Thursday, May 27, 2010

407. Strange Days-new vistas opened by Doors.

Album: Strange Days.
Artist: The Doors.
Year: 1967
Genre: Psychedelic Rock.


1. Strange Days
2. You're Lost Little Girl
3. Love Me Two Times
4. Unhappy Girl
5. Horse Latitudes
6. Moonlight Drive
7. People Are Strange
8. My Eyes Have Seen You
9. I Can't See Your Face in My Mind
10. When the Music's Over

When my generation was growing up in the eighties the first thing we listened to was whatever our parents were playing, for me that was a steady diet of Mozart but for a lot of my friends it was easy listening radio, I definitely got the better deal. We moved from this onto whatever the pop radio stations were playing, which unfortunately in the eighties was eighties music. If I'd grown up in the sixties I would have had the Beatles but instead I endured Skyhooks. After puberty struck there was always a rite-of-passage moment when we discovered our own musical tastes and develop our own musical personality. For many of my peers the gateway that opened them up to a new musical horizon was a Doors tape. Someone's older brother made a copy of a Doors Best of and it was passed around and duplicated like a prized analogue artifact. Lots of my friends had their world blown apart by People are Strange, Roadhouse Blues and The End. It was cool music that pop radio didn't play, it was adult music and it had as big an impact on a teenage boy's life as their first beer, their first M rated movie or their first nudie magazine.

You can see why The Doors had an instant appeal for 15 year old boys. They were psychedelic and mysterious but in a masculine way. They were clearly into drugs but hadn't let that lead them into a psychologically unsettling love of flowers, girly clothes and non-violence. You could enjoy them without any worry that you were going to stop appreciating Arnold Schwarzenagger movies. Most importantly for a musical choice, parents hated them and girls didn't like them but considered them exotic. But the biggest appeal of all was the lead singer who was the ideal role-model for a 15 year old boy. Jim Morrison was a good looking guy who could pull off wearing black leather pants and you knew had those pants pulled off by willing groupies on a nightly basis. Jim never had to worry about mustering up the courage to talk to a girl on a train, he was never reduced to a stammering wreck by his older sister's friends and he never pined for a good-looking teacher he had a desperate crush on. He was a rebel who sang about how nobody really understood him which plays right into the feeling of adolescent males that makes them believe they're the most incomprehensible creatures on the planet (except for girls who make no sense at any stage). And most importantly of all he died while maintaining his mystique. Unlike other rock heroes of the sixties he never sold out and advertised a bank, or had a day-glo wearing disco phase, or went middle of the road, or went into rehab found Jesus and released an album of songs about how much happier he was playing scrabble with his kids. He lived as the perfect rebel that every 15 year old boy wanted to be and then obligingly died before he turned into their parents.

But don't think for a second that I'm suggesting The Doors are exclusively for teenage boys. There are lots of bands (and heaps of movie makers) who have made a healthy living writing material aimed at the adolescent male. While I personally missed the Doors phase that so many of my peers went through I can appreciate what the fuss was about. There's a lot to like on Strange Days. It's gloriously psychedelic while still staying grounded enough to sound like good old fashioned rock and roll. Strange Days, Love me Two Times, People are Strange and When the Music's Over appear on rock radio and Doors' best of's so are familiar territory. The main surprise for me (who had never listened to a Doors album all the way through before) were how strong the other tracks were. All the things that make their hits so great (Morrison's voice, Krieger's psychedelic but bluesy guitars and Manzarek's keyboards) are all there in big enough doses to make for a consistently strong listen. There are no weak songs which is especially impressive seeing as how this is their second album and came so hot on the heels of their debut that they didn't have much time to write new material. Consequently many of the songs on Strange Days are re-recorded version of tracks that didn't make the cut the first time around. The album's low point is definitely the poem "Horse Latitudes" which is a cheery tale about Horses dumped overboard by a ship's crew during a storm. It's another reason Morrison was adored by teenage boys, he gave them permission to write appalling, self-indulgent poetry. Using the phrase "Mute Nostril agony" to describe a drowning horse is just the sort of thing that delights an adolescent.

On the whole I was really impressed with Strange Days. It made me realise that The Doors are more than just their greatest hits and Morrison is more than just a poster boy. He's a great rock vocalist and deserves to be remembered for more than just his strange life. And while I often sit and marvel at the greatness of our current technological age, I can't help but think it's a bit of a pity that in these days of ipods, portable hard drives, freely exchangeable MP3's and memory sticks, the epiphany of The Doors Tape has left us for good.

Highlight: Love me two Times, especially that opening riff.
Lowlight: Horse Latitudes. Bad teenage poetry.

Influenced by:
The great bluesmen, great poets and shaman,
Influenced: Generations of teenage boys who were given their first taste of the wider musical world.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "This is a disappointing follow up indeed. About as disappointing at the follow up to Katrina and the Waves follow up to their monster hit debut."

-that's the first time I've ever heard The Doors compared to Katrina and the waves.

So what do you think- do you love The Doors two times or can't you even bring yourself to feel affection for them once? Let me know below.

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