Friday, May 16, 2008

Life Rotates in 45 Revolutions Per Minute: The Doors, "Riders On The Storm" and "The Changeling"

I always have music in my head…constantly no matter what the situation is. Whether I am alone, writing, or talking to someone I always have a song or a piece of music playing somewhere in my mind. I also have, I believe, a bit of an obsessive and addictive personality so I will often get a particular song stuck in my head and it will play (often just a small section) over and over again.
Right now the song I have swirling around my mind is the incredible track “The Changeling”, the lead off song to L.A. Woman, The Doors final album with Jim Morrison as lead singer.
I don’t often hear of “The Changeling” mentioned as one of The Doors finest moments but I absolutely love it, as I do that entire ingenious L.A. Woman album. Punctuated with by the wondrous bass playing by TCB band member Jerry Scheff (a man I have been fortunate enough to meet and see play several times), I find Morrison and The Doors around the time of L.A. Woman to be among the all time great rock units. With its pulverizing mixture of the blues and a back to basics attitude, The L.A. Woman album is my favorite of The Doors celebrated career…a remarkable feat considering how in trouble Morrison and the band was at the time of its recording.

"The Changeling" is a remarkable song on many levels. Featuring one of the grooviest and swinging (at one point Morrison joyously yells out “Get Loose”) rhythm tracks the band ever laid down, “The Changeling” is one of the most infectious tracks The Doors ever delivered. Highlighted by the impressive keyboard work by Ray Manzarek and the unbelievably cool guitar playing of Robby Krieger, with a swaggering and ferocious vocal by Morrison added on for good measure, “The Changeling” sounds like a return to full power by a band many people had written off by 1971 and its still a thrilling listen all these years later.
The idea of a “Changeling” is an old one and centers on a supernatural creature substituted for a human infant. Morrison apparently originally wrote the refreshingly unpretentious lyrics around 1968 just after the release of the Strange Days album. Why The Doors waited until over two years later to record the track I don’t know, but I’m glad they did though as I can’t imagine a more perfect opening for arguably their greatest album.
“The Changeling” would have served The Doors well as single choice in 1971. Instead it was relegated to the B-Side to the equally astonishing and more complex “Riders on the Storm”. That haunting track, featuring one of the most devastating uses of the Fender Rhodes Electric Piano ever, inspired by killer Billy Cook hit the top twenty in early 1971 shortly before Jim Morrison was tragically found dead in Paris at the age of 27.
I suspect “The Changeling” suffered from being on the B-Side of “Riders On The Storm” and an A-Side release would have exposed more people to its incredibly infectious groove and its promise of a rebirth…even if that rebirth would finally have to come at a cost.
Rightfully so, “Riders on the Storm” continues to be one of the most popular and most played classic rock songs of all time (a few years back it hit the charts again in the form of a surprisingly effective mash-up with Blondie’s “Rapture”), while “The Changeling” is mostly just known to people who are still in love with the L.A. Woman album all these years later.
Outside of its appearance on a couple of import collections and a welcome place kicking off the Home Video collection, The Soft Parade (1991), The Changeling is still most commonly heard as the introduction to L.A. Woman.
Give it a fresh listen if you haven’t in a while, I think it stands well with the best of The Doors…which is itself a pretty demanding feat.

The picture above of The Doors around the time of the L.A Woman sessions is from this link.

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