411 Music Hall of Fame Class of 2009: The Doors
THE DOORS’ MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS:
• The first American rock band to certify eight consecutive gold records.
• Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1993)
• Their song “Light My Fire” and self-titled debut album were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
• Received a lifetime achievement award at the 2007 Grammy Awards.
• Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
• One of Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
• Three of their albums are included in Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Albums of All Time (The Doors, L.A Woman and Strange Days
• Four RIAA certified gold albums, nine platinum albums, four multi-platinum albums and one diamond album (The Best of The Doors)
• Three RIAA certified gold singles: “Hello, I Love You”, “Light My Fire”, “Touch Me”
• The most controversial band of all time
Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek would meet while at the UCLA film school in July of ‘65. The story is that Jim would tell Ray about how he’s been writing poetry and sang the lyrics to “Moonlight Drive”, which would later find itself on their second album. Ray was so taken by the work that he suggested them form a band. After getting their creative feet wet with Ray’s brothers (Jim and Rick) on guitar, they would go on to meet John Densmore and Robby Krieger. From there, even without a bass player, they were officially a “band” – but they still needed a title for this union. Morrison would give the band its name. Inspired by the title of Aldous Huxley’s 1954 book “The Doors of Perception” which in turn was inspired by a line from a William Blake poem that went: “If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to man as it is: infinite”
From the start, The Doors were always collaborative. Morrison would be the voice to his own and often forgotten by many, the lyrics of Robby Krieger. Musically, it was the entire group’s input that would form the sound that complimented the entire package of who and what The Doors’ brand of lyrical electric blues was all about.
After recording a demo and cutting their performance teeth at the London Fog club, they’d go on to come into the iconic venue Whisky-a-Go-Go as the house band in 1966. This gig would only last four months. Morrison would get the band fired for pretty much making history. Morrison embellished and added lyrics to deliver an “Oedipus Rex” version of “The End”. Apparently, discussing killing your father and having sex with your mother was something that offended the club. Acid was apparently to blame. Maybe it was casual experimentation, but maybe it was in celebration in the fact that a few days prior the band was signed by Elektra Records.
They didn’t need much time to release their self-titled debut, The Doors, as it came out in early January of ‘67. It was recorded over only a few days in late August and early September of ‘66 with a good amount of the songs only needing one take. Most of their demo recordings and live set made it onto the album including some of the best songs in rock and roll history like the eleven minute “The End”, the Krieger scribed “Light My Fire”, and anthem “Break On Through (To the Other Side)”. They were now receiving attention and being accepted by the masses. “Light My Fire” got them in American’s homes on “Ed Sullivan”, “The End” got them into the counterculture scene because of the dark undertones. Morrison’s image would take shape as something mysteriously open, dark, and impulsive.
If you’ve seen Oliver Stone’s 1991 The Doors movie, then you’ve seen the over exaggerated story of the “Ed Sullivan Show Incident”. The fabled story goes that the network didn’t want the band to use the word “higher” during their “Light My Fire” performance. The movie shows it as Morrison rebelling and saying the forbidden word right into the camera. If you watch the actual footage, the word “fire” was what was emphasized instead. Manzarek has claimed Jim was nervous and forgot in some accounts and in others he’s said it was blatant rebellion. This would be another example of how things seemed to of taken off for the band. With the Whiskey-a-Go-Go firing, Ed Sullivan incident, and everything else it feels as if their journey was like a skipping stone on top of a pond. Skipping from episode to episode the band’s legend grew stronger. These incidents didn’t hurt anyone, but opened the world’s eyes to the bands magic.
The band would go on to experiment with and explore the “acid rock” genre for the next one. To me it was just as powerful as their debut. On their second album, Strange Days we were given the gifts of “People Are Strange” and “Love Me Two Times”. They reached number one on the charts for the first time with their third album Waiting for the Sun. On it, you’ll find “Hello, I Love You” and one of my personal favorites “Spanish Caravan”. An interesting note about “Hello, I Love You” is that Jim seemed to not take to it very much at times. In some concerts he’d hand off the vocals to Ray for this specific track.
The Soft Parade, the fourth album by The Doors, was released in June of ‘69. It was the most produced and more pop-oriented than their past works. This alienated their older fan base who were used to their soulful, bluesier tracks. The only hit single from this album was “Touch Me”. The Soft Parade would feature more lyrics from Krieger than past albums. Jim’s drinking, poetry, and other projects were more of a focus to him at the time. It would be the fifth album, Morrison Hotel that would bring the band back its original form. The style of the music leaned more towards the band’s blues-rock roots. There were no hit singles on the album, but their critical acclaim was back. Still, you have tracks like “Peace Frog” and “Roadhouse Blues” on Morrison Hotel – both considered essential tracks of the band by fans.
The Doors’ final album as a foursome would come in 1971 with L.A. Woman. The title track as well as “Love Her Madly”, and “Riders on the Storm” would go on to be part of their great hits catalogue. Only surpassed by the self titled debut, L.A. Woman would be band’s second most successful album. They dove back into their rhythm and blues roots and it paid off. The studio works book ended from opening organ of “Break On Through (To The Other Side)” to the last ominous tones of “Riders on The Storm”, there really isn’t much to be considered “filler” in between.
After this, Morrison would move to Paris to take some time off. He wanted to return to the US, but that would never happen. On July 3rd, 1971 Jim Morrison, the lead singer of The Doors, would meet his maker at the age of 27. Even in death, Morrison causes speculation and controversy. Some say he had bad asthma and was coughing up blood for awhile. Other say he died at a night club after a bad heroine incident. Regardless of what any of us believe or think happened is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. The fact of the matter is that the world lost one of its most profound front men, poets, and souls much too early.
The remaining members of the band would go on to record two more albums as a trio. In 1973, they would move on as it just wasn’t the same without Jim. I saw on an old documentary that there were talks of Iggy Pop coming in to take over the vocalist job, but it never panned out. I’m pretty certain that was all for the best. Pop, while being Hall of Fame worthy himself, went on to do great things on his own. In 2002, Manzarek and Robby Krieger formed a new band called “The Doors of the 21st Century”. John Densmore and the Morrison estate fought this in court as they were still using the “Doors” name. They lost and Ray and Robby would change their band name to “D21C” and then “Riders on the Storm”. The legal battles with John Densmore and the other members didn’t end with that. He’s been strict on not letting the music of The Doors be used in commercials. He told the LA Times: “People lost their virginity to this music, got high for the first time to this music. I’ve had people say kids died in Vietnam listening to this music, other people say they know someone who didn’t commit suicide because of this music…. On stage, when we played these songs, they felt mysterious and magic. That’s not for rent.” You have to respect that. I’m perfectly acceptant of popular music being used in adverts, but some things are too sacred.
I’m sure there has been many hypothetical “What If” situations about The Doors had Morrison not had passed on. As he got older he seemed to have become more subdued, angrier, and wiser. The days of the “Lizard King” persona were past him, but then again at the end, he still had legal problems due to a public indecency charge.
Why The Doors Were Selected:
If you are one of the millions of souls who comprehend the influence of music, life, and soul that The Doors so genuinely gave us during their eight years together then I’m telling you something you already know.
Since I was a child I’ve always loved the music of The Doors. Maybe it was the melody, maybe the contrast of soothing and passionate vocals, or maybe it was a spiritual experience. As I grew older, The Doors always took on new meanings. As a teenager, it was the rebellion and sex that was appealing. Turning twenty one and being able to consume alcohol brought out something new. Then as I’ve grown to be in my mid 20’s, two years removed from the age Morrison was at his death, the music again takes on a new shape. The music of The Doors is timeless and if you let it, it will grow with you. The Doors dig into your soul and bring the truth to the front of a crowd of emotion and experience. With John Densmore on drums, Robby Krieger on guitar, Ray Manzarek on the organ, and Jim Morrison supplying the vocals it’s easy to understand The Doors didn’t just make music. These four souls did not just “open doors”; their music knocked the walls down and exposed something inside of all us. They crafted, perfected, and shared their experience of art with the world. For that, their souls will always be open for generations to come. And surely those generations will find their own connection with The Doors.