It's that time of the week when we do what everybody expects us to... Since we have now reached the upper echelon of the Top 50, expect to hear some great songs by the Doors today and in the next four weeks.
At #25 is the second track from the Doors' second album, Strange Days (1967). It's a lovely slow number called You’re A Lost Little Girl and it's about losing oneself and trying to win it back again. On a personal note, this was the Doors song that I used, along with a number of songs from other artists, in my one time as a music supervisor in the Greek theatre, for the play "How I Learned To Drive", some 20 years ago. For my work, I was congratulated by the fabulous composer Eleni Karaindrou, who has made music for many of Theo Angelopoulos' films, as well as working with people such as Jules Dassin, Chris Marker, and Margarethe von Trotta; also two of her compositions were featured in the current award-winning blockbuster "Mad Max: Fury Road". I was very pleased.
At #24 is a song from the same album, although it was written long before that. Moonlight Drive is the quintessential Doors song: bluesy, nocturnal and dripping with doomed romanticism. The bewitching combination provided the spark that led to the band's creation in July 1965, when Morrison and Manzarek, former classmates at UCLA's film school, bumped into each other on the sands of Venice Beach.
The friends hadn't seen each other since graduating that spring, and it was a welcome reunion. "I said, 'Well, what have you been up to?'" Manzarek told NPR's Fresh Air in 1998. "And he said, 'Well, I've been living up on Dennis Jacobs' rooftop, consuming a bit of LSD and writing songs.'" After some convincing, he persuaded the shy Morrison to sing him one.
"He sat down on the beach, dug his hands into the sand, and the sand started streaming out in little rivulets. He kind of closed his eyes and began to sing in a Chet Baker, haunted whisper kind of voice. He began to sing Moonlight Drive, and when I heard that first stanza – 'Let's swim to the moon, let's climb through the tide, penetrate the evening that the city sleeps to hide' – I thought 'Ooh, spooky and cool, man.'" At that moment, they decided to start a rock band.
The song featured prominently in the nascent Doors' early sets and was even included on a demo recorded that September at Trans World Pacific Studios. Krieger had yet to join the band – Manzarek's brothers Jim and Rick handled guitar and harmonica parts. When the four Doors finally came together, rehearsing at a friend's garage behind a Santa Monica bus depot, Moonlight Drive was the first number they played.
"I knew instantly we had found 'it,' that indefinable, transcendent something that Kerouac refers to," Manzarek told Gibson.com in 2011. "We all looked at each other and went, 'Man, what have we just done? Oh, my. Are we allowed to do that on this planet?' That was it. Moonlight Drive. At that point, everybody knew. We all just sort of nodded our heads and that was it. That was the birth of the Doors. Right there."
When the band convened in Sunset Sound studios to record The Doors in August 1966, Moonlight Drive seemed like an appropriate starting point. "When we went to record the first album, the first one we did was Moonlight Drive," Krieger told People in 2016. But inhibited by the unfamiliar studio setting, they were unable to recapture the magic of their first rehearsal. "It just sounded too mysterious and kind of dark. So we rearranged it for the second album [1967's Strange Days] and made it a little more wild." The original version, which Krieger dubs "the very first recording we ever did as the Doors," was shelved and lost for a time, before surfacing on a box set in 1997.
The song set the template for the band’s future “love” songs, which more often involved suspicion, loss, and allusions to death more than happy endings. Krieger’s insinuating slide guitar draws you in like a fish on a hook, while Densmore plays an insistent tattoo on the snare. Meanwhile, Morrison’s invitation for a trip under the moonlight sounds increasingly sinister as the song progresses. “Baby, gonna drown tonight!” he seems to sing with a smirk during the fade out. You’ve been warned.
The song at #23, found in their first album, The Doors (1967), is one of the few songs that the Doors recorded, not written by the band. Deciding to cover a song from the Weimer Republic was certainly an atypical choice for a rock band, which made Alabama Song (Whisky Bar) (a Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weill number featured in the opera Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny [Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny]) the most unusual cover the Doors ever did.
This track was suggested by Manzarek, who had Austrian vocalist’s Lotte Lenya’s version of the Brecht/Weill drinking song on vinyl. Morrison sang the line ‘Show me the way to the next little boy’ when The Doors played this song live at The Matrix in ’67, but he changed ‘boy’ to ‘girl’ for the recorded version. Manzarek plays a fretless zither called a Marxophone, and Paul Rothchild can be heard on the harmony singalong, which sounds authentically Weimar Republic.
The Alabama Song was written as a German poem and translated into idiosyncratic English for the author Bertolt Brecht by his close collaborator Elisabeth Hauptmann in 1925 and published in Brecht's 1927 Home Devotions (German: Hauspostille), a parody of Martin Luther's collection of sermons. It was set to music by Kurt Weill for the 1927 play Little Mahagonny (Mahagonny-Songspiel) and reused for Brecht and Weill's 1930 opera Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny), where it is sung by Jenny and her fellow prostitutes in Act I. Although the majority of all three works are in German, the Alabama Song retained Hauptmann's English lyrics throughout.
Brecht and Weill's version of the song was first performed by the Viennese actress and dancer Lotte Lenya, Weill's wife, in the role of Jessie at the 1927 Baden-Baden Festival's performance of Little Mahagonny. The first recording of the song - by Lenya for the Homocord record label - came out in early 1930 under the title Alabama-Song; it was re-recorded the same year for the Ultraphon record label for release with the 1930 Leipzig premiere of The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, despite Lenya not being a member of that cast. She continued to perform and record the song throughout her life.
This is the Doors' version:
This is the first recorded version, by Lotte Lenya, in 1930:
... And here's David Bowie, live in Berlin in 2002:
At #22 is yet another song from the Doors' debut album, the funky and swaggering Soul Kitchen. This 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 could close, thus lines like: "let me sleep all night, in your soul kitchen."
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 Morrison and 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.
Jim Morrison sang lead and harmony. His vocals were overdubbed. Although he is not credited on the album, Larry Knechtel was brought in to play bass. The Doors usually did not use a bass player, but producer Paul Rothchild felt this needed it.
This song was used as part of the soundtrack to the blockbuster film Forrest Gump (1994) and in the 2003 documentary Mayor of the Sunset Strip. The song I'm a Tree by alternative hip-hop artist Imani Coppola samples this song, and Coppola's song appears in many more film and TV episode soundtracks.
Here's I'm a Tree by Imani Coppola:
Finally for today, at #21, is a song from the Doors' third album, Waiting for the Sun (1968). Love Street was also the B-side to their second #1 single, Hello I Love You. Morrison wrote Love Street for his girlfriend Pamela Courson, and like all of his other songs about or dedicated to her, there was a hesitancy or biting refusal at the end ("I guess I like it fine, so far"). Also, the line "She has me and she has you" indicates that Morrison knows that Pamela had relations with other men.
The song was originally a poem written by Morrison about the street in the Laurel Canyon section of Los Angeles, California where he lived with Courson. Their address was 8021 Rothdell Trail. Morrison and Courson referred to Rothdell Trail as "Love Street" because they would sit on the balcony and watch countless hippies walk by. The house was partially damaged during a spate of arson fires on December 30, 2011. The song was also played during the closing credits of the HBO series Entourage (season 2, episode 10).
Now, let's continue with last week's statistics. This time, the weekly number of visits, by dropping 12%, reached the level of the week before last, which is by no means bad; after all, it's the heart of summer. Except for "the usual suspects", Canada, Spain, and Japan had a great week. As for the "all-time top tenners", the United Kingdom (#1 on the weekly chart - again) is still doing phenomenally well and has now clearly overtaken France. In fact, if the current trend continues, it will also overtake Greece in a week or two. A few months ago it was as low as #7 and now it's seriously flirting with #2! It's exciting. The other climbers of the week are Italy and Cyprus, while France's percentage of total visits is stable. Among the droppers, the United States still leads the pack, while Greece, Germany, Russia, Belgium, and the United Arab Emirates did better than the US (comparatively), but not as well as expected. Here are this week's Top 10 countries:
1. the United Kingdom
2. the United States
Here are the other countries that graced us with their presence since our last statistics (alphabetically): Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, Ghana, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Jersey, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, South Africa, Swaziland, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Vietnam. Happy to have you all!
And here's the all-time Top 10:
1. the United States = 43.2%
2. Greece = 8.2%
3. the United Kingdom = 7.9%
4. France = 7.5%
5. Russia = 4.8%
6. Germany = 4.1%
7. Italy = 1.19%
8. Cyprus = 1.13%
9. the United Arab Emirates = 0.70%
10. Belgium = 0.67%
That's all for today, folks. Till the next one!