“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is — infinite.” William Blake
Welcome to the Freudian playground that is The Doors, a dark carnival of dreams and nightmares populated by angels and devils, maidens and monsters, mothers and fathers, soldiers and shamans. You can ride on highways and oceans, on snakes and lizards, on a blue bus or a crystal ship.
Motel, Money, Murder, Madness.
Weird scenes inside the goldmine.
When they burst onto the national scene in 1967, The Doors brought with them an edge of menace, offering a stark contrast to their peace-wielding peers during the Summer of Love.
In a season of sunshine, this group lived in the shadows. While others wore velvet Edwardian suits or brightly colored paisley, Jim Morrison—lead singer and primary lyricist—often dressed head to toe in skin-tight black leather. (Having studied film and theater at UCLA, Jim and organist Ray Manzarek well understood the power of images.) The Doors epitomized underground cool in a way no other band could — primal, dangerous, and far, far out.
Morrison—whose looks were often compared to a Greek god or a Byronic poet—exuded sex and magic. (One record executive, after meeting Jim for the first time, called his boss and said, “If he can read the phone book on key we’re going to sell millions of records.”) But Morrison’s Jeckyll and Hyde nature got him into trouble. In one evening he could go from having dinner with politicians and police chiefs to spraying an entire recording studio with fire extinguisher foam. But hey, when you’re the Lizard King, you can do anything.
While Morrison’s charisma and behavior understandably steals focus, the sound of The Doors sometimes goes unheralded. Along with Manzarek’s distinctive keyboard playing, John Densmore’s jazz-influenced drumming provides the perfect foil for Morrison’s flights of improvisation, and Robby Krieger’s liquid guitar lines move seamlessly from flamenco to folk, jazz, blues, and rock. Nobody sounded like The Doors — not before, not after.
So put your boots on, take a face from the ancient gallery, and . . . walk on down the hall. Here’s the least you need to know:
The Very Best Of The Doors (1966-1971) A generous helping of tracks. (Maybe too many — this would probably be stronger if pared down to a leaner and meaner set.) But it does cover all the high points, illuminating every facet of The Doors. If the albums listed below weren’t such classics, this double-disc collection would be all you need to get the basics. Check: Hello, I Love You & Light My Fire
The Doors (1967) While other bands released heavily produced, kaleidoscopic songs about sunshine and rainbows, Morrison and his musical cohorts unleashed a spooky, stripped-down set of bluesy psychedelia. Epic closer “The End” was recorded live in two takes while Jim peaked on acid. A bold, confident debut. Check: Break On Through & The End
Morrison Hotel (1970) After a couple of albums out in the wilderness, The Doors return to form with a vengeance as the psychedelic fog clears. A tight and tough collection with some of their hardest, funkiest rock. Check: Roadhouse Blues & Peace Frog
L.A. Woman (1971) Late-night cruising on the streets of Los Angeles. Listening to the radio. Leaving the 60s behind. Neon and dive bars line the dirty boulevards. Don’t pick up hitchhikers. Check: L.A. Woman & Riders On The Storm
Along with The Beatles and The Beach Boys, The Doors produced some of the earliest music videos:
At Heathrow Airport customs: