The Doors: 5 to 1
Is it me or is the current tide of grim reaping swelling over the gunnels of rock music with a greater ferocity than before? OK, the demographic of age and lifestyle choices, arguably, would always get to cut a rug through the legends and leg-ends of 60s/70s music at some stage, but why so many now? With that sombre thought in mind, clearly there was ever only going to be one choice this time.
It's 1970, I'm 13 years old, just starting my long journey into obsession, this compulsion to explore and acquire music. My 2nd LP, bought with my own money, savings from Christmases and birthdays, is L.A.Woman. Bang. Bang. Bang. One song after another, all blowing my teenage mind into an imaginarium of exotic delight, mysteries and mischiefs I could only guess at. Out there in the perimeter, I too was immaculate. (The stoned came a lot, lot later....)
I heart the Doors. Always have, always will. So they say the singer was a drunken buffoon with delusions of poetic grandeur? I just hear a wonderfully rich voice, capable of both trampling tortoise-shells and cradling egg-shells, in its canter between growl and croon. And the keyboard player a caricature of the lysergic boffin, locked in a laboratory of reminiscence? I just hear a sparkling inventiveness, tripping lightly over his instrument, underpinning and extrapolating simultaneously. They say little about the others, why not I don't know. The guitarist, strangely never in the list of the greats, yet capable, effortlessly, of a wider panoply of moods and manners than most. And the drummer? The spaces are as important as the strikes, whether loping alongside the melody as a counter, or simply marking time. (Faint praise? Hell, it's their job! If a drummer can't keep time, well, he could. And some.)
I guess I should say something about the song. I have to say it has never been amongst my favourites, yet, as I listen to it today, now, I'm hearing aspects new, even after 40 odd years. I think the younger me had thought it a little too blunt, a little too obvious, even. (In defence, my 1st LP had been by Emerson, Lake and Palmer...) I'm now appreciating the stark simplicity of the rhythm and picking up the nuances of tune lurking just under the surface:the shimmering electric piano until then, suddenly, that primal and powerful guitar solo, a calling, an exhortation to arms. 1968? Unbelievable.
Morrison, Manzarek, Krieger, Densmore: my top guys. And now two of 'em gone. That jam band in the sky is getting to have a better selection of players than the one here below. This one's for you, Ray!