Saturday, June 01, 2013

30 Day Song Challenge (The Sequel), Day 1: A Song You Like From A Band You Don't Like

Part of me wanted to object to beginning this Challenge with a band I don't like, since that seems contrary to the whole spirit of the enterprise, but I suppose since I'm picking a song I do like (even if it is from I band I don't like) then I won't complain.  Though, I guess I just did.

When I did this back in 2011, the original Challenge also included one day that required I pick a song from a band that I don't like.  I picked a song by The Doors, which I will do again today, because I did not then and still do not like The Doors.  (If you're interested in reading more about why I don't like The Doors, you can check out my longer account on Day 12 of the original Challenge.)  As I said back then, my dislike of The Doors has more to do with an aversion to the specific brand of hero-worship that surrounds Doors' front-man Jim Morrison than it does with the actual music of the band.  The truth is, The Doors sound a lot like a lot of bands that I not only like but really, truly love... which only goes to show, I suppose, the strength of my aversion to Jim Morrison.  I can't entirely explain that little idiosyncrasy of taste.  I feel the same way about Matt Damon, but that's a subject for another challenge.

There is, however, one song by The Doors that somehow manages to squeak past my usual disparaging "hrumph" whenever I hear Morrison's voice.  It's a song that, importantly, minimizes the two elements of The Doors' music that I most dislike:  (1) their tendency to fall into that trippy-psychadelic sound, and (2) their tendency to get a little jam-band-y at times.  They almost do both of those things in this song, but they stop just short of it, thank god.  Although I'd never pick it on a jukebox or request to hear it at a party, this is at least one song that I can honestly say I "like" by The Doors.  (And I put "like" in scare quotes there on purpose.  I "like" this song like I "like" a lot of Facebook posts.  By which I mean, yeah, okay, there's something generally agreeable here, it doesn't cost me anything to agree, so yeah, whatevs, a little blue thumbs-up for you.)  My pick for Day One is "Love Me Two Times" from their 1967 album Strange Days.   Here it is:

There are a lot of things to like about "Love Me Two Times."  There's the loping, bluesy guitar lick at the beginning. There's that really great shuffle-beat.  There's the eerie, almost haunting, sound of Manzarek's clavichord.  There's the steadily growing intensity throughout, reminiscent of a platoon menacingly on the march toward what becomes, in Morrison's full-throated shouts at the end, nothing short of a battle-cry for love. But, for all that, what I like most about the song is its lyrical simplicity.  If asking someone to love me is good, insisting they do so must be better.  If loving me one time will suffice, then loving me two times must be twice as good.   

As the story goes, The Doors wrote this song about a soldier on his last day with his girlfriend before being sent off to the (Vietnam) War.  The unusual twist is that this song is sung in the voice of the lover leaving and not the lover being left, as so many other farewell-love songs are.  So, I think there's something profoundly appropriate about its lack of narrative adornment or elaboration.  Proximity to death, to loneliness, to desolation and desperation, requires an economy of expression.

There's a famous legend/myth, often attributed to Ernest Hemingway, in which he allegedly bet a table-full of literati in a pub that he could write a novel in only six words.  After everyone antes up their wagers, Hemingway scrawls on a napkin "For sale: baby shoes, never worn" and collects his winnings. There's a little bit of this song that reminds me of that story.

"Love me two times.  I'm going away."  It's all there is to say, and all that can be said, under the circumstances.  And it somehow compresses into those seven words a novel's worth of meaning.

What? Nostalgic? Here's my Day One entry from the 2011 iteration of the 30 Day Song Challenge.


Chris Davis said...

Better than the Velvet Underground? "Indian, Indian, what did you die for?" Nah. I can't make a strong case for more that an album's worth of Doors tunes, and have a hard time coming up with a single VU throwaway.

Chris Davis said...

Lobackp hundred

Chris Davis said...

Um, that last comment was the security code I typed. Wasn't speaking in tongues.

Leigh Johnson said...

@Chris Davis: "Lobackp hundred" is my new band name.