The Soft Parade

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The Soft Parade
The Doors - The Soft Parade.jpg
Studio album by the Doors
Released July 18, 1969 (1969-07-18)
Recorded July 1968 – May 1969
Studio Elektra Sound Recorders, Los Angeles, California
Genre Psychedelic rock, symphonic rock, blues rock
Length 34:19
Label Elektra
Producer Paul A. Rothchild
the Doors chronology
Waiting for the Sun
(1968)
The Soft Parade
(1969)
Morrison Hotel
(1970)
Singles from The Soft Parade
  1. "Touch Me"
    Released: December 1968
  2. "Wishful Sinful"
    Released: March 1969
  3. "Tell All the People"
    Released: June 1969
  4. "Runnin' Blue"
    Released: August 1969

The Soft Parade is the fourth studio album by the American rock band the Doors, and was released on July 18, 1969, on Elektra Records (see 1969 in music). It saw the group departing from the material that encompassed their past three albums. The Doors incorporated brass and string arrangements into their compositions at a point in which the group was experiencing personal issues, particularly related to Jim Morrison. In addition, the album fulfilled the band's desire to feature more jazz and blues influences in their work.[1]

Upon release, the album peaked at number six on the Billboard Top LPs chart. It was preceded by "Touch Me" in December 1968, which awarded the Doors an unexpected top-ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100, and several other accolades, including a number-one listing in the Cashbox charts. Three additional singles, "Wishful Sinful", "Tell All the People", and "Runnin' Blue", also became moderate hits on the Billboard singles charts.[2]

Background[edit]

By the end of 1968, the Doors had produced three hit albums and had successfully toured Europe for the first time. In December, the band released the Robby Krieger written "Touch Me", which became another Top 5 hit for the band, peaking at #3. Despite the band's success, however, vocalist Jim Morrison, who was drinking heavily, began to lose interest in the group and spoke of quitting to pursue poetry and film, only to be convinced by keyboardist Ray Manzarek to "give it six more months".[3][full citation needed] Morrison's behavior had already caused the band considerable difficulty; on December 9, 1967, he became the first rock artist to ever be arrested onstage during a concert performance in New Haven for taunting police after a backstage incident with an officer.[4] He had also caused numerous delays for the recording of the group's third LP Waiting for the Sun, with Krieger recalling to Guitar World's Alan Paul in 1994, "He would take on all these assholes, who used him: 'Hey, we're hanging with Jimbo.' And they wouldn't care how fucked up he got - they'd leave him on somebody's doorstep in his own puke." As the Doors' record producer Paul Rothchild explained, "Jim was not really interested after about the third album. It became very difficult to get him involved in the records. When we made The Soft Parade, it was like pulling teeth to get Jim into it".[this quote needs a citation]

The Doors, on the tail-end of their lengthy recording period, initiated a national tour that abruptly ended in disaster. On March 1, 1969, Morrison allegedly performed while intoxicated, and exposed himself in front of a crowd of nearly 12,000 in Miami, Florida, which Morrison's bandmates deny actually occurred.[5] In December 1997, Krieger recalled to Guitar World's Alan Paul, "Usually, we were at least able to make it through the show, no matter what, but Miami only lasted maybe two or three songs after 'Five to One.' It was bedlam, just total craziness. The place was incredibly oversold and sweltering hot. Thousands of people swarmed the stage, and it collapsed." A month later, on April 4, Morrison was charged with indecent exposure, and paid a $5,000 bail, after Morrison had turned himself in to the authorities. The incident negatively reflected on the band's publicity, sparking a "March for Decency" at the Orange Bowl. Consequently, 25 dates on the Doors next tour were cancelled, and their records were blacklisted from radio airplay, resulting in the band abandoning the rest of their potential tour.[6]

Recording[edit]

Following rehearsals in June 1968, the Doors commenced a grueling nine month recording period which concluded in May 1969 at Elektra Sound Recorders in Los Angeles, California, in contrast to the six days their debut album required. Morrison became increasingly uncooperative and disruptive when recording for the album commenced, as he regularly missed sessions or was intoxicated when he managed to be present. The alcoholic dependencies caused Morrison to become estranged from his bandmates, prompting Manzarek to name Morrison's sometimes aggressive alcoholic state "Jimbo". Morrison later reflected on the drawn-out sessions, saying in 1970, "It kinda got out of control, and took too long in the making. It spread over nine months. An album should be like a book of stories strung together, some kind of unified feeling and style about it, and that's what The Soft Parade lacks". The album differed from past efforts for its addition of brass and string arrangements.[7][8] Although some critics and fans may have assumed the Doors made The Soft Parade as a reaction to recent orchestrated works by the Beatles and the Beach Boys, in a 1999 profile of the album in Guitar World magazine Manzarek stated:

I was knocked out by the first Blood, Sweat and Tears record. I am a jazzer and have always love horns. I loved Cannonball Adderly and Miles Davis and John Coltrane...But what Al Kooper did with Blood, Sweat and Tears illustrated how those same ideas could successfully be applied to rock and roll.[this quote needs a citation]

Manzarek added that drummer John Densmore, another jazz fan, was enthusiastic but Krieger "sort of muttered that he thought it was a bad idea but didn't seriously object, and Jim said, 'Great, sure man, sounds great. Let's give it a try.'" In 1994 Krieger explained to Guitar World, "Actually, it does sound better with time. But I never thought it sounded bad - I just thought it didn't sound like us. The Doors were lost. it was just Jim and an orchestra." The guitarist added:

We spent more money on it than we did on any other album. And Jim was hard to find. All the mixing bored the hell out of him. But I think his drinking problem wasn't as bad as it was on Waiting for the Sun, because he had started making a film, which kept him busy.[this quote needs a citation]

Footage of the "Wild Child" recording session is widely available and was later used to make a video for the song. Morrison appears engaged and playful as Rothchild and the other musicians try to perfect the studio sound. In his 1999 Guitar World article on the making of the album, Alan Paul reports that the horn and string arrangements were done by a friend of Rothchild's, Paul Harris, who also worked with B.B. King's string-laden breakthrough hit "The Thrill Is Gone", and engineer Bruce Botnick's father Norman played violin and viola. Bassist Harvey Brooks, a member of the blues-rock band Electric Flag, and Doug Lubahn were brought in to work up the basic tracks. A staggering $86,000 was required to pay for the creation of the album. The complexity and difficulty of the developments prompted George Harrison, who appeared at the sessions in November 1968, to be reported as stating it resembled "the complexity required for the Sergeant Pepper recordings".[7]

Composition[edit]

The Soft Parade album marked the first time in which each songwriter was credited under his own name, instead of the band name.[7] This stemmed from Morrison not wanting to be associated with the lyrics of Krieger's "Tell All the People", as one line urges listeners to "grab your guns"[9] while the hook implores listeners to "follow me down". For the first time, the band were required to write their compositions in the studio, while past albums featured material derived from experiments in their live performances. The chart success of the "Touch Me" single likely convinced Rothchild and the group that augmenting their sound was an experiment worth pursuing. Written by Krieger, it was released as a single in December 1968 and reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 in the Cashbox Top 100 in early 1969 (the band's third American number-one single). The single also did well elsewhere, peaking at #1 in the RPM Canadian Singles Chart and at #10 in the Kent Music Report in Australia. However, despite the band's commercial success the previous year, "Touch Me" did not chart in the UK Singles Chart. 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.[10] Morrison reportedly[citation needed] 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. Manzarek borrowed the guitar riff from the 1967 Four Seasons' "C'mon Marianne" on keyboards. The song is also noted for the last sung line, "stronger than dirt", which was taken from a 1962 Ajax commercial. The Ajax company sued the Doors for plagiarizing the ad's trademark tune. The Doors paid the financial damages in a settlement to the Ajax company. The band would perform the song, along with "Wild Child", on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour on December 6, 1968.

Morrison on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, December 6, 1968

Krieger, who composed the hits "Light My Fire" and "Love Me Two Times", has four individual songwriting credits on The Soft Parade, including "Runnin' Blue" and "Wishful Sinful". "Runnin' Blue" is notable for Morrison's tribute to the recently deceased Otis Redding ("Poor Otis dead and gone/Left me here to sing his song...") and for Krieger's Dylan-esque lead vocal on the bluegrass-tinged chorus. Krieger also composed the wistful "Wishful Sinful", the LP's second single. In the liner notes to the 1997 Doors rarities collection Box Set he recalls, "When Jim suggested that I write songs, I figured that I would stick to his style of using universal images. So I decided I would write about the four elements - earth, air, fire, and water."[this quote needs a citation] The single's B-side, "Who Scared You", was a non-album tracks that became a rarity for years until it was made available on the 1972 package Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine. In the essay for Box Set, Manzarek reveals, "Jim took the title from a line in a letter that William Burroughs had written to Allen Ginsberg after Allen had taken yage - the powerful hallucinogenic, ayahuasca - in the jungle..."[this quote needs a citation] In 1997, Krieger asserted to Guitar World, "'Who Scared You' is one of the few songs that I feel was enhanced, rather than overwhelmed, by the horns." Morrison contributed "Shaman's Blues", "Easy Ride", "Wild Child", and "The Soft Parade". "Shaman's Blues", a jazz/rock song in 6/8 time most resembling the classic Doors sound, contains what biographer Jerry Hopkins calls "'Jim Morrison lines,' lines thought to be too weird and colorful to have been written by anyone else. In 'Shaman's Blues' there was the image of 'Cold grinding grizzly-bear jaws/Hot on your heels,' and in 'The Soft Parade' the singsong 'Catacombs, nursery bones/Winter women growing stones/Carrying babies to the river,' the latter line prompting the question: the bathe or drown?"[11][full citation needed] Although Morrison is credited alone for these songs, the music was fleshed out by other Doors, as Krieger clarified to Guitar World in 1994: "He would hear the song in his head. But he didn't play anything, so he would sing a vocal melody, and we would have to figure out what to do. But a lot of times he just had a poem on a piece of paper and I would come up with something. Other times I would come up with a melody, and he'd put words to it."[this quote needs a citation] The title track is the band's fourth epic, following "The End", "When the Music's Over", and the unreleased (at the time) "Celebration of the Lizard". In the aftermath of the Miami incident, and with a felony charge hanging over his head, the lines "Can you give me sanctuary, I must find a place to hide, I can't make it anymore, the man is at the door" are especially poignant. In the liner notes to Box Set, Densmore give his own interpretation of the words:

The main body of the work addresses the era: "The soft parade has now begun" (flower power), the band's career: "Successful hills are here to stay, everything must be this way/what got us this far to this mild equator", Jim as an artist pushing us ahead: "we need someone, or somethin' new, somethin' else to get us thru,' and the bigger questions: "all our lives we sweat and save, building for a shallow grave, must be something else we say, everything must be this way.' In listening to this again, after many years of not hearing it, I am touched by the depth of Jim's pain, grief, and talent."[this quote needs a citation]

The band also attempted the symphonic piece "Albinoni" but elected to leave it off The Soft Parade, with Krieger divulging to Guitar World in 1997, "We were gonna use it...at the end of "The Soft Parade"; I honestly forget why we didn't. I think we all decided that it was too heavy or something, but we had gotten a full string section in, and they nailed a really great rendition." The song would later appear in part as "The Severed Garden" on the soundtrack to Oliver Stone's 1991 biopic The Doors and again six years later (with overdubs) on the Doors Box Set serving as the coda to "Rock Is Dead."

The release of The Soft Parade was preceded by the band's appearance on the PBS television show Critque in New York in April 1969. As Densmore recalls in the liner notes of Box Set, the appearance came "at a time when the aftermath of Miami was still hanging in the air. Almost no one would book us live, so it felt womb-like to be in the confices of a public television soundstage, with no audience, playing for ourselves." The Doors perform "Tell All the People," "Alabama Song," "Back Door Man", "Wishful Sinful," "Build Me a Woman" and concludes with "The Soft Parade." The band also sits down with the host to discuss music, poetry, and shamanism. Morrison, smoking a cigar and appearing sober and relaxed, makes some remarkably insightful comments about the future of music: "The new generation's music...it might rely on electronics, tapes. I can kind of envision may one person with a lot of machines, tapes and electronic setups singing or speaking using machines." In the same 1997 Guitar World interview, Krieger states, "It's kind of hard to get into playing rock and roll to just a camera, with no audience. Plus, it was like eight in the morning, and we were asleep. But I think it's good; we played real well."

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3/5 stars[12]
Robert Christgau B–[13]
MusicHound 3.5/5[14]
Rolling Stone (unfavorable)[15]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 3/5 stars[16]
Slant Magazine 2.5/5 stars[17]

The Soft Parade was released on July 18, 1969.[18] Despite a lukewarm critical reception, the album became the band's fourth top-ten hit album in a row, and the single "Touch Me" was hugely successful. However, despite making number six in the US, the album did not chart in the UK, perhaps due to the band's lack of a supporting hit single ("Touch Me" did not chart in the UK). Whereas the first three Doors albums had two singles pulled from each of them, The Soft Parade had a grand total of four, though some of them had initially been released as non-album singles significantly prior to the album's release. The Soft Parade received some scathing reviews at the time of its release, with Alec Dubro of Rolling Stone writing, "The Soft Parade is worse than infuriating – it's sad. It's sad because one of the most potentially moving forces in rock has allowed itself to degenerate", writing that it "represents a clear and present decline in musicianship" and that it is "not vital, not very listenable and is certainly not interesting. It sounds for all the world like the stuff they had the good sense to leave off their first albums."[15] Jazz and Pop magazine analyst Patricia Keneally-Morrison, on the other hand, praised the band's attempt as experimentation, writing, "Most of it is very superior music … and some is absolutely glorious".[7] In his retrospective review, Richie Unterberger of AllMusic called it "the weakest studio album recorded with Jim Morrison in the group" but conceding that "about half the record is quite good."[12] Slant opines, "'Wishful Sinful' sounds like something from one of The Doors' early albums, but Morrison's vocals are less than genuine and it's clear the strains of substance abuse were beginning to wear on his voice greatly...The Soft Parade wasn't the end of The Doors, but it was certainly the beginning of it."[this quote needs a citation] Pitchfork summarizes the album as "The Doors not sounding like the Doors...Quite simply, The Doors' fourth album is not the first you'll want to pick up."[this quote needs a citation]

The album was completely remixed and remastered for its 40th anniversary reissue. This practice extended to incorporating vocal and instrumental components which were not part of the original album. According to Ray Manzarek, "There are background vocals by Jim Morrison, piano parts of mine that weren't used and guitar stingers and solos by Robby Krieger that never made the original recordings, that can now be heard for the first time."[this quote needs a citation]

Track listing[edit]

Side A
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Tell All the People"   Robby Krieger 3:21
2. "Touch Me"   Krieger 3:12
3. "Shaman's Blues"   Jim Morrison 4:49
4. "Do It"   Morrison, Krieger 3:08
5. "Easy Ride"   Morrison 2:43
Side B
No. Title Writer(s) Length
6. "Wild Child"   Morrison 2:36
7. "Runnin' Blue"   Krieger 2:27
8. "Wishful Sinful"   Krieger 2:58
9. "The Soft Parade"   Morrison 8:36

Personnel[edit]

The Doors
Additional musicians
  • Curtis Amy – saxophone solo on "Touch Me"
  • Reinol Andino – conga
  • George Bohanan – trombone
  • Harvey Brooks – bass guitar (tracks 1 to 4, 7 and 9)
  • Jimmy Buchanan – fiddle on "Runnin' Blue"
  • Douglass Lubahn – bass guitar (tracks 5, 6 and 8)
  • Jesse McReynoldsmandolin
  • Champ Webb – English horn solo on track 8
  • Paul Harris – orchestral arrangements (tracks 1, 2, 7, 8 and 10)
Technical

Chart positions[edit]

Album[edit]

Year Chart Position
1969 Pop Albums 6

Singles[edit]

Year Single Chart Position
1968 "Touch Me"
B-side: "Wild Child"
Pop Singles 3
1969 "Wishful Sinful"
B-side: "Who Scared You"
Pop Singles 44
1969 "Tell All the People"
B-side: "Easy Ride"
Pop Singles 57
1969 "Runnin' Blue"
B-side: "Do It"
Pop Singles 64

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Canada (Music Canada)[19] Platinum 100,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[20] Silver 60,000^
United States (RIAA)[21] Platinum 1,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Soft Parade". thedoors.com. Retrieved April 7, 2015. 
  2. ^ "The Singles Box". thedoors.com. Retrieved April 7, 2015. 
  3. ^ Hopkins 1980, p. 190.
  4. ^ "New Haven Police Close 'The Doors'; Use of Mace Reported". The New York Times. December 10, 1967. Retrieved November 21, 2010. 
  5. ^ DeReso, Nick. "46 Years Ago: The Doors' Jim Morrison Allegedly Exposes Himself on Stage". ultimateclassicrock.com. Retrieved April 7, 2015. 
  6. ^ Peter K. Hogan. "The Complete Guide to the Music of the Doors". google.com. Retrieved April 7, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c d Weldman, Rick. "The Doors FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the Kings of Acid Rock". google.com. Retrieved April 7, 2015. 
  8. ^ Fowlie, Wallace. "Rimbaud and Jim Morrison: The Rebel as Poet". google.com. Retrieved April 7, 2015. 
  9. ^ "Discography of the Doors". jimmorisononline.com. Retrieved April 7, 2015. 
  10. ^ The Doors CDs Remastered
  11. ^ Hopkins 1980, p. 247.
  12. ^ a b Unterberger, Richie. "The Soft Parade – The Doors | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved December 21, 2014. 
  13. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Robert Christgau: Album: The Doors: The Soft Parade". robertchristgau.com. Retrieved December 21, 2014. 
  14. ^ Graff, Gary; Durchholz, Daniel (eds) (1999). MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide. Farmington Hills, MI: Visible Ink Press. p. 358. ISBN 1-57859-061-2. 
  15. ^ a b Dubro, Alec (23 August 1969). "[The Soft Parade review]". Rolling Stone (San Francisco: Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc.) (40): 35. Retrieved 13 November 2015. 
  16. ^ "The Doors: Album Guide". rollingstone.com. Archived from the original on January 13, 2013. Retrieved August 31, 2015. 
  17. ^ Cinquemani, Sal (April 18, 2007). "The Doors: The Soft Parade | Album Review | Slant Magazine". Slant Magazine. Retrieved December 21, 2014. 
  18. ^ https://www.thedoors.com/music
  19. ^ "Canadian album certifications – The Doors – The Soft Parade". Music Canada. 
  20. ^ "British album certifications – Doors – The Soft Parade". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter The Soft Parade in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Silver in the field By Award. Click Search
  21. ^ "American album certifications – The Doors – The Soft Parade". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH

External links[edit]