Ray Manzarek and John Densmore were the jazz aficinados of The Doors and had at the back of their mind to hopefully be able to create a jazz oriented album. “The Soft Parade” which was released July 18, 1969, was that jazz album that reveals a band not sure how to proceed artistically.
The Doors third album “Waiting for the Sun,” had started life as a much more ambitious album (see related articles below), but ended up sounding tenuous and lacking the cohesion of their first two albums. The Doors decided it was time to change things up and with Jim Morrison’s notebooks having been nearly mined out of material, The Doors decided to take a risk in creating “The Soft Parade.” They would create the album from scratch in the studio using string and horn arrangements on the songs, and rely more heavily on Robby Krieger‘s songwriting abilities
“The Soft Parade” took the longest of The Doors’ albums to produce and was the most expensive to finish. Recording started in November 1968 after The Doors had returned from their European tour and ran through June of 1969 and cost $90,000. The expense of the recording sessions also caused the band to go out tour, causing further delays in the recording, and release of the singles, “Touch Me” in December 1968 and “Wishful Sinful” in February 1969, months in advance of a finished album in order to pay for the studio time. Another reason for the length of the recording of “The Soft Parade” was because Paul Rothchild exerted more control over the recording sessions and demanded more takes which had the effect of driving Morrison’s interest away from the band and recording. It is hard to say which was cause and which was effect. Was Morrison’s waning interest in recording because of Rothchild’s more demanding attitude in the studio, or was Rothchild’s demanding attitude the result of Morrison’s waning interest?
“The Soft Parade” signaled a first for the band. The songs were given individual writers credits instead of the collective, The Doors. The songs on “The Soft Parade” are divided almost equally between Morrison and Krieger, and it’s easily discernable as to who wrote the songs. Songs written by Krieger have all the string orchestrations, while Morrison’s songs adhere to a more rough-hewn rock sound. “The Soft Parade” did mark the return of one Doors tradition, that of the epic poetic/theatre piece at the end of the album the title song, “The Soft Parade.” The song was the result of Paul Rothchild and Jim Morrison combing through Morrison’s notebooks and pulling out poetic passages that were strung and held together by the music.
Robby Krieger wrote “Touch Me,” the song that would become the hit single off the album. Originally titled “Hit Me” the song’s inspiration came from Krieger’s contentious relationship with girlfriend Lynn (who would also be the inspiration for the line in “Love Her Madly” ‘don’t you love her as she’s walking out the door’). The song’s title was changed because Morrison didn’t want to be the onstage recipient of what fans might interpret as an invitation.
A couple of miscellaneous notes on the recording of the album. “Who Scared You” was recorded during “The Soft Parade” sessions and released as the ‘B’ side of “Wishful Sinful” but wasn’t included on the final album, probably because it didn’t sound like any of the other songs on the album (see video above). The string and horn sections would become derisively known as the “LaCineaga Symphony” because the studio The Doors were recording in was on LaCinega Boulevard. In November of 1969 George Harrison visited The Doors in the studio, returning a visit Morrison had at the Abbey Road studios in September 1968. Harrison remarked that “The Soft Parade” recording “had the complexity of the Sergeant Pepper’s recordings.”
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