison, piano parts of mine that weren’t used and guitar stingers and solos by Robby Krieger that never made the original recordings, that can now be heard for the first time.”). I only have the original version.
Tell All The People (Kreiger) – All songs on The Soft Parade album displayed individual song writer credits, whereas previously these were shared by the entire group. The change was made by lead singer Jim Morrison who didn’t want people to think that he had written the lyrics to “Tell All the People” which tells the listeners to “…get your guns. To me, this is a pop ballad and features a full orchestra. Listening reveals that it sounds like Jim Morisson’s voice was not up to it. Morrison’s vocals are less than genuine and it’s clear the strains of substance abuse were beginning to wear on his voice greatly in this track.
Touch Me (Kreiger) – This was a big hit for The Doors and I don’t have comment really since everyone is familiar with it.
Shaman’s Blues (Jim Morrison) – “Shaman’s Blues”, a jazz/rock song in 6/8 time most resembling the classic Doors sound, contains what biographer Jerry Hopkins calls “‘Jim Morrison lines,’ lines thought to be too weird and colorful to have been written by anyone else. In ‘Shaman’s Blues’ there was the image of ‘Cold grinding grizzly-bear jaws/Hot on your heels,’ and in ‘The Soft Parade’ the sing-song ‘Catacombs, nursery bones/Winter women growing stones/Carrying babies to the river,’ the latter line prompting the question: the bathe or drown?” The keyboard takes the showcase duties, but I feel it would have been better if it were the guitar.
Do It (Morrison/Kreiger) – If you listen close you can hear them count off at the start of the song. The lyrics repeat and sounds very much like Morrison wrote them. Overall, you might think the song is filler, but even if so, it’s a pretty good song with great guitar and drum work.
Easy Ride (Morrison) – This has a country flavor to it. I wonder if it could also be filler, it has a campy feel too.
Wild Child (Morrison) – This is one of my favorites. It has that familiar Doors sound and that rebel rock sound, if you will. Listen to Robby’s guitar work in this ,it’s good.
Runnin Blue (Kreiger) – “Runnin’ Blue” is notable for Morrison’s tribute to the recently deceased Otis Redding (“Poor Otis dead and gone/Left me here to sing his song…”) and for Krieger’s Dylan-esque lead vocal on the bluegrass-tinged chorus.
Wishful Sinful (Kreiger) – This was a minor hit, the string section is intersting.”Wishful Sinful” follows the general theme of the album by incorporating elements of classical music.
The Soft Parade (Morrison) – This is the title track and the longest song on the LP at 8:40. This song is all over the map with elements of starting with a clavichord/harpsichord and the n going into a sort of a strange disco sound, then switching to a Jazz type feel with weird lyrics and then goes into a rock groove. The song is a trip, almost a concept/prog attempt. At the beginning of the song, Jim Morrison starts out with spoken words reminiscent of a Christian revivalist preacher. This part of the song is referred to as the “Petition the Lord with Prayer” section. The song then goes into a harpsichord driven semi-introductory piece mainly known as “Sanctuary”, with lyrics such as, “Can you give me sanctuary, I must find a place to hide” referencing his then-current problems like the Miami and New Haven arrests. Afterwards, the beat picks up and the song progressively gets faster, and features a psychedelic pop section, followed by an upbeat, soft section before going into a wild blues rock part that ends the song.
Wild Child Then:
Wild Child later:(with The Doors and The Cult Ian Ashbury nails it)