THERE ARE THINGS THAT ARE KNOWN; THINGS THAT ARE UNKNOWN; IN BETWEEN ARE DOORS
Within the microcosm of mid sixties West Coast music, The Doors represented a hard-edged antithesis of the softer sounds which drifted through my mind and body. The whole aura of Doors music sounds, smells of doom with chaos as the coda, but enhanced with a strange mystical beauty - almost (and occasionally entirely) hypnotic - that could do nothing else but separate them from the lesser bands someone somewhere tried to compare them with (Seeds, for example).
Unlike their possible detractors, and much to the chagrin of the teeny mags which printed one shirt-less picture of Morrison after another, the four musicians were very much deserving of individual status...
Robbie Krieger, guitar - writer of "Light My Fire"; rumour hath it that li'l Jimmie was untouched by female appendages until this topped the Billboard charts. Who knows, who cares? John Densmore, drums - one of the very few men behind the skins (?) who really merits the term 'percussionist'; unobtrusive when he had to be and there at exactly the right second when necessary. Ray Manzarek, keyboards - the devil's far-out right hand man who just happened to wear suits and sandals together and had the same birthday as Abraham Lincoln; somewhere in the Egyptology room in the British Museum, some hitherto undeciphered prayer to the gods is based around his swirling bank of ivories. Jim Morrison, poet.
Facts and figures are (almost) redundant since The Doors have been done to death line-by-line, track-by-track by the fickle fanzine mentality. The music speaks for itself, can be interpreted in many ways, but certainly cannot be ignored... not even when you cynically mention that it sounds a little dated. A lot has gone on since Morrison died the year Jimmy, Joanie, Davy and Timmy traded in their tired old Yamahas for brand new Martins; Doors music - that hard uncompromising sound which seemed to live for today and tonight since there just might not be a tomorrow certainly has been replaced by a more casual, optimistic outlook. The girls Morrison used to sing to always were gone by morning. It's not that way any longer. We don't ride the storm any longer - we hold each other tight, say it'll pass and watch the stars blossom out one by one.
Full circle. A new old Doors album has finally found release, consisting of fragments of Jim Morrison reading his poetry he privately recorded at times he felt it was right with new, added instrumental backing by Krieger, Densmore and Manzarek, together with live material. Is the time right for a posthumous Doors album; or is it too late?
I believe it's too late; late by a light-year and then some. The crawling kingsnake nightpeople and demonspawn who watched every Morrison move as he prowled the stage like a panther have dissipated into the ether, leaving behind denim delinquents who, when Jim grew a beard, split to France and did what ever you out there think he did, had no use for Dad's razor or Mom's best advice. Times change. Heroes lose their value and others are only too ready to take their place. So very, very much has happened since "LA Woman". Ask me and I'll tell you all about it... someday.
Meanwhile, those purple legions have arrived and Nite City is here - I like it fine... so far. I intend to examine The Doors' recororded work; not in great detail, just to point out the triumphs and pit falls. Everything has its place - in perspective...
"THE DOORS"/"STRANGE DAYS"
Together for a myriad of sins and reasons. The brace of recorded works that sound most alike, in essence the basic Doors' sound and text book of lyrical references. The doom, the darkness; even now I can feel it pervading the mood every time I hear "Crystal Ship", "Take It As It Comes", "Strange Days" (especially), "Back Door Man", "Unhappy Girl"; doom. A fascination with articulated ugliness and disorder, bordering on, if not totally immersed in, the perverse. Only tasteful fills from Robbie Krieger and Ray Manzarek contain any feelings of joy. The piano solo in "Crystal Ship", epitomises the term 'happy/ sad': A feeling of resignation comes to mind. The band seem to toy with the listeners; a multitude of changes in atmosphere come before side one of "The Doors" arrives at the long version of "Light My Fire". "Alabama Song" is almost comic relief compared to the mood of, say, "Break On Through" (one of the most forceful album opening cuts ever) or the song that hinted very strongly at Morrison's UCLA film-making days - "Twentieth Century Fox". The second album had a hit single, though nowhere as big as "Fire", "Love Me Two Times", which again pointed at the 'tomorrow you'll be gone' attitude. Morrison once said that all his songs were about 'fucking' rather than making love... maybe that was no joke.
Both albums had those famous (now famous, anyhow) long closing tracks. "The End", supposedly recorded when Morrison (if not the others) was totalled on the drug of the devil and the deep blue see. The oedipal sequence needs little intro - rock music as a theatrical experience was beginning to take form. "When The Music's Over" on "Strange Days" was criticised as being too similar to "The End"; correct and incorrect. Of course they are both over ten minutes long and concentrate on Jim's fascination for Weirdness in visual terms, but who cares? You could groove to them, even if you did feel uneasy. It's all in the past and didn't we do things differently then7 I seem to remember some silly piece in an American (naturally) teeny mag the like of 16 or Tiger Beat which contained a real bad hype-scam about poor lonely Jim Morrison sitting up in some hotel room, with nothing but a colour-distorted test-card on the TV, writing out lyrics to songs for the second album (notably "Unhappy Girl~) on hotel stationery. 'He laughed when it was good and cried when it was bad," bleated the un-identified scribe.
"WAITING FOR THE SUN"/"THE SOFT PARADE"
Again together for a myriad of reasons. The first two albums had acted as a blueprint for the accepted Doors sound. The next two releases would go some way to correct the mistake but were only partially successful. "The Unknown Soldier" had been a moderate hit in the US national charts before the release of the "Sun" album and had already stirred up measures of controversy over its content. I fail to see how this song is about 'fucking'. The band actually made a promotional film of this number, shown on "How It Is" during the days when John Peel had sideburns and a medallion. Possibly one of the strongest anti-war songs outside of the original protest movement. It all sounds a little dated now when it comes to memories flooding back, but once it comes springing from the speakers it still remains irresistable. The sound effects even after all this time do not sound corny or contrived, and still have the power to raise a few goosebumps. But the group were not satisfied just to use the occasional sound effect on "Waiting For The Sun". "Spanish Caravan", in a way, was more disturbing - backward tapes and other studio tricks. "My Wild Love" was the one, though. No organ nor guitar whatsoever, just odd percussion and background voices. Totally at odds with the basic Doors sound (maybe they should have released it under a pseudonym), it was the subject of more than merely several harsh words from both fans of the Doors and from the straight music press who were still wearing knitted ties and button-down collar shirts at the time. Jonathan King used it to fill column space in Disc on more than one occasion. I wonder what he thought of the claustrophobic nightmare presented by "Not To Touch The Earth" or the light ethereal "Yes, The River Knows"?
The cruncher at the time, though, was their first visit to England to play alongside the Airplane at Chalk Farm Roundhouse and the release of "Hello I Love You" from the "Sun" album, retitled for some obscure reason "Hello I Love You Won't You Te]l Me Your Name" on the label of each and every copy which sold due to a ridiculous appearance on Top Of The Pops. Yeah, really. Bearded, ugly looking Krieger and leather-locked Morrison, eyes closed all the time, appearing on a programme I don't suppose I've watched five times since. I shan't dwell too much on the gigs since that isn't the purpose of this piece. Suffice to say that they were amazinq - despite the fact that there were only four of them, they sounded at times a lot louder than the Airplane, even with Jorma Kaukonen tearing out brain-molesting solos. A lot of posing, but a lot more music. The Doors Are Open TV programme was filmed at the gig I went to. White light.
The single got their precious little names into the weekly woefuls; Robbie Krieger suddenly became Bobby Krieger; so much time was spent extolling the virtues of underground music (ah, makes you feel so nostalgic, doesn't it?) and taking great care to let you know that each and every Door likes girls who are fun to talk to and plays sitar in the morning after a period of medltation. Seems like a sell out. Another single quick, Jac... "Touch Me".
"Touch Me" later appeared on the "Soft Parade" album, a strange affair which leaves me cold for most of the time. That basic Doors sound had at least one thing going for it - togetherness. Four minds making up one music. Now it was a lot different. Orchestras and mandolins just do not belong on a Doors album... or if they do, they certainly don't belong on the songs someone added them to here. "Wishful Sinful", although tarted up, actually sounds good to me; one of the few that does. A little Beatle-y in a kinda Grapefruit-y way. A Krieger song. By this time, who does exactly what on each particular song is credited. Before that it was just credited to 'The Doors', now we know different, but how odd not to see Ray Manzarek's name crop up very often. "Wild Child" could have come from the previous album, bleak, doomy monotone vocals with very strange lines ('You remember what we did in Africa?'). This was part of the problem; too much of the original Doors sound became monotonous and most deviations from that sound were deemed to be unacceptable to their audience. Robbie Krieger got a chance to sing on the chorus of his "Runnin' Blue", but although the idea of another voice sounds like a worthwhile experiment, it falls flat. Sad. Bass player Doug Lubahn (from Elektra group Clear Light), whose solid bass playing was brought in to augment the band after they were not satisfied with Manzarek's bass notes on the first album, is replaced by the otherwise excellent Harvey Brooks on several tracks - Lubahn's bass sound is therefore sadly lacking, which reduces listening pleasure. "Soft Parade" is my least favourite Doors album... not merely because they tried to change their overall sound, but unlike with "Waiting For The Sun", they simply had not succeeded. The title track still remains a favourite for some unknown reason, however - anything with opening lines like 'When I was back there in seminary school there was a person there who put forth the proposition that you can petition the Lord with prayer - YOU CANNOT PETITION THE LORD WITH PRAYER' will always go down well with my addled excuse for a brain. A long song, though unlike "The End" and "When The Music's Over" which closed the first two albums, it contained no long instrumental passages, but rather tunes tied together. The main question fired at the band at the time was that they had in fact moved too far away from the original (but restricting) sound. Things would change for the next album, but not in the ways you would expect.
'The Two Sides Of The Doors'? I've never been able to figure out why side the first is subtitled "Hard Rock Cafe" and side the second goes under the alias of "Morrison Hotel". The cover shows the four band members inside the Morrison Hotel, wherever that might be (and who cares? Rooms at two-and-one half Bucks per night sounds the kinda place W.C. Fields might make up a song about), looking a lot less mysterious than covers of previously released product from Elektra. Apart from "The Soft Parade", every Doors album had a strong opening song and "Roadhouse Blues" was well up to standard. That well-known tie-dyed and good-vibes ex-Lovin' Spoonful mood master, Giovanni Puglese, whipped up earthquakes of sound on harmonica over Krieger's hard-edge guitar and Manzarek on piano, an instrument which seemed to be taking preference over his familiar organ embellishments. A reversal to basics, but with a new sound... a fresh, uncompromising rock sound which did them a lot of good. They even went as far as to include a song entitled "Waiting For The Sun", which seemed to indicate that they wanted to forget the entire "Soft Parade" period (during which they suffered most at the hands of the teeny press following the wake of Top-Forty singles - only one from "Sun" but remember, THREE - "Touch Me", "Wishful Sinful" and "Tell All The People" - from "Parade") and return to solid grainy music.
Jim Morrison: 'The Doors are basically a blues-oriented group with heavy dosages of rock and roll, a moderate sprinkling of jazz, a minute quantity of classical influences and some popular elements. But basically, a white blues band.
Our music has returned to the earlier form, just using the four instruments. We felt that we had come too far in the other direction, i.e., orchestration, and wanted to get back to the basic format.'
Another rocker, "You Make Me Real", also became a hit single, so their ploy was working - they could rock out in fine style and still benefit from both album and singles joy. The remainder of the album continued in the same vein - some overt rock performances and some slower, mystically-worded things like "Queen Of The Highway" and "Indiah Summer", which harked back at earlier examples of this sound, possessing an eerie imagery that only Morrison could put into words. But again a surprise - no long tracks... just like "Waiting Eor The Sun".
Possibly one of my favourite live albums of all time, alongside "Happy Trails", "Live Dead", "Europe '72", "Time Fades Away" and the recent Spirit and Nez offerings. Certainly the best in live recordings when it comes to sussing out how the group was feeling with their audience together with responses to the music. Okay, so "Who Do You Love" and the medleys are sure-fire throwaways performed in concert only because they were recording live that night, and I suppose it was only right that one day "Celebration Of The Lizard" in its entirety would find itself on album (although no where as dramatic as at the Round house) as I always thought it would/should. The "Back Door Man"/"Alabama Song"/"Five To One" medley doesn't really work since the songs are so vastly different, though all, strangely enough, fitting in with the basic Doors sound. There was a mixed blessing about the live album - no room for orchestras; conga drums, mandolins and champion saxes. "Five To One" should have been kept separate - ah, nostalgia - my favourite Morrison song; I even recall writing the words to that one on my fiancee's Christmas card for 1968... her father thought I was totally mad' The core of the album, though, is the live "When The Music's Over". 'SHUT UP''... who but a very pissed off Jim Morrison would dare yell that at a lout-ridden New York audience. By this time, Doors audiences had come to expect a certain degree of... er... showmanship from the Lizard King. Despite some clearly inspired keyboard work from Manzarek, the overall feel is that as far as the early songs are concerned, it is a matter of going through the motions. A shame that when one of the premiere Los Angeles bands gets it together to tape gigs it turns out to be when they are not into playing. It is a good album though, a very good album. It took two tours to get enough material to put out this double - no "Light My Fire" or "Unknown Soldier" either - something was wrong. Some excellent music in places, though. But although it once sounded so vital with that booming announcer instructing the crowd to 'go downstairs... take a trip', it now does sound a little dated, more than any of my other favourite live albums. It is rather strange that other live recordings (see later) did not suffer from this. Maybe it's the mood that is at fault, or just the fact that Jim & Co. were pretty disillusioned for a variety of reasons.
The last album that Jim Morrison would record. If I remember rightly, it came out at least a full month before Morrison went on to do 'other things' and I do remember feeling not at all shocked when I heard the news about his death. A very disturbing album, again not so shocking after reading between the lines on the live release, and certainly ending on a doomy note "Riders On The Storm". Manzarek for once sounds a little uninspired, especially on "The Changeling" and "Love Her Madly"... he couldn't even be heard on "Cars Hiss By My Win dow". "The WASP (Texas Radio And The Big Beat)", like "Love Hides", started life as a Morrison poem. It seemed that on top of everything else, they were running dry when it came to material; old demos like "Summer's Almost Gone" and "Moon light Drive" had been used up. John Lee Hooker's "Crawling King Snake" had been summoned to fill up this album - a part of their live act for some time. I'm surprised they didn't put "Little Red Rooster" (hear Krieger playing it softly to himself on bottleneck during the TV spec) or "Money" onto this or the live album. "LA Woman" itself works out fine; the band actually sound as though they have some amount of enthusiasm left in them. Morrison's vocals are at their best... a great set of lyrics, too - 'Never seen a woman/ so alone'. "Riders On The Storm" was the killer though... a return to a long song at the end. Manzarek's turning attention to piano and then to electric piano had finally paid off - his runs on the high notes still take my breath away... beautiful. That my friend, was The End.
I don't care for much of the music Manzarek, Densmore and Krieger produced in one form or another since Morrison's demise. "Other Voices" strikes me as an at-times inspired attempt to make a Doors album ("In The Eye Of The Sun" and "Ships w/ Sails" achieve some measure of success, at least in my eyes), but after that things started getting unattractive. The last Doors album, "Full Circle", I find totally unlistenable. Nothing at all like "Other Voices" or the fine display the post-Morrison Doors projected when I saw them in 1972. A little concerning the two Doors bootlegs, "The Lizard King - 1968 Roundhouse" and "Matrix 1967 - Moonlight Drive", can be found in the dog-eared pages of DARK STAR 8. Suffice to say that they are well worth getting your hands on. Drummer Densmore and guitarist Krieger recruited Jess Roden for their Butts Band project on Blue Thumb, but both albums turn out to be fairly insipid. More in the image of the now defunct Doors mystical image were the two Manzarek solo offerings, "The Golden Scarab" and "The Whole Thing Started With Rock & Roll Now It's Out Of Control". Both are readily accepted in certain circles, but something is certainly lacking. His most recent venture, a new band called, and an album named after, Nite City, is kinda 'hmm awlright' on occasion. Krieger's solo I haven't managed to hear but rumour hath it a funky mess.
Just how well the remaining Doors have embellished the Morrison poetry for this new album will soon be revealed. The return of Rick & The Ravens?
The Doors. Elektra Records 1967. Strange Days. Elektra Records 1967. Waiting For The Sun. Elektra Records 1968. The Soft Parade. Elektra Records 1969. Morrison Hotel. Elektra Records 1970. Absolutely Live (double). Elektra Records 1970. LA Woman. Elektra Records 1971. Other Voices. Elektra Records 1971. Full Circle. Elektra Records 1972. The Lizard King. Bootleg. Moonlight Drive. Bootleg.
The Butts Band (Krieger and Densmore).Butts Band. Blue Thumb 1974. Hear & Now. Blue Thumb 1974.
Ray Manzarek.The Golden Scarab (A Rhythm Myth). Mercury 1974. The Whole Thing Started With Rock & Roll, Now It's Out Of Control. Mercury 1974.
Robbie Krieger.Robbie Krieger And Friends. Blue Note/UA 1977.
Nite City (Ray Manzarek).Nite City. 20th Century 1977. A second album has been rumoured for some time.
The "Weird Scenes Inside The Gold mine" double compilation besides being a fine introduction to the group also contains two tracks previously released only as single B-sides - "Who Scared You" and "You Need Meat (Don't Go No Further)", both of which are pretty disposable. Ray Manzarek sings "Meat" in his ersatz-Morrison voice, but it's nothing compared with "Close To You' on the live double.
There are also several tapes of live Doors in circulation, but only a few are of acceptable sound quality. Good ones include Amsterdam in 1968, Philadelphia in 1969 and a couple of dlfferent gigs in the Lone Star State in 1970.
The pitifully recorded "Sky High" bootleg features a very dishevelled Morrison squawking alongside Jimi Hendrix at a Johnny Winter gig, de-immortalising such songs as "Red House" and "Sunshine Of Your Love". The jamming occurred during the end of the set - a shame about the sound quality since the music would sound fine otherwise.