The Doors

The debut music album of the band The Doors titled The Doors was released in January 1967.

It has eleven songs, for a combined length of 44 minutes, most songs being in the 2–3-minute interval and two longer songs, the longest one at the end.

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The album begins with “Break on Through”. No doubt you appreciated the fast-paced song with John Densmore on drums, Robby Krieger on the guitar, Ray Manzarek on the keyboard & bass, with lyrics & vocals by Jim Morrison. The song starts off with a Bossa Nova drum pattern which is joined by a circular bass keyboard riff. Although structured as a love song Morrison mixes romantic lines like “I found an island in your arms/country in your eyes” with teases like “arms that chain/eyes that lie”. Although it didn’t top the charts but has proved to be a durable hit.

Hungry for more? Let’s try “Soul Kitchen”. This was an eating joint in Santa Monica, California frequented by Morrison. I bet you will enjoy the excellent keyboard work by Manzarek and Morrison’s energetic vocals.

Let’s board the “The Crystal Ship” next. It is about Morrison’s breakup with a girlfriend. Some folks felt that it represents drug induced musings, while others suggest that it is about coming to terms with the breakup. Morrison wrote this poetic song and sings it effortlessly. Manzarek’s keyboard is gorgeous and well supported by others.

Next let us “set the night on fire”. “Light My Fire” was the first Billboard number one for the Doors. The song was written by Robby Krieger, but the entire group contributed – Morrison wrote the second verse, Densmore came up with the Latin rhythm and Manzarek added the fantastic keyboard improvisations. “Light My Fire” is ranked at 35 on Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest songs of all time.

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Morrison teases his then girlfriend in “Twentieth Century Fox” with clever wordplay – “fox” is a pretty girl who is glamorous but artificial. The band combines to give a light breezy song.

In this album, The Doors have done two cover versions as well. The first one is “Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)” – this was originally written by Kurt Weill & Bertolt Brecht for a German Opera. It is about drinking, prostitution, and easy money. In their version, The Doors create a lively mood with a catchy tune which takes us back to the old Weimar republic.

The next cover version is “Back Door Man”, written by Willie Dixon about a man who has illicit affairs with married women whose husbands are away. Morrison sings in true blues style, Manzarek maintains an excellent rhythm throughout while Krieger adds a guitar solo. The Doors loved performing blues music, and this was their tribute to the blues.

Now we reach “The End”, the last song of the album, which is 12 minutes long. “The End” was always played at the end of concerts, each time with different improvisations. It starts slowly as a breakup song and then moves in different directions like – “lost in a Roman…wilderness of pain” & “all the children are insane”. The music adds to the drama. There are multiple verses taking us on a journey across space, time, till we reach the killer. Now it moves to an Oedipus Rex like climax with Morrison screaming that he wants to “kill the father” and “f*** the mother”. The music gets intense and then quiet. Morrison again returns to original theme of breakup, with the music upping the intensity onto a final cathartic climax. One of the highlights is Krieger’s expert guitar play which conveys a sitar like effect and enhances the mood of the song throughout. It was hugely controversial when released. Despite the passage of time, it is still a psychedelic rock epic.

It might surprise many to know that in 1967 the Doors debut album was No. 1 in sales even above the Beatles Sgt.Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band.

Trivia –

  1. Buick approached the Doors to adapt “Light my Fire” for a Buick commercial. Morrison was away in London and couldn’t be contacted, in his absence the other group members agreed to the deal. When Morrison returned and heard about the deal, he called Buick and threatened to smash a Buick during concert unless they cancelled the deal. The deal was cancelled but for other reasons.
  2. “The End” gained a lot of popularity when it was used in the opening footage of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now.

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