From L.A. No hope. The Doors were the anti-60's group. When people preached peace and love, the Doors responded with sex and violence. They were off kilter but terribly in tune with the times. The Doors' first two albums ("The Doors" and "Strange Days") were brilliant. Everyone said so. Critics endlessly analyzed the Doors' mystique and Jim Morrison, the wayward poet turned Rock star. However, the Doors weren't a one-man show. Guitarist Robbie Krieger wrote both words and music (including most of "Light My Fire" the group's first and biggest commercial success). Also, classically trained/Blues keyboardist Ray Manzarek and jazz drummer John Densmore made significant contributions. Then there was Jim. The focal point. As he went, they went.
The third album "Waiting For The Sun" was written under the gun. It showed. The first two albums had nearly exhausted the group's song backlog. "Waiting For The Sun" did contain the group's huge single "Hello, I Love You" and the anti-war "The Unknown Soldier," which was banned by several radio stations. The Doors tried to expand their sound with strings and horns on "Soft Parade" but again fell short. Then Morrison got busted, charged with indecent exposure at the infamous Miami concert. Morrison's trial (he would be found guilty) kept the Doors largely inactive. The trial's fallout resulted in concert promoters banning the group for a time. Maybe the Doors were finished. Once the Miami trial was over, Morrison's lawyer filed an appeal and that nasty mess was behind them for awhile. Re-grouping in L.A., the Doors recorded the intense "Morrison Hotel/Hard Rock Cafe." While the album, unlike every one of its predecessors, did not yield a pop hit, it was a classic with the raw sound of "Roadhouse Blues," the L.A. madness of "Peace Frog" and road warrior "Queen Of The Highway."
"Absolutely Live" was released in part to restore the Doors' reputation as a credible concert draw. Typically, no "hits" were regurgitated on this collection. Rather, the Doors performed favored LP tracks and versions of their "theatre" or extended pieces including "Celebration Of The Lizard" which was left off "Waiting For The Sun." The Doors showed themselves to be a hard-edged Blues-Rock outfit covering Willie Dixon twice and Bo Diddley ("Who Do You Love"). Most live albums have the audience eating up whatever the performer says or does. "Absolutely Live" has Morrison shouting "shut up!" to some audience members as they heckled the singer during a quiet passage of "When The Music's Over." At another point, all Morrison has to do is introduce Ray as the vocalist on Dixon's "Close To You" but he delivers a comical, self-depreciating rap (including a reference to his Miami bust) against authority. It may not be the greatest live record ever made but it's pretty awesome.
With the completion of the Jazz influenced "L.A. Woman" which contained the title track, "Riders On The Storm" and the forgettable pop hit "Love Her Madly," Morrison was off to Paris to write poetry. Ray, Robbie and John began work on new material that might or might not include Morrison. "Not include" became the final answer with Morrison's death - 7/3/71. The death certificate listed the cause as a heart attack. Given Morrison's lifestyle that sounded plausible but still highly unlikely.
All sorts of rumors flew about in the wake of his passing and for many years after. Did Morrison fake his death to escape fame? Or did he actually die from an OD? There were even alleged Morrison sightings.
The last word? In '07, Sam Bernett, the former manager of a Parisian nightclub Morrison frequented during his final days, published The End - Jim Morrison. In the book he claimed that the Doors frontman died of a "massive" heroin overdose, and not natural causes. He further stated that Morrison was found dead in the bathroom of his venue, and that two drug dealers moved the singer's body to his apartment where a death certificate was filled out before Morrison's body was quickly sealed in a casket. Cover up? Ya think?
The surviving Doors mourned briefly before deciding to continue as a trio. This line-up produced two so-so albums. From "Other Voices," "Eye Of The Sun" came closest to capturing the "old" Doors vibe while "Tightrope Ride" was an ode to Morrison. Manzarek did his best Jerry Lee impersonation on "Full Circle's" "Good Rockin' Tonight."
"American Prayer" with the surviving Doors providing instrumental backing to Morrison's spoken-word poetry, wrapped up the trio's output.
'03 saw Krieger and Manzarek revive the Doors with former Police drummer Stewart Copeland and Cult vocalist Ian Astbury - filling in for Morrison. The new line-up's debut was in Vegas and a tour followed. Due to a dispute with Densmore and the Morrison estate over the use of the Doors' name, the group became "The Doors of the 21st Century."
The Doors' studio material has been re-packaged in just about every conceivable configuration. There's not much more that can be done with those six albums. However, the band played numerous concerts; some great (New York) and some awful (Miami, Seattle and New Orleans). Many shows were released (officially and as bootlegs) over the decades but nothing had the sheer volume of '09's "Live In New York," a six CD box set containing four '70 shows (performed over two days - January 17th & 18th) at the Felt Forum. Mixed and mastered by the band's engineer and later producer Bruce Botnick, the set held previously unreleased performances though a few tracks did originally appeared on "Absolutely Live" which was released when all the Doors were 'absolutely alive'.
Interest in the band, and especially their late singer, continued. Morrison's hand written lyrics for "L.A. Woman," written in blue pen on a scrap of yellow legal notepad paper, sold at a U.K. auction in '10 for over $20,000. A few weeks later, the Laurel Canyon house Morrison shared with Pam Courson, his common-law wife, was for sale. The asking price was a "modest" $1.2 million.
The Doors Discography
1967 The Doors
1967 Strange Days
1968 Waiting For The Sun
1969 The Soft Parade
1970 Morrison Hotel
1971 L.A. Woman
1971 Other Voices (first album w/o Jim Morrison)
1972 Full Circle
1978 An American Prayer (music set to Morrison poems)
The Doors - 1967: "Break On Through (To The Other Side)," a potent Rocker and the Doors' first single (it stiffed), opens the record. And like all great 1st track songs it sets the tone. The Doors' world is dark, troubled and threatening. There are some innovations that the Doors should get credit for. First, there is the extended Rock theatre piece "The End." Though not their best it was a groundbreaker. Starting as a "goodbye" song it develops into a sexual/mystical journey. Secondly, the Doors clearly reflected their L.A. environment with "Twentieth Century Fox" and "Soul Kitchen." These songs capture the mood and temper of the city. And even though they had a strong and powerful personality in their singer, the group was not afraid to flex its instrumental prowess. The extended version of "Light My Fire" is the prime example. An edited (shortened) version of "Light My Fire" was the Doors' first major hit. The five-minute organ/guitar instrumental was something they wouldn't return to until "L.A. Woman" four albums later.
Strange Days - 1967: "Strange Days" was often dismissed as a prime example of the sophomore jinx. But any album with the title track and the hot Blues of "Love Me Two Times" can not easily be dismissed. The Doors are even more haunting, mysterious and strange. The Blues derived "People Are Strange" and the rollicking "My Eyes Have Seen You" are brilliant. Also, "When The Music's Over" is their best extended piece.
Morrison Hotel/Hard Rock Cafe - 1970: When it was released many critics viewed "Morrison Hotel/Hard Rock Cafe" as a comeback album. Morrison's impressive arrest record and legal proceedings kept the band inactive for months. Also, they had produced two disappointing albums. So now it was do or die. "Morrison Hotel/Hard Rock Cafe" is the most Blues drenched recording the group's catalog. Also, Ray ditches his Vox organ in favor of a piano. "Roadhouse Blues" is a classic. Down and dirty Blues. No mercy. Morrison even pulls off a Blues scat. "You Make Me Real" is a psuedo-50s Rocker. Given all their troubles, lesser bands would have hung it up or attempted to repeat past successes but the Doors press on. The capper comes during "Waiting For The Sun" when Morrison intones, "this is the strangest life I've ever known." No kidding.