Monday, 21 August 2017

The Doors Top 50 Countdown (#15-11) & This Week's Statistics

I was on a sort of holiday during the week, so there were no new stories. It will be interesting to see how this fact affected the statistics. But before that, let's get on with our list of the Doors' songs...

At #15 is a song from the L.A. Woman album (1971). Love Her Madly was a Robby Krieger composition that was released as the album's lead single, peaking at #11 in the US and at #3 in Canada.

The song has a loose, semi-acoustic swing and a relaxed bar-room tempo with a menacing edge. Its composer, Robby Krieger said: “I fixed on the idea of a guy whose girlfriend is his obsession but she keeps on walking out and giving him the runaround. That was me, and I wrote it for Lynn, now my wife. It was an easy-listening song – producer Paul Rothchild called it ‘cocktail music’ and walked off the L.A. Woman sessions. But Jim loved it. His favorite part was about the ‘seven horses’. He told me: ‘Put something in that makes the listener confused.’ The seven horses were like a lucky omen, and Jim always loved horse racing from his Florida days.”

Once the shock of their producer's departure had worn off, the Doors turned to engineer Bruce Botnick, whose credits included all of their previous albums, as well as the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, and the Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed. With his help, the reinvigorated band vowed to co-produce their new album. Gone were the days of Rothchild's studio strictness, where it was normal to record 30 takes or spend hours on perfecting a drum sound. "Rothchild was gone, which is one reason why we had so much fun," Robbie Krieger told Guitar World in 1994. "The warden was gone."

The lyrics were born out of a particularly noisy fight between Robbie Krieger and his future wife, Lynne. "Every time we had an argument, she used to get pissed off and go out the door and slam the door so loud the house would shake," he said in Mr. Mojo Risin. But the title borrows a signature phrase from Duke Ellington, who would end every concert with the sign-off, "We love you madly." Krieger's bandmates, all well versed in jazz, got the reference.

At #14 is yet another Robby Krieger composition. Spanish Caravan appears on the album Waiting for the Sun (1968) and showcases Krieger's talents on flamenco guitar, an instrument he started playing when he was 17. The impressive intro riff was taken from "Asturias," a classical piece by Spanish composer Isaac Albeniz (1860 - 1909).

Waiting for the Sun wasn't received very well by the critics in 1968, but time has been kind to it and is now considered a great rock album. While it doesn't reach the amazing heights of their debut album (none of their albums did - in fact, only a handful of albums by other artists are on the same level as their eponymous offering), it still contains a number of remarkable songs - and Spanish Caravan is one of the best.

At #13 is Love Me Two Times, the third Krieger composition in a row. It is found in Strange Days (1967) and it's about a soldier or sailor on his last day with his girlfriend before shipping out, ostensibly to war. Manzarek described the song as "Robby's great blues/rock classic about lust and lost, or multiple orgasms, I'm not sure which."

In 1997, Krieger stated to Guitar World's Alan Paul that the musical idea for Love Me Two Times came from a lick from a Danny Kalb album. In another interview, he said that he "borrowed the lick from The Blues Project with Al Kooper. I was always stealing ideas.”

Manzarek played the final version of Love Me Two Times on a harpsichord, not a clavichord. He described the instrument as "a most elegant instrument that one does not normally associate with rock and roll." It might have been the Swinging Sixties, but this song, with its entreaty for a little extra affection before the narrator takes his leave, was deemed too controversial in some quarters and denied airplay when released as a single (which may have accounted for its only reaching #25 on the US charts). But, Love Me Two Times also had a greater resonance during the Vietnam era, when so many soldiers were leaving behind their loved ones. In a different, slower arrangement, this song could’ve been a starker blues number. As it is, Krieger’s buoyant guitar line keeps the number on a higher plane, Manzarek's harpsichord adds some different color and Morrison’s vocal underscores the rising tension by going up an octave during the final choruses.

Here's a great cover by one of our favorite artists, Joan Jett:

At #12 is a Morrison composition from Morrison Hotel (1970), called The Spy. The song celebrates Morrison's intense but troubled relationship with longtime girlfriend Pamela Courson. Originally The Spy was called Spy In The House Of Love, as shown on the Master Reel Control File, a line borrowed from A Spy in the House of Love, a novel by Anaïs Nin published in 1954.

The song's jazz feeling, mostly indebted to Krieger's excellent guitar work, combined with the slightly creepy lyrics, give the song a sense of welcome unease. Morrison's vocals are as cool as ever.

Talking about jazz... This is an alternate version, called the jazz version:

Finally for today, at #11, is the Doors' third biggest hit, as far as the US Hot 100 is concerned: Touch Me peaked at #3 in 1969. It also peaked at the very top in Canada and at #10 in Australia. It is found in The Soft Parade album (1969) and is the fourth Krieger composition out of the five songs presented today.

According to Bruce Botnick's liner notes the song was initially referred to by its various working titles; "I'm Gonna Love You," from a line in the chorus, or "Hit Me," a reference to blackjack. The opening line was originally "C'mon, hit me ... I'm not afraid," the line thus reflecting the first person vantage point of a blackjack player. Morrison reportedly changed the lyric out of concern that rowdy crowds at their live shows would mistakenly believe that "hit me" was a challenge to physically assault him.

The song is notable for its extensive usage of brass and string instruments, including a solo by featured saxophonist Curtis Amy. Ray Manzarek played harpsichord and organ on the song; he also interpolated the guitar riff from the 1967 Four Seasons song C'mon Marianne in his part. Morrison morphs into Frank Sinatra here with his god-like croon fronting a swinging big-band vibe.

Now, let's continue with the week's statistics. The fact that there were no new stories this week affected the weekly number of visits; there were half as many as last week. There will be new stories during the coming week, so I expect a new rise.

The countries that were mostly responsible for last week's rise, Greece and Cyprus, took a tumble this week: Greece fell from last week's #1 to this week's #5, while Cyprus, last week's #4, has disappeared from the weekly Top 10 altogether. Spain and Australia also had a bad week, which meant that the rest of last week's weekly Top 10 all moved up, joined by Belgium, Brazil, and the Philippines. As far as the all-time list is concerned, the United Kingdom (yet again) and Italy increased their overall percentage, France and Belgium remained steady, while the others experienced a drop.

As to which subjects dominated the week, George Maharis was a comfortable #1, last week's statistics were #2, while Laura Nyro, Billy Preston, and June Millington (Fanny) completed the Top 5.

Here are this week's Top 10 countries:

1. the United Kingdom
2. the United States
3. France
4. Italy
5. Greece
6. Canada
7. Germany
8. Belgium
9. Brazil
10. the Philippines

Here are the other countries that graced us with their presence since our last statistics (alphabetically): Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Bolivia, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, Finland, Honduras, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mexico, Mozambique, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, Trinidad & Tobago, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Vietnam. Happy to have you all!

And here's the all-time Top 10:

1. the United States = 41.6%
2. Greece = 9.0%
3. the United Kingdom = 8.2%
4. France = 7.4%
5. Russia = 4.5%
6. Germany = 3.9%
7. Cyprus = 1.37%
8. Italy = 1.23%
9. the United Arab Emirates = 0.66%
10. Belgium = 0.65%

That's all for today, folks. Till the next one!

Monday, 14 August 2017

The Doors Top 50 Countdown (#20-16) & This Week's Statistics

It's that time of the week that you all see coming... The songs get bigger as the numbers get smaller in our Doors' countdown, while there are also some interesting statistics for this week. Here we go!

Not To Touch the Earth, which occupies the 20th position, is a 1968 song from The Doors' album Waiting for the Sun. It stems from Jim Morrison's poem, "Celebration of the Lizard". A recording of the complete poem was attempted at the sessions for the album, but only the musical passage Not To Touch The Earth was deemed fit for release. The poem was released on the album sleeve in written form. The complete poem was released in 2003 on the Legacy: The Absolute Best compilation, and the re-issue of Waiting for the Sun.

The song begins, "Not to touch the earth, not to see the sun..." These are subchapters of the 60th chapter of The Golden Bough by James Frazer. These subchapters detail taboos against certain people (generally royalty or priests) walking upon the ground or having the sun shine directly upon them. Frazer had noted that these superstitions were recurring throughout many primitive cultures, and appeared to be related to traditions and taboos concerning menarche and the following female initiation rites. Frazer's work had an influence on Morrison, according to the biography No One Here Gets Out Alive (1980).

As Morrison spins stories about dead presidents and snakes, the music spirals up into a raging frenzy before coming back to earth with a mighty crash. “I am the Lizard King, I can do anything,” he solemnly intones at the end, locking himself into an image he tried to escape from for the rest of his life. 

Morrison’s girlfriend, Pamela Courson, claimed that on his last day on earth, Jim listened to tapes of his old songs and became fixated on this track, playing it over and over. The line "Dead president’s corpse in the driver’s car" now seems oddly prophetic of Jim’s death. The music is a sparse rhythmic mantra.

Here's a great live version, perhaps even better than the studio one:

At #19 is The Crystal Ship, a track found on their debut album, The Doors (1967). It was also the B-side of the #1 hit single Light My Fire. Morrison, being a voracious reader, got the title from a Celtic legend in The Book Of The Dun Cow, a collection of stories compiled by about 1100 Irish monks around the 9th century. It was composed as a love song to Morrison's first serious girlfriend, Mary Werbelow, shortly after their romance ended.

Morrison's lyrics are often deliberately vague, and this, coupled with the song's dreamlike atmosphere, has led to a great deal of speculation by critics and fans as to the meaning of The Crystal Ship. According to Greil Marcus, the opening lines "Before you slip into unconsciousness, I'd like to have another kiss" could be about "sleep, it could be an overdose, inflicted by the singer or the person he's addressing; it could be murder-suicide or a suicide pact." Critic James Perone noted that the song's title is open to wide interpretations and that the crystal ship "could just as easily represent sleep as a drug trip". He conceded that "in 1967 the latter would probably have been the more common interpretation". The melody of the song is both distant and delicate.

The song at #18, Shaman's Blues, is an example of Morrison's penchant for using symbolism and autobiographical insights. It is found on the album The Soft Parade (1969). Shaman's Blues may well be the most underrated song in the Doors' catalog; the menace compressed into this almost death-walking blues exercise seems to flow like a waterfall of sound, giving it such a vast contrast to the also present dreamy playfulness that made The Doors unique in the first place. In The Doors' weakest album, it's one of the few songs that really work.

At #17 is another song from The Doors' eponymous debut album: Back Door Man, a Willie Dixon composition from 1961, is the highest ranking song in this list that is not a composition by The Doors. In Southern US culture, the phrase "back-door man" refers to a man having an affair with a married woman, using the back door as an exit before the husband comes home.

The Doors were playing this in New Haven, Connecticut on December 9, 1967, when Jim Morrison was arrested on stage for "giving an indecent or immoral exhibition." He was angry about being confronted backstage by police after he was seen in an allegedly sexual encounter with a young girl. When he took the stage, during the middle section of this song, he said this before three officers arrested him, making him the first rock star arrested in mid-performance:

"We started talking and we wanted some privacy and so went into this little show room. We weren't doing anything. You know, just standing there talking, and then this little man in a little blue suit and a little blue cap came in there. He said 'Whatcha doin' there?' 'Nothin'.' But he didn't go away, he stood there and then he reached around behind him and brought out this little black can of something. It looked like shaving cream. And then he sprayed it in my eyes. I was blinded for about 30 minutes."

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' drummer John Densmore described it as a song that is "deeply sexual and got everyone moving." That was the reason they often opened their concerts with it. Typically, the concerts ended with The End. They rarely did encores.

Finally for today, at #16, is Peace Frog, a track from Morrison Hotel (1970). Short of material, the other Doors found two of Morrison’s poems – Dawn’s Highway and Newborn Awakening – and persuaded their frontman to meld the words into a song for the Morrison Hotel album. The lyrics mention the episode when the family car passed an accident that left "Indians scattered... bleeding". Morrison said: “That was the first time I tasted fear. I musta been about four.” The intro is standout. According to Robby Krieger: “I like the distorted chords and the wah‑wah. I didn’t use that too often because [producer] Paul Rothchild told us: don’t use ideas associated with other people.” In other words, Hendrix.

The lyric, "Blood in the streets of the town of Chicago" refers to the 1968 Democratic convention, where police in riot gear brutally beat protesters. Radio stations usually play this together with Blue Sunday, which follows it on the album.

Now, let's continue with last week's statistics. The good news is that the weekly number of visits rose by a staggering 65%. The country that was mostly responsible for this was Greece, with an impressive number of visits this week - in fact it easily sits at the top of this week's top 10, with more than twice as many visits as the runner-up, the United Kingdom, which however put up a good fight and actually increased its overall percentage. The United States, still dropping like a Led Zeppelin, managed to occupy this week's position #3. While the other good surprise of the week was Cyprus, which occupies the fourth position in the weekly top 10 and moved back up to #7 in the all-time top 10. Spain, Italy, and Canada did well, while France and Australia did OK. Since Spain and Canada, veteran all-time top-tenners both, have been doing well for a number of weeks now, I would advise Belgium and the United Arab Emirates to pay attention; their positions in the all-time top 10 are not secure at all.

The bad news was that the increase of visits, especially as far as Greece and Cyprus are concerned, was mostly due to the death of an artist: Greek singer/songwriter Αρλέτα (Arleta) was a very sad loss. That caused increased interest in our story from last year, so much that it elevated the story from the lower part of the mid-table to being the third most visited story of all-time, closing in on the second. In fact, looking at the six most visited stories of all-time, I notice three definite trends: At #1, with six times as many visits as #2, is the final part of the George Michael story. It's the part that deals with the years after his huge international fame in the 80s. Its original tally was a respectful one, but George's death launched this story into the stratosphere. This was a similar case to what happened with Αρλέτα (Arleta) so that it would climb to #3, albeit on a much bigger scale.

Then there are the artists at #2 and at #5: Labi Siffre and George Maharis respectively. Do you find this strange? I did, originally, but I think I have an explanation: Both artists are under-represented on the Internet. I tried, as I always do, to get the whole story for you, so it seems that people wanting to have a wider knowledge of the life and work of these two artists, whose appeal obviously stretches beyond differences in geography and culture, keep visiting the stories. These two stories get visits every day, at an increasing rather than a decreasing rate. I would also like to note that in George Michael's case, although his career with Wham! and his first, more successful, solo period, both saw a great increase in visits after his death, it was nowhere near the increase his final years got. I guess one of the reasons was that stories about his more popular years were everywhere to be found, while there was definitely a much smaller coverage of his later years. It could also be the fact that I approached the artist with sincere love and respect; that can't be said of many other recent stories that were written before his death. My tears weren't crocodile tears - and people seemed to appreciate that.

The other two stories in the top 6 are Minute Taker (Ben McGarvey) at #4 and Martin del Caprio at #6. Both are very talented contemporary artists who, although not yet household names, they command respect from people who know their music. There are other good contemporary artists that also occupy high places in this list, artists such as Perfume Genius, Chris Garneau, and Grizzly Bear. The difference is that Ben and Martin personally helped promote their stories through social media. So, if any of the artists that have been presented, or any that will be presented in the future, are reading this, just know that your music will reach more people if you help a little. It's up to you to care or not...

Here are this week's Top 10 countries:

1. Greece
2. the United Kingdom
3. the United States
4. Cyprus
5. France
6. Spain
7. Italy
8. Canada
9. Germany
10. Australia

Here are the other countries that graced us with their presence since our last statistics (alphabetically): Argentina, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Gibraltar, Ghana, Guadeloupe, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Turks & Caicos Islands, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Happy to have you all!

And here's the all-time Top 10:

1. the United States = 42.1%
2. Greece = 9.1%
3. the United Kingdom = 8.0%
4. France = 7.4%
5. Russia = 4.6%
6. Germany = 4.0%
7. Cyprus = 1.38%
8. Italy = 1.19%
9. the United Arab Emirates = 0.67%
10. Belgium = 0.65%

That's all for today, folks. Till the next one!