"The Doors are basically a blues oriented group with heavy dosages of rock 'n' roll, a moderate sprinkling of jazz, a minute quality of classical influence and some popular elements. But basically a white blues band".
Jim Morrison - 'Rock A Word As Bold As Love'.
The Doors were formed around the summer of 1965 by James Douglas Morrison and Raymond Daniel Manzarek. Both were students at the UCLA, (Morrison for theater and film; Manzarek for law), and knew each other. Ray had already formed a group: Rick & The Ravens, with his brothers Rick and Jim on piano and guitar, pulsing songs like 'Louie Louie' and 'Hootchie Coochie Man'. As the legend always states, Jim and he re-met on a beach near Venice, California. Jim sang the first two lines of 'Moonlight Drive'; Ray said, "That's it!" and both "decided to get a group together and make a million dolars".
They became The Doors after a Morrison project; an early idea for a rock 'n' roll group called The Doors: Open & Closed, who would only perform two songs: 'I'm Hungry' and 'Want'. Jim and the Manzarek trio added a girl bass player (whose name has vanished) and drummer John Densmore (late of Tony Driscoll & The Twilighters) whom Ray had met at a Mahesh Yogi meditation centre.
Together, they made a demo tape at World Pacific in September 1965. Most accounts claim 6 songs, including 'Summer's Almost Gone', 'Moonlight Drive', 'End Of The Night', 'Break On Thru', 'A Little Game' plus one more, although Billy James claims 12 ('Rolling Stone' August 1971), including one 'Let's Go Insane' (possibly 'A Little Game'). Perhaps 12 were recorded but only six kept. A demo album was pressed (2 or 3 copies) and Billy, as their talent scout, kept Columbia interested. But a producer couldn't be found.
By now, Rick and Jim Manzarek and the girl bassist had gone and Robert Alan Krieger (ex Psychedelic Rangers and meditation class too) had joined. A residency at the London Fog, followed by the Whiskey A go Go came, playing mixtures of originals amongst 'Gloria', 'Little Red Rooster' and 'Who Do You Love?'. Arthur Lee suggested to Jac Holtzman he should go to see the Doors, he did and the promise of a quick record contract (quicker than Columbia) swayed the group. Recorded in late '66, THE DOORS was released in January 1967 (U.S.)
With that, and 'Light My Fire', success. A success welcoming (perhaps) an ultimate difficulty. The Doors were mixed-media; theatre, poetry and pop music; their immediate success in only one; the hit parade, pulled all those basic contradictions. The Doors existed, & were true to both 'The Celebration Of The Lizard' & 'Hello I Love You', absorbing the differences & the controversies, but not their effects. 1971; Jim Morrison left, arrived in Paris to rest & rethink. Perhaps the group had split, it certainly seemed so, until Jim's death ended that controversy to begin an other. Jim's death is shrouded in the mystery his group often compiled in its cause, its initial denial, and the unmarked grave.
THE DOORS is assertive, strident, confident, a complete capture of an individual style. THE DOORS is urban Los Angeles, where the city and its influence, (as in the Velvet Underground) makes a concrete sound. Richard Meltzer claimed them "a superimposition (of) Elvis on the Beatles. Perhaps Jim Morrison evolved into the leather chic of Elvis Presley; the singer and the sex symbol; and the Doors always stylised their roles both within the group and against the others, just as the Beatles would their 'Hard Day's Night' positions. But roles were all they took from the Beatles, the sound on THE DOORS was much removed from their influence on the Byrds/ 12 string/ 12.30 sound of '67's California. THE DOORS is a professional garageband; the sound & stance of the Seeds, the Standells and more, refined thru' Blues and folk.
'Break On Thru' is perhaps the exemplary introduction song; it's the essence of the Doors, the style and assertion of the singer and the group. 'Back Door Man' and 'The Alabama Song' do all this too; non-Doors songs slotting neatly into a Doors context. 'Back Door Man' is the outright musical idea and influence, in sound, theme and image 'The Alabama Song' is literature; Weill and Brecht as refections of Morrison/ the writer & the actor.
THE DOORS is a chain of marvellous songs, the perfection of 'The Crystal Ship', the haunting 'End Of The Night', 'Light My Fire' (of course), and 'The End'. "It started out as a simple goodbye song" - Jim Morrison, but 'The End' became a comprehension of inevitability, ("this is the end"), of loss, of the oedipal complex. It's an extensive rage, a pre-planned improvisation which haunts and holds; sparse and completely mysterious. It's a sensory image, building to a clashing climax; a drama, a play/ poem stretched into the piece the Doors could never quite approach again.
STRANGE DAYS. It seemed a move for safety. There was little musical advancement, the pattern stayed the same. But there's a mystery, a darkness, which covers all the songs. 'Strange Days', 'People Are Strange' 'Unhappy Girl' all fall on a negative side, disquiet rather than comfort.
STRANGE DAYS is a mixing of explicit statements and the bizarre. It has a perfect side (side 2); in the barrelhouse of 'People Are Strange', somehow always linking with 'The Alabama Song'; in the rocking 'My Eyes Have Seen You' with its stunning guitar; in 'I Can See Your Face In My Mind' for its indistinct image on a precise background. And 'When The Music's Over'.
'When The Music's Over' is new, but slightly deja-vu. Its beginning is simply 'Soul Kitchen', it appears as a mammoth spectrum but in parts is a backwards progression; immediate, succesful, but without the subtle care of 'The End'. It's a strange commitment, unfinal, yet completely assertive, another stretched, but excellent song.
STRANGE DAYS is a careful cohesion of readymade ideas (from THE DOORS), a constant structural reinforcement. Liking THE DOORS is loving this album. The Doors are dependable.
Inside STRANGE DAYS is the real pop/ poetry fusion, 'Horse Latitudes' is the best example, a difficult song until the habits of the Spanish conquistadors are explained (in throwing their horses into the sea from their becalmed ships to lighten the weight). With that, 'Horse Latitudes' is a rare and perfect perception. 'Moonlight Drive' is less obvious, a grasping of poetry in a non-poetical song. It appears as a new age equivalent (lyrical surrealism) to 'Endless Sleep' (Jody Reynolds). And there's always 'Television Skies'.
WAITING FOR THE SUN is the important Doors' recording, the one to pull to the overground and the underground. Perhaps it does neither. WAITING FOR THE SUN is a progression and a re-statement, a touch of newness and of source. 'Hello I Love You' is that chunk of outright plagiarism, a hello to Ray Davies perhaps but only a smaller part of a contrast swerving thru' loose structures; from accapella to (a theatrical) revolution.
'Five To One' and 'The Unknown Soldier' became the hooks for protest. 'Soldier' is initially fascinating, yet ultimately overstated, harsh when compared with The Byrds' 'Draft Morning'. 'Five To One' works better, where a confusing image and concept challenges and wins with its strong, hypnotic assertion. It's positive Doors' music; a masterpiece.
WAITING FOR THE SUN shows an experimentation with the basic Doors' sound. It's a new approach, but still stylised. 'Love Street' works perfectly; a joyful Doors song with such fine Morrison vocals. 'Yes The River Knows' is less successful, (good nonetheless), but less immediate with its strange, faltering pace. 'Spanish Caravan' is a dizzy, intricate pattern of sound on image, owing much to Love's 'The Castle'/ FOREVER CHANGES, not in notes but in the same swirling feel.
'Not To Touch The Earth' and 'We Could Be So Good Together' are much of the old sound. 'We Could Be...' is disappointing, a moment of safety after 'My Wild Love' (which is still fun). It's simply too predictable. But 'Not To Touch The Earth' is marvellous, a piece snipped from 'The Celebration Of The Lizard', itself the ultimate counterpoint to 'Hello, I Love You'. 'Earth' is a strong, powerful song, perfectly effective in its simple build, layer upon layer, and each slightly more frantic.
WAITING FOR THE SUN is confused, and confusing. It's the first without a Doors identity, something replaced by a mixing of individuality which takes some time to fit.
THE SOFT PARADE never fits. It's a haphazard collecting of things never quite right. THE SOFT PARADE is the answer to an exhaustion of songs and ideas, a movement of concept from the mysterious to the ordinary. It's a whole new synthetic form, a manipulation of the original sound towards a predictability; to Musak. The complete Frank Sinatra move.
The songs now have an author, either Morrison or Kreiger. The split shows. Jim's songs still hold to some magic; 'Shaman's Blues' and 'Wild Child' to some extent, and the title track is excellent. Robbie K's songs suffer thru' a predictability and cluttered, clumsy horns. They rasp and interfere. 'Touch Me' is nearer embarassment than drama.
THE SOFT PARADE diverges and exaggerates. It's an across the wall reworking, like the Rolling Stones tried on THEIR SATANIC MAJESTIES REQUEST. There, the Stones failed in an all-out experiment, slipping back to their rawness for BEGGARS BANQUET. The Doors did the same on MORRISON HOTEL.
MORRISON HOTEL is the Doors without trimmings; a rocking accessability. It's crucial and thorough, lacking an overall mysteriousness, but adding a marvellous familiarity. Roots pound through a guitar-over-organ dominance.
The Doors must have heard LOVE FOR SALE. There's that same raw influence. 'Waiting For The Sun' reaffirms the approachability; a 20/20 hindsight in it's title (as if the album between wasn't there) and its surging builds. Outright assertion is back too; 'Roadhouse Blues' is up-front, driving, exciting Doors music. 'Maggie McGill' too; with Krieger's looping, jumping runs on a chunky backing. 'Land Ho', 'Peace Frog', 'Black Sunday' are all superb songs; simple uncluttered and fun.
MORRISON HOTEL is the Doors as masters of slowed/ image songs, with 'The Spy' and (especially) 'Indian Summer'. 'Indian Summer' is a piece of simple beauty, an almost fragile piece. It's Jim Morrison in a random field of Brian Wilson or Arthur Lee/Bryan Maclean (no less).
Now that really is assertion; the Doors at absolute confrontation point against their audience. ABSOLUTELY LIVE has all that; atmosphere, audience participation, all of it an audio documentary of a (made up) concert. It's Morrison in disillusionment, in an unhappy role enclosing him where his art is played as fiction. ABSOLUTELY LIVE is the Doors out of control, where good times try to win over the group's idea. The Doors' role became subverted. It's still a marvellous record.
'Who Do You Love' opens, a celebration of punk pulp, a throwback to the Doors as garage-band stylists. Like the Kinks on LIVE AT KELVIN HALL, (the other brilliant live set), the Doors make up a medley. The Kinks fused 'Milk Cow Blues', 'Batman' and 'Tired Of Waiting'; originals v. covers, yet still perfect in a Kinks' framework. The Doors pull 'Backdoor Man', 'Love Hides', 'Alabama Song' and 'Five To One'; a strange mixing of blues, Brecht and originals, but their original sound is such functionalism, that there's a basic ready-made frame, where any piece can fit with any random song. So the medley works as a unit too.
The Celebration Of The Lizard' is artistically important; a creative source where the ultimate progression of the group shines through. It's theatre as a living form; a theme of exile and return crossed by words used more for force and feeling than any specific idea. That and 'When The Music's Over' succeed despite a faulted, tired group performance. Such is reptilian fantasy.
ABSOLUTELY LIVE is a time for change; for re-evaluation. None of the new songs (ie previously unrecorded), would have a studio equivalent; this record is the end of the Doors that began with 'Break On Through'.
The new Doors is L.A. WOMAN and AN AMERICAN PRAYER. (In its form as poetry, not necessarily as on its release.)
L.A. WOMAN is a last attempt, a strange crossing of back-to-the-roots and new directions, which somehow makes it feel like a reformed group release, rather than one in line with the rest. L.A. WOMAN has a quieter basic structure; Ray Manzarek is piano based and songs ('Riders On The Storm', 'Love Her Madly') float rather than stamp.
My favourites are 'The Wasp', with Morrison at his most strident, singing over the plodding beat, and 'Hyacinth House', for its obvious early-sound moves. The rest are less obvious, each song linking directly with its neighbour, making a record with identity on its own and is perhaps much less immediate.
AN AMERICAN PRAYER. It's difficult to write about. I'm not too convinced by its music. The Doors of 1968 are not the Doors of 1971. That feeling apart, it's fine; crammed with a kaleidoscope of ideas, and its slotting the past with the words. (Like where 'Peace Frog', with its Indian magic explained, and 'Blue Sunday', grip around 'Dawn's Highway'.)
AN AMERICAN PRAYER is the faces of Jim Morrison; events, ('Lament' must link to the Miami piece. Whether it was written before or after is irrelevant,); beliefs and musician. It's carefully pieced together; so the live 'Roadhouse Blues' fits into 'The World On Fire'; 'The Hitchhiker' can base itself on 'Riders On The Storm' can play over 'The End'.
And the words themselves? It's a concept of the all-familiar and the challenge; one version of reality (or unreality). The atmosphere is the voice and the words, the music has become a direct compliment, an addition rather than a necessary part. AN AMERICAN PRAYER is a play/ poem provocation, an artificial creation, but somehow compulsive.
01/67. Break On Through (To The Other Side)/ End Of The Night. Elektra 45611. 05/67. Light My Fire/ The Crystal Ship. (reached No. 1). Elektra 45615. 09/67. People Are Strange/ Unhappy Girl. (No. 12). Elektra 45621. 11/67. Love Me Two Times/ Moonlight Drive. (No. 25). Elektra 45624. 03/68. The Unknown Soldier/ We Could Be So Good Together. Originally this single was not going to have a U.K. release: too controversial. It came out with the sides flipped. Elektra 45628. 05/68. Hello, I Love You/ Love Street. (No. 1). Elektra 45635. 12/68. Touch Me/ Wild Child. (No. 3). Elektra 45646. 03/69. Wishful Sinful/ Who Scared You. Who Scared You is not on any other release: an out-take from THE SOFT PARADE. Elektra 45656. 06/09. Tell All The People/ Easy Ride. Elektra 45663. 08/69. Runnin' Blue/ Do It. Elektra 45675. 04/70. You make Me Real/ Roadhouse Blues. This was a double A-side. The U.K. release had 'Roadhouse Blues' on top. Elektra 45685. 04/71. Love Her Madly/ (You Need Meat) Don't Go Any Further. (No. 11). The flip is not on any other release and features Ray on lead vocals. Elektra 45726. 06/71. Riders On The Storm/ The Changeling. Elektra 45738.
Singles. U.K. hits were as follows:08/67. Light My Fire/ The Crystal Ship. (No. 49). Elektra EKSN 45014. 08/68. Hello I Love You/ Love Street. (No. 15). The Doors made a live-in- the-studio appearance on 'Top Of The Pops' for this. Elektra EKSN 45037. 11/71. Riders On The Storm/ The Changeling. (No. 22). Elektra K 12021. The single was reissued in March '76 (on K 12203) and reached No. 33.
L.P.s. (U.S. release dates quoted first).01/67. 05/67. THE DOORS. (No.2 in the U.S.). Elektra 74007. Break On Through (To The Other Side); Soul Kitchen; The Crystal Ship; Twentieth Century Fox; Alabama Song (Whisky Bar); Light My Fire; Back Door man; I Looked At You; End Of The Night; Take It As It Comes; The End. 09/67. 12/67. STRANGE DAYS. (No.3 in the U.S.). Elektra 74017. Strange Days; You're Lost Little Girl; Love Me Two Times; Unhappy Girl; Horse latitudes; Moonlight Drive; People Are Strange; My Eyes Have Seen You; I Can't See Your Face In My Mind; When The Music's Over. 06/68. 09/68. WAITING FOR THE SUN. (No.1 in the U.S., 16 in the U.K.). Elektra 74024. Hello I Love You; Love Street; Not To Touch The Earth; Summer's Almost Gone; Wintertime Love; The Unknown Soldier; Spanish Caravan; My Wild Love; We Could Be So Good Together; Yes, The River Knows; Five To One. 08/69. --/69. THE SOFT PARADE. (No.6 in the U.S.). Elektra 75005. Tell All The People; Touch Me; Shaman's Blues; Do It; Easy Ride; Wild Child; Runnin' Blue; Wishful Sinful; The Soft Parade. --/70. 04/70. MORRISON HOTEL. (No.4 in the U.S. No.12 in the U.K.). Elektra 75007. Roadhouse Blues; Waiting For The Sun; You Make Me Real; Peace Frog; Blue Sunday; Ship Of Fools; Land Ho!; The Spy; Queen Of The Highway; Indian Summer; Maggie McGill. --/70. --/70. ABSOLUTELY LIVE. (No.8 in the U.S.). 2-9002/2665 002. Who Do You Love; Alabama Song/ Back Door Man/ Love Hides/ Five To One; Build Me A Woman; When The Music's Over; Close To You; Universal Mind; Break On Thru No. 2; Celebration Of The Lizard; Soul Kitchen. --/71. --/71. L.A. WOMAN. (No.9 in the U.S.). Elektra 75011/K 42090. The Changeling; Love Her Madly; Been Down So Long; Cars Hiss By My Window; L.A. Woman; L'America; Hyacinth House; Crawlin' King Snake; The WASP (Texas Radio & The Big Beat); Riders On The Storm. 11/78. 11/78. AN AMERICAN PRAYER. Elektra 5E 502/K 52111. Awake (Ghost Song; Dawn's Highway Bleeding; Newborn Awakening); To Come Of Age (Black Polished Chrome/ Latino Chrome; Angels And Sailors; Stoned Immaculate); The Poet's Dreams (the Movie; Curses, Invocations); World On Fire (American Night; Roadhouse Blues; Lament; The Hitchhiker); An American Prayer. A single was issued in the U.K. when this album was released. It had 'Love Me Two Times' and 'Hello I Love You' and for a limited (gatefold sleeve) time; 'Ghost Song' and 'Roadhouse Blues' too. It was on Elektra K 12215.
Two Doors bootleg albums have also appeared. Both are live and well worth investigating, giving an interesting comparison point to the group at different stages. The first to appear was:-
THE LIZARD KING. Round LIZLP 1968. Light My Fire; The End; Five To One; Break On Through; When The Music's Over. The album was recorded at the Doors London Roundhouse in 1968. MOONLIGHT DRIVE. People Are Strange; Alabama Song; Crystal Ship; Unhappy Girl; Moonlight Drive; Summer's Almost Gone; Twentieth Century Fox; Back Door Man; My Eyes Have Seen You; Soul Kitchen; Get Off My Life; Crawling King Snake.
MOONLIGHT DRIVE was recorded at the Matrix in San Francisco in 1967. Neither is perfect quality-wise, but excellent music.
Jim Morrison also makes a (drunken) appearance on the Jimi Hendrix/ Johnny Winter bootleg SKY HIGH. There are rumours too of his being somewhere on ELECTRIC LADYLAND. Other rumours also include a possible Morrison/ Nice album.
The above discography does not include any post-Morrison Doors releases, nor any album repackaging. The best is WEIRD SCENES INSIDE THE GOLDMINE (Elektra 8E 6001/K 62009), which has a good cross-section plus the non-l.p. flip sides.
There are several pieces of Doors film. The group themselves did 'Feast Of Friends', which includes live footage, and a promo film for 'The Unknown Soldier'. Granada TV did an hour long documentary on the group's 1968 U.K. visit called 'The Doors Are Open' which was fabulous. Another Doors film called 'Hiway' exists and Jim Morrison made an unfinished film of the Michael McLure novel 'The Adept' with the author.
McClure also encouraged Morrison's publishing of poetry. 'An American Prayer' was printed up in a limited issue for friends only; and two later pieces were put together in one book for 'The Lords And The New Creatures' (Simon & Schuster).
Jerry Hopkins' book on Jim Morrison is still to come. Meanwhile, there's 'Jim Morrison & The Doors' by Mike Jahn, 'Jim Morrison Au-dela Les Doors' by Herve Muller, (all in French with some excellent photographs) and 'The Doors Complete' songbook.
"I am interested in anything about revolt, disorder, chaos; especially anything that appears to have no meaning"
"We have fun, the kids have fun, the cops have fun. It's a weird triangle."
"We (Robbie Kreiger/ Jim Morrison) have a different vision of reality; different points to make."
All by Jim Morrison.