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Tread lightly, we'll be talking music in this one.

I have a term I like to refer to as "Purist Albums." They're albums by bands with a certain sense of longevity (not merely in being around, but in the lasting impact they generate) that - forwhateverreason - aren't as widely popular or as important to their legacy, but albums that real fans of that particular band find irresistable.

You find 'em all over; "Pinkerton" by Weezer, "Presence" by Led Zeppelin, "Animals" by Pink Floyd, "No Code" by Pearl Jam, "The Who Sell Out." All of those albums are overshadowed by at least one - but in most cases many more than one - album from the respective band's catalogue. However, true fans of the band, they look to these Purist Albums for relief and comfort. Something that hasn't been saturated on the radio, that hasn't been sold to every television commercial under the sun, that doesn't get the credit it properly deserves. To the true fans, the Purist Albums are the ones we're most defensive about. They're our babies; when everyone's talking about The Blue Album or Led Zeppelin IV or Dark Side of the Moon or Ten or Tommy, we're sticking up for the little guy.

Anyway, I've been thinking of a couple of my favorite bands recently, because I've been listening to, reading about, and watching them. And because I think, somehow, cosmically, they're tied together. Nirvana and The Doors.

Nirvana has a new DVD out called "Tonight! Live! Sold Out!" It's mostly a concert-based documentary with snippits of interviews in between the songs, comprising their "Nevermind"-era rise to superstardom, but leaving off the tragic fall (it really only covers the tip of the depths they'd reach, but you can easily sense the impending doom looming). And, in this DVD they play ... "Nevermind"-era songs. As I was watching this on my computer with Liz, I pointed out that the collection of b-sides, "Incesticide", is the best Nirvana Purist Album. And it is, it's ragged, messy, loud, sloppy punk rock thrown together without all the Butch Vig production values. It's what Nirvana would've ended up sounding like had they never made it to a major label. But, it never gets the credit it deserves, because you've got "Nevermind" and "In Utero" clogging up the major arteries, not to mention the Unplugged show. There's not a fucking hit single on it, but "Incesticide" is arguably their finest record that nobody's heard.

The Doors have a new biography and a new Boxed Set coming out, even though the remaining living members are in litigation over the use of the band's name. Drummer and Freedom Fighter John Densmore is sticking it to the other two like an icepick in the nuts. Densmore is the only one preventing any Doors songs from being heard in shitty Apple Computer commercials, because he knows how much that bugged Jim Morrison when the band tried to pull that shit in the 60s with some other jackass company. Anyway, the other two assholes in the band are running around with Cult singer Ian Astbury calling themselves Riders On The Storm, but playing exclusively Doors songs. It's all a crock of shit and I hope Densmore never caves into their money-grubbing pressures.

Anyway, when you think of The Doors, you think two things: Early, spacey, psychadelic rock; and late, drug & alcohol-riddled straight-ahead blues rock. Pretty much, you think of their first and last albums and forget about what's in the middle. "The Doors" and "L.A. Woman" have the bulk of the hits, get the bulk of the radio play, are licensed in the bulk of the movies. Now, I personally think "Waiting For The Sun" is their finest achievement; but if you want to look at the Purist Album, you have to go directly to "Morrison Hotel." When you think of singles, there ain't much there. Roadhouse Blues and that's about it. And, when I first listened to this album, I didn't much care for Roadhouse Blues and I HATED the rest. But, I'll be damned if I didn't hang on to that CD over the years, for whatever reason, and now the fucker's grown on me. Morrison may have been chugging whiskey like it was curing hunger for African nations throughout the recording process, but he's in his full-throated prime! Roadhouse Blues, after repeated listenings, has to be in their top 5 all-time songs, and don't sleep on Peace Frog, which has a kickass guitar line and keyboard play.

This is the thing about The Doors and Nirvana though. They HAD to end when they did. It kills me to say that, because both bands were releasing their best music when their lead singers died, but to imagine them going on ... it's not worth it. Jimi Hendrix, now if he'd lived, he would've gone on to make another decade or two's worth of fantastic music (I envision a Frank Zappa type, delving into some blues-based jazz); Led Zeppelin, if John Bonham hadn't died, probably would've been a force to be reckoned with in the 80s as well. But, I just think that Jim Morrison was done with the whole Rock Star scene, and all he would've released would've been arty, incoherent poetry albums. He would've faded terribly into obscurity, probably rejoining the doors every few years because he'd run out of money or something.

And, as for Nirvana, Kurt was MUCH better off not living to see what the world's become in his absence. First of all, if he couldn't handle the fame and the media attention in the early 90s, just imagine how he would've taken our Internet-based culture of today. Besides that, when he and Courtney Love would've inevitably divorced, that thing would've been covered in every tabloid imaginable, with Courtney's insanely slutty antics fodder for paparazzi. Plus, Kurt was pretty much finished with the band, so he would've went solo and either reverted into some sort of folk-singer, or started a different band and foundered much like Billy Corgan has.

The thing that nobody seems to realize about both The Doors and Nirvana is the fact that they weren't exclusively the product of a charasmatic lead singer. The bands behind the singers were equally as important. If you listen to the Doors - especially the later albums - you're hearing a band behind Morrison that is a well-oiled machine! Granted, The Doors wouldn't have been the lasting sensation they are without Jim's presence and poetry, but with another singer, The Doors would've managed. People don't realize the fact that the rest of the band contributed as much if not moreso on many of the albums than Jim did.

With Nirvana, the lyrics were always secondary. They were nonsense, admittedly so. That isn't to say they were the greatest musicians either - though Dave Grohl remains one of the best rock drummers of all time - but Nirvana's thing was always about the passion, the freshness, and the fact that it wasn't arena-metal. They didn't give a shit if the world loved them or not. You took Nirvana more or less on their terms. They weren't out there to sound the most polished or put on the cleanest shows. They were out there to fucking rock, bottom line.

Both of these bands ended up changing the rock music world for the better, and in spite of my skepticism, I've got to wonder what could've been had they clung to the Earth just a little bit longer.