The Doors: 13

220px-13_(The_Doors_album_-_cover_art)They had a greatest hits album with this title, but I’ll give you my own 13 Doors songs.

Listening to each Doors album, every album had peaks, but also valleys.  If I were to pick one, it would be their debut album as their best overall record.

The Doors, released in 1967, was a bold sound. In 50 years, it’s sold 20 million copies, that’s a bold statement too.  I’ll review it at another time.

Over the course of five years, the Doors released six albums.  Not usual for the time, bands were contractually required to release at least one album per year, although the length of the albums fit nicely in less than 45 minutes of run-time, the maximum limitations of vinyl.

Over the course of five years, the music of band changed, as did the country and their audience.  In 1967, radio was still playing mostly sunny, bouncy pop songs about love.  It was the “Summer of Love” but the Doors were past holding hands and into something more serious, and sometimes much weirder.  “The End” would foreshadow a rougher and tougher lyrical canvass. Parents rightfully viewed the Doors with some suspicion.  Their music could be surprisingly bouncy and pop at times, but peel back the veneer and you found darker and deeper themes buoyed by Morrison’s bad boy image, and complex and sometimes hypnotic sounding grooves.

DoorsRanked

The Doors were often a contrast in styles, from their bluesy rock, to highly orchestrated pop, to dreamy and poetic suites, to theatrical noodlings to riff-driven rockers.  It was difficult to categorize this band, although Morrison’s dark and brooding looks, enigmatic  poetic lyrics, were overtaken by his on-stage antics.  Did he really whip out his Johnson in Miami?  Controversy followed the band, and while it delighted some fans, it hurt their popularity, as did Morrison’s behavior, weight gain and alcohol issues.

“Light My Fire” (The Doors)  The best Doors song, not the wimpy single version, the seven minute album track. This song defined the Doors sound. The lyrics pushed the boundaries. Manzarek’s organ playing was rapturous and hypnotic. Krieger’s guitar solo had a dangerous pull. It wasn’t loud and distorted, it was mellow and threatening, like being swallowed in a heroin spiral. The Doors would write snappy melodic songs but there was a dark and sinister mood to their music. Parents, keep your teenagers away from this music. I won’t even mention the disturbing psychological underpinnings of “The End,” also from this album.  A quartet with no bass player, Wrecking Crew member Larry Knechtel (Bread, Simon & Garfunkel, Beach Boys) played on the sessions.  The Doors would use a variety of bass players in the studio, but Manzarek provided bass, using his keyboard, in concert.

You know that it would be untrue
You know that I would be a liar
If I was to say to you
Girl, we couldn’t get much higher

“Break On Through” (The Doors) This was actually the Doors’ first single. This song introduced the attitude of the Doors, Morrison’s snarly voice, their lyrical messaging, and their musical chops.  This was not a power trio but their was muscle in their music, more of a jazz influence with a rock veneer.

You know the day destroys the night
Night divides the day
Tried to run
Tried to hide
Break on through to the other side

“Love Me Two Times” Great guitar riff, this song rocks.  Krieger was such an underrated guitar player.  Manzarek was no slouch as a keyboard player, his soloing had precision and purpose.

Love me one time
I could not speak
Love me one time
Yeah, my knees got weak
But love me two times, girl
Last me all through the week
Love me two times
I’m goin’ away

“You’re Lost Little Girl” If you heard this coming from your teenage daughter’s bedroom you’d confiscate the album. The Doors projected this dangerously vibe, more image than reality, but in the era of kids running away from home and the Manson Family, a mere song title is menacing. The song has a great electric guitar riff and creates that foreboding sense of vulnerability.

I think that you know what to do
Impossible? Yes, but it’s true
I think that you know what to do, girl
I’m sure that you know what to do

You’re lost little girl

“Hello, I Love You” That opening riff keeps repeating throughout the song. An upbeat and seemingly positive lyrical message during the “Summer of Love” year. These weren’t The Beach Boys wanting to love you, it’s the parents’ worst nightmare band. Krieger didn’t use a distorted guitar very often on singles but this fat tone mirrored Manzark’s harpsichord rhythm track. Only 2:13 in length but it conveyed a lot.

She holds her head so high
Like a statue in the sky
Her arms are wicked, and her legs are long
When she moves my brain screams out this song

Sidewalk crouches at her feet
Like a dog that begs for something sweet
Do you hope to make her see, you fool?
Do you hope to pluck this dusky jewel?

“Touch Me” This was their “sell-out” song. A lot of fans hated the conventionality of the song and the overblown arrangement with orchestra. I always liked the song, regardless of the commerciality of the song. The album had horns and big arrangements, a bit unusual for the Doors.  Underneath the blanket of production was a rocking song written by Krieger.

“Wild Child” The Doors captured the restless spirit of American youth. A singular riff drives this song, not groundbreaking but is allows some fine guitar work by Krieger.

Wild child full of grace
Savior of the human race
Your cool face
Natural child, terrible child
Not your mother’s or your father’s child
Your our child, screamin’ wild

“Road House Blues” Another hard-rock, blues basher. Morrison handled this song beautifully, as did Krieger, who eats this up on guitar. Manzarek pounds the piano, a nice change from the organ. When you want to hear them rock-out, minus any atmospheric or Freudian or Nietzsche gimmickry, start here.

“Peace Frog” The guitar riff is awesome. It’s nice the band rocks out in a straight rocker. This song did convey a message that there was more violence than peace across the country.

There’s blood in the streets, it’s up to my ankles
She came
Blood in the streets, it’s up to my knee
She came
Blood in the streets in the town of Chicago
She came
Blood on the rise, it’s following me
Think about the break of day

Blood in the streets in the town of New Haven
Blood stains the roofs and the palm trees of Venice
Blood in my love in the terrible summer
Bloody red sun of Phantastic L.A.

Ship of Fools”  I had forgotten about this song until I started reviewing every song.  It sort of sneaks up on you.  Nice guitar work by Krieger.  Nice musical structure, it allows for some tight soloing within the context of the song.  Just over three minutes of great music, a precursor to Steely Dan.

The human race was dyin’ out
No one left to scream and shout
People walking on the moon
Smog will get you pretty soon

Everyone was hanging out
Hanging up and hanging down
Hanging in and holding fast
Hope our little world will last

“Love Her Madly”  An upbeat rollicking rocker with Manzarek brilliantly on organ and piano.  Krieger contributes a fine solo, but it is really Manzarek who provides the musical thrust on this tune.  The L.A. Woman album returned to more a stripped-down musical production and brought a weary lyrical attitude to the album, in great contrast to their debut album of just four years prior.  They even used a second guitarist on the sessions. This was producer Paul Rothchild’s last work with the band, he left during sessions for the album.

“L.A. Woman” The album of the same name was their last as a group and it was powerful. It’s a driving song that doesn’t disappoint.  One of the Doors’ most iconic songs.  They were purely Los Angeles, and not the sunny Southern Cal Beach Boys vibe.  This was more sunburn and dangerously wild times.  Mr mojo risin’.

Well, I just got into town about an hour ago.
Took a look around see which way the wind blow.
Where the little girls in their Hollywood bungalows.
Are you a lucky little lady in the city of light or
just another lost angel?
City of night, city of night,

“Riders on the Storm” One of my all-time favorite songs. The imagery of the song is captivating and the sound effect of the rain adds to the mental picture. The playing is reserved but enough to carry the song. Manzarek’s ominous electric piano provides the tone, and Krieger’s guitar is used in the right places.  Seven minutes of musical delight, the Doors at their most focused.

Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house we’re born
Into this world we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out on loan
Riders on the storm

There’s a killer on the road
His brain is squirmin’ like a toad
Take a long holiday
Let your children play
If you give this man a ride
Sweet family will die
Killer on the road, yeah

Honorable mention: “Strange Days” “Wishful Sinful” “People Are Strange” “When the Music’s Over” “Spanish Caravan” “Land Ho” “Indian Summer” “The WASP”

This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend

The end
Of our elaborate plans
The end
Of everything that stands
The end
No safety or surprise
The end
I’ll never look into your eyes
Again

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The Doors: 1971

 


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