With nods to the Doors, Sly & the Family Stone, the Righteous Brothers and Steve Martin, the latest selections to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry have a decidedly California slant.
Each year the institution surveys more than 130 years of sound recordings and selects 25 of the most musically and historically important for special recognition and preservation in the nation’s repository of cultural history.
FOR THE RECORD
An earlier version of this post cited a recording of radio coverage of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's death in 1944. Roosevelt died in 1945.
In addition to the Righteous Brothers’ single “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” Martin’s blockbuster album “A Wild and Crazy Guy” and Sly & the Family Stone’s 1969 masterpiece “Stand!,” the Library of Congress included “The Doors,” the 1967 album that launched the L.A. quartet by way of its breakthrough hit single “Light My Fire.”
“You get ‘Light My Fire’ on your first album and it’s all downhill from there,” Doors drummer John Densmore, 70, told The Times, with a chuckle. “I feel helium rising up under my skull.”
“I think each generation gloms onto the Doors to help them cut the umbilical cord with their parents. ‘Father! Mother!’” he shouted, echoing Doors singer Jim Morrison’s Oedipal recitation during the album’s epic closing track, "The End."
“Kudos to the National Recording Registry people who want to preserve that,” Densmore said.
Steve Martin's second album reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart in 1978 and spent six weeks in that spot. "I could not be more proud of this honor," Martin said in a statement. "This means the record was probably funny."
Also selected were Joan Baez’s 1960 debut “Joan Baez,” Radiohead’s landmark 1997 album “OK Computer,” radio coverage of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s funeral in 1945, Tennessee Ernie Ford’s 1955 hit “Sixteen Tons” and rare recordings from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair showcasing music from other countries.
“By preserving these recordings, we safeguard the words, sounds and music that embody who we are as a people and a nation,” Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said in a statement with the announcement.
By including the Righteous Brothers’ 1965 hit, the Library of Congress adds yet another distinction to a song that since its initial release has been played more than any other on radio and TV, according to the performance rights organization Broadcast Music Inc.
“That record has a life of its own,” Righteous Brothers singer Bill Medley, who famously traded lines with his duo partner, the late Bobby Hatfield, in a song written by Brill Building husband-wife team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.
“I think it was one of the first real dramatic love songs for young kids,” said Medley, 74, who was 24 when the record hit the charts in 1965. “In those days, it was pretty much cute music. ‘Lovin’ Feelin’’ is not a cute record, it’s a pretty powerful record.”
“That song is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the writers are in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and now it’s going into the Library of Congress. I think it’s a big deal," Medley said. "It just kind of keeps going on and on. It’s just always an honor.”
The new crop of recordings also includes “The Vernacular Wax Cylinder Recordings,” which are housed at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The collection includes home recordings made in the 1890s, 1900s and 1910s by people who bought home recording devices when they first became available.
Also inducted into the registry were Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Black Snake Moan” and “Match Box Blues” single from 1928, Capitol Records co-founder Johnny Mercer’s 1944 single “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” the 1949 original cast album of Cole Porter’s musical “Kiss Me, Kate,” and a live recording of ”My Funny Valentine” made in 1953 in Hollywood by jazz saxophonist Gerry Mulligan’s Quartet with trumpeter Chet Baker.
The National Recording Registry was launched in the wake of Congress’ approval of the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000. The 2014 selections bring the total in the registry to 425.
The full list of 2014 recordings can be found at the Library of Congress National Recording Registry website. Songs are nominated both by fans and members of the National Recording Preservation Board, comprising leaders in the fields of music, recorded sound and preservation. Nominations for the 2015 registry are being accepted online at the registry’s website.
Follow @RandyLewis2 on Twitter for pop music coverage