Friday, May 23, 2014

42 The Doors (1967) The Doors

1. Break on Through (To the Other Side)
2. Soul Kitchen
3. The Crystal Ship
4. Twentieth Century Fox
5. Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)
6. Light My Fire
7. Back Door Man
8. I Looked at You
9. End of the Night
10. Take It as It Comes
11. The End

You could probably put forward a decent claim that The Doors self-titled album is one of the greatest debuts of all time. A lot of the bands we consider great had fairly mediocre opening salvos and took a while to get going but The Doors just bolted out of the gate with their first effort and produced one of the best releases of 1967 (which is saying something because it was a great year). Even if don't enjoy the music you have to admire the ambition. It's the album of a band who were arrogant enough to feel they had something new to say and weren't interested in playing things safe.

Side one, Track one is Break on Through to the other side which is a great introduction to The Doors and what they could do. It's one of Morrison's finest moments on record and the perfect rollicking vehicle for his perfect rollicking voice. I'm one of those who thinks that Jim was a bit of a prat as a person and an over rated lyricist who wrote abject nonsense most of the time... but damn he could sing. He really did have one of the greatest voices in popular music and it only takes two and half minutes of Break on Through to convince you that he's a major talent.

Soul Kitchen, The Crystal Ship and Twentieth Century Fox are worthy follow ups that aren't as good as Break on Through but deserve to be appreciated and not ignored simply because there's no room for them on the single disc best of that seems to be most people's introduction to the Doors. They also give Morrison a chance to calm down a bit and relax his approach which gives the listener time to appreciate how good Ray Manzarek is on keyboards and Robbie Kriegler is on guitar.

The album's fifth track makes you appreciate that while their contemporaries might have been exclusively ripping off the blues and recycling it for white audiences, The Doors where operating on a slightly different plain. Alabama Song is the first cover the band released on an unsuspecting public and it was a bold choice to select a song from a satirical opera written in the 1920s. Who else was doing that at the time? Everybody else was cranking out version of Bo Diddley and Muddy Waters and Morrison is leading his band through a Berthold Brecht number. Kudos to them I say, well done for marching to a different tune. Shame it's a crap track but still my hats off to them for trying it.

Of course the band weren't adverse to trying a blues cover as well but at least they chose Back Door Man, a Willie Dixon song that nobody else was doing much of at the time. Listening to it you can kind of see why. It's fine for establishing their credentials as blues purists who liked the obscure stuff but it's far from Dixon's finest moment.

I looked at you, End of the Night and Take it as it comes might be filler tracks but they're a cut above what most band padded out their album's with and since all come in under 3 minutes it's not like they wear out their welcome.

The two biggest numbers on The Doors are undoubtedly Light My Fire and The End which are further opportunities to appreciate how ambitious the band really was. Light My Fire was later edited for a tidy single but in its original, and superior form, there is an extended organ and guitar interlude which pushes the length over seven minutes. The whole thing is just perfect as far as I'm concerned with a chance to showcase the talents of every member of the band. When they took to the stage, Morrison's ego prevented him from giving the rest of the band a chance but on record he's 25% of the band and not the 125% which he aimed for when there was an audience present.

If anyone doubted that The Doors had ambition then they were silenced by The End, the final track on the album and one of the most audacious songs recorded in the 1960's. It would have been considered bold if it was recorded in 1967 by The Beatles who were four year veterans of the studio and could do no wrong. But recorded by a band making their debut album it's an incredibly arrogant move.

Whether or not you like it probably depends on where you stand with regards to The Doors themselves. Those who love them hold it up as their finest achievement but those who can't stand them cite it as evidence of their overblown pretentiousness. Certainly you could argue that any song that goes for nearly 12 minutes and contains the line "Lost in a Roman Wilderness of pain" could possibly be viewed as self indulgent. The fact that the song starts out as a meaningless ramble through Jim's head and then finishes with a narrative about someone who murders their family probably alienates a couple of people as well.

But it really does work. The band somehow manage to create a genuinely creepy atmosphere using only drums, keyboard and guitar and Morrison is positively eerie over the top of them. He might have a great rock and roll bar-room voice but he's also got a trained actor's ability to use his voice as an emotive tool. It's amazing stuff and not something you will easily forget.

The Doors is an arrogant declaration from a young band. They managed to follow it up with some great moments later in their career but never quite lived up to the incredibly bold statement of their debut.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: ""The End" is a mindless rant that wouldn't make the cut on "The Wiggles", and "The Crystal Ship" is Cha-chi on pot!!!"

-Why would anyone compare The End to the Wiggles? I don't understand.

So are you glad these Doors were opened or do you wish they'd stayed firmly closed? Let me know below


  1. I am still laughing years after you said it , but I love your line about being so musically ignorant that you thought Handel was a member of the Doors. That said I love this album. Break on Through leads off my Vietnam War Compilation. And The End.....Wow.

    1. Your memory, as always, is impressive.