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Review of The Doors Self-Titled Debut Album on the 46th Anniversary of its Release

Posted by hughrandle@gmail.com on January 17, 2013 at 4:05 PM

January 4, 2013 marks the 46th anniversary of arguably the best debut album in rock and roll history, The Doors self titled debut album. This comes from a pretty biased source since anyone who has spent more than a couple of hours with me will know that The Doors are my favorite band. Oh, they have been challenged over the years by bands that actually are still playing and have a lead singer that didn’t die more than 40 years ago, but year after year, when I want to fill my mind, spike my creativity or visit my “dark side”, The Doors supply the music that fill my earbuds. Most people know the “popular” version of The Doors history. Founded in 1965 by UCLA film students Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek, they are soon joined by meditation students John Densmore on drums and Robbie Krieger on guitar. They play gigs on the Sunset Strip and produce a four song demo for Columbia records in 1965, but remain unsigned until Jac Holzman and his Electra label take a gamble. The Doors produce six studio albums as well as a greatest hits album, simply titled “13“ ( the number of songs on the album) and a live double album. They become the most popular band of the late sixties with the first five albums all going gold. “Light My Fire”, “Hello, I Love You”, “Touch Me” and “Love Her Madly” remain among the top 500 songs of all time. After fulfilling their Electra contract and with the band’s future up in the air, Morrison, the unpredictible lead singer, moves to Paris to concentrate on his writing. It is here that on July 3, 1971, he dies under mysterious circumstances of an apparent heart attack at age 27. Fast forward to 1981. As a high school sophomore attending a party at a friend's house, I hear the roaring blues of L.A. Woman. I later hear the hypnotic keyboard of Light My Fire. I am mesmerized. The very next day I go to the record store and ask the obviously much more hip clerk behind the counter who sings a song that goes “ I see your hair is burning, hills are filled with fire, if they say I never loved you , you know they are a liar”? He immediately directs me to The Doors Greatest Hits, which had just been released several weeks earlier. I am proud to say that I have not been addicted to too many things in my life, but within just a few weeks, I owned every studio album, Doors 13 ( dumb because it had all the same songs- no bonus songs as is often the case today) and the “Absolutely Live” double live album. I had purchased on the paperback release day, the first “biography” written by The Doors roadie Danny Sugarman No One Here Gets Out Alive, and read it in less than three days. I creatively tried to find more Doors stuff, but since Morrison had died in 1971, there was apparently no new material (thankfully, this wasn’t the case). I found a couple of bootleg versions of European tours and the 1978 spoken word album American Prayer, where Morrison’s poetry is put to music by the three surviving Doors. And finally, in desperation, I purchased the two Doors albums made by the group after Morrison died, but have only recently began to appreciate their worth. An Oliver Stone movie, an award winning documentary film “When You’re Strange” released in 2011, and anniversary releases of each studio album and releases of many of the bands best live performances has kept a 30 year Doors fan partially satisfied over the years. Knowing that I can share this music with my own children and seeing the number of young fans on The Doors facebook page, fills me with delight. So today, as I drift back to 1967, I try to imagine what it would have been like to wander into your first recording session in August, and using all of your own material (with the exception of Brecht and Weil’s “Alabama Song/Whiskey Bar” and Willie Dixon’s “Backdoor Man” ) create a first album of such near perfection. Released this day in 1967 and containing the song that today holds the #38 position in Rolling Stones 500 greatest songs of all time, here, song by song is The Doors: BREAK ON THROUGH (to the other side): originally written with the lyrics “she gets high”, the song was censored to play “she gets” in order to play on conservative AM radio of the day.At only two minutes and twenty six seconds, it packs the message that was stereotypical of all Doors music, to break through boundaries of authority, repression and sexuality. FAVORITE LYRIC: “ I found an island in your arms, country in your eyes, arms that chain us, eyes that lie, break on through to the other side...” SOUL KITCHEN: A frequent show closer or encore number, this bluesy number was on the Doors playlist long before it being recorded in the fall of 1966. Cars and streetlights seem to become real live objects and both the drive of the keyboard and enthusiasm of the lyrics propel this song. FAVORITE LYRIC: “Your fingers weave quick minarets, speaking secret alphabets, I light another cigarette, learn to forget, learn to forget” THE CRYSTAL SHIP: I’ve always considered this among my favorite Doors love songs, and love the otherworldly nature of the song which is accentuated with headphones. Manzarek’s piano solo is stunning and it is hard for me to pick out a favorite lyric or part of this song. FAVORITE LYRIC: “ Before you slip into unconsciousness, I’d like to have another kiss, another flashing chance at bliss, another kiss, another kiss”. TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX: Taking its title from the famous film studio and using its literal meaning to imply the “perfect woman” , only the Doors could take such an ode to female lovliness and show the warted underside - ( “..got the world locked up, inside a plastic box) FAVORITE LYRIC: “ She’s the queen of cool, she’s the lady who waits, since her mind left school, it never hesitates, she won’t waste time on elementary talk, she’s a twentieth century fox” WHISKEY BAR/ALABAMA SONG: Not many bands would risk placing a Bertolt Brecht/ Kurt Weill song from the 1920's opera “The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahogany on their debut albums. The song was first sung by the character Jenny in the above mentioned opera along with her fellow prostitutes. The lyrics were changed slightly in the Doors version and one verse omitted. The Doors were considered (and still are) one of the best read and lyrically diverse bands in history. FAVORITE LYRIC: “Oh show me the way to the next Whiskey bar, oh don’t ask why, oh don’t why, for if we don’t find the next whiskey bar, tell ya we must die, I tell ya we must die, I tell ya, I tell ya, I tell ya , we must die” LIGHT MY FIRE: The focal point of the Doors debut album, this song knocked off the Association’s “Windy” on July 29, 1967 to become the number 1 song in the country. It is considered one of the best songs in history by Rolling Stone magazine and is a staple of classic rock stations. Originally over seven minutes in length, the Doors released the three minute version to satisfy AM radio and it is that version that went to #1. In concert, the band could stretch the song into a twenty minute improvisation as Morrison would add poetry to the middle instrumental. This song was written by guitarist Robbie Kreiger and amazingly was the first he ever wrote. The second? “Love Me Two Times”. FAVORITE LYRIC: “The time to hesitate is through, no time to wallow in the mire, try now, we can only lose, and our love become a funeral pyre, come on baby , light my fire, come on baby, light my fire, try to set the night on fire” BACK DOOR MAN: Written in 1961 by bluesman Willie Dixon, the song was another band favorite live. Over the years many people got worked up over the term “backdoor man”, feeling that Morrison was talking about anal sex. According to the Urban Dictionary and Willie Dixon himself, the term is simply regarding being with a woman who is already married or with someone else, therefore running out the backdoor when her husband came home. The first of the true blues songs the Doors would make famous. FAVORITE LYRIC: “Well all you people, ya trying to sleep, I’m out to make it with my midnight dream, yeah, I’m a back door man, the men don’t know, but the little girls understand” I LOOKED AT YOU: The closest thing to a bubblegum/pop song on the album, it still holds a dark side in its “its too late” warnings. Part Beach Boys, part Animals, the song’s fast pace makes it a short, but great driving song. Among the earliest Morrison songs written in early 1965. FAVORITE LYRIC: “ I walked with you, you walked with me, I talked to you , you talked to me and we’re on our way, and we can’t turn back, yeah....” END OF THE NIGHT: As I mentioned earlier, The Doors were one of musics most literary bands. Here on this dreamy track, lyrics are drawn from English writer William Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence” written around 1803. Much like the Blake poem, Morrison cries out against unfairness of some born to sweet delight and some to endless night. A very deep song, that I have interpreted and reinterpreted many times over the years. FAVORITE LYRIC: “ Realms of bliss, realms of light, some are born to sweet delight, some are born to sweet delight, some are born to the endless night, end of the night, end of the night, end of the night” TAKE IT AS IT COMES: The shortest song on the album, but far from irrelevant, this song was written as a tribute to the Maharishi Yogi as Ray as well as Robbie and John were getting more and more into transcendental meditition. Jim attended one of his lectures and wrote the song immediately afterwards. I can’t help but also notice the similarities to the Byrds song “Turn, Turn, Turn” and its paraphrasing of the book of Ecclesiastes “There’s a time to be born and a time to die...” FAVORITE LYRIC: “Time to walk, time to run, time aim your arrows at the sun.” THE END: What can be written about one of the Doors most infamous songs that hasn’t already been written. What started out as a three minute good-bye song to Morrison’s Florida girlfriend became an eleven minute opus which includes the famous Oedipus section, drawn from the story in mythology where Oedipus kills his father and marries his mother. Morrison’s frequent ‘F-bombs” were eliminated from the album version and have only recently resurfaced on anniversary mixes. In concert, this song could become a twenty minute masterpiece of improvisation, with various poems added in. Most people now associate the song with the haunting opening scene in Apocalypse Now. FAVORITE LYRIC: “Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain, and all the children are insane, all the children are insane, waiting for the summer rain...” This album has stood the test of time. I highly recommend that you find the entire album, put on some headphones, or earbuds, and enjoy. Everything The Doors did after this first album would be put to the debut album test. Today, 46 years after the summer of love, The Doors first album will put a smile on your face.


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