16. Song No. 122: “Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar),” The Doors
The Doors, 1967
Classic rock is my first and truest musical love, and it’s where most of the overlap in my husband’s and my otherwise wildly disparate musical tastes lives. But even our classic-rock favorites aren’t entirely aligned, and one of the earliest memories I have of our relationship is getting acquainted with his favorite bands, The Doors. (Most of what I knew about them prior were random snatches of lyrics and that I was still mystified as to why so many girls were suddenly smitten with Jim Morrison for a hot, inexplicable minute in eighth grade.)
We had been dating for a whopping five weeks when our first New Year’s Eve rolled around, though having known each other for nearly four years at that point helped us fast-forward through all the awkward getting-to-know-you motions so we could jump right in and start enjoying doing things together. I was fresh out of college and he was getting over a few months of prodigious drinking in the aftermath of a pretty ruinous breakup, which is to say that we were still at the near-peak partying condition that escalates raucous NYE parties into balls-to-the-wall landmark events.
His closest friends at the time were those people who excel at throwing the kind of parties that should only exist as an amphetamine slideshow held together by ragged descriptions in Brett Easton Ellis novels whose narratives stumble through college ragers and aging yuppies’ frantic bids at eternal youth, right on down to the stuff-of-legends Halloween party I had just missed, which ended with costumed party-goers running into the darkness of the witching-hour Pine Barrens to avoid cops who were called to break up a rapidly uncontrollable girl fight.
And so the man I’d be engaged to within the year, his best friend at the time and I drove up to a clearing in the woods, guided by a winding dirt path that unceremoniously deposited us in a makeshift, dusty parking area where the makings of an already-taller-than-me bonfire and a house that was less of a domicile and more like another canvas for its artist owner rose up from a dense edge of woods to welcome us.
What ensued was a blur of drinking games, singalongs where not a one of us could keep the same time, trays and trays of half-dollar-sized snack pancakes, navigating optical-illusion stairs with every increasingly confusing trip to the bathroom, one very cuddly hound dog, a green haze that could’ve stupefied a herd of bison, and alternately staring into and roasting marshmallows over the blazing inferno of a year-end bonfire.
But moments of lucidity snuck in and stuck around, and one of those crystal-clear memories involve a sort of snaking conga line of drunk people picking up strays and making our way from the living room to the kitchen accompanied by the jangly instrumentals of “Alabama Song” cutting through the indoor fog, peals of laughter, and clinking glassware of shots, heavy pours, and bottle necks. It’s a song everyone knows, and it felt significant even in an utterly carefree moment that a band I was getting to know in a whole new way was blaring through the din to nurture a shared moment among an affable assortment of happy drunks.
In the 13ish years since, The Doors and this song have had plenty of moments to shine as accidental soundtracks to all kinds of shenanigans and everydays, but that first NYE when everything was novel and extra-special because it was all happening for the first time with the guy I knew I was going to marry will always be the first place this song rocks me back to.
(I shared a slightly revised version of this story over at Stereo Stories, too.)