By the time they released their fourth album, The Soft Parade, in 1969, The Doors were arguably victims of their own success. Despite going platinum and cracking the US Top 10, their eagerly awaited follow-up to Waiting For The Sun challenged some listeners who found the group’s embrace of horns and string sections too big a leap from the psychedelic blues-rock The Doors had so masterfully spun on their self-titled debut album and its follow-up, Strange Days. Yet while the sonic window-dressing certainly found the group weaving a new sound, it also underscored their willingness to explore new creative avenues.
Listen to ‘The Soft Parade’ here.
“It was the hardest I ever worked in the studio”
Waiting For The Sun had topped the US chart and peaked inside the UK Top 20, thrusting The Doors onto the world’s stage when they set out on a prestigious European tour in the autumn of 1968. Outwardly, then, the band appeared to have done the heavy lifting by this point. Their record sales were consistently impressive and, as they entered 1969, they were packing out cavernous venues such as New York City’s Madison Square Garden. However, behind the scenes, the pressure to keep up with themselves was beginning to take its toll.
When they embarked on the The Soft Parade sessions at Los Angeles’ Elektra Sound West studios, late in 1968, The Doors had little in the way of newly penned material, and frontman Jim Morrison was becoming disillusioned with his rock-star image. Keen to devote more of his time to poetry and filmmaking, he distanced himself from the recording sessions and, when he was present, the heavy drinking he’d indulged in when The Doors made Waiting For The Sun resumed.
“It was like pulling teeth trying to get Jim into it,” engineer Bruce Botnick recalled in James Riordan’s Break On Through: The Life And Death Of Jim Morrison. “It was bizarre – it was the hardest I ever worked in the studio.”
Progress on the album continued during gaps in The Doors’ gruelling touring schedule in the first few months of 1969, but the tense atmosphere was further exacerbated by producer Paul A Rothchild’s disciplined approach and his singular artistic vision for the record.