One of the undoubted legends of golden age rock and roll, Jim Morrison led the counter-culture group The Doors with a fearsome wit, a rebellious attitude and a singing voice often overlooked for its gravel tone and smooth corners. But, one thing about Morrison is for certain, he was the archetypal artist, and, as many will attest to, such an artist is prone to hold their integrity to the highest regard. For some singers, performing a song that you don’t believe in is a no-go.
Morrison wasn’t just the singer for the band but also acted as their principal lyricist. Having been an avid reader as a child, boasting an impressive library of which he had memorised most of the books, Morrison was always destined to act as a pin-up for the hippie movement. In fact, The Doors landed on the West Coast just as the murmurs of cultural revolution began being muttered outside of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury. Equipped with his poetry, Morrison set about crafting songs that would enthral a generation.
Such a command over the output of the band’s material may have gone to Morrison’s head on a few occasions as, with The Doors becoming the band of the moment with every passing second, The Lizard King was known to follow his mystique with poetic boozing and mischievous musing. One moment which came comparatively early in the band’s career, saw the noted singer refuse to work on a song for The Doors’ fourth album, The Soft Parade.
The story came out when Ray Manzarek, one of the band’s other songwriters, spoke to Uncle Joe Benson for Ultimate Classic Rock. The song in question, ‘Hit Me’, had been slated on the new record, but the group were having trouble nailing it down. “Robby [Krieger] wrote the song, and the song was originally called ‘Hit Me’ – ‘Come on, come on, come on, hit me, babe,’” Manzarek told Benson before his death in 2013.
“And Morrison said, ‘No way am I going to sing a song saying ‘Hit me.’” It would seem that Morrison was worried the audience would take the command a little too literally. At the time, The Doors were gaining a great deal of infamy alongside their success. The opportunity for conservative-made knuckle-sandwiches was not something Morrison was willing to risk. Manzarek paraphrased Morrison: “‘Robby, people are going to walk up to me in the street, and hit me! They’re gonna go, ‘Come on, come on, come on, hit me’ and punch me!’”
Eventually, the band agreed and asked Morrison how he would want tyhe lyrics to go instead. “Well, I don’t want to be hit… I mean, if people are gonna do anything I want them to – wait a minute, I got it… I want ‘em to touch me.”
As you may have guessed, the track was changed and The Doors song ‘Touch Me’ has been noted as one of their best ever since. “We had done three albums of the Doors, and John and I, being the jazzers, we always wanted to bring in some horns and strings,” Manzarek said, noting the impressive arrangement and ensemble involved. “On ‘Touch Me’ is the great Los Angeles, Southern California jazz saxophone player, Curtis Amy, who does that fabulous solo at the end. So that’s why we did it – jazz and classical, the Doors bring it all together, man!”
A plethora of musical instruments are included in the production but it is Morrison’s delivery of the changed lyrics that really cuts through. Listen to The Doors song ‘Touch Me’ below.