Archive for the ‘The Doors’ Category

X

Monday, October 8th, 2012

X - See How We Are

X - See How We Are

Listen: See How We Are / X
See

Let me tell you one thing. We are very, very lucky, because X still exist and tour regularly. In fact, they may be more powerful live than ever. The original lineup of Exene Cervenka, DJ Bonebrake, John Doe and Billy Zoom has been reunited for several years now and are doing deservedly great business. There’s a lot of sense in sticking out that long stretch that usually ends in legend.

Now X certainly are legends. So many reasons: right up there with Johnny and Ivy resides Billy for greatest guitarist, flawless and razor sharp at every given moment. DJ still the powerhouse metronome, Exene the most magnetic and perfect female front person of her generation, and John, one of the greatest voices ever with those ‘desert at night’ tones only Jim Morrison rivaled. When singing or harmonizing together, John and Exene would actually create a 3rd voice, their timbres meshing so perfectly. Two singers, three voices. Pretty unique. And as writers, forget it. Yes living legends. More honest, hard working, and appreciative people you will not find.

Back in the Elektra days, I was very lucky to be their A&R guy, making several albums with them, and over both lineups. After Billy left in ’86, Tony Gilkyson joined, fitting the bill effortlessly. An incredible player as well and guitarist on this track. When Tony left around ’97, Billy rejoined to present. A&Ring them was a two fold experience: always rewarding, always frustrating.

Rewarding because at the studio, you knew this was the best place in the solar system to be, watching John and Exene through the control room window mastering a vocal take on one mic live. Wow. It still gives me tingles.

But frustrating knowing how the promotion department would have a difficult time with programers, and most likely be forced to accept defeat while sharing a $100 bottle of wine with some pampered PD.

Like all the greats, X couldn’t get their fair shake from radio. Bob Krasnow loved this track when he heard it. He walked into my office late one evening around 9 pm. We were all still there, everyone stayed late. It was a company full of people who loved their jobs and glowed in the success of the label that all had contributed to in some way. No one ever got fired. We never worried about that. So Bob says “I hear you brought back some new X ruffs from LA. I want to hear them”. I handed him an unfinished version of ‘See How We Are’ on cassette and he left.

This track was actually started at Capitol Studios on Hollywood Blvd and it was haunting wandering around those halls with Exene, talking about the legends in framed pictures, that had recorded there prior. It was that work-in-progress version I had given him, and I knew the song was ace. Sure enough, ten minutes later he’s back at my door. “This is fucking incredible, they are the voices of rebellion. This, Kevin, is important stuff”.

I can hear his words as plainly now as when he spoke them, God love him. Words from the guy who had produced Ike & Tina Turner and Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band, and now in praise of X. For whatever reason, we released ’4th Of July’ as the first single from the SEE HOW WE ARE album against Bob’s instincts. He thought that was too commercial, too formula when played up against ‘See How We Are’, but the radio department felt it was more palatable, singable, like Springsteen. Actually, it was all those things and yes, it too should have been a hit. He said, “You always have to put your best foot forward, you only get one chance”.

He was right. Even though as Chairman, I don’t know why he didn’t force the team to go for this single but he didn’t. Although released as a 12″ to radio, the commercial 7″ was cancelled. Only a handful of finished sleeves (pictured) and three test pressings were made. I think Howard or Alago got the third. I have the other two. You always need a safety copy.

A dealer recently asked how much one was worth to me, he wanted desperately to buy it. I said “It doesn’t have a price tag but for everything else, there’s Mastercard”. He got nasty, called me an arrogant cunt. Seriously, he did. Not exactly the way to get that second copy off me despite his admittedly accurate description of my response.

Listen: Highway 61 Revisited (Again) / X
Highway

Thanks to reader Mark Deming, his suggestion to also post ‘Highway 61 Revisted (Again)’ was a superb one. All this time, I thought it had come out as a bonus reissue track or part of a cd comp. Wrong. So here it it for all X fans to worship, as I do.

The Doors

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Listen: Break On Through (To The Other Side) / The Doors
Break

Summer nights in July bring back a handful of records I recall from ’67, when the AM Top 40′s in many major markets were feeling a change in the air and responded to it on the air. Albums were becoming youth culture’s most important statement. I guess the Viet Nam War and the tail end of Britain’s music/fashion invasion created a perfect storm. The 45′s role morphed into a vehicle for edited airplay, and the album became the premier sellable asset for bands.

Nothing could have made me happier. All the drug riddled groups, whose names alone appealed to me greatly, still required a 7″ for radio exposure, often promo only. Miracle.

Let’s be serious, every one of them secretly wanted a hit. Generally, their first few singles became loss leaders, and were therefore scarce even when current. The Doors ‘Break On Through (To The Other Side)’ being a prime example. Originally released on January 1, 1967, the record got zero airplay initially. But by early summer, it was one of several I flew around the AM dial in search of nightly during the very late hours, after TV had basically shut down.

In small town upstate New York, you hardly ever heard a car driving by past midnight. Every hour on the hour, a New York Central freight train would sub woofer shake our village, but otherwise, silence. Sorry, silence and crickets. All in all a romantic contrast to the pulse of far away metropolises spilling from my transistor radio, which lay permanently buried beneath the pillow. Yes, those AM Top 40′s by day leaned very underground by night, spinning the records which had begun to crawl onto BILLBOARD’s Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart.

It must be why I associate The Doors with the night. That and Hunter Thompson’s FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS. I read that high on acid while The Doors’ WAITING FOR THE SUN played repeatedly, meaning the spindle arm on my automatic changer was left in the upright position, allowing one’s last selection to track endlessly.

To be accurate, WBZ Boston gave me my first exposure to The Doors. When the deejay front sold ‘Break On Through (To The Other Side)’ my heart nearly stopped. I’d waited six months to hear this record, desperately craved the picture sleeve, and just wanted badly to love The Doors. Good instincts as they turned out.

I never did get that sleeve, well not for seventeen more years. Fast forward to ’84, and I’m working at Elektra in New York. Mark Cohn, our resident runner, tips his head into my office one afternoon, announcing a storage closet full of 45′s had been unearthed and needed clearing. Did I want them?

Turns out the cupboard’s contents were a deep library of every Elektra single, both US and UK, starting with the very first release and continuing through to ’74. Praise be the Lord. Jah Live. Etc.

The Seeds

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

Can’t Seem To Make You Mine / The Seeds

Listen: Can’t Seem To Make You Mine / The Seeds
11 Can't Seem To Make You Mine.mp3

GNP Crescendo not only possessed a great label name, turns out they were one of the small indies with enough taste to issue several of their singles in quality color picture sleeves. Biggest sellers, The Seeds, certainly benefitted most.

Not unlike London’s maraca drenched blues knockoffs epitomized the English sound, The Seeds ruled roost as to what life sounded like in L.A., at least to a little kid growing up in small town New York State.

Never did I hear The Seeds on daytime radio when current, but certainly heard them at night. Whether by choice or reality, my recollection associates the band with summertime ’67, when The Seeds original debut single, ‘Can’t Seem To Make You Mine’ got re-released. Yes, late night, warm weather airplay, when the AM Top 40′s went all underground rock in the evenings. Those non hits by Lothar & The Hand People, Big Brother & The Holding Company, The Leaves and Country Joe & The Fish rubbed shoulders with The Seeds on every nighttime playlist that summer, both locally and as far off as WBZ from Boston and WOWO in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The band’s interest was peaking, certainly in the world of radio. Depending on the market, each were playing The Seeds, whether it being ‘Mr. Farmer’, ‘Pushin’ Too Hard’, their latest, most psychedelic record yet, ‘A Thousand Shadows’ or ‘Can’t Seem To Make You Mine’.

Just imagine this intro beaming through my transistor for the first time. I tell you in all honesty, the memory is as plain as day. It, and the song, were one listens. I desperately needed the record on the spot.

Praise be, the thrill of finding it in my weekly pile of airplay rejects from WMCR that very Friday. Yet another single which didn’t fit into their adult, easy listening format, much to my miraculous luck.

Pianist Daryl Hooper, already carving the initial model of playing bass on a separate keyboard, not only dominated the overall sound of The Seeds, he also wrote some of their most powerful hooks, all based on simplicity. In my fantasy world, that break in ‘Can’t Seem To Make You Mine’ soundtracked driving through the desert by night, heading into the creepy unknown, speeding west on Route 66, just like The Doors long keyboard middle in ‘Light My Fire’. Hearing both for the first time, late on hot summer nights, clearly left deep impressions.

Motley Crue

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Wild Side / Motley Crue

Listen: Wild Side / Motley Crue
Wild

In the mid 80′s, Bob Krasnow got handed the keys to a candy shop known as Elektra Records, and proceeded to turn an almost closed label into the industry’s most credible leader, as it once was in the 60′s. He basically cleaned house employee and roster-wise. There was no warm and fuzzy sentimental attachment in his heart when it came to the then withered Los Angeles soft rock of Jackson Browne and The Eagles. The stuff had pretty much seen it’s day in his eyes, so Bob started slashing, moved the entire operation to New York and began hiring. Bringing Howard Thompson in as head of A&R gave me my lucky moment in life. It was not what, but instead who I knew that was the magic key. Suddenly I was working for a best friend and for Bob.

God, Bob hated corporate rock, and it was no secret Motley Crue made that roster cut due exclusively to serious sales power. It was at an A&R meet in New Orleans that Bob premiered the two new tracks he’d just gotten to his assembled team. ‘Wild Side’ was one. It sounded fantastic. I still fantasize about the “East LA at midnight” lyric, and the minor key gives it that dark edge not uncommon to The Doors.

This of course being in the midst of a four day stay at The Royal Orleans in the city’s French Quarter, Bob holding court and sparing no expense to insure we all had the time of our lives, old school record business style. He’d arranged for the best restaurants, took us bar hoping through the funkiest juke joints in nooks and crannies only he knew, treating us to a late night Irma Thomas set in an Old New Orleans saloon, Kras even introducing me to her majesty and grinning ear to ear the entire time, keeping everyone satisfied late into the night in literally whatever way we desired, it was just a time and executive leadership style never to be again. You wanted to deliver for this guy. Yes, Bob really knew how to take care of his people.

So back at the meeting, ‘Wild Side’ was playing, and I couldn’t help but smirk and chuckle a touch, as you do when something is so over the top, but not at all in a dismissive or condescending way. This caught Bob’s eye. And he couldn’t conceal the exact same reaction, nor did he try. We both knew it was all ridiculously ridiculous but we loved it. I’ve never stopped including this one as an all time favorite.

I do declare, you just don’t get record guys like Kras anymore. We all loved Bob then and we still do now and we always will.

Above: Jukebox Tab signed by Tommy Lee