The Doors became a band known for its multi-faceted approach to rock and blues, as well as their creative stage performances. A band tied together under coincidental circumstances created a gorgeous new rock sound, as well as influenced a culture to become enlightened with truth and freedom through poetic and musical testimony.
Although Jim Morrison was a focal point for this band, there are a few elements of this unique collection of sounds that make The Doors one of the most innovative bands of all time. Before we launch into the list, here’s a little background on the band.
Behind The Doors
Jim was born in Melbourne, Florida back in 1943. His mother and father were both very moral people – Clara Clarke being a homemaker, and George was in the U.S. Naval Forces. Andy and Anne Morrison are Jim’s only siblings. Since the family moved around a bit due to George’s career, Jim found himself in Florida, California, then Virginia, where he stayed for a bit and went to high school.
Jim took after his father with his proficiency in piano, which was insanely portrayed in the band’s film, “Feast of Friends,” which starts out with a gorgeous melody, then screams slam poetry, followed by a story of a boy going to a mental institution with an intense tune.
Jim fully submerged himself into a culture that was both a metaphysical prison and a lucrative treasure – taming unconscious beasts with doses of women, alcohol, hallucinogens and avid poetry.
He constantly had his nose in a book ever since he could read, with items such as classic Greek and German literature, as well as famous philosophers such as Nietzsche, Jung, and William Blake. Jim was obsessed with literature found in The Library of Congress, who ironically now holds The Doors’ first self-titled album in their music collection for its highly impressive literary stature.
While in high school, Jim became more independent while clinging to small social normalities such as parties, girlfriends, and good grades (though he ditched his graduation ceremony).
Jim wasn’t necessarily the most traditional person, so throwing away his past once he was done with 12th grade was heaven to him. He packed his bags and went back to Florida, then he transferred to UCLA only a year later to study the art of film. After this, Jim’s family stopped hearing back from him, and he eventually regarded them as dead (although they weren’t).
To Come Of Age
At UCLA, Jim learns the art of film to be open to complete creative privilege, allowing the mind to express itself in visions of psychedelic trips, shapes of life, and vivid emotion provoked by astonishing images. Not only does Jim share this passion for film, but so does Ray Manzarek – soon to be organist of The Doors.
Ray and Jim hit it off well – dropping acid a few nights a week, exploring each other’s philosophies of life, discussing theories of the human condition, as well as their love for jazz and blues. They shared influences such as Muddy Waters, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane.
Once Jim put together a film for a class that received a D, he tells Ray he’s moving away to New York. Only a few months later, Ray finds Jim walking along Venice Beach stoned out his mind, humming a melody, as he was too afraid to drop out of UCLA just yet. Ray found out that Jim was writing rock songs he put together in his head for weeks. Carefully singing the opening lines to “Moonlight Drive,” Ray and Jim agree to make one of the most legendary rock bands in the world, as it literally blew Ray away.
There are a few theories as to where the band name came from, either from Aldous Huxley’s “The Doors of Perception,” or from William Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.” Ray’s love for the organ and keyboard both are prevalent as his career evolved.
John Densmore was a friend of Ray’s from meditation class, and Robby tagged along with John. Robby and John both loved the idea, as well as Jim’s poetry immediately. Robby had been playing electric guitar six months before the band formation but was well trained in Spanish flamenco. He played in a band with John in high school, as John was a jazz drummer.
Jim wanted many songs written as soon as possible, and Robby came through with their first hit, “Light my Fire.”
The Best Albums by The Doors
Now that you have a little bit of background on the band, let’s kick off this top 5 list with the self-titled album The Doors.
5) The Doors (1967)
“The Doors” is the first studio album to be released after five days of recording straight at Elektra’s studio in Southern California. This entire album was a spiritual cacophony of rhythm, soul, and utter blasphemy.
With the raw depiction of an Oedipus complex in the song “The End,” as well as obvious sexual innuendo for the entirety of their interpretation of Willie Dixon’s “Back Door Man,” Jim makes one feel like a single trucker headed to Alabama with two LSD tabs beneath their tongue.
With the whole Charles Manson disaster proving that LSD can cause serious madness, as well as Janis Joplin & Jimi Hendrix’s death, not to mention war after war, 1969 was bringing continuous fear and malice. The Doors were looking to pull the curtain back and show us what we’re missing.
These guys were honest, and had no regard for critics or uncomfortable faces; The Doors stuck together while playing some of the raunchiest lyrics of their time, alongside outrageous stage performances of their lead singer. During the 60’s and 70’s, the public was just getting used to Mick Jagger taking over the scene with the ‘Stones wicked lyrics and cosmic performances. Elusive behavior such as Jagger’s was hardly toyed with in the music industry, especially not the free spirit of the current drug culture such as Morrison’s.
Songs such as “Light My Fire” and “Break On Through (To The Otherside)” are jazzy, psychedelic pop-rock anthems of the freedom and superiority one may feel when they’re high, as well as their most popular songs overall. “Light My Fire” was an amazing symphony that created a musical revolution.
The Doors had a sound no one had heard before, with John Densmore’s jazzy, fast drumming, Ray’s groovy yet ominous organ playing, Robbie’s indescribable dance of notes between rock and blues jams. “Break On Through” is just as riveting, shouting an irrevocable testimony of the world living behind closed eyes – that LSD opens a door to what our true reality is.
Greek Literature Performed with Vulgarity
Jim said in a interview with Rolling Stone that “The End” meant something else to him everytime he sang it, which is truly apparent when the song was performed on stage. There are a few musical influences prevalent in Robby Krieger’s portion, including Chopin’s “Funeral March” and the slow, western sounds of old, dirty guitar strings.
“The End” is a riveting strand of verses interlacing into a cohesive melody causes one to be fully alert, while in a trance of both melancholy dreams and sin.
Such as being in Greek theatre, Jim acted out the wild Oedipus complex without reservation, ultimately proving a new sense of poetic musical form that would be replicated for decades to come, such as Echo & The Bunnymen’s “Ocean Rain.” At the time, this was an idea being widely discussed in Freudian Psychology, so it was relevant for the time period they were in to sing such profane lyrics.
Obviously, these songs were explicit for the late 60’s, as The Doors made their appearance in a time where everyone was still trying to grasp how to handle Pink Floyd’s animal noises coming from Ummagumma without acid.
Brilliant lyrics describing scenes drenched in a palette of emotion, “The Crystal Ship,” and “End of the Night” were timeless classics that bark with haunting guitar riffs sending the mind drifting down a steady stream of nasty nightmares, and dark fantasies such as Pink Floyd, minus the floral aspect of the psychedelic sound.
4) Strange Days (1967)
“Strange Days” was the icing on Jim’s funnel cake, incorporating every major theme of a carnival carousel orchestrated by the band’s music. Loud, piercing frequencies replicating bats and fat seals wailing for mercy cloak John’s fast, rhythmic drumming beats; beating with fervent consistency, John plays a daunting string of chords almost to count each head as it rises on the carousel.
Ray’s keyboard sounds identical to the music at the circus, though he intensifies the beat as the song goes on, like acid dripping into the ears and chasing dreams throughout the night. Jim’s voice caressing the listener in conjunction music eating at the senses only explicates their motive: to arrest one’s attention while an array of quality, eerie beats carries the mind to a sea of oblivion.
Cleverly, the band lists “You’re Lost Little Girl” right after “Strange Days,” as if to tell a story by continuing through another song’s face. A girl enters the carousel to be whisked away to a land foreign to her – scary, yet comforting – the band’s lyrical emphasis noting the idea to lose oneself to find freedom, ultimate happiness, and eternal wonder. Robby’s guitar bouts long, wavy notes sounding as if a ghoul had cloaked the whammy bar.
“People Are Strange” was a groundbreaking single for this band, incorporating all the elements of “Strange Days,” while cloaking each vampiric note with the utmost clarity. Hanging around one’s shoulders like a leather jacket on the boardwalk, this song drenches the body with a sense of chilling immunity.
Roy’s delightful keyboard piece meant for a 20’s jive compliments Robby’s howling blues guitar well, making a devious number that wreaked of kettle corn and musky clowns. One other interesting track that follows is “Horse Latitudes,” a vivid, morose poem inspired by Norse mythology, while Jim crafts aquatic horses screaming in the sea. In addition, “Love Me Two Times” a fast-paced blues-rock song with jazz influences.
In addition to the dark melodies, The Doors also wrote their longest song to date, “When The Music’s Over.” This is an idyllic anthem euphemizing death paired with Jim shouting about humans destroying the Earth in vain before life leaves their chests.
The band creates a melancholy melody to build off for 11 minutes while Jim’s voice conducts the band with the intensity of each word. Some of the lyrics are anti-religious, such as Jim’s ticket to the resurrection needing to be withdrawn, and they did it with grins on their faces. They wanted to play what they wanted, without a care in the world.
Strange Days is one of the best vinyl records to own, with the unbelievable songs above, as well as an awesome album cover. A photo of a dancing midget with a man in flip-flops lifting weights beside him, a man juggling while someone is lifting a man in the air, all while one of their crew plays the trumpet in the back; all the while there is a poster of The Doors on the wall behind them, tying the image together with creative presentation of their iconic circus-like sound lying inside.
3) Waiting for the Sun (1968)
This unique blend of both pop and rock influences gave The Doors’ the creative appeal of a Rolling Stones-type band. Though The Doors modeled a wide array of sounds that mainly dabbled in some acid rock and major blues emphasis, this was a nice break from their consistent flare-up of explosive notes. Ray, John, Jim, and Ray all came together to write a more poetic piece that sews together the fabric of their very ambitions.
Ray plays gorgeous solos such as that in “Love Street” and “Yes, The River Knows” that isn’t exhibited as much through their previous albums. “Not To Touch The Earth” pairs two glorious musical periods of intense, heart-racing keys and riffs that feel like a bad acid trip, lost, in a haunted house on Halloween night.
On the other hand, “Wintertime Love” is a classic 60’s love song, echoing with Celtic or Irish keyboard humming like a bird, and theatrical drums being embraced by Jim’s warm vocals.
“Spanish Caravan” models Robbie’s remarkable training in Spanish flamenco guitar, playing a chilling melody that brings about both nostalgia and fear. He plays an elegant mix of poetic string-pulling technique with a Spanish touch on acoustic guitar, followed by an eccentric rain of electric guitar notes while John drums like a bull stampede.
Ray’s theatric melody mimicking wind, fear, and paranoia sweeps through the room as Jim sings with steady consistency while holding a heavy emphasis on every note in his eerie voice.
Waiting for the Sun was a powerful album, exploiting their abilities to write versatile, spiritual work in collaboration with pop, blues, and Spanish guitar. Songs such as “The Unknown Soldier” have carried The Doors’ insight for decades, with its vivid imagery while soldiers take orders and use firearms. The emotion and raw intensity of every lyric this band wrote evoked deep thought, sometimes anger, but most often a sense of awakening.
2) An American Prayer (1978)
The Doors didn’t release this album until after Jim passed away, though it is a gem treasured by poets all over the world. Now being pressed on vinyl more than it was about five or six years ago when one could only find cd’s of the album online at the time. Nowadays, vinyl is becoming much more popular, giving these old men a chance to sell their Doors’ albums to some eager teen drooling over Morrison.
The clear-cut poetic performances sound unbelievable on vinyl compared to digital downloads or CDs, as it’s the raw crackling of the original recording that gives one chills more than anything.
Jim sang vivid and vulgar verses while playing on dark fantasies as tambourines shake like gypsy’s feet in the sand. In “Dawn’s Highway,” he tells his first painful memory in spoken word form, just like he would a friend. Indians were scattered all over the road as their blood painted the pavement – a soul dances around, and jumps right into his own body.
Images breathtaking and abstract such as this pulsate throughout the album with vibrant energy. Dead souls rise again to dance by Jim’s permissive lips, their soles hitting the soul and swaying in the breeze of ballerina piano keys.
“Newborn Awakening” is a nostalgic, child-like jazz song written to enlighten the sad soul after such massive pain Robby plays dreamy, depressing guitar for the last minute of the song, accompanied by playful piano keys, and smooth-jazz drumming.
The experience of being read such powerful poetry in conjunction with The Doors’ music completes the sound for a miraculous nostalgic journey. Emphasizing tenets of death, childhood, innocence, and sex, the listener is on edge with every verse. This album has the most poetic, vulnerable states Jim has ever been recorded in.
1) LA Woman (1971)
LA Woman is a collection of stories and poems of the life in Los Angeles, California. Not only is this one of the best modern twists on classic blues rock, but it is also the first album since that every member of The Doors was given credit for songwriting.
“LA Woman” would become one of The Doors’ signature tracks, transforming every square inch of their talent and soul into a downhill, steady train moving faster and faster with no brakes. Notice how Densmore’s relentless, consistent tapping of the symbol is coupled with harsh, Chicago rhythm throughout the entire track. It’s phenomenal how there is a quiet layover Robbie’s garage-blues sound cooing in the ear like a jazz musician on the highway. All the while, Ray’s fluctuating his fingers in wavy rhythm all over the keyboard, simulating that of blues artists such as Charlie Musselwhite and Muddy Waters.
Sounds replicating the stomping of some mob of gangsters emulated through the haunting riffs coming from Robbie’s guitar while Densmore creeps behind him with the rhythm of a marching band. Ray chimes in with his keyboard playing Munster-like notes, as Jim shouts a daunting, hesitant song about the dirty nature of LA, America (L’America).
The final music speeds up in tempo rapidly, like dwindling off a cliff to fly down 60 miles an hour, hitting the ground with a dramatic, abrupt note.
“Cars Hiss By My Window” is a famous blues song, with no keyboard at all. Jim bellows through his grizzly lips a tune about a woman who’s already gone cold in the relationship, though she lies beside him in bed. Listening to the cars pass the window late at night.
Jim impersonates a harmonica, or electric guitar with his own voice, adding a unique finish to this humbling melody. In addition, “Been Down So Long” has heavy, intimidating bass lines with consistent, drumming like a steady foot tapping to the beat.
A classic blues song by Big Joe Williams, “Crawling King Snake” is famously re-adapted by The Doors on this album. Robbie definitely adapts his own version of the style played by Hooker by fusing that sound with a slight Hendrix twang, and the occasional bark of a dirty, snarling electric guitar.
Ray enhances the emphasis of the heavy hitting drums once it mingles with the guitar’s intermittent shout by using a trivial, gamey-keyboard signature to The Doors’ classic sound.
While it’s obvious there is so much more to tell about this band, there are tons of novels and poems released from and about The Doors that give even more information. The Doors was a legendary piece of rock and roll history, lining the wild soul of Jim’s as eternal.
A tragic ending for the life of such a great poet didn’t stop the rest of the band from creating gorgeous music to live on after him, nor did it stop Jim’s poetry from laying on teenager’s desks 20 years later. There was a legacy this band left behind, with little to no footage of outrageous performances, alongside a new level of respect for the shamelessness of each member who simply wanted the music, life, love, and truth – nothing more.
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