Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

Reprise » Friday Forgotten Song – Riders on the Storm by The Doors

RidersOnTheStorm7InchSleeve_IMPU10

Two things drove me to write this awhile back. The first started the idea fermenting in my sub-conscious — something my wife thinks happens way too often and much too below the surface for her comfort. The second simply inspired it to emerge like fingers on a keyboard. I’ll start with the latter since it deserves the shout-out, and for the continuing inspiration his writing about music has on me.

My good friend, and the only person I know from one of those tiny northeastern states, published a wonderful music feature back in 2010. Known as SFF from the Musings of a Sci-Fi Fanatic blog, he wrote eloquently about the 80’s group Cutting Crew and their important Broadcast album from 1986. It’s a recommended read. While his primary focus remains all things science-fiction, I really enjoy his insights and ruminations on music.

His write-up got me to thinking about the music that shapes us, individually. It’s the “what you are is where you were when” artifact I cited near the beginning of the year. For many, it’s the music of the 80s that forms a kernel of consciousness for a generation. It will be the [insert 50s, 60s, 70s, or 90s or any here] for others. Which leads me back to the earlier driver of this, the song that seemed to frame a portion of my social growth (outside of The Beatles, of course).

Aptly titled Riders on the Storm by The Doors from 1971, and composed by Jim Morrison, John Densmore, Ray Manzarek, and Robby Krieger, it remains one of the most noirish, moody tunes of that hard decade. So many times it was this strain that came over some car radio late at night while I or someone else drove to or from some party, dance, or event. A regular occurrence for the purposeless teenager I definitely was back then.

The exact eerie sort of creature that now walks my house, by the way. Must be a genetic trait. As clumsy and anxiety prone as those cauldron-era collective gatherings could be, it was the music that seemed to hold me and them together. I guess it could not be helped that it’d mold me. Or at least cause me to reflect. As it always seemed to do, even now. Driving home one night, it reappeared on my radio for likely the thousandth time:

Though it never topped the charts in the U.S. or the U.K. (#14 and #22, respectively), it was still inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in November 2009. It remains the most haunting track from the group’s L.A. Woman album, in more ways than one. Riders on the Storm was not only the concluding cut on the LP, it was the last 45 ever issued by the group as a whole (‘Changeling’ was on the b-side). Its cover above leads this piece.

The tune also proved to be the last recorded by lead singer Jim Morrison, done before jetting off to his final resting place in France some weeks later.

The song would be released shortly before Morrison’s death. Many saw the song as autobiographical for the talented but troubled singer/songwriter. Even the band’s drummer, John Densmore, used the title in his biography of the band. As well, the rain storm sound effects and evocative electric piano, played by the late-Ray Manzarek, really added to its mournful feeling.

Outside of Morrison’s almost chilling vocal, to all intents and purposes it was Manzarek’s jazz-tinged work on the keyboard that kept time as it ran down, for the song and lead singer. Lindsay Planer, Allmusic:

“The musical setting is equally as ominous, augmented with thunderstorm sound effects and a second overdubbed vocal from Morrison recorded in an audible whisper. The shimmering liquefied keyboard sound from Ray Manzarek, John Densmore’s intimate airy ride cymbal and minimalist drumming, as well as Jerry Scheff’s understated bass line all combine to create a tangibly eerie and foreboding bed over which Morrison essentially intonates his lyrics, rather than fully singing them — breaking into full song only during the final repetitive title chorus.”

And DeeTheWriter cited the following before the musician, singer, producer, film director, and author’s death in May of this year, “…when the 71-year-old Ray Manzarak was asked by the Somerville Journal in March 2010 if he turns up or turns off Doors music when he hears it on the radio, Manzarek said”,

“Oh, God, turn it up! Are you kidding? Living up in northern California, it rains a lot, so they play the heck out of ‘Riders on the Storm.’ And when that comes on, I crank that sucker, man.”

I know what he means. This remains the one song that deserves to be cranked up, especially at night. Driving down some road…to whatever destination that lies ahead of us. For those who wish to learn a bit more about this stellar and haunting tune, see the video below. I hope you all have a great weekend.

Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house we're born
Into this world we're thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out on loan
Riders on the storm

There's a killer on the road
His brain is squirmin' like a toad
Take a long holiday
Let your children play
If you give this man a ride
Sweet family will die
Killer on the road, yeah

Girl, you gotta love your man
Girl, you gotta love your man
Take him by the hand
Make him understand
The world on you depends
Our life will never end
Gotta love your man, yeah

Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house we're born
Into this world we're thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out on loan.
Riders on the storm

Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
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15 Responses to “Reprise » Friday Forgotten Song – Riders on the Storm by The Doors”

  1. Morgan R. Lewis

    Great, great song. Probably my favorite song by the Doors. Gets a lot of play from me during October since it’s such a great mood song.

    A few years ago, there was a cover version with Ray Manzarek returning to keyboard, Carlos Santana on lead guitar, and Chester Bennington of Linkin Park on vocals. Bennington is definitely no replacement for Morrison; does all right, though, and to his credit he doesn’t try to be Morrison. But Santana and Manzarek are golden on it.

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    • le0pard13

      It is a great one for this time of year, Morgan. Oh, wow. What a fantastic line-up to reprise that song! Many thanks, my friend.

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      Reply
  2. Paula

    I actually cannot remember what I was doing or where I was when I first heard “Riders on the Storm.” I had it on a cassette, on a Best of the Doors CD, and now I have the mp3s. I guess you can tell I kind of like it. The old saying “twice as bright, half as long” was never more true than for Jim Morrison.

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  3. Rachel

    Hey Michael, Love this write-up. This might be my favorite Doors tune. I will always remember the Doors as one rock band I picked up on my own; as in, my rock n’ roll loving family was never really into The Doors so I never heard them growing up. However, I stumbled upon their work sometime in my pre-teens and couldn’t figure what was up with my family. My mom said, “Oh yeah, I liked The Doors when I was growing up…” I guess she was too busy listening to Metallica by then. They were always one of her faves though obviously very different in style from The Doors.

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