Sunday, December 13, 2020

Welcome to The Soft Parade

The Soft Parade might be the most impactful record of my life. 

My first encounter with this album -- in the early summer of 1970, when I was 16 years old -- didn't make me a music lover. I had been an enthusiastic listener of Top 40 radio and spending every penny I earned for a couple of years on an expanding collection of 45-rpm records. I do remember that "Touch Me" was one of my favorite songs when I heard it on the radio, though I don't remember if I ever bought that one. I might have, I just have no particular memory of it. 

My tastes did tend toward the more edgy of that era's Top 40 -- "Crimson and Clover," "Magic Carpet Ride," "Venus," "Revolution." I definitely was moving toward the cutting edge, leaning into the bold and aggressive. I did splurge a couple of times on albums along the way. There was God Bless Tiny Tim, which I really enjoyed. I remember a Gary Puckett and the Union Gap (meh) and Brooklyn Bridge, an album I do still listen to occasionally that appeared in my Facebook series. There was Blood, Sweat & Tears, another entry in the Facebook series. At this time, though, I was only dabbling in the long form -- most of these LPs contained multiple singles that I liked enough to make me curious about what other gems I might find.

I was hanging out with two or three or four friends one evening in somebody's bedroom -- I don't remember specifically who all was there; this was a half-century ago. Someone was spinning records while we were shooting the breeze. And someone put The Soft Parade on the turntable. I can tell you with 100% certainty that once we got past the trumpet flourish that opens the album and I heard Jim Morrison's strong baritone voice singing, "Tell all the people that you see, follow me, follow me down," I was mesmerized. Here was this guy crooning on top of this big, brassy orchestra like he was Frank Sinatra, commanding his followers to take up arms as he shows us the way to battle. Immediately, I found myself completely sucked into this world.

I happily took the ride through a few more songs, someone flipped the album over for Side 2, and I continued riding this Jim Morrison wave. And then we got to THAT part: "YOU CANNOT PETITION THE LORD WITH PRAYER!" Holy mother of god, I remember this like it happened yesterday: This young kid dragged by Mom and Dad to the neighborhood Southern Baptist church every Wednesday night and twice on Sunday had his goddamned eyes opened by that banshee scream. We are all fucking doomed, I thought. I rode that acid-trip of a title track out for the next several minutes. And I swear I came out of that record eyes opened to a whole new goddamned world to explore.

My mission when I woke up the next day was to find a copy of The Soft Parade to call my own. And I succeeded. A schoolmate in my summer drivers-ed class told me he had a copy he would sell me. He brought it to me the next day, a frayed and stained cover holding a record that actually was in pretty good shape. I happily gave him the couple or three quarters I had in my pocket for this album that sits on my bookshelf to this day.

And thus it began. I spent the rest of my high-school days, the eternity of a couple of years, picking up on other stuff here and there but spending the great majority of the time listening to everything Doors. After I learned one morning roughly a year later that Morrison had died, in the summer between my junior and senior years, I spent weeks listening to nothing but Doors albums. It wasn't too long into my senior year that I started branching out further into stuff I'll write about later. But as much distance as there is between where I am now and that rich Classic Rock era, I will never ever forget where it all began.


  • The Soft Parade was The Doors' fourth album. It was released in July 1969, four months after the infamous Miami concert and two years before Morrison died in Paris.
  • "Touch Me," released months ahead of the album in December 1968, peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was the last Top 10 hit for the band. Followup singles in spring and summer 1969 were "Wishful Sinful," "Tell All The People" and "Runnin' Blue" -- none of which reached the Top 40. Notably, all four of the album's singles were written by guitarist Robbie Krieger.
  • The Soft Parade was the first album by The Doors that credited individual songwriters. All songs on the first three albums, except for two covers on the debut, were credited to The Doors. Morrison and Krieger each were credited for half the album: Morrison and Krieger wrote four songs each; one song, "Do It," was credited to both. A story exists that says Morrison insisted on the individual writing credits because he didn't like singing the line "Can't you see me growing? Get your guns," from "Tell All The People." More likely, the individual credits happened because Krieger was writing as much as Morrison was by this time.

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