1960s Rock Rarities Yet to Be Reissued: What’s Left?

Sometimes it seems like everything’s been reissued on CD, even those rare Dutch-only B-sides, tracks from stray French EPs, and live Japanese albums. Some cuts you might think you’ve never seen on reissues turn up in odd places if you look hard enough. Steve Miller’s early non-LP single “Sittin’ in Circles” is a bonus track on a UK 2012 CD reissue of his Children of the Future album; Bob Dylan’s live Liverpool 1966 B-side version of “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” was on the Japan/New Zealand/Australia-only 1978 triple LP Masterpieces (and then part of the mammoth recent box The 1966 Live Recordings); the Grateful Dead’s short 1968 single version of “Dark Star” is on the box The Golden Road (1965-1973)as a hidden bonus track on the Live/Dead disc (and then part of the various-artists box Love Is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets1965-1970). Joni Mitchell’s non-LP 1972 B-side “Urge for Going” is on her 1996 compilation Hits, even though it wasn’t one. 

It gets goofier than that in some cases. The instrumental “Waltz for a Pig” was used as a B-side for the Who’s “Substitute” in 1966, though the UK release credited it to “the Who Orchestra” since it wasn’t actually the Who. (Short explanation: the Who could not record until a court case with producer Shel Talmy had been settled.) It did come out in 2012 on CD — but not on a Who CD. Instead, it was on the Graham Bond Organization box set Wade in the Water. That’s because the Who Orchestra were a pseudonym for Graham Bond’s group, who cut the quite good soul-jazz-rock instrumental with Ginger Baker (now credited as the composer) on drums. Even before that, it had made it onto the 1968 Japanese LP compilation Exciting the Who. Got all that?

And of course there have been vaults full of previously unreleased material, sometimes enough to fill box sets, as my previous posts on expanded editions have noted. Is there anything left, even if you limit yourself mostly to the 1960s, the era in which I’m most expert?

Statistically, most vinyl releases have never been reissued on CD. You might find that hard to believe when you struggle to find enough shelf space for your compact discs. But keep in mind that most records don’t sell very well, and many of them — maybe most — aren’t very good. Yet even leaving aside the countless acts who only made one or two singles not worth bothering about, are there any — let alone many — officially released tracks by ‘60s notables that have seldom or never been reissued?

Even casting aside marginally different stereo/mono issues and mixes, there are still a good number of such items. Why they’ve rarely or never been cleared for reissue is usually a mystery the likes of us mere fans aren’t given clues to, leaving the motives of the labels and/or artists up for speculation.  On occasion it’s pretty apparent why a certain cut isn’t available; sometimes it’s widely rumored an artist is ashamed of the music and blocking its re-release; and other times, the reasoning is inexplicable. 

In the post, I’ll go through a dozen or so of my favorite examples. No doubt readers know about some that haven’t come to mind, or just aren’t tracks I care about much. It’s entirely possible that some of these have actually been reissued on discs I’m not aware of, in which cases corrections are gratefully received. 

Bob Seger, “2+2+?” (Capitol 45 version).The original version of this oddly titled tune, as heard on a 1968 Capitol single, has never been reissued in any format as far as I know. That’s a crime, as it’s not only Seger’s greatest recording, but also one of the rawest, most powerful anti-war rockers of all.

But wasn’t that on his Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man LP, you’re asking — an album that’s pretty easy to find used and cheap? Yes, but the seven-inch version simply destroys the tamer LP counterpart. And that’s not just collector talk that builds up cuts for their sheer rarity. The single has a searing intensity that couldn’t be matched, making the rationale behind a fairly limp album variation a mystery of its own.

Seger, as many of you likely know, seems to take an inordinate lack of pride in his earliest sides, though these are precisely the ones that will appeal most to garage rock enthusiasts. It was enough of a surprise that approval was finally granted for a CD compilation of his 1966-67 singles on ABKCO last year (the heartily recommended Heavy Music). What’s blocking the original 45 take of “2+2=?” is uncertain, not to mention unfathomable.

Update: So after all that grandstanding with my pick to lead off this list, soon after posting it, a reader informed me the Capitol 45 version was reissued a couple years ago as a vinyl seven-inch by Third Man Records. Backed by “Ivory,” it’s out of stock at the moment. Yet it might not be the exact same version as you hear on the original single. As another reader wrote, “The 45cat.com site says this this Third Man reissue is in stereo and not the original mono 45 mix.”

Them, “Little Girl” (uncensored version). For decades, it was impossible to collect all of Them’s terrific output with Van Morrison in one place. The three-CD The Complete Them 1964-1967 seemed to finally take care of that — but not quite. For it doesn’t have the notorious alternate version of “Little Girl” (only issued on the first pressing of the obscure 14 various-artists UK charity compilation LP) on which Van yelps an obscenity on the fade. Not just any obscenity a la “damn,” mind you, but the f-word, enunciated clearly enough to leave little doubt as to what Morrison had in mind. Like many of Them’s early efforts, “Little Girl” was an outstanding gritty R&B/rocker—but to hear this variant, you’ll have to resort to bootlegs, unless you can track down a rare first pressing of that 14 LP.

The Stone Poneys, “So Fine”/”Everybody Has Their Own Ideas” and “Carnival Bear.” Linda Ronstadt became a superstar, and even everything by her first group, who only had one hit, has been reissued—and available on CD for a long time. Well, not quite. Again, even Ronstadt fans might not know that before doing three albums for Capitol, the Stone Poneys issued a 1966 single on the small Sidewalk label. Maybe Ronstadt has veto power over whether it gets on compilations, but as her first outing on disc, it makes for an odd omission from her in-print discography.

Of course, like many such hard-to-hear scarcities, it’s not that great, the A-side being a routine cover of the big late-’50s doo wop hit by the Fiestas. The B-side, written by Stone Poney Bob Kimmel, is a little more interesting, as a minor-keyed just-about-folk-rocker that’s a little reminiscent of some efforts in the same direction by Bay Area groups with male-female vocals, like We Five and the Mojo Men.

Oddly, that’s not it for MIA Stone Poneys tracks. “Carnival Bear,” the B-side of their flop 1968 single “Up to My Neck in High Muddy Water” (credited to Linda Ronstadt & the Stone Poneys), has never been reissued either. It’s not that great — in fact, it’s kind of a weird fusion of baroque pop-rock, wistful country, and (in the later section) rather histrionic operatic vocals. I’ve never heard of the composer, non-Stone Poney Chris Howard, who has few credits to his discography. As a bonus should you track down the rare 45, it comes in a picture sleeve that looks like a different shot from the same session that generated the photo on the cover of Linda Ronstadt, Stone Poneys & Friends’ Vol. III LP.

Much better than the aforementioned rarities, incidentally, is the early-’70s non-LP solo Ronstadt B-side “She’s a Very Lovely Woman,” a gender-adjusted cover of the Emitt Rhodes-composed Merry Go Round classic “You’re a Very Lovely Woman.” She even performed it on TV on Andy Williams and Johnny Cash’s shows. This has been reissued once, however, as a bonus track on the 2009 Australian CD two-for-one-disc reissue of her first two solo albums, Hand Sown…Home Grown and Silk Purse (on the Raven label).

Francoise Hardy, “The Bells of Avignon.” Tucked away on a 1970 non-LP UK B-side few Françoise fans have even heard is “The Bells of Avignon,” sung in English and penned by British composer Tony Macaulay. His resume included the Foundations’ “Build Me Up Buttercup,” Edison Lighthouse’s “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes),” Long John Baldry’s “Let the Heartaches Begin,” Scott Walker’s “Lights of Cincinnati,” and the Hollies’ “Sorry Suzanne.”

Cheerier than Hardy’s usual wont, it’s a pleasant enough lyrical jog through memories of the French town honored by the title. It’s kind of hard to picture Hardy as an on-the-road rambler, but that’s the role she takes here, Macaulay making reasonably catchy use of periodic bends into more bittersweet melody. It’s sort of neat how the bridge is quite different from the verses, going into a more uplifting, hopeful, yet yearning mood as she anxiously anticipates a reunion with the Avignon boy she left behind.

As far as I know, “The Bells of Avignon” has never been reissued, making it one of the prime Hardy rarities. It’s not even on the recent 24-track Ace compilation of many of her late-’60s/early-’70s English-language recordings (Midnight Blues: Paris London 1968-1972), an omission that’s odd indeed. It could be argued that Hardy isn’t a notable ‘60s artist to most English-speaking audiences—a superstar in France, she had only sporadic UK success and virtually none in the US. But when someone’s memoir is translated into English and issued by an American publisher, as hers was last year, it could be argued that she’s now risen above cult status Stateside.

Melanie, “Beautiful People”/”God’s Only Daughter” and “Garden in the City”/”Why Didn’t My Mother Tell Me” (1967-68 Columbia singles). To repeat another “even fill-in-the-blank fans don’t know” citation, even many committed Melanie fans don’t know she did a couple singles for Columbia before her debut LP for Buddah. What’s more, the earlier of them has the original version of one of the more popular songs from her early career, “Beautiful People.” Why haven’t these been reissued? Maybe there just wasn’t an obvious place for them, if she only put out four Columbia tracks (and though I like Melanie, I don’t see a four-song EP of her Columbia work as a likely Record Store Day release in the near future). Melanie might want them buried if she has a say in the matter, as she didn’t find her short stay at Columbia a pleasant experience, balking at the poppier direction Clive Davis tried to push her toward.

While this pair of 45s isn’t terrific, they’re okay. “Beautiful People” has an expectedly poppier arrangement than the Buddah remake, though not hugely so. She’d also remake its B-side, “God’s Only Daughter,” for Buddah, and make “Garden in the City” the title track of a 1972 LP, though its B-side, “Why Didn’t My Mother Tell Me,” doesn’t seem to have been revisited elsewhere. Both of the singles, by the way, were arranged by John Abbott, whose most famous credit was Dion’s “Abraham, Martin & John,” and is also of note for working on the sole LP by Montage, the interesting late-’60s baroque-pop-rock group masterminded by former Left Banke mainman Michael Brown.

One good home for these two Melanie singles would be on a release that combined them with some solo acoustic demos from the same period that have surfaced online, albeit from a scratchy acetate. Also added could be obscure pre-debut LP songs she wrote that were covered by the mysterious “Mommy” (either a solo woman artist or a female group) on the 1967 single “Sad Song”/”Love in My Mind,” the latter of which Melanie recorded for her 1972 album Garden in the City. But such a compilation seems unlikely to be assembled in the near future, both because of possible licensing difficulties and an unfortunate lack of industry interest.

Tim Hardin, “Lenny’s Song” (original solo piano version, on 1966 compilation LP Why Did Lenny Bruce Die). “Lenny’s Song” was arguably the finest song Tim Hardin wrote after his first two albums. It appeared on his Live in Concert album, recorded at New York’s Town Hall on April 10, 1968. An arguably more memorable version had appeared back in late 1967, as “Eulogy to Lenny Bruce,” on Nico’s solo debut LP, Chelsea Girl. Few are aware that Hardin had released a yet earlier performance of his composition on the compilation album Why Did Lenny Bruce Die, issued shortly after Bruce’s August 1966 death. While it’s fairly bare compared to the full-band Live in Concert take, it’s an affecting, heartfelt solo piano rendition.

Most of Why Did Lenny Bruce Die is a sort of interview/sound collage tribute to the comedian, and in fact there’s a voiceover narration about Bruce (not by Hardin, I’m pretty sure) for the first minute or so of “Lenny’s Song” as a piano plays in the background. Still, it seems a place should have been found for this as a bonus track on some CD reissue or another. With its failure to appear on Hang on to a Dream: The Verve Recordings, or the Australian two-fer CD of his first two LPs, orthe CD reissue of Live in Concert(all of which have bonus cuts), it seems unlikely it’ll get picked up in the future, possibly because its appearance on the Probe label presents licensing difficulties.

Judy Collins, tracks on Folk Festival at the Exodus and 1960 Folk Festival at the Exodus LPsBefore signing to Elektra Records, the label she spent many years with as a folk and then pop star, Collins had a few tracks on a couple rare local compilation albums, 1959’s Folk Festival at the Exodus and the following year’s similarly titled 1960 Folk Festival at the Exodus. Both were recorded in Denver’s most popular folk club, the Exodus. They’re so rare, in fact, that I still haven’t heard them. I’ve only even seen them a couple times, once in a huge collection of a big collector, and then just late last year as part of an exhibit at the Colorado  Music Hall of Fame. The Collins tracks on these LPs have never been reissued, to my knowledge, let alone the albums themselves. When I interviewed her for the liner notes of some CD reissues in 2010, she casually agreed with me that it would be a good idea to make them available again, but I don’t know if she has any official power to do so.

Save the Children: Songs From the Hearts of Women album. Speaking of Collins, she (with Ethel Raim Dunson) produced and coordinated this rare May 1967 compilation LP. As it was on the Women Strike for Peace label, I’m guessing it might have been intended to raise money for anti-war movements, maybe specifically the movement protesting US involvement in the Vietnam War. Her one solo track was Jacques Brel’s “La Colombe,” in a different, longer, French-language recording (albeit with a spoken English introduction) than the English one that was on her In My Life album. Collins also dueted with Joan Baez on Pete Seeger’s “Oh, I Had a Golden Thread” and sang Donovan’s “Legend of a Girl Child Linda” with Baez and Joan’s sister, Mimi Fariña. I think “Legend of a Girl Child Linda” is the only track that’s been reissued (on Baez’s Rare, Live & Classic box, where it’s erroneously annotated as “previously unreleased”).

Most of the other artists on the album are noted women folkies and folk-rockers, including Odetta, Buffy Sainte-Marie (I think her version of “Universal Soldier” here is different from the familiar original one she recorded for Vanguard Records), Malvina Reynolds, Janis Ian (again I think her “Janey’s Blues” here is different from the one on her debut LP), Barbara Dane (doing Dylan’s “Masters of War”), and Hedy West. As the catalog number was W-001, this was likely the Women Strike for Peace label’s first release; I think it was also its only one.

I only saw this album once, in a private collection, and only heard a little of it. I’m pretty sure all the songs the artists had previously recorded are presented here in unique versions done specifically for this LP, though I can’t confirm that without hearing the disc. It seems odd this has never been reissued considering how well known most of the performers are; maybe there is a rights issue involved. 

And now for a paragraph of side note trivia: Co-producer/co-coordinator Ethel Raim Dunson, under the name Ethel Raim, co-edited (with Josh Dunson) the 1973 book Anthology of American Folk Music. It transcribed recorded performances from the Folkways 1952 compilation of the same name, which is regarded as perhaps the first important reissue of early folk tracks, helping fuel the folk revival. (The book also includes interviews with Folkways head Moe Asch and early country music A&R man Frank Walker.) I’m guessing Raim was related to Walter Raim, who plays banjo and twelve-string guitar on some tracks on Collins’s outstanding 1963 album #3. Walter Raim, in fact, plays guitar on Collins’s pre-Byrds version of Pete Seeger’s “Turn! Turn! Turn!”; though it had often been assumed the guitar had been played by a pre-Byrds Roger McGuinn, McGuinn later clarified he was ill with the flu when the song was cut, and Raim played on the track.

Dino Valenti, “Don’t Let It Down.” Known mostly as the composer of the hippie anthem “Get Together” and as frequent lead singer/songwriter for the early-’70s Quicksilver Messenger Service, Valenti was one of the first folkies to try going electric, if rather gingerly. “Don’t Let It Down,” a rare 1964 Elektra single (probably from pretty late that year), isn’t so much folk-rock as somewhat awkward bluesy rock with harpsichord (by Leon Russell) and pop-soul backup vocals. It’s not that great, but historically interesting. Also not that great, and yet more historically interesting, is the B-side ballad “Birdses,” as it helped inspire the name taken by a group that fused folk and rock far more memorably, the Byrds.

“Birdses” finally did find official release in 2006 on the five-CD box Forever Changing: The Golden Age of Elektra Records 1963-1973. The failure of “Don’t Let It Down” to get reissued is vexing, especially as two Valenti outtakes from the period showed up way back in 1970 on the Early L.A. compilation.

The Byrds, “Don’t Make Waves” (soundtrack version). As the non-LP B-side to the not-quite-hit-single “Have You Seen Her Face,” “Don’t Make Waves” was one of the least essential songs the Byrds released during their classic 1965-67 David Crosby era. It’s a real basic Roger McGuinn-Chris Hillman composition, serving as the theme song for an obscure 1967 film of the same name, though it has characteristically nice Byrds harmonies. And it has, some of you Byrdsmaniacs are already declaring, been reissued as a bonus track on the expanded CD of their Younger Than Yesterday album. 

Yes, but actually the version on the Don’t Make Waves soundtrack LP is different. And kind of weird, too — the vocals have a hollow reverb, almost as though they’re singing to the backing track in an empty hallway. Michael Clarke’s had his share of criticism as a drummer, and though it’s usually unfounded and his work is usually serviceable enough, here it’s kind of overdone bashing. It sounds like a demo that got used by accident, or was maybe rushed over to the film’s producers when they needed something before it could get relatively polished in the studio, the vocals seeming to lose some heart near the finish. McGuinn goes into a neat twelve-string figure at the very end, but even that gets botched by the production, which fades it out as soon as it starts.

If this is such a mediocre recording, some might hold the attitude that it’s better off left unreissued. But the Byrds were one of the greatest bands of the time, and it would be good to have everything they did available, including their relatively few misfires. Maybe it couldn’t be licensed for their standard catalog since it appeared on a soundtrack LP for MGM Records, and not on their usual label, Columbia.

Buffalo Springfield, “Bluebird” (long version). On Los Angeles-area FM radio station KPPC, DJ B. Mitchell Reed made a nine-minute version of Buffalo Springfield’s classic “Bluebird” an underground airplay hit of sorts. As early as 1970, it was reported that Atlantic Records was preparing an album of unissued Buffalo Springfield that would include this extended version. And it did appear on the 1973 double LP compilation Buffalo Springfield. But it hasn’t been issued anywhere else, even on the 2001 Buffalo Springfield Box Set, which had about three dozen outtakes. Maybe the band don’t want it made available, though the 1973 double LP is findable with some effort (and has some very good liner notes in its gatefold). 

The nine-minute version is twice as long as the common one that was on their second album, Buffalo Springfield Again, in 1967. Is it twice as good? No. Most of the extra length is taken up by a rather ordinary instrumental jam, and it’s missing the neat coda where the drums drop out, the tempo slows, and a banjo comes to the fore. (A slightly longer one, adding half a minute and taken from acetate, has circulated unofficially.)

Update: just hours after this post went up, Stephen Abbate noted that the long version of “Bluebird” also appears, of all places, on the 1974 Warner Special Products various=artists double LP Heavy Metal: 24 Electrifying Performances. There it keeps company with such early headbangers as Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man,” the MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams,” and Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water,” along with decidedly non-metallic cuts like Van Morrison’s “Domino” and Dr. John’s “Right Place, Wrong Time.” Who knew?

And now, a few honorable mentions to tracks that have been reissued, but on releases that even big fans of the artists might have missed:

Pink Floyd, “Interstellar Overdrive” (1966 version for San Francisco film soundtrack). Probably recorded around late 1966, this hyper-jittery fifteen-minute version of the classic early Pink Floyd instrumental (with extended dramatic drawn-out ending) isn’t just exciting on its own terms. It’s also historically important as one of the very first acceptable-fidelity recordings of the band. It was used as the soundtrack to Anthony Stern’s experimental 1968 film short San Francisco, which is worth seeing for its lightning jump cuts and psychedelic jumble of barely-recognizable San Francisco images, though even some Floyd fans might find it too avant-garde for comfort.

I was surprised that Pink Floyd’s huge 2016 box The Early Years 1965-1972—which included a trunkful of rarities ranging from non-LP singles to soundtracks, outtakes, live performances, and a wealth of film footage—did not include this early version. I referred to it as a previously unreleased version when I reviewed the box set for Flashback magazine and criticized its omission. But even if you also noticed its absence, you might have missed its official release just a few months later on a one-sided single for Record Store Day. As I did, though I already had the track (and the film) on unofficial releases.

The Record Store Day single won’t be too easy to come by, even if it was pressed in a run of 4000, as Floyd’s fans ensured the limited edition would quickly move copies. It’s still too bad no room was made on the box — or on any official DVD or Blu-ray, to my knowledge — for the San Francisco film.

Technically some hard-liners might say this item doesn’t quality for this list, since a track officially unavailable on disc until 2017 can’t said to have been unreissued. It was, however, heard on the soundtrack of a film that was screened starting in 1968, so I’ll be lenient with boundaries here.

The Rolling Stones, “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man” (long version). Looking for a rare variant by a major band that’s more significant than adding a tambourine beat? They don’t come much more major than the Rolling Stones, but even major Stones fans might have missed this slightly longer version of the B-side of “Satisfaction.” And it’s well worth hearing as (a la Them’s alternate “Little Girl”) another early example of Decca Records apparently censoring one of its best acts. On the extended tag, this long version has Mick Jagger offering a few more wicked imitations of the song’s subject: “I have two clerks…I break my ass every day…here comes the bus…uh-oh…I thought I had a dime…where’s my dime?…I know I got a dime here somewhere…I’m so sharp, you won’t believe how sharp I really am, don’t laugh at me!”

As bold language goes, “I break my ass every day” is several, if not many, rungs below Van Morrison exclaiming the f-word. Still, that’s probably the reason a shorter, ass-less version was substituted after the longer one appeared, according to Martin Elliott’s The Rolling Stones Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2012, “on very early pressings of the UK and US Out of Our Heads album.” It did appear on the 1989 box The Rolling Stones Singles Collection: The London Years, though that’s a hefty price to pay if you just want those additional fifteen seconds or so.

A much more notorious Stones track also came out on an official reissue box, though so briefly that even many Stones completists didn’t catch it. Given to Decca as an up-yours when they needed to give the label one final track as a requirement to wrapping up their contract, the 1970 outtake “Cocksucker Blues” was obviously unreleasable. That wasn’t just because of the title (later used as the title of Robert Frank’s controversial unofficially released documentary of their 1972 US tour). The song itself, performed solo by Jagger on acoustic guitar, is a harrowing and explicit first-person account of gay male prostitution. Yet it somehow slipped out as a bonus single with Decca’s 1983 German box set The Rest of the Best, though it was discontinued shortly afterward. Even one of the world’s top rock memorabilia/record dealers was unaware of this until I brought it to his attention a couple months ago.

Peter, Paul & Mary,If You Love Your Country.” No, Peter, Paul & Mary aren’t a hip name to toss around these days, even if they did sell tons more records than your Stooges and Beefhearts. Which might seem to make calling this rarity their best late-’60s recording highly relative. But it is a haunting number, and just about folk-rock, with a ghostly organ. The reason it’s so rare? It was recorded for a single in support of Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 presidential campaign that was commercially unavailable, but distributed free of charge at Democratic campaign centers. Even big PPM fans are mostly unaware of this 45, which to my knowledge has been reissued just once — on the massive (13-CD) German box set Next Stop Is Vietnam: The War on Record: 1961-2008. Which means it’s hardly any more known to the general public now than it ever was.

Have some of the tracks listed in this post come out on reissues I’ve missed? Are there notable unreissued ones from this era that are also worthy of mention? Feel free to pitch in with the comments section — more information’s always welcome.

In Qualified Criticism of Expanded Editions

How do you put together an ideal version of an expanded edition of an album? No one’s really done it, if that means including every last damn thing available, and somehow making the whole thing a great listen end-to-end, without cuts that are primarily of historical interest. I detailed some of my favorite expanded editions in my previous post.

It’s easier, it seems, to pinpoint what you shouldn’t do on an expanded edition, because so many of them are flawed, in quite a few different ways. Examples could fill up a lot of posts, especially if you included records whose actual core albums I don’t care about a lot. I’m noting a few here by way of illustration, but they have plenty of company.

Combine the classic album with a recent re-recording of the same material. Fans really do want to hear bonus music from the same era in which the core album was recorded, not remakes done years (sometimes many years) later. Case in point: the two-CD expanded edition of Patti Smith’s Horses had a bonus disc of a live performance of the album from 2005 (with a cover of “My Generation” thrown in at the end), thirty years after the original LP came out. (We’re not even getting into the many expanded editions that mostly feature material from the era, but add on just a few recent recordings or re-recordings of little interest.)

It’s all the more galling considering that one of the best bootlegs of all time—her live concert at the Roxy in Los Angeles on January 30, 1976, which has long been available unofficially (most famously under the title Teenage Perversity and Ships in the Night)—would have made a much more exciting and suitable companion disc. Fidelity isn’t a roadblock; it was broadcast on FM radio, part of the reason it made the bootleg rounds so extensively and quickly in the first place.

teenage

A previous expanded edition of Horses was about as meager as it gets, adding just one track, a live version of “My Generation” from 1976 (recorded just a few days before the Roxy broadcast, which also included “My Generation”). Maybe her pre-Horses single, “Hey Joe”/“Piss Factory,” is unavailable for contractual reasons, but that would also seem like a logical addition to such an edition.

HeyJoe

Keep expanding your expanded edition — putting out not just two expanded editions, but even three. Hardcore fans are the lifeblood of the catalog part of the music industry, and the foundation of a legacy act’s base, especially if they’re continuing to tour. It was already a lot to ask of them to buy the classic albums they already owned again at the dawn of the CD era, the rationale being improved sound quality and durability (though those benefits have been questioned).

It’s yet more to ask of them to buy another CD with the same music they already now own on compact disc, with some extra material. It’s quite a bit more to ask them to buy a CD based around the album a third time, and verging on an insult when the expanded-plus-one (or two) edition doesn’t come out long after the previous one.

This has happened quite often in the reissue world, but here are a couple illustrations. The Who’s Live at Leeds came out with eight bonus tracks in 1995, pushing the running time to 77 minutes, almost as much as a single CD can fit. That seemed like a good deal, but then it was superseded by a two-CD edition in 2001 that also included a whole disc of Tommy songs from the same show. And then almost ten years later, the fortieth anniversary edition blew it up to four discs, adding their show from Hull the following evening (February 15, 1970). And hey, the 2014 deluxe edition digital release has some additional dialog between songs, as well as longer versions of some of the songs themselves.

THE_WHO_LIVE+AT+LEEDS+-+ULTIMATE+COLLECTORS+EDITION-523147

It could be argued that the Who and their label(s) were to some degree responding to a changing marketplace that both made bigger editions more viable, and also made them more necessary as the reservoir of vault material as a whole sank lower. Love’s Forever Changes, however, has been through multiple editions that, unlike Live at Leeds, don’t add nearly as much additional material as the years go on.

The 2001 edition added seven bonus tracks—none of them exactly revelatory, devoted to a non-LP single not on par with the album and some outtakes/alternates that weren’t too notable. Still, good to have if you’re a fan. But if you wanted everything good to have, you also had to get the two-CD “Collector’s Edition” in 2008, with an “alternate mix” of the album and yet more outtakes/alternates/etc.

Then in 2018, there was a four-CD edition, adding a vinyl LP of the Forever Changes album and a DVD with a hi-end audio version (plus just one actual video clip). Such multi-disc and multi-format combinations are themselves becoming more common in the age of spruced-up expandeds. As for the actual music not found on other editions, this adds relatively little, as three of the four discs are variations of the core album (the stereo, the mono, and, much less usefully, an “alternate mix”). The disc of actual outtakes/demos/non-LP sides has just a bit not on previous editions—a couple barely different 45 versions, and a couple backing tracks.

love

Yes, it does come with a nice LP-sized booklet of liner notes, with plenty of cool illustrations. But more than most productions of this sort, it did seem to mark a point where even some hardcore fans said “enough,” and did not buy this pretty expensive edition, to quote a Bob Dylan song title, the “Fourth Time Around.”

At least these series of Who and Love editions were spread out over a few years. In late 2014, the six-CD super deluxe of the Velvet Underground’s self-titled third album had eleven previously unreleased performances from late 1969 at San Francisco’s Matrix Club, tapes from which had provided the bulk of their classic 1969 Velvet Underground Live double LP. Other previously released Matrix tapes filled out discs five and six of that set. Just a year later, however, the four-CD box The Complete Matrix Tapes made that unreleased material redundant, as it included all of those unreleased cuts.

As I wrote in the expanded ebook edition of my book White Light/White Heat: The Velvet Underground Day-By-Day, “Considering that serious Velvet Underground fans – i.e., almost anyone likely to buy this super deluxe edition – would also want The Complete Matrix Tapes, this [the six-CD expanded The Velvet Underground] really should have been a four-CD set without any Matrix tapes, holding the eleven unissued tracks for the forthcoming Matrix Tapes box. As it is, many purchasers of this large and expensive box are now likely to have well over half of its contents elsewhere – a slap in the face to the very Velvet Underground fanatics that have made exploitation of their catalog possible.”

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Put out different expanded editions that for the most part feature the same material, but leave something off that’s on the other. There are many such items, even including one I praised in my earlier post about good expanded editions. As I noted there, Nico’s The Frozen Borderline—essentially a combination of expanded editions of her The Marble Index and Desertshore LPs—is missing two alternate versions that appear as bonus tracks on the much slimmer 1991 expanded edition of The Marble Index. The Frozen Borderline was otherwise assembled so conscientiously it’s hard to believe no one involved with the project was aware of those other alternates. And there was certainly enough space for those two tracks, since there’s a ten-minute gap of silence near the end of the second disc (more details later in this post).

Here are a couple other projects to pick on. The 1995 single-disc expanded The Who Sell Out had nine bonus tracks, all of them really good stuff as bonuses go. The 2009 two-CD expanded The Who Sell Out had no less than 27 bonus cuts, in addition to stereo and mono versions of the LP. So that must have been definitive, right?

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Not quite. Two pretty good outtakes from the first half of 1968, “Glow Girl” and “Melancholia,” are on the single-disc edition, but not the much larger two-CD one. Maybe it was felt that, as the only tracks postdating 1967, they’re out of place, and they are both available on other Who archive CDs. But it really wouldn’t have displeased many, if any, Who fans to put them on the larger set too.

By the way, it’s a little curious that while the Who’s debut album, My Generation, got a five-CD box treatment—and Tommy, Quadrophenia, and Live at Leeds have all gotten imposing boxes—none was done for The Who Sell Out, even on its 50th anniversary, which would have been a good excuse to knock it out. Certainly it could have been enlarged with some more singles and the numerous demos Pete Townshend was churning out at the time, as he did throughout the Who’s prime.

Another less legendary, but still highly worthwhile and historically notable, album from that era that generated two editions with a lot of overlap was John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers’ A Hard Road, the only LP they recorded with the pre-Fleetwood Mac Peter Green. The 2003 double CD expansion had 22 bonus tracks. These are necessary to get a fuller overview of the Bluesbreakers’ Peter Green era, as they also encompassed numerous non-LP singles, outtakes that only surfaced years later on compilations, and an EP recorded with Paul Butterfield.

The 2006 expanded edition reversed gears and cut the running time to a single disc and 14 bonus tracks, inevitably removing a bunch of stuff from the two-CD version. Yet it also has four songs from a January 23, 1967 BBC session that are not on the double CD. Well hey, at least you get different liner notes with the 2006 edition…

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Put out an expanded edition that’s not very expanded, even when it’s known there’s a lot of good or at least interesting unreleased material from the same era. Lots of discs could be named here, but let’s focus on a very recent one. The 50th anniversary edition of Beggars Banquet had little in the way of extras, even though quite a bit of material the Rolling Stones cut during the sessions has been bootlegged. Instead, you got a package with a vinyl LP; a bonus vinyl disc with an original mono mix of “Sympathy for the Devil”; and a flexidisc with a telephone interview Mick Jagger gave to a Tokyo journalist in April 1968. And no historical liner notes.

Coming out at the same time as much more substantial 50th anniversary editions for The White Album, Electric Ladyland, and even The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, it looked pretty paltry in comparison. But hey, at least it had both the original banned “toilet graffiti” cover and its clean white “invitation” replacement.

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Why aren’t the Rolling Stones getting aboard the super deluxe box train, when even the Beatles have finally embraced it with zeal? I read speculation that the outtakes were not made available for legal reasons, and while specifics weren’t given, at a guess maybe it has something to do with the rights to songs written by Mick Jagger-Keith Richard (and for that matter Bill Wyman) that haven’t previously been released in any form. If that’s the case, it’s too bad, though you can suffer with the hissy quality of the unreleased material on bootlegs in the meantime. If a legal dispute’s holding it up, the big losers are the fans.

Put a note promising yet more extra material on a website or download that never goes up, or is never made available. Like some other Who albums, Quadrophenia has been issued in a super deluxe edition guaranteed to relieve you of your paycheck faster than Whole Foods’ shopping cart. This five-CD extravaganza includes the original album; 25 Townshend solo demos which illustrate how meticulously he sketched out the material, also including a few songs that didn’t make the album, though these are weaker and more ill-fitting for the opera than the ones that were selected; a disc of 5.1 SurroundSound mixes of eight (and just eight) of the album’s seventeen tracks; a seven-inch vinyl single of “5:15” and the non-LP B-side “Water”; a 100-page hardback book with an essay by Pete Townshend, illustrated with rare photos and documents; and assorted other memorabilia.

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So far so good, pretty much. The extras aren’t so great that you’d nominate this as one of the best expanded editions, but certainly there’s a lot of bonus material, if of variable value. But there’s a glitch in those extras, if one seldom commented upon, even by Who fanatics.

Though the book promises an online area of yet additional bonus content via “Q-Cloud,” the link provided to access it simply brings you to a “not found” page. I hadn’t tried it for a few years, but I just tried it again, and it coughs up the same result. It’s an unconscionable rip-off that, if nothing else, is in keeping with Pete Townshend’s failure to finish off some of his most ambitious ‘70s projects, the early-‘70s album/movie Lifehouse being the most famous of those. 

Bloat the box with new mixes that were never even previously commercially available. This was done on a 50th anniversary edition from 1968 that didn’t get too much attention, at least compared to the likes of The White Album, Electric Ladyland, or even Skip Spence’s Oar (the last of which wasn’t technically a 50th anniversary edition, as that album didn’t come out until 1969, though it was recorded at the end of 1968). The 50th anniversary deluxe of the Moody Blues’ In Search of the Lost Chord had three CDs and two DVDs (one of the DVDs boasting visual content, the other various audio versions of the album). One of the CDs was almost solely devoted to a “new stereo mix” (the “original stereo mix” is featured on a different CD).

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I’m aware some collectors get real enthusiastic about new mixes and 5.1 SurroundSounds (for those who have the hi-end equipment to play them). Maybe some of them would feel I have bad ears, or lack appreciation for the nuances different mixes bring out. But I know I’m not alone in my criticisms of filling up space on expanded editions with these. As one fellow critic, who’s heard and written about an enormous amount of vintage rock, wrote to me recently: “I have no time at all for new remixes and remasters of albums that sounded perfectly fine when they were first released. Why remix a classic Beatles album to make it sound like a modern recording? Of course, we both know that answer to that one: $$$ and £££.”

Put out a bunch of unreleased material that could have been used on an expanded edition for a few hours, or as an edition so extremely limited that it’s sold out before most fans are even aware it’s available. Sometimes this has been done, the usual speculation goes, to extend the copyright on material that’s in danger of going into public domain if it’s not officially released in some fashion. In 2012, Bob Dylan didn’t bother to make a secret of this in the four-CD The Copyright Extension Collection Vol. 1, a four-CDR (not a typo, CDR) compilation of 1962 outtakes and live recordings. Reportedly only 100 copies released, and then only on Europe.

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Naturally these were quickly bootlegged/file-shared, and most Dylan fanatics knew how to get those non-original copies if they wanted. On their own, however, the first two CDs—comprised of studio outtakes—would have made for the logical bonus discs for an expanded edition of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. There are too many multiple versions to make this compulsive over-and-over listening. But there’s some good stuff here, and it’s certainly all of significant historical value, especially since it includes some original compositions and covers that didn’t make the LP.

Dylan and Sony would do this again for the years 1963 and 1964, rather than make at least some of that material widely available on standard expanded editions of his third and fourth albums, The Times They Are A-Changin’ and Another Side of Bob Dylan. It might seem churlish to slam Dylan for these copyright extension exercises when he’s been far more willing than most legends to authorize official reissues of tons of his vault holdings, on the lengthy and still-ongoing Bootleg Series. Still, it would have benefited from both over-the-counter availability and historical liner notes/photos. Sony and Dylan certainly can’t be surprised that it’s been heavily bootlegged/unofficially circulated.

Van Morrison recently super-briefly issued some rare material in a different way. For just a few hours on November 7, a 64-minute live recording of an August 1968 Boston gig, his voice and acoustic guitar backed by just bass and flute, was available on iTunes UK. Although the fidelity’s not great, it’s part of the bridge between “Brown Eyed Girl” and Astral Weeks. Maybe the sound quality isn’t considered good enough for a general release, but it might have made an interesting disc in an expanded edition of the Astral Weeks album. As my lengthy story on the material’s release notes, there are apparently no plans for such a project where Astral Weeks is concerned.

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Hidden bonus tracks. They’re not just an expanded editions, of course. One of the most aggravating was on a box set by a blues performer where the bonus track was not at the end, but at the beginning, requiring you to put your player on rewind so it went back before the start of track 1. My cheap CD player was unable to do that, and there was no refund or replacement conventionally playable disc with the bonus track when I let the label know—not much sympathy at all for my situation, in fact.

Most hidden bonus tracks—meaning songs unlisted in the packaging—are at the end of CDs, not the beginning. Often they’re preceded by a gap of silence, ranging from ten seconds to ten minutes. Which means they’re missed by those of us who are such ignoramuses that we unthinkingly eject the CD when it goes silent, instead of taking care to notice that the clock’s still ticking.

It’s back to Nico’s The Frozen Borderline for a prime example. An alternate version of “Frozen Warnings” at the end of the second disc of plays as an unlisted “hidden” track after a ten-minute gap of silence. I suppose the logic here might be, what a pleasant shock it is to suddenly hear music come out of the speaker after you think the album’s ended, while you’ve gone to wash the dishes or check your email. But such is the harried pace of modern life that plenty of people who’ve paid for the disc might eject it after the music’s over, or they think it’s over, without ever suspecting there’s more to come. Maybe I’ve even missed some hidden tracks myself.

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My advice to record labels: don’t be cute. Don’t even put an unlisted track at the end if there’s no gap of silence. Let people know it’s there; if they’re getting an expanded edition, they do want to hear everything (and know what it is, in the liner notes/annotation). It’s kind of like those DVDs that had “easter eggs” where you couldn’t access unlisted bonus features unless you figured out exactly what to click and hover over—if you even knew the bonus features were there. That seems to have mostly or wholly disappeared from the DVD (and now Blu-ray) business, as it should from expanded music CDs.

In my past couple posts, I’ve praised some extended editions, and harped on a bunch of them whose flaws range from imperfection to downright annoying. Most extended editions, however, fall way between those two extremes. They offer enough extra material to interest committed fans, but not such exciting bonuses that you want to play the add-ons nearly as much as you play (or at least played, back when you had the bare disc) the original album. Again, just a couple examples of middle-value extended editions, which happen to be from the same label, the same era, and the same region:

The two-CD “Legacy Edition” (named after Columbia/Sony’s Legacy imprint, specializing in reissue) of Santana’s self-titled 1969 debut LP more than doubles its length with a couple alternate takes; previously unissued sessions for the original, unreleased album, produced by David Rubinson, including a song (“Fried Neckbones”) that wasn’t cut when the LP was redone from scratch a few months later; and seven songs from their legendary Woodstock set, four previously unreleased. Do I appreciate having this material available? Sure. Have I listened to it a lot? No, and it’s not on the level of the original LP, except for some of the Woodstock set, especially the one that’s long been well known from the festival’s soundtrack album and performance in the Woodstock movie, “Soul Sacrifice.”

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The two-CD Legacy Edition of Janis Joplin’s last album, Pearl, likewise more than doubles the length of the LP with some demos/alternates/outtakes (half previously unreleased) and a live disc of material recorded in mid-1970 during the Festival Express tour in Canada (almost have previously unreleased). Likewise: good to have, I like it when I hear it, I appreciate its historical value. But I haven’t played it too often, and it’s not memorable in the way the Pearl LP is.

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At this point some of you, including some who are actually in the music business and record industry, might be thinking that I’d rather expanded editions weren’t around at all. Or even worse, you might be reconsidering whether the record business should be doing expanded editions at all. No! Don’t stop! I do generally relish that extra material, whether it’s just that stray barely-different alternate take or heaps of demos that are actually revelatory.

Just because the bonuses are rarely on the level of the core albums doesn’t mean they’re not at the very least historically interesting, and at the very most vastly entertaining, to hear. Even the crummy cuts sometimes yield insights into the creative process. The usual gap in quality is an expected testament to the editing skills of the musicians, producers, songwriters, and labels when it came to determining what should be on the finished album.

And if I don’t especially feel the need to get the core albums along with the bonus material, or care too much about the remastered/remixed versions, I’ll end on an upbeat note by praising one of those relatively uncommon instances in which a bunch of extras are packaged on their own. Let’s give a hand to last year’s Big Brother’s Sex, Dope and Cheap Thrills. As I wrote when I put it in the Top Ten of my year-end list:

Not an expanded Cheap Thrills (there was already one of those without much in the way of extras), this two-CD compilation is comprised almost entirely of outtakes from the sessions. Twenty-five of the thirty songs are previously unreleased; the previously available ones are on out-of-the-way or expensive compilations that even committed Joplin/Big Brother fans might have missed; and the one non-studio cut is a good hitherto unissued live version of “Ball and Chain” (Winterland, April 12, 1968).

There are good, though not book-length, liner notes by drummer David Getz, and an appreciation by Grace Slick that’s thoughtful and long enough not to look phoned in. And you can get all this as a standalone release, instead of having to buy it as part of an expanded Cheap Thrills edition that compels you to buy the original album—which you probably already have in at least two formats—all over again. And the double-CD sold for a reasonable $14.98 plus tax at my local record store. Hey, labels (and artists), pay attention: this is the way to do it!

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In Qualified Praise of Expanded Editions

As I wrote in my December 31, 2018 post listing my favorite reissues of 2018, expanded editions of classic, or even not-so-classic, albums are a growing presence in the record industry. At this point, in fact, it seems like almost every vintage rock act has an expanded edition of some sort in their catalog. At the extreme end of the scale, it can run to huge, and hugely expensive, multi-disc sets, like the recent seven-disc White Album box or, on a more cult level, the seven-disc set box for the Stooges’ Fun House. At the chintizest end, it can mean just one additional marginally different alternate take, or one B-side.

My pick for the #1 reissue of 2018.

The seven-disc expanded edition of The White Album.

While the biggest boxes tend to go to very popular acts, that’s not a hard and fast rule, with many cult artists getting the very extended treatment. Besides the Stooges, for instance, the entire Velvet Underground catalog has been granted expanded editions, some of them running between four and six CDs. Even artists who neither sold that much nor have much left in the vault get spruced-up single CDs, like late-‘60s Elektra groups Clear Light and Eclection. And Skip Spence’s Oar, supposedly one of the lowest-selling major label LPs of the late 1960s, was recently honored with a three-CD edition—perhaps the unlikeliest huge expansion of an album to date, though it’ll no doubt be outpaced by an even more obscure record in the future.

What makes for a really good extended edition? Ideally, it should hit all or at least some of the following bases:

Additional material, whether studio outtakes/B-sides/rare compilation-only tracks/live recordings, that’s of considerable historical interest/value to enhancing appreciation of the core album;

Additional material that, besides being rare in the manner outlined above, is also very good and enjoyable to listen to, even granting that it’s seldom-to-never going to be as good as the core album it’s embellishing;

Thorough excavation of all the reasonably interesting/quality additional material that can be added to the core album, even if it takes several discs to do so;

Top-notch packaging, particularly in the way of detailed historical liner notes, with fine/rare vintage photos, ads, posters, label/sleeve reproductions, and other memorabilia being useful bonuses.

Some expanded editions come close to hitting this grand slam, but none of them really do. That’s not necessarily the fault of the compilers, labels, or artists. Sometimes every damn last thing is included, but the additional material’s just not massively interesting/enjoyable/notable. Sometimes great unreleased tapes known to exist are not legally available for clearance. Sometimes the artists themselves aren’t cooperating with the project.

I’ll look at some of the notable failures of expanded editions to meet their potential in my next post. But the bulk of this post will be devoted to some of my favorites, and why, in different ways, they meet at least some of the goals to which all such retrospectives should aspire. No doubt some of your favorites will be missing. But keep in mind that it’s a list of personal favorites, not one that ticks off how well the set was mastered and assembled and how its importance is judged by the community of music critics and listeners as a whole, regardless of how much I like the music.

As it happens, two of the best expanded editions came out last year, and took the top two positions on my 2018 reissue list. #2, but #1 as far as ideal expanded editions go, was Liz Phair’s Girly Sound to Guyville. Despite the different title, this is essentially an expanded edition of her 1993 album Exile in Guyville, which occupies disc one of this three-CD set.

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But the real attraction of this release—not a box, just a regular CD-sized package with three discs—are the two CDs of the so-called Girly Sound tapes, which Phair recorded on her own on a four-track in her bedroom. These predate the recording of Exile in Guyville, and include not only different versions of seven Exile songs, but more than thirty others, some (but not many) of which she’d redo for post-Exile albums. These come close to meeting all four of the criteria for the ideal deluxe edition:

Considerable historical importance. This is almost as thorough a document as possible of her evolution before her debut album, both with the different versions of Exile songs but also, even more crucially, the many songs that didn’t make it on there or anywhere. (As to why it’s not completely thorough, see two paragraphs down.) And they’re much different sonically than the Exile material, with their solo lightly-amplified-guitar-and-voice intimacy (though Exile wasn’t gaudy or over-produced).

Extremely high-quality, enjoyable bonus material. I’m not putting detailed reviews of the music for the albums I discuss in this post, and you can read about that aspect of Girly Sound to Guyville in my extensive rundown of the record on my best-of list. But the two discs of home tapes have both very good, sometimes great, songs and good performances, in considerably better sound quality than their bootlegged versions. They are discs I’ve listened to over and over, which is rare for tracks augmenting the core classic album.

Almost everything known to exist was included. Here’s a prime example of how two items are missing, but not through the fault of the artist. Two songs from the Girly Sound tapes, “Fuck or Die” and “Shatter,” that have circulated unofficially are not included. That’s because they incorporate some lyrics from Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line” and the Rolling Stones’ “Shattered,” and couldn’t be cleared for official consumption.

Good packaging and annotation. The fairly fat booklet features extensive interview material with Phair, Exile in Guyville producer/bassist/drummer Brad Wood, Casey Rice (who also plays on Exile in Guyville), and some more obscure figures who helped build awareness of Phair’s work. However, in part because it’s not LP-sized, graphically the booklet’s not as impressive as most expanded edition notes are, with virtually nothing in the way of illustrations. If it’s a choice between good notes/documentation and fluffy/minimal notes filled out with big photos, however, I’ll take the non-augmented notes every time.

To be honest, this really could have been a two-CD set with just Girly Sound material. Almost anyone who gets this already has Exile in Guyville. The conundrum is, though, that if it just had the Girly Sound stuff, it wouldn’t be an expanded edition, and maybe the participants wouldn’t have been as motivated to produce liner notes that were as thorough. The third disc probably didn’t up the price up too much; the CD set was selling for a pretty reasonable $20-25 when it came out, though I wonder if it’s already gone out of print, since it’s already not easy to find new online.

#1 on my 2018 reissue list — but not quite as impressive as Girly Sound to Guyville viewed purely from how it fulfills an extended edition’s mission — was the seven-disc box of the Beatles’ White Album. Three of the seven discs didn’t interest me much — two of them were of a new (and hyped) mix of The White Album itself, and the third a Blu-ray with mono and 5.1 versions. But four were largely comprised of unreleased material, three of them devoted to 1968 studio outtakes (almost all of which hadn’t even been previously bootlegged), and the fourth to demos the group recorded at George Harrison’s house shortly before the White Album sessions started.

More than anything else, that disc of demos—the so-called Esher demos, in honor of the name of Harrison’s home—is what puts this in the top echelon of expanded editions. I’ve written about them at length in my book The Unreleased Beatles: Music and Film, and you can read that section here. But for now, it’s sufficient to note that they’re the most important body of unreleased Beatles material, the 27 acoustic-oriented tracks showing them in an unplugged, loose, and friendly frame of mind. Crucially, it’s also a disc you can play over and over for sheer enjoyment—as I did when most of the demos got bootlegged back in the early 1990s. Now they’re in appreciably better sound quality, and available for all the world to hear, not just us clued-in cats who seek unofficially circulating recordings.

The three discs of studio outtakes have enormous historical value, but aren’t, with maybe a few scattered exceptions, things you’d want to play as often or repeatedly. And it’s not a thorough presentation of everything known to exist—there are so many multiple takes of White Album songs that you’d probably need a car trunk to hold them all on compact disc. (Maybe those will be made available to the public on the 100th anniversary of The White Album, though none of us will be around to hear them at that point.)

There’s also a 164-page hardback book that, a little surprisingly considered how much has already been written about the Beatles, is very good; has a lot of information, intelligently relayed; and has plenty of interesting graphics.

The Beatles were at an advantage when devising a box like this, of course, because they had such a big well of interesting unreleased material from the White Album era to draw upon. That wasn’t the case when they put out the only other deluxe edition produced for a Beatles album, the Sgt. Pepper box, where the outtakes weren’t nearly as numerous or interesting (or as variant from the official versions, as the ones for the White Album sometimes were). Another icon of the era, however, had an even bigger reservoir of unissued material to tap for the next deluxe I’ll cite.

It’s arguable whether Bob Dylan & the Band’s The Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Complete is even an expanded edition. None of it, after all, came out on a “proper” album, if you take that to mean an album released relatively soon after it was recorded. Even the 1975 official compilation of Basement Tapes—issued a good eight years after the tapes were actually taped—isn’t quite the core of this six-CD set. The 1975 Basement Tapes, for one thing, had eight Dylan-less Band songs not on the box, and five of the songs on the 1975 double LP were given overdubs for that release.

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I think it’s safe to guess that these distinctions don’t matter too much to most—maybe even almost every—listener who’s interested in The Basement Tapes. They’ll probably consider The Basement Tapes Complete to be an expanded edition of whatever they have, whether it’s the 1975 double album or the five-CD Genuine Basement Tapes bootleg series. If you’re not disqualifying it, again it scores high in the key categories:

Vast historical interest, as it’s among the most mysterious periods of any major artist’s career, and a rare example of a star recording shed-loads of material during his prime, but not releasing any of it at the time;

A thorough exhumation of the available goods. A few very lo-fi tracks were left off, but it still included a whopping 138, some of which had never even been bootlegged. And the lowest-fi of the tracks were thoughtfully grouped together on one disc. It’s true that the 18-disc collector’s edition of Dylan’s The Bootleg Series Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 1965-1966 outdid this by including every damned last surviving studio take, a disc of hotel room tapes, and MP3 downloads of all his surviving 1965 live performances. That’s not included in this list because it’s not an expanded edition of a particular album, although it’s extensive enough to deserve this honorable mention.

Listenability. To the chagrin of some, I’m not such a huge Bob Dylan fan. And this six-CD anthology of Basement Tapes, I think even Dylan obsessives would admit, is uneven, with a big gap between the best of the material (much of which was chosen for the 1975 double LP) and the numbers that were obviously throwaways or goofs. But it’s pretty listenable overall, if not as compellingly so from start-to-finish as the Girlysound tapes or the Esher demos. You’re likely to listen to this at least a few times all the way through if you buy this in the first place, and some Dylan fanatics will listen to it many times without tiring.

Packaging: a hardback 42-page book of liner notes that, if not as huge as the one with The White Album (or for that matter the books/liner notes that the Bear Family label often includes in its box sets), are very informative. That’s complemented by a 122-page book of vintage photos and memorabilia, much of it quite rare.

While these are the three expanded editions that stand out to me as the class of the field, I’m also citing a few others I like a lot, even if they don’t touch as many bases:

The Moody Blues’ first album, The Magnificent Moodies (in the UK; as usual for those days, in the US, their first LP was similar but somewhat different), was “expanded” into a two-CD job by Esoteric. Basically, it was an excuse to not just add to, or double, the length of the original, but to quadruple it. The Magnificent Moodies was hardly a magnificent album, though it was pretty good as second-line British Invasion LPs went. However, in the era when Denny Laine was their lead singer and (with keyboardist Mike Pinder) writer of their original material, they did a lot of non-LP singles. Some of those were quite good, and all are essential to a fuller version of their pre-psychedelic/prog era, when their forte was haunting R&B/pop.

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The first disc of this modest regular CD-sized package has The Magnificent Moodies and all of their non-LP sides, even adding a rare French EP cut and an early unreleased version of their big hit “Go Now.” The second disc is more in the “good to have” category than the “spin over and over” one, with lots—about thirty, in fact—outtakes and radio sessions, not to mention a Coke commercial.

But it’s a nearly 60-track overview that’s so extensive it would have been unimaginable when it was a struggle just to get all of the Moody Blues’ pre-1967 output in one place. Lots of small-print info and graphics are in the 24-page booklet, and a foldout of press clippings and postcard/ticket-type thingies are thrown in. It’s an example of how to do the best job possible without the big budget and size of a deluxe box. Some would argue that it should also include their two other non-LP singles predating Days of Future Passed (after Laine left), but then those are on—you guessed it—the two-CD expanded Days of Future Passed.

While I don’t want this to turn into a commercial for Esoteric, the same label also huffed and puffed up the self-titled debut album by the Move into an unimaginable size, without sacrificing quality. The thirteen songs of the actual LP comprise a relatively minor part, percentage-wise, of this three-CD, 65-track set. There are also both sides of their first two singles (both big hits in the UK); outtakes; demos and a local Birmingham radio session from January 1966, a good year or so before their first record came out; and an entire disc of January 1967-January 1968 BBC sessions, including a bunch of covers they didn’t put on their studio releases.

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Yes, disc two is dominated by the kind of stereo mixes I find relatively inessential. But again, an info-packed booklet and foldout of press clippings gets the most out of the regular CD-sized format. Esoteric did a similarly bang-up job on a lot of other parts of the Move catalog, by the way; the two-CD Shazam adds about three dozen bonus tracks to an LP that only has six songs (albeit some of which are pretty long). Ditto for Procol Harum’s first album, whose ten tracks are the prelude to 27 bonus ones, even if a few of those are peripheral stereo mixes. We do get into quantity over quality in some respects with these Esoteric editions, but the best extras on all of these are things you want to play, and sometimes play a lot.

ProcolHarum

I’m not as big a fan of Nico’s solo stuff as I am of the early work by the Moody Blues, Move, and Procol Harum. But I like how the two-CD The Frozen Borderline compilation basically puts two substantially expanded editions together. Disc one features her 1968 album The Marble Index, with outtakes, alternates, and demos; disc two features her 1970 album Desertshore with a half dozen demos.

220px-Nico_-_The_Frozen_Borderline

These are close enough in release dates to basically be an overview of her prime as a songwriter (remember she wrote little on her very worthwhile 1967 debut Chelsea Girl), with both albums bearing a heavy influence from John Cale, as both an arranger and instrumentalist. It’s true the Desertshore demos tend to confirm just how important Cale was because they sound so bare compared to how they’d develop after he worked with the material. But that in itself is of pretty vast historical importance, if you’re a Velvet Underground fanatic at any rate.

The LPs came out on different labels (Elektra and Reprise), which often complicates things in the reissue business. But luckily those labels are now administered by the same company, which removes the obstacles from packaging these in tandem. The liners aren’t as imposing as the others on this list, but get the job done with lots of info and first-hand quotes from Cale and others.

How could it have been better? They could have also added material from her BBC broadcasts on John Peel’s program in early 1971, though most people who want The Frozen Borderline would already have those on her Peel Sessions EP, issued almost twenty years before The Frozen Borderline. Much less forgivably, two alternate versions that appear as bonus tracks on the much slimmer 1991 expanded edition of The Marble Index are not on The Frozen Borderline. It’s almost as though they feared making the set a total success.

One of the best expanded editions was of a soundtrack LP, rather than a conventional album statement by one artist. The 2003 two-CD deluxe edition of The Harder They Come pulled off the difficult feat of making a classic album better by more than doubling its length with a second disc of eighteen reggae classics from 1968-1973.

Jimmy-Cliff-The-Harder-They-Come-album-cover-web-optimised-820

In a refreshing counterpoint to the elitism that sometimes governs the selection of such compilations, it included not only additional tracks by artists featured on the original soundtrack (the Maytals, the Melodians), but also some of the first crossover hits to popularize reggae in the US and UK (Desmond Dekker’s “Israelites,” Jimmy Cliff’s “Wonderful World, Beautiful People,” Dave & Ansel Collins’ “Double Barrel”). Although Johnny Nash is sometimes derided as an exploiter/mere popularizer of Bob Marley songs, it also includes his big hit “I Can See Clearly Now,” along with his Marley cover “Guava Jelly.” There’s also Eric Donaldson’s original version of “Cherry Oh Baby,” covered by the Rolling Stones on their Black and Blue album.

Yes, the compilers of this edition had an advantage over most expandeds in being able to pick choice gems from the entire pool of the era’s reggae music, rather than cull leftovers surrounding a core album by one artist. But it’s done very well, also included decent if not huge liner notes.

This was also done, incidentally, for the Easy Rider soundtrack, whose two-CD edition almost triples the length of the original LP release, adding nineteen other late-’60s rock classics (including the Band’s original version of “The Weight, ” which is heard in the film, but couldn’t be used on the original soundtrack LP for contractual reasons). But although it’s a good listen, it really isn’t connected with the film, which itself wasn’t connected with a certain musical style, as The Harder They Come was with reggae.

To round out the releases given qualified praise here to an even ten or so, how about a “shout-out,” as the 21st century terminology demands, to expanded editions that include DVDs/Blu-R=rays as well as music CDs. That’s becoming more common as time goes on, and though it’s usually secondary to the musical portion, there are some real goodies.

Just a few months ago, the expanded edition of Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland also had a DVD documentary about the making of the album (in addition to three CDs, one of them comprised of outtakes/demos, the other of a live 1968 concert at Hollywood Bowl). That documentary was issued a long time ago as part of the Classic Albums series, but the opportunity was taken to add almost forty minutes of extra material. So there you have an occasion where “bonus” material’s added not just to the music, but also to the visuals.

Hendrix

I like how Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water made the second disc a DVD featuring their 1969 TV special Songs of America, which is very interesting; had not been too easy to view; and was quite controversial at the time, mixing music with footage of contentious late-‘60s social turmoil. There’s also a documentary about the making of Bridge Over Troubled Water on the DVD disc.

Too bad, then, that no extra musical tracks are added to the actual album, when there are certainly some other studio and live recordings from the time that were eligible. In fact, a couple were even included when the album was part of the box set The Columbia Studio Recordings 1964-1970. But when it comes to extended editions, you not only can’t have everything—you never have everything.

SGarfTVspecial

But if even some of the best expanded editions have imperfections, some imperfections are more imperfect, and even annoying, than others. My next post discusses what not to do with expanded editions—even though such things are done all too often.

The Doors Are Open

I’ll be teaching a course on the Doors for the first time at the end of this month, and spent a lot of time preparing the material over the last few months. I’ve been a big Doors fan for more than forty years, but of course as I got my class together, I’ve thought a lot more about the group recently than I have for a while.

There’s been an enormous amount written about the Doors. It’s hard to believe there was a time, before the best-selling Jim Morrison biography No One Here Gets Out Alive came out in 1980, that there was no substantial book about them. Still, there are a few aspects of their work that aren’t discussed much. I’ll be going over a half dozen of them here.

1. The bass player(s). Even many casual rock fans know the Doors were unusual in not, with few exceptions, using a bass player onstage. Keyboardist Ray Manzarek is particularly noted for playing the bass parts on a Fender Rhodes Piano bass, simultaneously playing the upper register melodies on a Vox Continental organ.

Doug Lubahn's book about the Doors, which includes a section specifically detailing his bass lines on the Doors tracks on which he played.

Doug Lubahn’s book about the Doors, which includes a section specifically detailing his bass lines on the Doors tracks on which he played.

It’s not so well known that the Doors usually used an electric bassist on their recordings, though except for the first album (on which Wrecking Crew stalwart Larry Knechtel played on a few tracks), they were properly credited on the original LPs. Doug Lubahn, who plays on most or some of Strange Days, Waiting for the Sun, and The Soft Parade, handled the instrument more than anyone else. But they used a few others too, including Harvey Brooks on The Soft Parade (who’d played in the Electric Flag and on some of Bob Dylan’s mid-’60s sessions); Jerry Scheff on L.A. Woman (most noted for playing in Elvis Presley’s band); Lonnie Mack (on Morrison Hotel);, and, least famously, Ray Neopolitan, who plays on most of Morrison Hotel, though not much else is known about him.

If the quartet lineup—really a trio, instrumentally, Jim Morrison rarely playing anything—worked so well in concert, why was it almost always altered in the studio? There’s a pretty big difference between hearing something live and on a record, and they, producer Paul Rothchild, and Elektra Records were likely conscious that some more depth and oomph were needed. And the session bassists worked pretty well, whether playing on their own or kind of doubling/reinforcing Manzarek’s lines. Here are just a few of the memorable bass lines on Doors records:

That part near the end of “Take It As It Comes” where all the instruments dramatically drop out except bass and drums (Knechtel);

The opening riff of “You’re Lost Little Girl” (Lubahn);

The opening riff of “My Eyes Have Seen You” (Lubahn);

The part right before the final, shouted verse of “The Unknown Soldier,” introducing by a single declarative, loopy bass note (Kerry Magness, of the group Bodine, who only played on this one Doors track);

The fuzz bass on “Five to One” (Lubahn);

The throbbing bottom on the opening instrumental section to “L.A. Woman” (Scheff);

The ominous line underpinning the intro to “Riders on the Storm” (Scheff).

Jerry Scheff's autobiography, which has just a little on his work with the Doors.

Jerry Scheff’s autobiography, which has just a little on his work with the Doors.

There are plenty of others. In fact, most of the tracks on Doors albums have a session bassist except for the self-titled debut, and even that has Knechtel playing on four of the eleven songs.

I’d go as far as to say it would have been a good idea for the Doors to have a full-time bass player, though it’s been reported that when they were first getting their sound together, they tried a few bassists and found the sound too full. Doug Lubahn would have been the best candidate, as he fit in with them well and was already recording for Elektra as part of the Rothchild-produced group Clear Light.

In fact, in his obscure memoir My Days with the Doors and Other Stories, Lubahn says Rothchild asked Doug if he’d consider joining the Doors as a full fifth partner in 1967. Lubahn, apparently without regret, turned him down as he wanted to stay in Clear Light, who ended up doing just one LP before splitting. Lubahn does acknowledge that when he brought up the subject with Rothchild twenty years later, the producer denied it ever happened.

Whatever took place, the Doors’ records sound great — in part because they used session bassists. Which leads to the next point:

2. The Doors were better in the studio than they were in concert. That’s nothing to be ashamed of — many and perhaps most bands sound better on their finished studio product than they do on live tapes. And at their best, the Doors were pretty good live. I do think the gap between their live and studio sound is bigger than it is for the usual top act, in part because they used bass players on their records. And the dynamic range and sonic balance of Doors records is usually pretty phenomenal, with engineer (and, on L.A. Woman, co-producer with the other Doors) Bruce Botnick deserving credit as well as Rothchild. Of course like countless acts they were sometimes able to use overdubs and effects that weren’t possible onstage, like Ray Manzarek’s use of the Marxophone on “Alabama Song,” his weaving of both organ and piano parts on “The Crystal Ship,” and the rain and thunder on “Riders on the Storm.”

That lets them off pretty easy, but there are some less flattering issues that can be brought up as well. For me at least, their live recordings—and I’m too young to have seen them in concert, so I’m going from the many official and unofficial taped shows in circulation—sometimes suffered in a few crucial respects:

Frequent insertions of dissonant poetry/music pieces, sometimes as medleys with actual songs with which they didn’t jibe too well. I’m not a big fan of the legendary “The Celebration of the Lizard” epic, but obviously it meant a lot to the Doors, or at least to Morrison, as they often performed small-to-big chunks of it. Sometimes the juxtaposition of a grating poem to a classic tune would be jarring, like when they preceded “Light My Fire” with that screeching “Wake up! Run to the mirror in the bathroom look” section. The medley of “Texas Radio & The Big Beat” and “Love Me Two Times” wasn’t as displeasing, but nor was it entirely logical.

Lizard

A sense that they weren’t taking themselves too seriously. This comes through much more strongly on their 1969-70 tapes than the pre-1969 ones (which are much fewer in number, especially if you want decent fidelity). You don’t have to hear specialized archive releases or bootlegs to find this; it characterizes much of the official 1970 double LP Absolutely Live, where there’s sometimes a looseness that verges on sloppiness, and a jovial tone at odds with the serious poetic lyrics. Lester Bangs pointed this out back in 1976 in his chapter on the Doors in the first edition of The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll: “Morrison was by turns painfully and wryly aware of his own absurdity, and you can hear his humor in the between-song banter (“Dead cat in a top hat…thinks he’s an aristocrat…That’s crap”) on [the intro to “Break on Through”] on Absolutely Live.”

That’s why I think their tapes of shows at San Francisco’s Matrix tapes in March 1967 (two CDs of which have been officially issued) are easily their best live recordings, despite not-quite-optimum fidelity. “Light My Fire” was still three months away from becoming a hit, and they’re not yet jaded. They’re still hungry, and play things pretty straight. Even their second-best set of live recordings—two shows in Stockholm in September 1968, which have yet to see official release (possibly because of somewhat imperfect sound)—are more earnest and straightahead, without the toying with their own compositions you hear on the many official CDs of 1969 and 1970 concerts.

One of several posthumous archival CDs of 1970 Doors concerts.

One of several posthumous archival CDs of 1970 Doors concerts.

Mediocre blues/R&B/early rock’n’roll covers. The Doors did a lot of non-originals live that they didn’t put on their studio LPs. Which brings us to the next point:

3. The Doors were not particularly good at blues/R&B/soul. There were only three covers on Doors albums, all of which worked fairly well in their own way: Weill-Brecht’s “Alabama Song” and two blues classics, “Back Door Man” (written by Willie Dixon and originally recorded by Howlin’ Wolf) and John Lee Hooker’s “Crawling King Snake.” (With Ray Manzarek on vocals, they also put a little-commented-upon version of Dixon’s “(You Need Meat) Don’t Go No Further,” first recorded by Muddy Waters, on a B-side.) They did a lot more in concert, as was hinted at by 1970 even if you didn’t go to Doors shows, since they put a couple on Absolutely Live.

Archival releases and bootlegs have unleashed a lot more into circulation, including but not limited to “Money,” B.B. King’s “Rock Me,” Lee Dorsey’s “Get Out of My Life, Woman,” “Mystery Train,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” Slim Harpo’s “I’m a King Bee,” Chuck Berry’s “Carol,” Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads,” and “Little Red Rooster.” Back on the first live tape that survives (from May 1966 at the London Fog, recently excavated and released), they even do “Baby Please Don’t Go,” “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man,” Little Richard’s “Lucille,” and Wilson Pickett’s “Don’t Fight It.”

May 1966 tapes of the Doors at the London Fog were recently discovered and officially released.

May 1966 tapes of the Doors at the London Fog were recently discovered and officially released.

I’m of two minds about the availability of all this surplus. On the one hand, you want live/archive releases/bootlegs to have material you can’t hear in an act’s common discography. The Doors have plenty of that, including not only the ones listed in the preceding paragraph, but also occasional non-blues covers like an extended instrumental version of “Summertime,” as well as some originals (usually half-baked-sounding) that didn’t make it onto their standard releases.

On the other, they just weren’t that good at these blues/R&B/soul/early rock’n’roll classics. Not nearly as good as, say, the Rolling Stones, one of their chief early inspirations, or some of the other best blues-oriented British Invasion bands, like Them, the Animals, and the Yardbirds. Or the Beatles, who weren’t nearly as blues/R&B-oriented, but did some great covers of songs in that style, “Money” being merely one of the most famous examples.

Some other great groups, it should be stated, weren’t great blues/R&B interpreters, like the Who. Just because you aren’t great at that one thing doesn’t mean you’re not great. But the Doors, unlike some other top bands, weren’t great at both covers and their own songs.

The Doors genuinely loved this music. But their interpretations were relatively perfunctory, sloppy, and unimaginative, often verging on the sluggish. Morrison tended to give in to some of his worst vocal mannerisms on these, such as affected yelps and macho growls and screams. It doesn’t bother me too much, but the live Matrix 1967 version of “Crawling King Snake,” predating its release on L.A. Woman by about four years, has some of the most abominable harmonica playing (presumably by Morrison) you’ll hear anywhere, though it fades away after the instrumental introduction.

There was just one R&B cover on their live recordings that was really good, despite their numerous attempts. The Matrix 1967 arrangement of “Who Do You Love” is lean, taut, and not too much like the Bo Diddley original. Compared to his usual blues interpretations, Morrison’s singing is effectively restrained; Robby Krieger’s slide guitar is superb; and the way the organ, drums, and guitars crash together and accelerate at the end is great. But it’s an exception that proves a general rule, in my view.

Official two-CD release of Doors tapes from March 1967 at the Matrix.

Official two-CD release of Doors tapes from March 1967 at the Matrix.

Had the Doors tried to make it as a straight blues/R&B band—or even, like some of their British Invasion heroes, a blues/R&B-oriented rock band—they never would have made it. The predominance of such material in their early sets was probably demanded/expected when they were unknowns who needed to play at least some familiar, danceable songs to club audiences. Their undistinguished efforts in this regard seem to have caused some other bands to dismiss them as hopeless no-contenders, and even make Rothchild and Elektra president Jac Holzman wary of getting involved with the Doors until they heard their far more impressive original material. Of which there was a lot, leading to the next point:

4. Were there any other top bands whose debut album was so clearly their best? I can’t think of any. The Doors were both blessed and cursed by their early productivity. Blessed because when they creamed off the best for The Doors, they had not just arguably the best debut album of all time, but one of the best albums of all time. Cursed because they couldn’t match that debut, even though they had a lot of fine music left.

Even for great groups that start off with a great album, usually that doesn’t happen. They don’t use up their best material; they write new material that’s good or even better, and stretches into new directions. That happened with the Beatles after Please Please Me, and the Who after My Generation. It happened with the Rolling Stones after their self-titled debut, though in part that’s because Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who’d barely written anything by the time of their first album, quickly matured into a great songwriting team.

The Doors, unusually, seem to have written two to three albums’ worth of songs by the time their first LP was released. It’s only become apparent with the passage of time, and the availability of numerous archive releases, how many of their post-debut album compositions were actually written way before the sessions for their second LP (Strange Days, released September 1967). Seven of the ten songs from that record had been performed onstage by March 1967 at the latest, as half a dozen are on the Matrix tapes.

When I got this bootleg of March 1967 Matrix tapes as an 18-year-old in 1980, I was fascinated to hear early performances of numerous songs the Doors had yet to record in their famous studio versions.

When I got this bootleg of March 1967 Matrix tapes as an 18-year-old in 1980, I was fascinated to hear early performances of numerous songs the Doors had yet to record in their famous studio versions.

(As an aside, those tapes are a reminder of the days when acts would perform quality original material in concert that hadn’t yet been released on their official albums. That would be uncommon in subsequent decades, in part because of fears, whether overblown or legitimate, that the songs would be bootlegged/broadcast/circulated before their proper unveiling on commercial discs. As an unfortunate consequence, many live performances haven’t been as interesting as they could have been had artists used them to introduce/refine new material.)

It’s known that some of the as-yet-unreleased songs on the Matrix tapes had been written and performed for quite some time. “Moonlight Drive,” the song Jim Morrison sang to Ray Manzarek on Venice Beach when they decided to form a band in summer 1965, was on their batch of half a dozen September 2, 1965 demos (and also recorded in an early version on an outtake from The Doors), as was “My Eyes Have Seen You.” “Strange Days,” to the surprise of even avid Doors fanatics like myself, is on the May 1966 London Fog tape that was released a couple years ago.

So when it came to the Strange Days album, you had a group of songs that were strong, but not quite as strong overall as those that had already been selected for The Doors. Whether because of Jim Morrison’s increasingly erratic behavior/indulgences and/or other reasons, they found it hard to maintain their quantity and the consistency of their quality, and kept dipping back into their early pool of songs when the well was sinking. On their third album (Waiting for the Sun), they plucked a couple other numbers from their September 1965 demo, “Summer’s Almost Gone” (also performed at the Matrix in March 1967) and “Hello I Love You.”

demos

Even as late as Morrison Hotel, they retrieved “Indian Summer,” which like “Moonlight Drive” had been cut in a different version as an outtake for The Doors. Another big surprise from the May 1966 London Fog tape was an early live version of “You Make Me Real,” which took almost four years to appear on Morrison Hotel. Even on L.A. Woman, “Cars Hiss By My Window” has been reported to have been worked up from lyrics dating back to notebooks Morrison kept in Venice Beach in the mid-’60s.

Of course, many and maybe most rock artists sometimes reach back into their past, sometimes way back. The Beatles revived one of the earliest Lennon-McCartney compositions, “One After 909” (which they’d recorded but not released back in early 1963), in January 1969 for the Get Back sessions/Let It Be album. They took another song they’d considered recording, but not released, back in early 1963, “What Goes On,” when they needed to fill out Rubber Soul two and a half years later. The Beach Boys reworked “Thinkin’ About You Baby,” which Brian Wilson and Mike Love had penned for singer Sharon Marie back in 1964, into “Darlin’” in late 1967, and got a pretty big hit with it. There are numerous other examples.

But there aren’t many other examples of a band of comparable significance to the Doors using so much material that couldn’t fit onto their first album. They had enough, indeed, to make The Doors a double LP. But it wouldn’t have had the relentless knockout punch of the single disc, and double LPs in rock were rare back in late 1966, let alone double LPs that were also debuts (the Mothers of Invention’s Freak Out being a very notable and unusual exception).

Does that mean that the Doors’ career was a disappointment after their first album, and that none of their subsequent songs were on the level of the best from that LP? Of course not. But their trajectory was not one of explosive artistic growth through a sustained peak. It might have contributed to a sense of letdown that led some critics, like Lester Bangs, to view the band, kind of unfairly, as having slid into less relevance/hipness. Or at least find, as Lillian Roxon wrote in the late ‘60s her entry on the Doors in her Rock Encyclopedia (the first serious rock reference book), that “the second album was a repeat, a lesser repeat, of the first.”

The best of their final album with Morrison, L.A. Woman, indicates they just possibly might have been able to recharge themselves with both exciting fresh material and an interesting exploration of new directions had their lead singer lived. Which leads to the speculation:

5. What would the Doors have done if Morrison hadn’t died? Or at least lived long enough to be on one more album?

 It’s an impossible question to answer, of course. Even if he’d lived, it’s possible he would not have recorded with the Doors again. Maybe he would have stayed in Paris and never returned to the US, in part to avoid a prison sentence he was appealing for profanity and public exposure at a March 1969 concert in Miami, though the other Doors could have recorded with him in France. There’s also speculation that he was tired of music and pop stardom, and wanted to discontinue his musical career in favor of writing poetry/prose and perhaps working in film—again impossible to prove or disprove.

Here are the negatives of how the next Doors album might have sounded had Morrison been involved:

There’s reason to believe his voice was sharply deteriorating. His alcohol intake and general substance abuse gets the most attention when his excesses are documented. But he was also a heavy smoker, and this might have been taking its physical toll, even though he was at 27 still pretty young. You can hear a gruff tone on some of the L.A. Woman cuts—like “Been Down So Long,” “The Changeling,” and “L.A. Woman” itself—that’s coarser than anything he’d previously cut, though it works well for this material. His smoking, and an associated hacking cough, were apparently getting even worse in his last few days in Paris. How long would it have been before he lost some of his vocal range and depth?

L.A. Woman was tilted more towards straight blues than previous Doors records. That’s especially true of “Been Down So Long,” “Cars Hiss By My Window,” and the John Lee Hooker cover “Crawling King Snake.” But it also comes through to some extent on “The Changeling,” “L.A. Woman,” and “The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat).” Again, this works well within the context of the LP, since there was variety and contrast with classic, more characteristically Doorsian songs that weren’t straight blues (“Love Her Madly” and “Riders on the Storm”), and since even “L.A. Woman” and “The Changeling” were bluesy without having standard, predictable blues structures and melodies.

Excerpts from the L.A. Woman sessions are featured on this disc.

Excerpts from the L.A. Woman sessions are featured on this disc.

However, there’s reason to believe Morrison might have wanted to drift into straight blues that would have made the Doors less interesting or even pedestrian. Predicted drummer John Densmore in his memoir Riders on the Storm, “He would just want to play the blues, the slow, soulful, monotonous blues, which is great for a singer like him, but boring for a drummer like me.” And possibly boring for listeners, especially if it’s delivered in a croaky voice.

But there are a couple positives to this speculation too:

Although some L.A. Woman tracks seem to show some wear on Morrison’s voice, on other tracks, he crooned as well as ever. In particular, his vocals on “Riders on the Storm” are as clear and haunting as anything he sang. And that was the last song he recorded with the Doors, so it wasn’t as if his voice went into decline after the L.A. Woman sessions started. Would he have still been able to summon these kind of performances on another Doors LP?

And although some feel Jim was through with pop music and wanted to stay in Paris to write, an indication that he might have felt otherwise also comes from John Densmore’s memoir. Shortly before his death, Morrison called Densmore from Paris to see how L.A. Woman was doing; expressed some enthusiasm for doing another one; and said he’d be back in just a few months. According to the Morrison bio No One Here Gets Out Alive, Morrison told Densmore that if critics liked L.A. Woman, “wait’ll they hear what I got in mind for the next one.”

riders

Does that mean Morrison had already written some songs we never got to hear? Or at least that he’d sketched out some lyrics or ideas? It should be noted that Densmore at least was dubious they’d be as good, writing, “I saw us spending the rest of our lives in dumpy clubs and in grumpy recording sessions.”

My own feeling, to be honest, is somewhat in line with Densmore’s. The material, I’d guess, would have gotten bluesier, but also less interesting and inspired, possibly even monotonous and burned-out sounding. And it would have been diminished by Morrison’s problematic vocals and general downward physical and mental spiral. But it certainly had a chance of being better than the pair of utterly unmemorable albums the Doors did record without him.

Did Morrison possibly have in mind material that might comment on his dire personal situation (particularly the threat of a prison sentence), and push the limits of what was considered acceptable in pop music, particularly via controversial lyrics? We don’t know that either. But it’s interesting to consider, even without taking into account his numerous brushes with the law stemming from his anti-authoritarian behavior onstage and offstage:

6. How often the Doors ran into obstacles with presenting their original lyrics. Instances in which the Doors were censored or somewhat self-censored might seem tame now that far more provocative and profane lyrics are more common in rock and rap. Still, there were a number of interesting cases in which their words were changed for their recorded versions, starting with the opening track of their first album.

The middle section of “Break on Through” was supposed to feature Morrison repeatedly singing “she gets high,” and that’s how it was recorded. Instead, on the original LP (and single), we heard “she gets, she gets, she gets, she gets” before he goes into an extended wordless wail. That always intrigued me, even as a fifteen-year-old back in the late 1970s. She gets what? I certainly wasn’t guessing “she gets high.”

Break_On_Through_To_the_Other_Side

The Doors continued to sing “she gets high” in live performances, such as the one on 1970’s Absolutely Live and even back at the Matrix in March 1967. And the original uncensored studio version was reinstated on CD reissues. In fact, now it’s hard to find the censored “she gets” one, although that was the only one available when it first came out, and for many years after that.

Even as someone who advocates free expression, my own feeling might disappoint the Doors and many of their fans. I think the censored “she gets” (no “high”) version is better. The rhythm of the shorter phrase fits better into that section. But also, it’s more interesting to leave the third word to your imagination. Everybody loves his baby because she gets money? She gets sex? She gets “it,” whatever it is? She gets “high” might have been considered hip and daring in 1967 for its drug reference, but it’s frankly kind of a cheap letdown now. She smokes pot, or even does harder drugs. So what? Does that even make her cool? And was it really that unusual, at a time when so many people were getting high?

The Doors’ first album ended with “The End.” Famously and infamously, the middle section was a reenactment of the Oedipus myth. It got the Doors fired from their Whisky A Go Go gig when Morrison sang explicit lyrics about having sex with his mother. There was no way that was going into the recorded version when the Doors cut the LP, not in late 1966, and maybe not even today for most acts. Jim did chant the f-word during the instrumental break, and while that was buried on the original release, again CDs reinstate this. Or kind of reinstate it, since it’s still kind of submerged, if audible. My take is that it doesn’t notably add or detract from the track’s ultimate effect. If you want to hear the untampered “fuck the mother, kill the father” line, that’s on the Matrix tapes.

Leading off side two of The Doors was their cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Back Door Man,” written by Willie Dixon. Live, they at least sometimes altered the lyrics to insert the following verse, which is not found in either Howlin’ Wolf’s original or the Doors’ studio version: “I’ve got the right to love you, I’ve got the right to hug you, I got the right to kiss you, I’ve got the right to misuse you.” You can hear that on their Matrix tapes.

As there’s no Doors recording of “Back Door Man” predating the Matrix tapes, it’s not known whether they were already doing those words onstage when they recorded their first album. If they were, it’s not known whether it was their decision not to use those words in the studio, or if there might have been pressure from Elektra. It can’t even be discounted that had these words already been part of the Doors’ arrangement, they might have been cut simply for space considerations, as the additional verse would have made the song considerably longer than the three and a half minutes it occupied on the first LP. Whatever the situation, here’s one case where the omission of that pretty offensive line “I’ve got the right to misuse you” was a good thing.

Another jolting lyrical change to another song they covered on their first album can be heard on the Matrix Tapes. A key line of Weill-Brecht’s “Alabama Song” is “show me the way to the next little girl.” At the Matrix, that line was sung as “show me the way to the next little boy.” That wasn’t going to fly on a 1967 record, Elektra or not.

Another infrequently  noted example of censorship, or maybe self-censorship, was “Five to One,” the final track on their third album, Waiting for the Sun. That’s because there’s just the one version, which doesn’t contain profanity. In concert, however—as numerous live tapes evidence—Morrison consistently concluded the spoken section near the end about getting in a car to go out with some people with a declared intention to “get fucked up,” those words being drawled in a drawn-out manner for emphasis. It’s an odd, interesting detour in a song largely devoted to revolutionary exhortation, but the Doors were good at mixing somewhat contrasting narratives into the same song. Yet there’s no way Elektra Records, even as one of the hippest and most progressive labels of the ‘60s, was going to allow the f-word on an album in 1968, by their most commercial act or probably anyone else.

There are two different versions of “Touch Me” that owe nothing to the words Jim Morrison sings of the principal tunes (actually written by Robby Krieger, the sole composer credited). At the very end of the track, there’s a memorable four-note staccato brass riff. That’s all you hear on the original single.

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But on the mix the band intended—and again, it’s the one that has become standard on CD—you hear low vocals grunt-sing “stronger than dirt.” That was a playful quote of a jingle, if that’s the right word, in a widely broadcast commercial of the time for Ajax, where voices chant-sang the same phrase in much the same way. Maybe it was removed from the single to avoid any objections, legal or otherwise, from Ajax.

I might sound like a fuddy-dud here, but I think the “stronger than dirt” interjection is rather silly and juvenile. And dated. Lots of people would have gotten the joke, i.e. reference to the Ajax commercial, back in the late 1960s. Not a whole lot of people born after 1960 get it now, and even those who saw the commercial back then might have forgotten about it. People haven’t forgotten about the Doors, and that “stronger than dirt” reference is there forever, though it’s so brief it doesn’t seriously blight the listening experience for me.

“Build Me a Woman” is one of the more obscure Doors songs, as it wasn’t on any of their studio albums, though a concert version’s on Absolutely Live. That version’s “clean,” but the one they did on the New York PBS TV program Critique in April 1969 opens with the line “Sunday trucker, motherfucker,” although Morrison slurs the MF word to iron out the profanity when he repeats the line. It’s another odd interjection that doesn’t fit in with the song’s main (if slight) narrative, perhaps meant as a jibe against rednecks harassing hippies. Considering their career was being destroyed by canceled concerts in the wake of their Miami show, it also took some integrity and courage to sing the uncensored lyric on television, though only PBS would have allowed that then. (Would they allow it now, one wonders?)

The most celebrated incident in which a Doors lyric was censored, or almost censored, occurred on the most popular network television variety show. When the group appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show on September 17, 1967, they were famously told by a producer not to sing the word “higher” in “Light My Fire.” They sang it anyway, Morrison nonchalantly claiming to forget to change the words in all the excitement. As Ray Manzarek often told the story, the producer screamed they’d never be on the Ed Sullivan Show again. To which they responded, “We’ve done the Ed Sullivan Show.”

What’s never discussed, however, is exactly what the Doors could have sung instead of “girl we couldn’t get much higher.” It’s not easy to alter that phrase. “Girl we couldn’t light the fire,” or something as asinine and ill-fitting as that?

What’s even more ridiculous, of course, is the order to change the lyric in the first place. “Light My Fire” was a #1 single for three weeks in the summer of 1967. By the time of this broadcast, literally tens of millions of people had heard the song in its original unexpurgated guise. Was singing it a different way going to erase the memory of the original lyric? Much more importantly, if “we couldn’t get much higher” did indeed refer to getting high on drugs, so what?

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When the Rolling Stones were asked to alter the words of “Let’s Spend the Night Together” to “Let’s Spend Some Time Together” on the Ed Sullivan Show in early 1967, Mick Jagger complied. (Despite some claims in interviews that he’d just mumbled some words in place of the title, you can certainly see him sing “let’s spend some time together” at times in the clip that was broadcast.) The Doors did not. And they did suffer the consequences of never appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show again, though that really didn’t hurt their career in the long run.

Some of this post has focused on some of the weaker parts of the Doors’ musical legacy. Lest anyone get the wrong impression, I want to emphasize I’m a huge Doors fan, and they’re among my top ten favorite rock acts. Along those lines, the closing section is on a musical positive that I don’t see commented upon too much:

7. The Doors were quite adept at mixing sex and romance into songs that were largely, or at least as much, about other topics. There are numerous examples, and I’ll cite a few here:

“Break On Through” is mostly about transcendence, but goes into a quite lusty and effective middle section, as cited earlier: “Everybody loves my baby, she gets”…high. Or not.

“When the Music’s Over” is about generally revolutionary behavior and sentiments. But in the middle, Morrison purrs to his baby to come back into his arms.

Morrison chants “love my girl” near the beginning of one of the most revolutionary-minded Doors songs, “Five to One.”

“Peace Frog,” which reflects the general violence/confusion of late-’60s society, is overlaid with singing chants of the line “she came,” as well as ending some verses with “She came in town and then she drove away, sunlight in her hair.” And of course “Peace Frog” is a medley with one of the band’s most overtly romantic numbers, “Blue Sunday,” as if the chaos of the streets has receded, to be replaced by blissful love.

Most of “Land Ho!” is about a wayfaring sailor. But it ends with a jubilant intention to “come back home and marry you.”

And “Riders on the Storm,” though mostly about an ominous hitchhiker, has an entire verse urging a woman to love her man, take him by the hand, and understand.

What does all this mean? That sex and death are intertwined, as might be one popular interpretation by overenthusiastic academics and psychologists? Or that you can’t have revolution without sex, or that sex and love are as important or more important than revolution?

My hunch is a different one: that for all his anti-authoritarian daring and testing of conventions and limits, Jim Morrison in particular was also something of a romantic. That’s overlooked in all the controversy he stirred with his more extroverted and outrageous behavior. But it’s certainly consistently there, and perhaps part of his search for transcendence, even if he never quite found that blissful plateau in his lifetime.

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