Wednesday, October 18, 2023

The Doors - Rock is Dead

The Doors - Rock is Dead

(soniclovenoize reimagining)

Side A:

  1. Touch Me
  2. Who Scared You
  3. Shaman’s Blues
  4. Whiskey, Mystics & Men
  5. Queen of The Highway
  6. Do It

Side B:

  1. Rock is Dead

Hello there, and welcome to the new Patreon-based incarnation of Albums That Never Were!  The very first reconstruction to be featured in this new format is a reimagining of The Doors fourth album, here called Rock is Dead.  This reimagining attempts to restructure the band’s otherwise dismal 1969 album The Soft Parade into a release more in-line with the band’s established Morrison-led, psychedelic-rock sound, rather than an over-produced hodge-podge of unfinished material.  Side A features what is essentially the best material from The Soft Parade sessions, and are all “band only mixes” that exclude producer Paul Rothchild’s misguided brass and string overdubs. The entirety of Side B consists of my own, custom made 20-minute edit of The Door’s infamous hour-long jam “Rock is Dead”, intended as this album’s epic (as “The End”, “When The Music’s Over” and “Celebration of The Lizard” were for the previous three albums).

By 1969, the creative minds behind The Doors were running on empty.  After two groundbreaking 1967 albums The Doors and Strange Days and a third entry with 1968’s Waiting For The Sun (which was reconstructed on this blog as Celebration of the Lizard), The Doors were simply out of original material to create a fourth album.  With the daunting task of writing completely new material in the studio for a market hungry for new Doors material, the band relied heavily on contributions from guitarist Robby Kreiger; although he had written the band’s break-through hit “Light My Fire”, the soul of the band lied within vocalist Jim Morrison’s words, coupled with the collective strength of the rest of the band’s idiosyncratic musicality.  Unfortunately, Morrison was completely disillusioned from “The Rock Star Life” and was more interested in his two other passions: alcohol and poetry.   Left to herd the cats was producer Paul Rothchild, tasked to coax out an album’s worth of material from a band adrift.  Additionally, Rothchild made the erroneous blunder to overdub lush horns and strings onto the new Doors material, to follow the symphonic rock trend paved by his perceived main competition, The Beatles.

The album sessions began in July 1968, directly after the completion of Waiting For The Sun, with the recording of Morrison’s “Wild Child” and Krieger’s “Wishful Sinful”, neither of which contained the excitement of the band’s previous work.  Also tracked was a demo of a song which would be revisited years later: “Roadhouse Blues”, featuring keyboardist Ray Manzerek on lead vocals!  The Doors then embarked on an infamous European tour with Jefferson Airplane (which included Morrison’s drunken tryst with Grace Slick, and Ray’s first foray into replacing the our-of-commission frontman of the band), returning to work on the album in November.

The first two new songs to be tracked at the band’s new Elektra Studios that Fall would be a pair of Krieger originals with decidedly pop overtones: “Touch Me” and “Tell All The People.”  While the former has potential, the later was a soupy ballad to flower power.  In contrast, Jim and Robby offered a pair of co-written rockers: “Do It” and “Who Scared You”.  Finally, Jim offered up his own material in “Shaman’s Blues”, “Queen of The Highway” and “Whiskey, Mystics and Men”; the latter two would be scrapped and later re-recorded for Morrison Hotel.  The following week, Rothschild overdubbed horns to “Touch Me”, “Tell All The People”, “Wishful Sinful” and “Who Scared You”, and strings to “Touch Me” and “Wishful Sinful.”

The excruciating recording process had yet to yield an albums-worth of material, so the band returned after Christmas to record Robby’s own bizarre tribute to Ottis Redding, “Runnin’ Blue”, which received hoedown overdubs after the New Year.  After attempting and then abandoning a “jazzier” remake version of “Queen of the Highway” (which was abandoned as well), the quartet proceeded to record a number of musical fragments, culled from the final bits of poetry from Morrison’s lyric book which had birthed so many Doors classics only three years earlier.  The resulting scatterbrained medley “The Soft Parade” would last nearly nine minutes in length, yet lacked the soul of The Doors’ previous epic album songs.

But the real curiosity of the sessions occurred on February 25th, 1969: an hour-long in-studio jam that has since been dubbed “Rock is Dead.”  Its infamy has only grown over the years, spawning an intense mythos often concerning an intentional overview of the entire history of Rock n Roll, The Doors self-awareness of their place in it all, and Jim’s alleged conclusion that Rock was dead.  Judging by what can actually be heard on the tape, it sounds more like a drunk Doors jamming to oldies for an hour, with varying levels of success.  Regardless, its legendary status in The Doors vault was secured as various edits and mixes of “Rock is Dead” scouted the bootleg market for years.

With teeth finally extracted, The Soft Parade was released in July 1969, with “Touch Me” hitting number three on the Billboard charts.  Whilst admittedly a great Doors song, this listener could not help but wonder “What would it have sounded like without the schlocky Las Vegas horns?”  Fifty years later, The Doors issued “band only” mixes of most of the overproduced Soft Parade songs–as well as the entirely of the “Rock is Dead” jam session–allowing fans to re-imagine the album into a more “traditional"-sounding Doors album, as well as a more Jim Morrison-centered one.

Side A of this Doors reimagining begins with the aforementioned band-only mix of “Touch Me”, which loses none of its bombast that some had presumed without the horn section.  Following is the band-only remix of “Who Scared You”, originally released with horns as the b-side to “Wishful Sinful”, followed by the original mix of “Shaman’s Blues.”  At this point, we shift to two Jim Morrison-led outtakes from The Soft Parade sessions that could have been finished and greatly improved the original album: “Whiskey, Mystics and Men” (here the original November 1968 outtake, rather than the re-recording which featured American Prayer-era band overdubs) adds the darkness and mysticism lacking on The Soft Parade; following is my own edit of the original November 1968 “Queen of The Highway” from the Morrison Hotel boxset (yes, the “Get naked and fuck!” version!) that effectively creates a cohesive version from four different sections and takes.  Side A ends with a bang with the original album mix of “Do It.”

Since Rock is Dead is meant to be closer in sound and tone to the debut, Strange Days and Celebration of The Lizard, the only way this album could be presented would be with an edit of “Rock is Dead” occupying the entire Side B of this reimagined album!  I have removed all the bum notes and false starts, the outhouse Robby solos and unnecessarily repeated musical sections to create a more cohesive performance.  This “Rock is Dead” ends up sounding like a more refined live improvisation, much like what one would hear at a Doors concert and something that was never really captured in the studio.  It might lack real meat, but it is honest; if you have never bothered listening to this piece, my edit is probably your best bet.  Some might construe it as rough and slightly meandering, but is that any worse than what we got on The Soft Parade?


Sources used:

Morrison Hotel (50th Anniversary boxset)

The Soft Parade (50th Anniversary boxset)



Friday, October 13, 2023

Hey There...

Hey there. 


If I sell FIVE Albums That Never Were shirts, Then I'll post a new reconstruction this weekend.