Several people have mentioned to me over the last couple of years that The Doors did a version of “St. James Infirmary,” but it was only available on some live recording or other (some said a bootleg, others said official but rare). Since I didn’t really feel the need to own a live recording of an entire Doors concert, officially sanctioned or otherwise, I was pretty happy to discover recently that the track has become available on iTunes. This weekend plunked down my 99 virtual cents, and gave it a listen.
It’s actually a mini-medley, running nearly nine minutes, starting out as “Love Me Two Times,” then transitioning into “Baby Please Don’t Go,” then some “St. James Infirmary,” and back to “Love Me Two Times.” It was recorded on August 21, 1970, in Bakersfield. Mostly it’s “Love Me Two Times,” which Morrison sings in an oddly swingy manner, like he’s doing a lounge version of the song. But the song’s basic blues musical construction makes the segue into “Baby Please Don’t Go,” about three minutes in, feel more or less natural. Here Morrison’s singing is more or less hammy (“plee-don’ go downa New Or-leeeens,” etc.). The “St. James” moment arrives in the last two and a half minutes, after a long keyboard break, and musically I’m not sure it really makes any sense. But Morrison does a decent job with it, really just singing the opening (he doesn’t get to the singer-planning-his-own-funeral section) before belting his way back into “Love Me Two Times.” I suppose this could be read as “Love Me Two Times” because I’m going to die soon, but, I don’t know. It’s interesting to hear this version, but it doesn’t strike me as anything vital to anyone but the Doors completist, or, of course, the “St. James Infirmary” completist.
I have to mention that every time I happen to hear “Love Me Two Times,” it makes me think of the song “Bitchin’ Camaro,” by the Dead Milkmen, which included the lines: “Love me two times, baby / Love me twice today / Once for tomorrow / And once ‘cos I’ve got AIDS.”
By the by, now that I’ve taken the time to look into it, I see that this recording is part of “The Bright Midnight Archives,” which is “a label formed by the Doors Music Company” to make available/repurpose 30 hours of live and previously unreleased Doors material. This song is drawn from a “limited edition” recording called Bright Midnight: Live In America, which the official site says is “sold out,” and “now a collector’s item.” While that may be true of the physical object, all the songs appear to be available on iTunes, in purely unlimited digital form. Interesting to consider how that affects the status of the object. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Oddly, the digital version is labeled “limited edition,” too. I guess they only have so many bits to go around.
“Love Me Two Times / Baby Please Don’t Go / St. James Infirmary,” by the Doors
“Bitchin’ Camaro,” by The Dead Milkmen
“Baby Please Don’t Go,” by Big Joe Williams