Dangerous, charismatic, legendary, controversial, talented, and terminally cool are just a few of the words that can be used to describe The Doors.
Singer/poet Jim Morrison, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, drummer John Desmore, and guitarist Robby Krieger came together during 1965 and, after becoming the house band at the Whiskey a Go-Go, released their self-titled debut album in early January of 1967. Four million copies sold later they were stars and Morrison had emerged as one of the dark kings of the rock world.
The Doors is one of the better debut albums in rock history. Many of the songs had been honed via hundreds of live performances. In addition to reaching number two on The American album charts and receiving wide critical acclaim, Rolling Stone Magazine would place it at number 42 on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
I consider the A side of the original vinyl release to be just about perfect. The first track, “Break On Through,” introduced The Doors to the world. This frenetic rocker may have failed as a single, but its high energy and, at the time, controversial lyrics about getting high added up to the perfect lead track. “Soul Kitchen,” which was supposedly about a real restaurant, contained a soulful vocal over the organ and guitar of Manzarek and Krieger, who do not get enough credit for The Doors sound. “The Crystal Ship” is one of the great and often over looked songs in The Doors catalogue. Its poetry finds Jim Morrison at his sensitive best. “Twentieth Century Fox” is solid pop/rock. “Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)” was an old German opera song first published during the late twenties. This unlikely composition was transferred into an interesting and gritty rock song.
The A side's final song was the legendary “Light My Fire.” It was released as a single in a shortened form and spent three weeks as the number one song in The United States. The seven minute plus album track contains a brilliant instrumental interlude propelled by Manzarek’s keyboards, which make it a far better and superior version than the well known hit single.
Side two may not be as consistent but does contain a couple of classics. The old Willie Dixon blues tune, “Back Door Man,” is reduced to a primal level by Morrison’s vocal. The final track in one of Jim Morrison’s grand opus’ “The End,” at over eleven and a half minutes, features a spoken middle from the play by Sophocles and is dark and hypnotic. While I now associate it with the movie Apocalypse Now because of the visuals, this original version is what The Doors were all about.
The Doors remains a stunning album yet only scratched the surface of what was to follow. It remains an essential part of American music history.