For most people, the music of one’s teen years has a definite impact on our musical tastes, or preferences if you will. This should not come as a surprise because those are the years of many “firsts” as we tentatively move towards adulthood. The backdrop for my teen years were the sixties (1963-1969 to be exact) and I probably don’t have to tell you how this musical era shaped and, in many instances, continues to shape the music landscape today. Although this music from my youth certainly has its rightful place in my memories of that period and has the ability to transport me back in time when I hear a specific song from the past, I have moved on from this music and have acquired a taste for many different genres and styles. That does not mean I don’t listen to sixties music anymore; I do, but I am not one who is stuck in the past musically.
I was listening to some music the other night, which is a fairly normal nighttime ritual for me these days. It was a random Apple Music station so you never know what song will be next, when a song popped up from my past and I found myself saying: “Damn, I haven’t heard this in years. What a great song, I think I need to go back and listen to an album or two of theirs and open up the memory floodgates!” And I did just that. The next two evenings I listened to the first two of their six albums (both recorded in 1967), 21 songs in total and was actually a little surprised when I only remembered six of the songs! So, I spent the next four evenings listening to the remaining albums recorded in 1968, 1969, 1970, and 1971. These albums with a total of 40 songs yielded only another six songs that I remembered! And that got me thinking.
Back in the day there were three ways to hear this music: Live concert, radio, or buy the album. While I was a huge fan of this particular band, I was a teenager with limited funds and purchased only one of their six albums. I never had the opportunity to see them live. So, the only time I was listening to them was on the radio, primarily AM radio, which meant nothing longer than three minutes! It made me realize that being a “fan” has its limitations, because radio stations then and even now to some degree only play the hits. Can you name the group that released these songs? “Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar);” “Twentieth Century Fox;” “Horse Latitudes;” “Moonlight Drive;” “Yes, the River Knows;” “Spanish Caravan;” “The Soft Parade;” “The Spy;” “Been Down so Long;” “Crawling King Snake.” If you know any or all of these titles and to whom they belong, I will venture a guess that you owned and perhaps still own the albums that contain these songs. However, the following titles will no doubt have the lightbulb in your head shining brightly: “Break on Through (To the Other Side);” “Light my Fire;” “The End;” “Love me Two Times;” “People are Strange;” “When the Music’s Over;” “Hello, I Love You;” “Touch Me;” “Roadhouse Blues;” “L.A. Woman.” Go to just about any website and type in The Doors and inevitably these last songs will be listed as the top ten Doors songs, as these were the ones you heard over, and over, and over again on the radio. In other words, they were “top ten” by default! If you are keeping track, that’s ten songs out of a total of 61! There was a seventh album recorded in 1971, but this was after lead singer Jim Morrison had died in Paris, and the remaining band members decided to release an album of songs they had all been working on before Jim’s death. It is appropriately titled “Other Voices,” as Ray Manzarek (keyboards), and Robby Kreiger (guitar) took over the vocals for this release.
This little journey down memory lane also got me thinking about music classification i.e., genres. All six Doors albums are labeled as “rock,” which is a very large genre that incorporates a vast array of musical styles and has its roots in what was once called “rock and roll.” One source gives the following description of rock as: “characterized by a strong beat, the use of blues forms and the presence of rock instruments such as electric guitar, electric bass, electric organ or electric piano.” Noticeably absent from this description are the drums, and if we want to be really picky The Doors did not have a bass player in their line up! Nowadays, there are more subcategories of rock than are probably needed but we, as a species, love to categorize things and the more categories the better. Just for the record, I abhor all these attempts to “label” as they are completely subjective and, at times, completely wrong or ridiculous, sometimes both. For example, take the following list of sub genres of rock: Alternative Rock; Rock ‘n’ Roll; Blues Rock; Progressive Rock; Indie Rock; Punk Rock; Psychedelic Rock; Acid Rock (basically music you listen to while doing acid!); Glam Rock; Roots Rock; Folk Rock (think Batdorf & Rodney, and if you’ve heard of them give yourself ten brownie points!); Arena Rock; Soft Rock; Funk Rock; Garage Rock; Space Rock (not what was brought back from lunar landings); Electronic Rock; Experimental Rock; Surf Rock; Brit Pop; Art Rock; Stoner Rock (nah, too easy); Instrumental Rock; Jazz Rock; Sleaze Rock (If you got torn jeans, a mesh tank top, and an outrageous wig then you are a sleaze ball. Example bands: Hanoi Rock, L.A. Guns, and Faster Pussycat – I wish I were making this up!); Goth Rock; Jam Rock (much better if you have toast); Industrial Rock; Geek Rock; Yacht Rock (the single most ridiculous sub-genre). Supposedly this is “softer” rock, but not Soft Rock. Examples given: Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers. Enough said!
I apologize for this rambling trip down genre lane, but there is a reason for this, and it is directly related to the six evenings I spent listening to 61 Doors songs. While this is a rough estimate, I would say that at least half of the songs that are not part of the top ten listed above would never be classified as “rock” today. However, since I just spent an inordinate amount of time ranting about the subjectivity of classification, I will let you decide for yourselves how you would classify the following songs. Let’s say that the songs below are a selection from my unofficial top ten (also listed above) that probably never had any airtime on the radio, and that are, in my mind at least, not what I would consider “rock” songs. The emphasis here is on the MY. They are songs that you may or may not remember or may or may not know. There is also a chance that you may or may not care! These are Apple Music links, so if you are a subscriber then easy-peasy. If you’re not, well you know where to find me. These are songs that range from spoken rants to musical theater. There are classic blues, poetry, flamenco, and songs that go through so many different styles that there should be a sub-genre called Smorgasbord Rock!
#1. “Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)
#2. “Horse Latitudes”
#3. “Spanish Caravan”
#4. “Yes, The River Knows”
#5. “The Soft Parade”
#6. “Crawling King Snake”
Enjoy the music and enjoy the trip down memory lane!
Los Angeles 2022