We’re swerving back away from the hits and the covers to perhaps The Doors most uncoverable song. The centrepiece of Doors week is to be this pile up of a track. The Soft Parade is not The Doors most beloved album for many. The title track is the LA mystics attempt at doing their own side two of Abbey Road type epic. It’s too lush for many. Too smoothed out and showbiz. There’s strings, horns, echos and all sorts of extras all over The Soft Parade. Take the title track away from the album, take it away from the decade and the era and just listen to it in isolation. It’s a strange fish indeed.
The Doors had successfully tried their hands at epics before. More famously from the second album People Are Strange the song When The Musics Over beats out The Soft Parade by two and a half minutes. The debut albums final track The End bests it by three minutes. There’s so much more in this track than those others. Not better, just more. It changes direction several times on a dime. Like John Coltrane or Miles Davis doing their jazzer thing. Again, for the record. I know zip about jazz. But I do know heavy metal. I do know Metallica, Iron Maiden, The Wildhearts and lots of bands who can handle spoken word intros, slow builds, sudden new grooves and long songs that sound like Green Day got all agitated about who is the American President again. I know music like this, but not quite like this.
“When I was back there in seminary school, there was a person there who put fourth the proposition that you can petition The Lord with prayer, petition The Lord with prayer, petition The Lord with prayer… You cannot petition The Lord with prayer”
That line of poetry is bellowed into the listeners face at the start of The Soft Parade. It’s quite unsettling. Jim doesn’t rush it either. As a spiritually ambiguous individual this sort of het up hollering about who’s version of what is the one that holds the rain up there is irksome. So the plink plunk intro and crooning about asylum and sanctuary is welcome after the verbal assault. Then there’s a line right at the turning point where things pick up. It reminds me of Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider hurrying Peter Fonda away from the intolerant Hicks before they finally find America. “The Man is at the window, the Man is at the window” Billy (Hoppers character) sings beneath his breath so as not to show his alarm. On The Soft Parade the chiming stops to…
“I can’t take it anymore, The Man is at the door”
Then you’re finally hit with some rock and roll. Well sort of. You get a smooth schmatlzy waltz as Jimbo lists off his Julie Andrews style Fave things.
“Peppermint miniskirts, chocolate candy. Cahmpion sax and girl named Sandy”
By the time he’s justifying boffing the neighbour while his wife is out and Bandits in the hills it’s starting to feel like a Doors song. Then comes another change. More plink plunk. Only plinkier, plunkier.
“Catacombs, nursery bones, winter women growing stones”
I’m guessing Jim’s meds are really kicking in by the time “The Monk bought lunch” seemed like a good way to end a verse. It’s all making sense to Morrison though. He’s chuckling away about it as the song moves into a funk soup. “This is the best part of the trip” he tells the listener. On the evidence so far he’s right. It is. There’s a groovy relative of some great Doors songs in the middle of The Soft Parade. He’s going to start hollering again soon. This time about Deer Women in silk dresses, Lions in the night and calling on dogs. He’s like a Zoo Keeper writing the parks feeding itinerary after a batch of the wrong brownies. “Cobra on my left, Leopard on my right”.
The band cook up a helluva groove. This soup is thick. Jim is commanding the record still, it’s just the commands make so little sense, you have to draw your own conclusions.
Just don’t let him near the horses.