The Doors – An American Prayer – 1978 – Elektra / Asylum

The Doors - An American Prayer - 1978 - Elektra / Asylum

Back in the early 90s I spent forever trying to find a copy of this record. These days it’s easy to buy on CD but back then it was an effort to find it at all on tape, vinyl or whatever. It took me about 3 years to track down a copy. I’m glad I did. I bought mine from Ashwoods for $4. Ashwoods was an amazing store. The shop first opened in 1932. I had heard that their name derived from a contraction of Ashfield and Burwood. It used to be situated between the two suburbs apparently. The location where most people remember it from was near Central Station on Pitt Street. I used to go there at least once but often twice a week. Sometimes I’d look through every record in the store which was a huge undertaking. Nothing was in much order and there were thousands and thousands of records. There was a second story too with more records. It would take hours to look through everything. I had a real gold miner mentality back then. Anyway, back to an American Prayer. 3 years of searching paid off. I love this record. I got one that had the fold out cover with lyrics and pictures. Apparently they’re worth quite a bit now. I wouldn’t know and I’m not planning to sell it so it doesn’t make any difference to me. It is the last album that the Doors made and it consisted of Jim Morrison reading his poetry, stories and dialogue and the rest of the band playing music over the top of that. Jim’s bit was recorded back in 1969 and 1970. The rest of the Doors recorded music for it in 1978. It works beautifully. I love the cinematic feel of it. It’s like you’re watching a movie and it’s a much better film than Oliver Stone’s biopic of the band (and I’m not trying to put down the film with this statement). It captures a fleeting impression of Jim albiet through the masks of various characters. It’s a record that divides people though. Some really dislike it. Apparently Morrison had planned to have film composer Lalo Schifrin provide music for his recordings. That could have been really great. I have a bootleg on tape of just Jim reading from the same recording sessions. It is interesting to hear and it works quite well without music over the speaking. That bootleg also includes Jim playing piano and singing Orange County Suite which later had overdubs done by the remaining Doors and was released as a bonus track on a re-issue of L.A. Woman. It would have been interesting to see what Jim Morrison would have done had he lived longer. But that is a question that always lingers when an artist dies young.

Leonard Cohen – Songs of Love and Hate – 1971 – Columbia Records

Leonard Cohen - Songs of Love and Hate - 1971 - Columbia Records

I was about 16 when I first stuck the needle in the groove on this record and heard Avalanche and it was like, well, I’ve felt this before but no song has ever made me feel this. That was a great moment. It was the first time I’d heard Leonard Cohen. This was the first record of his that I owned. You’ve got to remember that growing up in the 80s there was no internet and not many people had CD players for a while (and CDs were really terrible back then anyway) so everything was either cassette, which was crap, or it was vinyl which was great, sort of… The sort of was because, you see, it cost a lot more to press a record than to make a compact disc so back then record stores mainly just had top 40 stuff and a just a few other things (not like now when you walk in and it’s pretty easy to find a lot of stuff you’re looking for) plus I was a teenager and didn’t have much disposable income. You could order stuff in but, hey, that cost money (plus 80s pressings of things tended to be pretty poor anyway compared to earlier pressings, the grooves didn’t seem as deep so they skipped a lot plus the cover art was normally not as well printed as earlier editions). So, I bought 95% of my records secondhand at record stores like Ashwoods on Pitt Street and at op shops like St Vincents. It meant that I’d read about someone’s work and think, hey, that sounds interesting, and then I’d search for their records (along with records by a whole lot of other bands I wanted to hear) and maybe 6 months, a year later I’d find some. I bought Songs of Love and Hate from North Rocks deaf and blind school markets for about 2 bucks. I didn’t know what to expect… It hit me quite hard… in a good way. A lot of my friends at high school thought he was crap and softly derided me for liking him though I showed my friend Paul Gregoire this record within a week of getting it and like me he’d never heard Leonard before and he understood it right away and had a very similar reaction. It was nice to know that someone understood. Those friends who derided me for liking Leonard Cohen soon were to sing his praises. I think the Natural Born Killers soundtrack plus Jeff Buckley’s version of Hallelujah altered their thinking on the matter. Funny that.