Yes | Close To The Edge | A 45th Anniversary Retrospective
This Retrospective Written With Love In Memory Of: Chris Squire – (March, 4, 1948 – June, 27 , 2015)
Label: Original Distribution/ Atlantic Records Release Year: 1972 Country: United Kingdom Genre: Progressive Rock
Band Members – Classic Yes ‘Close To The Edge’ Lineup
Jon Anderson – Lead Vocals Steve Howe – Guitar/Backing Vocals Chris Squire – Bass/Backing Vocals Rick Wakeman – Keyboards Bill Bruford – Drums/Percussion
Track List – Original Pressing 1972
1. Close to the Edge Lyrics – Jon Anderson/ Steve Howe Music – Jon Anderson/Steve Howe I. “The Solid Time of Change” II. “Total Mass Retain” III. “I Get Up, I Get Down” IV. “Seasons of Man”
2. And You and I Lyrics – Jon Anderson Music – Jon Anderson/Themes by Bill Bruford/Steve Howe – except “Eclipse”/Chris Squire I. “Cord of Life” II. “Eclipse” III. “The Preacher, the Teacher” IV. “The Apocalypse”
3. Siberian Khatru Lyrics – Jon Anderson Music – Jon Anderson/Steve Howe/Rick Wakeman
* Editorial Note * This retrospective is meant as a nostalgia piece and celebration of such a fine classic of progressive rock. Please note, Power of Prog or myself will not be forced into publicly taking sides as far as the fractured camps of Yes are concerned. We will not condemn nor condone any public behaviour displayed by the respective surviving members of Yes. This is why I have included various ‘Contact Links’ in my introduction. Furthermore this will be a very objective and unbiased article. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation in this matter.
-RUSH’s Geddy Lee to Rolling Stone Magazine- June, 6th, 2016 –
“To my mind, Yes may be the single most important of all the progressive rock bands,” said Rush’s Geddy Lee, who calls Close to the Edge “among my favorite rock albums of all time.”
Preface – Signs Of The Times
During the 1960’s in the United Kingdom there was much going on at that time. The United Kingdom were still rebuilding from World War 2. The United Kingdom were also as much a part of the Cold War with the Soviet Union as the United States of America was. Due to the rebuilding from World War 2 and the Cold War to follow things appeared to be very bleak and dark in the United Kingdom especially in England. Much like the USA, the United Kingdom also was experiencing its very own ‘Baby Boom’. It would be a set of ‘Baby Boomer’s’ such as these that would go on and make rock history.
In the USA the Civil Rights movement was well underway, Psychedelic Rock and ‘Flower Power’ was born in San Francisco, California. America had been totally wrapped up in the Vietnam War which resulted in protest marches across the country which sometimes ended in violence. One of the protests resulted in four people dead in Kent State University in Ohio. The United Kingdom was also a mirror reflection much like America however much much darker times.
Employment was at an all time low with the post war economic boom and it was important to the economic and cultural development with in English society. A better economy allowed for parents to the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation to send their children to institutions of higher learning and art schools. This was clearly apparent with the musical education of Rick Wakeman – Keyboards , who went to the Royal Conservatory, which was a absolute essential instrument in the creation and evolution of the new fledgling genre of progressive rock movement. Chris Squire – Bass , had some early formal musical training as a choirboy. That experience of vocal melody and harmony would become a fixture in his personal and professional life musically until his untimely passing in 2015.
For those too young to know or to some that need a reminder late 1940’s through early 1970’s in the United Kingdom was not really a beautiful place to live as it is in 2017. These ‘Baby Boomers’ in the UK had to pass by places everyday that were a vicious reminder of World War 2. Many of their parents solely went to work to just rebuild the United Kingdom.As they were coming of age like their American counterparts they too in the United Kingdom also took to the streets to protest nuclear weapons with the Aldermaston Marches. There were plenty of jobs and development but if you were a child like many of the progressive rock bands were during this time, all you knew was old bombed out areas under construction. They did not have the luxury that their counterparts in the USA or Canada that were being raised in what we call the suburbs and subdivisions.
Given all that mentioned above these ‘Baby Boomers’ or Fathers of Progressive Rockwere looking to create a world through music to perhaps escape from the post war madness. This is probably why they sat in studios or basements or even the sheds practicing and writing for hours on end. The long epic compositions of fantasy and otherworldly concepts was birthed out of both the pain of childhood and a coming of age attitude that also produced ‘Acid Rock’, ‘Heavy Metal’, ‘Psychedelic’ and ‘Folk’. Progressive Rock was another tentacle and extension of the ever growing counterculture on a global scale.
Yes’ Close To The Edge – Revisited
Close To The Edge is the fifth album in the Yes library. Yes had just wrapped up their tour in support of their previous album, 1971’s Fragile. They entered into Advision Studios to begin work on what would become Close To The Edge. This was also around the time that the band really started to stabilize as a collective union. After many laborious sessions in the studio Bill Bruford – Drums decided to leave Yes to join King Crimson after the tour and Alan White from the Plastic Ono Band. Now you had what would become the ‘Classic Yes Lineup’ of Jon Anderson – Lead Vocals , Steve Howe – Guitar/Backing Vocals, Chris Squire – Bass/Backing Vocals ,Rick Wakeman – Keyboards and Bill Bruford – Drums.
As far as song volume, Close To The Edge is one of the shorter albums in the Yes library. This is highly ironic due to the fact that the album opens up with the nearly 19 minute epic and self titled track Close To The Edge, which in those days on vinyl almost rode the fine line with the 22+ minute physical restriction that vinyl had. This left Side B that only housed And You And I & Siberian Khatru, which both averaged 10 minutes a track. The recording studio for the band to perform in, thoroughly enabled Bill Bruford’s drums to resonate with the wooden platform and making the group sound “more live”. The studio also housed a booth-like structure constructed of wooden boards which Steve Howe performed in to further enhance his sound. During the recording, the band decided to use a particular take for a track, but realised the studio’s cleaner had put the tape in the rubbish. A scramble in the bins outside the studio ensued, and the missing piece was found and inserted into the master.
During their month of recording, Melody Maker reporter and band biographer Chris Welch visited the studio to observe the recording progress. Welch described a stressful atmosphere, coupled with “outbursts of anarchy” from Bill Bruford, Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman and disagreement from each member after one mix of a song section was complete. Welch sensed the band were not a cohesive unit, with Anderson and Howe the only ones who knew what direction the album was to take, leaving the rest adding bits and pieces “to a vast jigsaw of sound”, to which Chris Squire and Offord were the two who helped put their idea into shape. Wakeman and Bruford, to Welch, remained “innocent bystanders” in the matter. In one instance, Welch arrived at the studio to hear a preview of a completed passage that took several days of round the clock work to produce. He heard a dull thud, to find Offord had fallen asleep on top of the mixing console from exhaustion, “leaving music from the spinning tape deck blaring at an intolerable level.”Bill Bruford found Close to the Edge particularly difficult to write and record with the rest of the band, calling the process torturous and like “climbing Mount Everest”. He became frustrated with the band’s happy, diatonic music and favoured more jazz-oriented and improvisational compositions. Bill Bruford was constantly encouraged by Jon Anderson to write, something he felt grateful for years later, but by the time recording was complete, he felt he had done his best on Close to the Edge and could not offer better arrangements.
Bill Bruford had this to say about that time recording the album before leaving the group.
“So then I knew I needed a breath of fresh air”.
Track By Track – A Look Into Yes’ Close To The Edge
Close To The Edge
This song would be written in four symphonic movements, each staying on point and coming to the intended message the band wanted to say and the tapestry they desired to paint. This was also the very first song where I heard every instrument in a well balanced harmony with one another. The first song I heard where not one instrument overwhelmingly drown out one another or the vocal narratives.
This song was written by Yes lead singer Jon Anderson and guitarist Steve Howe. Jon Anderson has said that many times the lyrics he writes reveal their meanings to him later. He told us that this song is one such example,
“The lyrics, ‘Season witch could call you from the depths of your disgrace,’ I realized what I was singing was all about the idea that your higher self will always save you if you keep your heart in the right place,” he said.
This song came about at a time when the members of Yes were concerned with how to follow up their successful Fragile album. Rick Wakeman had joined Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire, and Bill Bruford on that album. Yes had already amassed an impressive collection of epics that hovered around the ten-minute mark, exceeding what was perceived as the standard length in popular music. But song length itself wasn’t the point, the band wanted to take the time to say what they had to say.
It was during the recording of this album, and particularly this song that Bill Bruford decided to part with the band. He felt the group was going too far with the progressive music and he also felt he had nothing to contribute to the new direction Rick Wakeman would leave for similar reasons after the band’s next album, Tales From Topographic Oceans. He quit shortly after they finished the album, prompting Jon Anderson and Chris Squire to politely ask session drummer Alan White to join for the upcoming tour just days away, or be thrown out of the window of the room they were in. He agreed and has been with the band ever since.
This was one of the songs Yes recorded that couldn’t be recreated live without some outside help. They solved this problem by bringing their producer, Eddy Offord, on the road. He put various church organs, sound effects and vocal bits onto tape, and played them during performances at opportune times from a Revox tape machine. On this track, he was the live sound of the pipe organ and the waterfall.
During a radio show called Yes Music – An Evening With Jon Anderson, the singer explained,
“The end verse is a dream that I had a long time ago about passing on from this world to another world, yet feeling so fantastic about it that death never frightened me ever since. That’s what seemed to come out in this song, that it was a very pastoral kind of experience rather than a very frightening one.”
Jon Anderson is no fan of organized religion, and he takes some shots at the institution in this song, both in the lyrics “How many millions do we deceive each day?” and in the music , a church organ comes in, which is replaced by a Moog synthesizer. Here is what Jon Anderson went on the further say,
“This leads to another organ solo rejoicing in the fact that you can turn your back on churches and find it within yourself to be your own church,”
The chorus lyric “Close to the edge, down by a river” was inspired by Howe while he lived in Battersea by the River Thames. The music played during this section was originally a song of the same name that Howe put together several years before that was in part based on the longest day of the year. Anderson and Howe agreed this section fitted best with a Jon Anderson composition titled “Total Mass Retain”, thus joining the two ideas together.
And You And I
Written by band members Jon Anderson, Bill Bruford, Steve Howe and Chris Squire, this song runs 10:08 and is divided into four parts: I) Cord of Life II) Eclipse III) The Preacher the Teacher IV) Apocalypse
A 5:45 edit was released as a single and charted at #42 in the US.
So who is the “you” referred to in this song? In a interview with Jon Anderson, he answered,
“Probably God. Or it could be we collectively. The audience and I, collectively we look for reality of being a true understanding of the beauty of life. We reach over the rainbow for an understanding of things. You and I climb closer to the light.”
Few song titles start with the word “and”; a more logical title would be “You And I.”Jon Anderson said in a interview why the conjunction appears at the beginning:
“I sang it that way as I was writing it with Steve (Howe) and it just stuck: ‘And you and I climb over the sea to the valley.’ It’s all about the reasons that we have to call our connection with the Divine. So it was something that just rhythmically worked.”
Rick Wakeman, who played keyboards on this track, said,
“It has different movements which all go into each other. The object was having a piece of music that was everything that the Yes critics hated us for and the Yes fans loved us for, which was emotion.”
This was a highlight of the band’s live shows, and one of their favorites to play in concert. The Close To The Edge album was conceived with live performance in mind, which was prescient considering they were still performing it more than 40 years later. They played it start-to-finish along with The Yes Album and Going for the One on a tour that spanned March 2013 – June 2014. When the group resumed touring in July, they once again played the full album, this time along with Fragile.
In a 2014 interview with Chris Squire, he said,
“The audiences respond real well to hearing the music in that format. It reminds them of when they first heard probably what was a vinyl album.”
It originated as a more folk-oriented song that Jon Anderson developed with Howe. Its style and themes were worked on by Howe, Bruford, and Squire, the only track on the album that credits Bill Bruford and Chris Squire as writers.
The closing track on the Close To The Edge album, this song is about unity across cultures. Jon Anderson, who wrote the lyric, has given different accounts of what “Khatru” means. He has said that it means “winter,” and also that it translates to “as you wish” in Yemenite Hebrew.
The meaning of the song is more clear: Jon Anderson is expressing how Siberians go through the same emotions that he does. They’re people like us, just geographically distant. We may be from different places, but we’re all basically the same.
Jon Anderson is credited with writing the lyric to this song, with keyboard player Rick Wakeman, guitarist Steve Howe and Jon Anderson credited for composing the music. The songwriting credits on Yes songs can be deceptive, since the full band was usually involved in some aspect of working up the song.
Steve Howe said that this song was one of their more collaborative efforts.
“That song came together with the arranging skills of the band,” he told Guitar World. “Jon had the rough idea of the song, and Chris (Squire), Bill (Bruford), Rick and me would collaborate on getting the riffs together.”
It is the only track on the album that has Rick Wakeman credited as a writer. In terms of its lyrics. Eddy Offord, who produced the album, remembers using a primitive studio technique to get a swirling sound in the mix: he had an assistant attach a microphone to a cable and swing it around the room to get a Doppler effect.
Siberian Khatru – Through The Filter Of The Musician
“Siberian Khatru” is written in the key of G major and is typical of Yes’ music of this period, featuring abstruse lyrics, complex time signatures and poly-rhythms, and it is divided into multiple sections, with alternating vocal and instrumental passages. The album version begins with an introductory guitar riff, after which the main instrumental theme (played by the keyboards) is introduced. The structure of the main theme is a four-measure phrase consisting of three bars in common time (4/4) and the last bar in 3/4. This theme is repeated until the verse section begins. The lyrics start at about 1:05. The song progresses through various sections, featuring solos by Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman. There is a poly-metric section featuring the guitar, playing in a meter of 12, and bass and drums playing in a meter of 8. Jon Anderson begins singing seemingly random two-syllable words and phrases, which has since become a Yes tradition. The conclusion is similar to the introduction, returning to the main instrumental theme with a guitar solo on top of it, which fades out to the end of the track.
The Art Of Roger Dean – Sleeve Design
Close to the Edge was packaged with a gatefold sleeve designed and illustrated by Roger Dean, who had also designed the cover for Fragile 1971 . It marked the first appearance of the band’s iconic logotype, placed on top a simple front cover design of a linear colour gradient from black to green. Roger Dean’s logo has been described as a “calligraphed colophon”. In his original design, Dean wanted the album to resemble the quality of a gold embossed book. The sleeve includes pictures of the group and Offord that were photographed by Dean and Martyn Adelman, who had played with Chris Squire in the late 1960’s as a member of The Syn. Dean wrote the sleeve’s text and lyric sheet by hand. On reflection on the album’s design, Roger Dean said,
“There were a couple of ideas that merged there. It was of a waterfall constantly refreshing itself, pouring from all sides of the lake, but where was the water coming from? I was looking for an image to portray that”
Close to the Edge received favourable reviews among critics. New Musical Express printed a more mixed review from Ian MacDonald on 2 September 1972. He thought the group were “not just close to the edge, they’ve gone right over it”, though they “played their God-damned guts out” on the album which he called “an attempt to overwhelm us with which resulted in only unmemorable meaninglessness”. MacDonald concluded: “On every level but the ordinary aesthetic one, it’s one of the most remarkable records pop has yet produced”Henry Medoza opened his review for The San Bernardino Sun with: “Not since … Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band has there been one side on an album that expressed such a complete and exciting a musical thought as side one”, and thought it presented the group with a new level of sophistication. He praised the group’s vocal harmonies and Bill Bruford’s“deep irregular bass drum” on the opening of the title track, but picked its third section as the most interesting with the trading vocals Rick, Wakeman’s “dream-like” and “powerful” organ playing. Mendoza described side two as more “uninspiring” than the first, but praised the vocals and harmonies on both tracks, noting they sound like its own instrument on “Siberian Khatru”
The year is 1967, the first successful heart transplant happens in South Africa, the first ever bank ATM machine comes on to the landscape, the Monterey Pop Music & Arts Festival takes place in Monterey California, the first ever Super Bowl played between the Green Bay Packers vs Kansas City Chiefs plays and the Six Day War In Israel occurs. Meanwhile the USA is involved in the nations first ever televised war in Vietnam.
The war in Vietnam would ultimately lead to the infamous ‘Flower Power’ peace movement birthed in San Francisco California, the United Kingdom would begin to export some that would later be known as Progressive Rock and the United States was still being over run with music of peace from home and longer form progressive music from both the United Kingdom and Germany with ‘Krautrock’. However in the world of music and pop culture that all was about to change.
It was 1965 and two film students from UCLA Jim Morrison and Ray Manzerek would be on a collision course with melodic destiny. On the streets and in the underground of 1965 Los Angeles, Jim Morrison would develop a cult like following as a poet. Though he’d never intended to be a singer, Morrison was invited to join Manzarek’s group Rick and the Ravens on the strength of his poetry. Robby Krieger andJohn Densmore, who’d played together in the band Psychedelic Rangers, were recruited soon thereafter; though several bassists auditioned of the new collective, none could furnish the bottom end as effectively as Manzarek’s left hand. Taking their name from Aldous Huxley’s psychotropic monograph The Doors of Perception, the band signed to Elektra Records following a now-legendary gig at the Whisky-a-Go-Go on the Sunset Strip. Later The Doors of Perception would be shorten to just The Doors.
In 1967 The Doors would release their self titled debut on a Elektra Records and it is that very self titled debut that is the subject of this very ‘retrospective piece’. It is always good to do these retrospectives because it allows for those who were there to reflect in a pool of nostalgia, a possible introduction to the band and album of the generations that would come after and finally to pass the stories down along the lines of posterity. In this particular retrospective I will share some fun song facts I researched for this and to introduce a newer generation to the very fabric of origins of the music we love . This album in a very backhanded way was my gateway into progressive rock and I will explain that later on in this piece.
As far as the dark content and imagery The Doors painted on their debut, it was a total rebellion to the ‘Flower Power’ movement of the day. The Doors were not feeling all the peace and love many of their contemporaries were. The Doors lyrically and instrumentally walked down the darker and less travel road. Their collective mindset deliberately took the road less traveled back in that day and time. The fact they were taking the much darker approach in the music also certainly allowed for the band to not only be as distinctive as night and day among their peers but would garner the attention of watchdog groups set up by both governments and some religious organizations of the day.
A lot of the lyrical content of the album was influenced by the very childhood of Jim Morrison. Constantly challenging censorship and conventional wisdom, Jim Morrison’s lyrics delved into primal issues of sex, violence, freedom and the spirit. He outraged authority figures, braved intimidation and arrest, and followed the road of excess (as one of his muses, the poet William Blake, famously put it) toward the palace of wisdom. Ray Manzarek was the architect of The Doors’ intoxicating keyboard sound. Manzarek’s evocative playing fused rock, jazz, blues, bossa nova and an array of other styles into something utterly, dazzlingly new.
Drummer John Densmore was far more than merely the rhythmic engine of The Doors. Strongly influenced by jazz skinsmen like Elvin Jones and the supple grooves of the Brazilian wave, he brought a highly evolved sense of dynamics, structure and musicality to his beats. Inexorably drawn to music from childhood, Los Angeles-born Densmore honed his sense of dynamics playing with his high school marching band. In the mid-’60s he joined guitarist Robby Krieger in a band called Psychedelic Rangers; shortly thereafter they hooked up with keyboardist Ray Manzarek and Morrison, and an explosive chapter in the development of rock ‘n’ roll began. A raft of paradigm-shifting recordings and epochal live performances would follow. With a flair for wicked bottleneck slide, exploratory solos and gutbucket grooves, guitarist Robby Krieger brought a stinging, sinuous intensity to the sound of The Doors. But he was also a key songwriter in the band and penned some of their biggest hits – notably their mesmerizing #1 hit, “Light My Fire.” Before picking up the guitar at age 17, the L.A. native studied trumpet and piano. The inspiration for switching to guitar came not from rock ‘n’ roll, but Spanish flamenco music. His first guitar hero, however, was jazz legend Wes Montgomery. After Morrison’s death in 1971, Krieger, Manzarek and Densmore carried on as a trio. They released two more albums as the Doors before calling it quits in 1973, though they did reconvene a few years later to create music for poetry Morrison had recorded shortly before his death, released as the 1978 album An American Prayer.
Now some highlights and song facts track by track on the self titled 1967 debut of The Doors, The Doors.
Break On Through (To The Other Side) takes off with some seriously blues laden rock riffs laid down by Robby Kreiger who sets the table for the listener. In this urgent song, Jim Morrison looks to shake things up, a common theme in his songwriting. In 1966, he said: “I like ideas about the breaking away or overthrowing of established order. I am interested in anything about revolt, disorder, chaos, especially activity that seems to have no meaning.” This was the first song on The Doors first album, and also their first single. It got some airplay on Los Angeles radio stations after their friends and fans kept requesting it.
The original line in the chorus was “She gets high,” but their producer Paul Rothchild thought that would limit the song’s airplay potential, and convinced the group to leave it out. Instead, “high” was edited out, making it sound like, “she get uuggh,” but the “high” line can be heard in live versions. You can also hear the song as intended in the 1999 reissue of the album, which was overseen by their original engineer Bruce Botnick. He also replaced Jim Morrison’s “f–k”s on “The End.” These edits went over about as well as the digital revisions to Star Wars.
Soul Kitchen perhaps a highly under rated and hidden anthem for The Doors is a tribute to a soul food restaurant Jim Morrison ate at on Venice Beach called Olivia’s. Morrison often stayed too late at Olivia’s, where he liked the food because it reminded him of home and warmed his “soul.” They often kicked him out so they can close, thus lines like: “let me sleep all night, in your soul kitchen.” “Soul Kitchen” as a restaurant title, would have of course referred to “soul food.” That’s a traditional kind of cuisine popular with African Americans of the mid-20th century, named in harmony with other “soul” affectations. Soul food usually revolved around ham (cuts like hog’s feet and hog jowls), beans, okra, hushpuppies, cornbread, collard greens, and other one-offs of standard American fair. The idea is to that the food is both economical and very filling. People in colder climates (from any culture) may also find soul food comforting in the heart of winter, since you’re going to burn all those calories shoveling snow anyway.
According to the Greil Marcus book The Doors: A Lifetime of Listening to Five Mean Years, “Soul Kitchen” was The Doors’ own “Gloria,” comparing the steady climb toward a looming chorus. It also quotes Paul Williams’ May 1967 article in Crawdaddy! opining that it was more comparable to “Blowin’ in the Wind,” in that both songs have a message, but the message of “Soul Kitchen” is of course “learn to forget.”
Meanwhile, John Densmore’s book Riders on the Storm: My Life with Jim Morrisonand the Doors declares that the title restaurant Olivia’s was a “small soul food restaurant at the corner of Ocean Park and Main.” The author describes a meal there with Morrison, commenting that the restaurant “belonged in Biloxi, Mississippi” and resembled “an Amtrak dining car that got stranded on the beach” and was packed with UCLA film students. Another famous diner was Linda Ronstadt.
The Crystal Ship is clearly a ethereal based track revolving around suggestive imagery and content on a lyrical basis. This song came from poetry written in Jim Morrison’s notebooks. He wrote it after splitting up with his girlfriend, Mary Werbelow, in the summer of 1965. While the “Crystal Ship” is sometimes thought to represent drugs, Ken Rafferty from The Annotated Lyrics makes this case:
This song has nothing to do with drugs and everything about Jim Morrison’s heavy relationship with his first love, Mary Werbelow. As a poet, he did nothing more than use transparent images for his relation to the past. He (Jim Morrison) hasn’t let go of her as evidenced in the first line, “Before you slip into unconsciousness, I’d like to have another kiss.”That means the protagonist had already left her in the physical realm, but has not left her subconsciously. The thought of her still burdens him and he just wants another kiss to somehow make it feel better. “Another flashing chance at bliss, another kiss.” Again, he cannot seem to let go of their love, their relationship, and how much she meant to him. “The days are bright and filled with pain.”He’s moved on and is now doing very well as a singer/songwriter in a rock band in L.A., but he still has feelings for her and this song is his testament to her that he still has feelings for her. “The time you ran was too insane.”Jim was one to mock even his girlfriends- he would tease others, but mostly, he was testing them. This line very well could be a reference to a time he felt bad about verbally teasing her- knowing that it upset her. “The streets are fields that never die, deliver me from reasons why, you’d rather cry, I’d rather fly.”A simple line that confirms the end of the relationship and that the protagonist is willing to move on. The streets are fields are his memories, and because they are vague memories now, they also present a reason why he can forget.
And that last stanza confirms his growing popularity as a lead singer for a rock band with an ever-growing popularity. The beauty of it though is how he is saying to her that no matter how big he becomes, he will still think of her, and even call her, when he gets the chance.
Twentieth Century Fox is perhaps the most humourous tongue cheek song on the entire album. It is definitely something much lighter on the audio pallet in the midst of an album dealing with so much dark yet brooding material. This song is about a fashionable, but unfeeling woman. The title is a play on words – it’s the name of a popular movie studio, but Jim Morrison’s lyrics refer to a girl – “fox” was a popular term for a pretty girl at the time. The movie studio is used to represent the woman in the song, who is glamorous, but artificial.
The studio, 20th Century Fox, is one of the Big Six studios. Fox Film Corporation was founded in 1915, while Twentieth Century Pictures was founded in 1933. They merged in 1935 and became “The Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation.”
Producer Paul Rothchild had the band walk on wooden planks during the chorus to get the pounding effect.
In 2002, original Doors Robby Krieger and Ray Manzarek joined former Police drummer Stewart Copeland and former Cult singer Ian Astbury to form a new group which they called “21st Century Doors,” the name being a takeoff on this song. They were going to start touring in 2002, but had to postpone until 2003 when Copeland broke his arm while biking. Krieger and Manzarek replaced him with drummer Ty Dennis, and Copeland filed a lawsuit claiming they broke an oral agreement to keep him as their drummer. The band was also sued by original drummer John Densmore, and by Jim Morrison’s parents, who felt they were misappropriating the Doors name. Krieger and Manzarek eventually changed the name to “Riders On The Storm.”
Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar) is another song off the album with more of a pop sensibility. This is a cover of a German opera song written in 1929 by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht. It was used in a controversial 1930 German operetta called The Rise And Fall Of The City Of Mahogany.
The themes of materialism, despair, and illicit pleasures from the operetta this was taken from would be revisited often by The Doors. The song took on a more literal meaning over the years as Jim Morrison’s drug and alcohol problems became public knowledge. The Doors got the idea for this from an album of German songs their keyboard player, Ray Manzarek, had. In 2000, the surviving members of the Doors taped a VH1 Storytellers episode with guest vocalists filling in for Morrison. Ian Astbury sang on this track, and in 2002 joined Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger when they toured as The Doors of the 21st Century. He fronted their group, which changed names after a lawsuit filed by original drummer John Densmore, until 2007, doing about 150 shows.
Light My Fire next to ‘The End’ is probably the most controversial and dubious song on the album. It would chart on Billboard in America at #1and the United Kingdom at #7. It would also be one of the contemporary rock songs of its time to the present day to have airplay of its original format at 7:14.
Most of the song was written by Doors guitarist Robby Krieger, who wanted to write about one of the elements: fire, air, earth, and water. A fan of the Rolling Stones song “Play With Fire,” he decided to go hot. Krieger came up with the melody and wrote most of the lyrics, which are about leaving inhibitions behind in flames of passion.
At first, the song had a folk flavor, but it ignited when Jim Morrison wrote the second verse (“our love become a funeral pyre…”)and Ray Manzarek came up with the famous organ intro. Drummer John Densmore also contributed, coming up with the rhythm. Like all Doors songs of this era, the band shared composer credits.
This became The Doors’ signature song. Included on their first album, it was a huge hit and launched them to stardom. Before it was released, The Doors were an underground band popular in the Los Angeles area, but “Light My Fire” got the attention of a mass audience.
On the album, which was released in January 1967, the song runs 6:50. The group’s first single, “Break On Through (To The Other Side),” reached just #126 in America. “Light My Fire” was deemed too long for airplay, but radio stations (especially in Los Angeles) got requests for the song from listeners who heard it off the album. Their label, Elektra Records decided to release a shorter version so they had producer Paul Rothchild do an edit. By chopping out the guitar solos, he whittled it down to 2:52.
This version was released as a single in April, and the song took off, giving The Doors their first big hit.
To many fans, the single edit was an abomination, and many DJs played the album version once the song took off. The producers of The Ed Sullivan Show asked the band to change the line “Girl we couldn’t get much higher” for their appearance in 1967. Morrison said he would, but sung it anyway. Afterwards, he told Sullivan that he was nervous and simply forgot to change the line. This didn’t fly, and The Doors were never invited back.
Back Door Man spoke of a issue becoming a epidemic of the day, that being infidelity or adultery. It was easy to see why considering all the ‘Free Love’ propaganda going about in the culture. A Willie Dixon blues song from 1961, this has been covered by John Hammond Jr. and Howlin’ Wolf, among others. The Doors decided to cover this after their guitarist Robby Krieger heard John Hammond Jr.’s version.
A “Back Door Man” is a guy who has relations with a woman while her husband has been out slaving away to provide for her. The usual guilty perpetrator if a wife was caught cheating was a regular tradesman caller (Ice Man, Insurance Salesman etc.). He would then run out the back door as the husband entered the front door. The “Back Door Man”theme has been taken up in several Soul and Blues songs, including “Back Door Santa” by Clarence Carter.
At a show at Winterland in San Francisco, The Doors stopped in the middle of this when their taped performance came on The Jonathan Winters Show. They watched the segment from a TV on stage, picked up their instruments, and finished the song. The Doors played a lot of Blues songs in their early days when they were playing clubs, but this is the only one they recorded until 2 years later, when they did “Crawling King Snake” on LA Woman. The Doors performed this at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. The Doors didn’t play well, as Morrison was worried about his trial resulting from a Miami concert where he was accused of exposing himself to the crowd. Morrison was convicted of indecent exposure, but died while the case was under appeal. In 2010, the governor of Florida granted Morrison a posthumous pardon after a fan requested a review of the case.
I Looked At You was a very pop kind of track at the time. It was a song that could certainly hang with anything The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Mama’ And Papa’s and even The Monkees had put out at that point. But even in what at first sounds like a sunny pop tune, Jim Morrison managed to weave some disturbing thoughts. While the song catalogs an exchange of lover’s looks, smiles and words like any other love song might do, the driving message here is that the lovers can’t turn back, and “it’s too late”. Maybe it’s simply too late for the lovers not to be deeply in love, but the edginess and weariness in Morrison’s vocals suggest a more sinister subtext. Not exactly “Happy Together”.
End Of The Night is a deeply and heavily psychedelic folk rock track. It also is as deeply disturbing on a lyrical front as the emotion conveys through the instrumental portion of the track. This is definitely a song that takes on another life once the lyrics marry with the instrumental. This is a “confession” of Jim Morrison’s aims in life. To the end of the night was his aim through many ways of speeding up death, a kind of death through hallucinations and visions into other worlds (drugs). He was trying to get somewhere nobody had ever been before, a place of complete peace.
The title and some of the lyrics were inspired by the 1932 French novel Journey To The End Of The Night by Louis-Ferdinand Celine.
Realms of bliss, realms of light Some are born to sweet delight Some are born to sweet delight Some are born to the endless night
Are taken almost verbatim from the poem Auguries Of Innocence by William Blake, which includes the passage:
Every morn and every night Some are born to sweet delight Some are born to sweet delight Some are born to endless night
Take It As It Comes Just as George Harrison of The Beatles had developed a friendship with his spiritual leader Ravi Shankar, so had Jim Morrison with The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, 1917-2008. “Maharishi”. This song is about accepting what life gives you at your own pace. It was dedicated to the Maharishi, a teacher of transcendental meditation, after Jim Morrison attended one of his lectures. The full name of this particular Maharishi is Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, 1917-2008. “Maharishi” itself is just a title meaning “enlightened, spiritual one.” Yogi had a good sense of humor and as he often laughed in TV interviews, he was nicknamed “the giggling guru.” While his teachings, the practice of transcendental meditation, were usually associated with Hindu or Buddhist religions, Yogi was out to advocate meditation itself as a spiritual practice and alternative medicine, based on his interpretation of the ancient Vedic science.
The Maharishi is famous for leading a meditation camp in 1967 attended by The Beatles, Donovan, and Mia Farrow. John Lennon wrote “Sexy Sadie” about The Maharishi.
The End – Journey To The Center Of The Progressive Universe #1-
It was the summer of 1979 and my parents had been in the middle of a nasty divorce. I would eventually end up leaving Ohio and go to California with my dad and new step mother. My dad had just changed out the old 8 track player for a new state of the art cassette player. On our way to California he put in the first cassette at it was the very album I have been talking about in this retrospective, The Doors The Doors.
I remember how utterly scary this was to a 7 year old child at the time. The utter darkness to it. The 11:00 + minutes left me in bewilderment. It really scared the hell out of me but left me in total awe and intrigue. Never before had I ever heard a song that long up till that time. This would give me such a total void into long form music that demanded to be filled. It was in fact off this track that I learned of Yes’s Close To The Edge, Jethro Tull’s Thick As A Brick, Genesis’ Suppers Ready and even RUSH’s 2112. Much like Dorothy in the Land Of OZ this started my journey into progressive rock/metal. I went through the wormhole and down that yellow brick road and have never returned since.
The End (Revisited) “The End” is death, although the song also deals with Jim Morrison’s parents – it contains Oedipal themes of loving the mother and killing the father. Morrison was always vague as to the meaning, explaining: “It could be almost anything you want it to be.” The Doors developed this song during live performances at the Whisky a Go Go, a Los Angeles club where they were the house band in 1966. They had to play two sets a night, so they were forced to extend their songs in order to fill the sets. This gave them a chance to experiment with their songs.
“The End” began as Jim Morrison’s farewell to Mary Werbelow, his girlfriend who followed him from Florida to Los Angeles. It developed into an 11-minute epic.
On August 21, 1966, Jim Morrison didn’t show up for The Doors gig at the Whisky a Go Go. After playing the first set without him, the band retrieved Morrison from his apartment, where he had been tripping on acid. They always played “The End” as the last song, but Morrison decided to play it early in the set, and the band went along. When they got to the part where he could do a spoken improvisation, he started talking about a killer, and said, “Father, I want to kill you. Mother, I want to f–k you!” The crowd went nuts, but the band was fired right after the show. The Doors had recently signed a record deal and they had established a large following, so getting fired from the Whisky was not a crushing blow.
Morrison sang this live as “F–k the mother,” rather than “Screw the mother.” At the time, the band couldn’t cross what their engineer Bruce Botnick called “the f–k barrier,” so they sanitized the lyric on the album. When Botnick remixed the album for a 1999 reissue, however, he put Morrison’s “f–k”s back in, which is how the song was intended.
This was famously used in the movie Apocalypse Now over scenes from the Vietnam War. Director Francis Ford Coppola had it remixed to include the line “F–k the mother.”
Make no mistake The Doors The Doors goes down as one of the strongest debut albums in rock history. It is one of the original fusion albums perfectly mixing rock, blues, psychedelic, jazz and even folk elements. This is also one of the most experimental debut rock albums in history yielding the 7+ minute Light My Fire and the 11+ minute The End, something unheard of for a American band at the time. This self titled debut instantly cemented the band’s legacy as one we still talk about 50 years later. The Doors The Doors is one of those rock albums and debuts that continually transcends time and generations.
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