“What a great opener, ‘Hello, I love you, tell me your name,'” the Doors‘ drummer John Densmore says. “Like, whoa, OK. That’s aggressive. You’re in love with me but you don’t know my credentials?”
He laughs and says that kind of pickup line was not frontman Jim Morrison’s style at all, even if he did write the lyrics. “He was sort of ‘Southern shy,'” the drummer says. “Well, if he got loaded, he got a little more open – a little too open sometimes.” But when he wrote the lyrics that would become “Hello, I Love You” – a Number One single off the band’s Waiting for the Sun LP – it was more from a place of hope than actual bravado. “It’s about an African-American girl he saw on the boardwalk in Venice,” he says. “‘Do you hope to make her see you, fool?/Do you hope to pluck this dusky jewel?'” He laughs again. “Who puts words like that to rock & roll? Only Jim.”
The song will be getting a second life when Rhino Records reissues the seven-inch on Friday, the 50th anniversary of when the song went to Number One. The record will feature mono mixes of “Hello, I Love You” and its B side, “Love Street,” that were only sent to radio stations at the time (the original single was one of the first stereo 45s, which was a novelty at the time). The song will also feature on a new Waiting for the Sun box set, which features nine rough mixes from the album’s recording sessions and tracks from a gig the band played in Copenhagen in 1968. The collection is due out September 14th.
The rough mix of “Hello, I Love You,” which is premiering here, spotlights Morrison’s vocals a little more than the album version, especially in the backups, and it cranks Robby Krieger’s fuzz-toned guitar riff in the right speaker. Toward the end, Ray Manzarek’s keyboard playing takes center stage before the fadeout.
“At first, I was against releasing any of this, but I get it,” Densmore says. “I’ve got mixes of John Coltrane, my idol, doing six versions of one song before they got to the master and I’m interested in that because I want to see the trail.”
For “Hello, I Love You,” the trail leads back to an early version of the Doors, Rick and the Ravens, who cut a funky, piano-driven and harmonica-accented demo of the song before Krieger joined. Densmore winces when he thinks of this early version. “It was kind of lame,” he says. “We knew the words were great.” After Krieger joined and they tried it again in the Sun sessions, producer Paul Rothchild knew it was a hit. “He just demanded that we work it out there in the studio at $200 an hour ’cause he just knew – and he was right,” Densmore says. “Robby came up with this guitar lick and added 100 pounds of fuzz tone on it and it happened.”
Some time after the song became a hit, the band heard rumblings that people thought it sounded similar to the Kinks’ “All Day and All of the Night.” “I read where somebody was interviewing Ray Davies and asked if we’d stolen that and he said, ‘Never heard it, don’t care,'” Densmore says with a laugh. “That was a good response. I mean, we didn’t. There is some similarity there for a few bars but we certainly did not go, ‘Oh, let’s rip this off.’ Shit happens like that, you know?” (Davies has since said that his publisher cut a deal with the Doors’ publisher, which Densmore was unaware of.)
After it topped the chart, the song lived on through covers by many other artists who wanted to put their own spin on it. Jazz drummer Buddy Rich turned it into a big-band raveup, the Cure made it more of a straight-ahead rock song, and Missing Persons refashioned it as a New Wave odyssey, among others. But Densmore fully understood its impact when talking to a stranger.
“A fan came up to me and said, ‘Hey, without your music I wouldn’t exist,'” he says. “I said, ‘Really? What do you mean by that?’ And they said, ‘Well, my mom and dad were in a bar, and “Hello, I Love You” was on the radio, and it gave my dad the courage to go up to my mom and introduce himself. So thank you.'” The drummer laughs. “I went, ‘Wow, that is a great story. I appreciate that.'”