The song by The Doors turned a half century old this past week. 50 Years!!!
Three friends and I had a kinda band that year. I say kinda because our biggest gig was a midnight performance at...a church. More on that in a moment.
Steve and Ed and Paul and I used the name The Wendigo....a woods monster in Native American legend:
"In addition to denoting a cannibalistic monster from their traditional folklore, Native Americans also understand the wendigo conceptually. As a concept, the wendigo can apply to any person, idea, or movement infected by a corrosive drive toward self-aggrandizing greed and excessive consumption, traits that sow disharmony and destruction if left unchecked."
Hmm. Sounds vaguely familiar....
Anyway, we loved The Doors, and especially their huge LMF hit. I was easily the least talented member of our group, and played an electronic organ. That instrument has a huge part in the song, with Ray Manzarek playing the solo that made the original release 7:06 long. It was edited for the radio hit version, fortunate for me because I could never compete the solo
Manzarek died in 2013, but in honor of the 50th anniversary, NPR's Fresh Air program re-broadcast an interview with him in which he deconstructs the song and explains how they managed to take the lengthy original and get it down to 2:52 so radio stations would play it. And he explains the amazing and instantly recognizable opening...
"And we said, now, how do we start the song? Do we just jump on A minor to an F? Should we - are we going to do that, vamp a little bit? I said no, no, no, we need something more. We can't just vamp a little bit. And I started this, I took my Bach back to work, put my Bach hat on and came up with a circle of fifths. So I started like this..."HERE is a video of one performance of the song by The Doors...
About The Wendigo:
We had become friends with the mostly deaf priest at the Catholic chapel at Kennedy Airport in NYC, and he asked us to play for Midnight mass Christmas Eve about 1968. We did, though one point Steve whispered that we were veering close to Light My Fire instead of Silent Night or whatever song we were supposed to be playing. That too was about fifty years ago....memorable in different way.
[Sunday Focus is a regular feature of www.timlennox.com, celebrating a 10th anniversary this Fall.]