Some artists are inextricably linked to their locations. The beating heart of London can be heard in everything The Clash ever released, and if you were hoping to hear the sounds of San Francisco, then Jefferson Airplane are the city’s archetypal soundtrack. The same can be said for The Doors and their embodiment of the 1960s sunsets that penetrated California and hit Los Angeles between the eyes. However, despite what some hip-hop factions may tell you, the two coasts of America can, directly and indirectly, affect one another, just ask Annie Clark.
Clark, better known by her stage name St. Vincent has quickly become the modern era’s classic guitar hero. Angular and abrasive, Clark’s ability with an axe have often seen her destroy any preconceived notions one would want to levy at her, including the figurative idea that an artist so intrinsically linked with New York City, as she is, can be swept up in the magic and mystique of the west coast. Here is how The Doors helped St. Vincent fall in love with music.
During a conversation with NME, Clark opened up about a whole range of her favourite songs, including the first album she ever bought with her own money; I Am An Elastic Firecracker by Tripping Daisy, about which Clark shares: “I bought it with my own money at the Sound Warehouse when I was 13. Someone must have given me the money, but I remember going, ‘I bought this, this is mine’. [Tripping Daisy] were from Dallas. They were like hometown heroes, and this was their first big national debut record. It’s hard to know if it got special attention and love on Dallas radio or if it was a national hit, but there are some great songs on there. Prophetically, I ended up playing with members of Tripping Daisy when I was in The Polyphonic Spree.”
Clark also shares the first song she can ever remember as John Denver’s ‘Life Is So Good’. But, much to Denver’s dismay, the song didn’t quite hit the notes that he had intended: “The chorus goes: ‘Life is so good / Life is so good these days’. I was probably four or five, and it would send me into a violent rage: I was just a tiny nihilist, a tiny goth. I was like, ‘Yeah, you’re full of shit, John Denver’. It was my mum who put it on with her girls, driving around thinking, ‘This will calm them down, this will be a nice thing we can all sing along to’. But it drove me crazy. Even then, I was like, ‘If your life is so good, first of all, the lady doth protest too much. Also, I’m not really sure that’s a subject for a song. Keep that to yourself, John Denver’.”
There is one song, however, that truly struck a chord with Clark and made her instantly fall in love with the band, the singer and the music itself. The track is the classic ‘Riders on the Storm’ from The Doors. The song is an essential piece of The Doors and Jim Morrison’s shining iconography, operating as a defining anthem of the era and the ultimate track for all pluviophiles, as Clark can attest to.
Just like anybody else, this song really connected with Clark because of both the music and a visceral physical happening during her first listen: “I first heard it on a long car trip through the American Southwest. It starts with the sound of the rain: I have vivid memories of driving through New Mexico with it raining outside, listening to ‘Riders On The Storm’ and lightning striking in the distance, and seeing the silhouette of the plateaus. That was probably a terrifying memory. That’s probably why it’s kind of lodged in there, because of the adrenaline.”
The track remains lodged in Clark’s memory, and it’s easy to see how such a moment could stay with anyone for a lifetime. It’s not necessarily as easy to draw comparisons between Clark and the stylings of The Doors, but her recognition of how life-changing music can be will always connect them.