The Doors are arguably the most popular band of the psychedelic era. Sure, there were other big names right up there with them. Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, and The Beatles.
But, in my opinion, The Doors were the cream of the crop, the single most important band of the sixties and early seventies, with the most iconic and beloved frontman in rock and roll history, Jim Morrison. No other rock and roll star has the following, and the mystery, like Jim Morrison. Now, that can certainly be disputed if one wants to dispute it. But that won’t hold water here, as you see, I’m kind of biased, and I’ll be the first to admit it.
The Doors were a band that got it’s start in Los Angeles, California, in 1965, when Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek happened to run into each other on Venice Beach, after having previously gone to school together at UCLA.
Jim was hanging out writing lyrics, and Ray encouraged him to share some lyrics. Ray was mesmerized at what he heard. The Doors were officially born.
The Doors took their name from a book by Aldous Huxley, “The Doors of Perception.” All of the Doors, especially Jim Morrison, were avid readers, and much of the material that was written was inspired from poetry. Jim Morrison considered himself a poet first, and a rock star second, and he had a hard time coming to grips with his rock star status.
The first song on The Doors debut album titled, “The Doors” is Break On Through (To The Other Side). In my opinion, the meaning of this song could be twofold. On the surface, this song seems to be about suicide, of breaking on through this life into the next. I believe it is a journey to transform oneself into another stream of consciousness, whether it means through meditation, psychedelic drugs (LSD), alcohol, or whatever one chooses to obtain this state. It is a song about exploration, trying to reach a higher level of consciousness.
The next song, Soul Kitchen is about an actual soul food restaurant that Morrison used to frequent on Venice Beach called Olivia’s. He used to like to eat there because the food reminded him of being at home. It made him feel good, and many times he stayed late and he was kicked out so the restaurant could close. The lyrics to the song are great and self explanatory.
The Crystal Ship is the next song, and it is open to interpretation. Back in the sixties, the song probably was interpreted as a drug high, or maybe an acid trip. According to drummer John Densmore, however, when asked about the meaning many years later, said that it was a song written by Morrison about the breakup with his girlfriend Mary Werbelow, stating that it “was a goodbye love song.” It is a slow, mellow tune, and it seems to me that Densmore was probably right about the true meaning.
Twentieth Century Fox is a play on words to describe a modern woman. The lyrical content makes this very clear, and even though this is not one of The Doors most more popular songs, it is a favorite of mine.
The Alabama Song is translated from German to English, was written by Bertolt Brecht, and was covered by The Doors as well as David Bowie. There is some interesting history behind the song to check out here.
There would be no justice in writing about The Doors debut album without the discussion of the song Light My Fire. The song was a number one hit for the band, and has one of the most distinctive keyboard solos in the history of rock music.
The original version of the song had to be cut down for radio play to under three minutes, which all but eliminated the long keyboard solo. The solo takes the listener on a psychedelic musical ride in the middle of the song, but there are pieces of keyboard work at the beginning and end of the song also. Light My Fire is one of the most recognisable songs of the psychedelic era.
Back Door Man was written by Willie Dixon and recorded by Howlin’ Wolf in 1960 and was covered by The Doors on the debut album. It is a song that is very sexual in nature, and they did a brilliant job covering it.
The next three songs on the debut, I Looked At You, The End of the Night, and Take It As It Comes are more lesser known songs to the average fan, but they are great pieces nonetheless, as there are no fillers in the record, in my opinion.
The End is the last song on the record, as well as the longest, and is considered as another of the most recognisable and well loved songs in The Doors catalog. The song has many meanings and is opened to many interpretations. It got the band in quite a bit of trouble in the era of the sixties, although now it would be considered tame in these times. It is one of my favorite songs of all time.
The Doors were one of a kind, and their lead singer has standed the test of time as one of the most beloved figures in the history of rock music. The Doors and Jim Morrison are more popular today than ever, and has won over many younger fans throughout the last fifty years. One of my all time favorites, and a must have record if you love classic rock music.