Here in the States, we have Perception. A deluxe box set comprising some twelve discs, Perception constitutes the most ambitious, elaborate repackaging of the Doors' original catalog ever undertaken.
All six original albums, from 1967's The Doors to 1971's L.A. Woman have been completely remastered by the three surviving members along with original producers Paul Rothchild and Bruce Botnick in double disc editions. In addition to the original remastered recordings, there is an accompanying second DVD disc for each album. Each DVD features the original album remastered in Dolby 5.1 surround sound, along with rare, often unreleased video content including live performances, video films, rehearsal footage and more.
If all of this weren't enough, each original CD also includes several bonus tracks (including both alternate studio takes and previously unreleased material), completely new liner notes for each album, and it all comes in this big ol' box that opens itself like — what else? — a door. Whew!
But that's just what we get here in the States.
Over in Europe, the Doors 40th anniversary is apparently an even bigger deal. Take what they are releasing just in France — where Jim Morrison himself is "reportedly" dead and buried. Of course if you believe that, you probably think Elvis is really dead, too.
In addition to the Perception box (with two extra tracks not on the stateside version no less), the French are getting something like ten or so additional new collections of rare and unreleased material. They are even getting at least one additional boxed set. Oh yeah. You heard me right.
The reason I know this is because in my day job, I edit "content" for a digital music provider, or what we in that particular trade call "metadata." And earlier this week, I spent an entire day on a project entering data for the various Doors 40th anniversary releases for a number of European countries.
Here's just a sample of what France gets:
For starters, there will be a boxed set devoted entirely to what are being called "bootleg recordings." There are also a number of new collections of live recordings. These include two complete early performances recorded at the Aquarius Theatre that can be bought either separately or as (what else?) a multiple disc set. Another multiple disc set collects performances from Detroit and other cities. These can also be purchased separately but a bonus performance from what I believe was Philadelphia can only be obtained by getting the complete boxed version.
Or how about this? Two volumes of Jim Morrison interview discs? One entire disc is devoted completely to an interview Jimbo did for Circus Magazine back in the sixties covering, among other things, the fallout from the infamous 1969 "Miami Incident" where a certain Lizard King is said to have indecently exposed said "lizard."
Oh yeah, Jim Morrison is still hot alright. He is also still sexy. And he is also still dead.
Don't get me wrong here. I love the Doors. I loved them back then. And I still love them now. But this is nothing short of an onslaught for a band who, all told, recorded six albums proper over a period which only spanned five years.
I have some great memories of listening to the Doors as a kid.
The first time I heard "Light My Fire," for example, it was like nothing I had ever previously experienced. As a twelve-year-old boy whose ears should have been prepared by a steady diet of Jefferson Airplane, Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles, and Good Vibrations-era Beach Boys that Top Forty stations were already serving up at the time, the Doors still sounded absolutely surreal. There was this deep, resonant voice serving up dark lyrics about funeral pyres and setting the night on fire, over what sounded to me like a carnival organ. For that adolescent, it was as instantly cool as it was hypnotic.
A few years later, as a teenager living in Hawaii, I remember getting stoned on pot and getting lost in the "seminary school where you cannot petition the lord with prayer" of The Soft Parade. I still have no idea what Morrison was actually talking about, but hell, I could've said the same thing about Dylan back then. All I know is that stoned out of my fourteen-year-old mind on Maui Wowie at the end of the sixties, it made complete nonsense.
In retrospect, I have since come to regard Jim Morrison as somewhat overrated, at least as far as being a poet goes. The most memorable line of Morrison's spoken word poetry I can think of — besides that bit about petitioning the lord with prayer I listened to as a stoned teenager anyway — is something about true sailing being dead or something or another.
The posthumously issued album of Morrison's poetry An American Prayer loops jazz-fusion lounge music played by the Doors, over things like Jim Morrison rambling something about a "Lament For My Cock" of all things. He sounds like a drunk muttering into a whiskey bottle at a cheap dive around closing time. Which, by all accounts, he basically was towards the end, I guess.
Still, as overrated as Morrison may have been as a poet, in the mysterious, sexually charged persona of the Lizard King he carried with him a charisma that practically defined the words rock star. Morrison is the sixties template, along with Mick Jagger around the same time, for pretty much everything else that followed after his death in 1971.
Were the Doors important enough to warrant the 40th anniversary treatment they receive on the Perception box here in America? Of course they were. And given what Rhino had to work with in terms of actual released material, they have done a superb job of repackaging it. Perception is the sort of eye and ear candy that will draw collectors like a magnet. For audiophiles, the superb 5.1 surround sound mixes should ring a few more cash registers for those high-end hardware retailers.
For actual musicologists, the alternate takes and unreleased material are pretty limited when you consider the price tag. We music nerds are also notoriously tight with our wallets, since the last time I checked, not too many of us were getting rich from passionately listening to and obsessing about music.
As for all the 40th anniversary overkill in France and Europe, my guess is that will all be available here in America around this time next year. Which I guess is great news for all you Doors "completists" out there.
So do you think they'll do all this with Kurt Cobain in, say, 2044 or so?
I mean, Nirvana only released three albums proper, right?