The Doors- Unknown Soldier (1968)

Another antiwar song,  The Unknown Soldier was released in the incredible 1968 Doors album ‘ Waiting for the Sun’. The Doors were composed of vocalist Jim Morrison, guitarist Robby Krieger,...

Another antiwar song,  The Unknown Soldier was released in the incredible 1968 Doors album ‘ Waiting for the Sun’. The Doors were composed of vocalist Jim Morrison, guitarist Robby Krieger, keyboardist Ray Manzarek and drummer John Densmore. They were known for their anti-conformist behaviour and their provocative and anti conservative lyrics, usually with very explicit sexual references.

The song was the band’s reaction to the Vietnam War. They , especially Morrison, felt very strongly about the way the conflict was portrayed in American media at the time. In fact, lines such as “Breakfast where the news is read/ Television children fed/ Unborn living, living dead/ Bullets strike the helmet’s head” portray the way news of the Vietnam war was being presented to ordinary people.

But there is also another message to it: as the rest of America sits at their breakfast table whilst their children goggle at the television, the unknown soldier is shot. It almost seems that war is normalised in every day life, and that people continue to live their normal lives and stick to their usual routines when there soldiers are dying. The fact that the soldier has no name is also a strong message towards to the ignorance  and lack of emotion of people towards these men who are fighting ‘for them’. The soldier has no identity and no name, and dies whilst people are feeding breakfast to their children.  It makes the listener reflect on the inhumanity  and impassivity that can arise from war.

In the song, you can hear war sirens, military drums, commands and a firing squad, creating a momentary lapse where the listener almost feels inside the war as well. The squad was actually reproduced on stage with guitarist Robby Krieger pointing his guitar at Morrison with a rifle, drummer John Densmore dropping a reverb unit to make a loud pop, and Morrison dropping on the ground as if he had been shot dead. In the studio, the gunshot sound was a rimshot played by the drummer on the snare drum. The band reproduced this execution scene almost every time when playing live, including the version proposed above.

It took over 130 takes to record this song, as the producer Paul Rothchild was very particular about how it should come out.

Many radio stations refused to play the song because of its controversial lyrics.

Lyrics:

 

Wait until the war is over
And we’re both a little older
The unknown soldier

Breakfast where the news is read
Television children fed
Unborn living, living, dead
Bullet strikes the helmet’s head

And it’s all over
For the unknown soldier
It’s all over
For the unknown soldier

Hut
Hut
Hut ho hee up
Hut
Hut
Hut ho hee up
Hut
Hut
Hut ho hee up
Comp’nee
Halt
Preeee-zent!
Arms!

Make a grave for the unknown soldier
Nestled in your hollow shoulder
The unknown soldier

Breakfast where the news is read
Television children fed
Bullet strikes the helmet’s head

And, it’s all over
The war is over
It’s all over
The war is over
Well, all over, baby
All over, baby
Oh, over, yeah
All over, baby
Wooooo, hah-hah
All over
All over, baby
Oh, woa-yeah
All over
All over
Heeeeyyy

 

 

Categories
Sounds from the Bucket
Virginia Vigliar

Virginia is a freelance journalist and editor based in Barcelona. She has worked in the development sector in Malawi and Kenya and Somalia before returning to Europe, where she gained experience in the United Kingdom, Norway, and Spain. She is currently also collaborating with Oxfam. She is a passionate advocate of human rights and freedom of speech. To see her work, look at her website here: http://virginiavigliar.com/
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