The Doors

The Doors is the debut album by the American rock band the Doors, released on January 4, 1967. The album features their breakthrough single "Light My Fire" and the lengthy song "The End" with its Oedipal spoken word section.

The Doors was central to the progression of psychedelic rock, and has been critically acclaimed. In 2012, it was ranked number 42 in Rolling Stone magazine's 500 greatest albums of all time.

The original album has sold 20 million copies, and has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame; "Light My Fire" was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. It has been reissued several times on CD, including a 2007 remaster and a 2017 "50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition."

In 2015, the Library of Congress selected The Doors for inclusion in the National Recording Registry based on its cultural, artistic or historical significance.

1. Background

The Doors' final lineup was formed in mid-1965 after Ray Manzarek's two brothers left and Robby Krieger joined. Krieger had only been playing the electric guitar for six months when he was invited to become a member of the band. The group also featured jazz-influenced drummer John Densmore and the charismatic, and later iconic Jim Morrison on vocals. The band was initially signed to Columbia Records under a six-month contract but agreed to a release after the record company failed to secure a producer for the album. After being released from the label, the Doors played club venues, including the London Fog and Whisky a Go Go, until they were signed to Elektra Records by Jac Holzman.

2. Recording

The album was recorded by producer Paul A. Rothchild and audio engineer Bruce Botnick at Sunset Sound Studios in Hollywood, California in less than one month in August and September 1966. A four-track tape machine was used for recording, using mostly three tracks: bass and drums on one, guitar and organ on another, and Morrison's vocals on the third. The fourth track was used for overdubbing. Kreiger and session musician Larry Knechtel played electric bass on several songs in order to give some "punch" to the sound of Manzarek's Fender Rhodes keyboard bass. For "The End", two takes were edited together to achieve the final recording.

3. Composition

The Doors features many of the group's most famous compositions, including "Light My Fire", "Break On Through (To the Other Side)", and "The End". In 1969, Morrison stated:

Every time I hear ["The End"], it means something else to me. It started out as a simple good-bye song… Probably just to a girl, but I see how it could be a goodbye to a kind of childhood. I really don't know. I think it's sufficiently complex and universal in its imagery that it could be almost anything you want it to be.

 

Interviewed by Lizze James, he pointed out the meaning of the verse "My only friend, the end":

Sometimes the pain is too much to examine, or even tolerate… That doesn't make it evil, though—or necessarily dangerous. But people fear death even more than pain. It's strange that they fear death. Life hurts a lot more than death. At the point of death, the pain is over. Yeah—I guess it is a friend…

 

In "The End", the vocal interlude of the final minutes was mixed down to make Morrison's repeated use of the word "fuck" unintelligible. The song would be featured prominently in Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 Vietnam War film Apocalypse Now.

"Break On Through (To the Other Side)" was released as the group's first single but it was relatively unsuccessful, peaking at No. 104 in Cash Box and No. 126 in Billboard. Elektra Records edited the line "she gets high", knowing a drug reference would discourage airplay (most remasters from 1999 onward have the original portions of both "Break On Through" and "The End" restored). The song is in 4/4 time and quite fast-paced, starting with Densmore's bossa nova drum groove in which a clave pattern is played as a rim click underneath a driving ride cymbal pattern. Densmore appreciated the new bossa nova craze coming from Brazil, so he decided to use it in the song. Robby Krieger has stated that he took the idea for the guitar riff from Paul Butterfield's version of the song "Shake Your Moneymaker" (originally by blues guitarist Elmore James). Later, a disjointed quirky organ solo is played quite similar to the introduction of Ray Charles' "What'd I Say", which has a few intentional misplaced notes in it. The bassline, similar to a typical bass line used in bossa nova, continues almost unhindered all of the way through the songs verses and solo section. The chorus varies slightly, with the last two notes being an octave higher than usual, creating an ascending, repeating phrase.

The group in 1966 (l-r): Morrison, Densmore, Krieger and (seated) ManzarekThe group in 1966 (l-r): Morrison, Densmore, Krieger and (seated) Manzarek

The Doors breakout hit "Light My Fire" was composed by Krieger. Although the album version was just over seven minutes long, it was widely requested for radio play, so a single version was edited to under three minutes with nearly all the instrumental break removed for airplay on AM radio. Manzarek played the song's bass line with his left hand on a Fender Rhodes Piano Bass while performing the other keyboard parts on a Vox Continental with his right hand. In the liner notes to the 1997 Doors retrospective Box Set, Krieger claims that it was Morrison who encouraged the others to write songs when they realized they did not have enough original material.

The Doors also contains two cover songs: "Alabama Song" and "Back Door Man". "Alabama Song" was written and composed by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill in 1927, for their opera Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny). The melody is changed and the verse beginning "Show me the way to the next little dollar…" is omitted. On the album version, lead singer Jim Morrison altered the second verse from "Show us the way to the next pretty boy" to "Show me the way to the next little girl", but on the 1967 Live at the Matrix recording, he sings the original "…next pretty boy." Manzarek plays the marxophone along with the organ and keyboard bass. The Chicago blues "Back Door Man" was written by Willie Dixon and originally recorded by Howlin' Wolf.

4. Releases

The Doors was released on January 4, 1967 by Elektra Records. It made a steady climb up the Billboard 200, ultimately becoming a huge success in the US once "Light My Fire" scaled the charts, with the album peaking at No. 2 on the chart in September 1967 (stuck behind The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band) and going on to achieve multi-platinum status. In Europe the band would have to wait slightly longer for similar recognition, with "Light My Fire" originally stalling at No. 49 in the UK singles chart and the album failing to chart at all; however, in 1991, buoyed by the high-profile Oliver Stone film The Doors, a reissue of "Light My Fire" reached No. 7 in the singles chart, and the album reached No. 43.

The mono LP (Elektra EKL-4007) has unique mixes that sound different from the stereo version (EKS-74007). The mono LP was deleted not long after its original release and remained unavailable until 2010, when it was reissued as a limited edition 180 gram audiophile LP by Rhino Records.

The 40th anniversary mix of the debut album presents a stereo version of "Light My Fire" in speed-corrected form for the first time. The speed discrepancy (i.e., about 3.5% slow) was brought to Bruce Botnick's attention by a Brigham Young University professor, who noted that all the video and audio live performances of the Doors performing the song, the sheet music and the statements of band members show the song in a key almost a half step higher (key of A) than the stereo LP release (key of A♭/G♯). Until the 2006 remasters, only the original 45 RPM singles ("Light My Fire" and "Break On Through") were produced at the correct speed. The running time of "Light My Fire", while listed correctly above, is incorrectly stated as 6:30 or 6:50 on some LP and CD versions of the album. An edited version was issued as the Doors' second single in May 1967, with most of its organ and guitar solos removed it had a running time of 2:52. As per the aforementioned speed discrepancy, the 40th anniversary speed-corrected mix made "Light My Fire" 6:59, with all solos intact.

The Doors has been released in 2006 in multichannel DVD-Audio, and on September 14, 2011, on hybrid stereo-multichannel Super Audio CD by Warner Japan in their Warner Premium Sound series.

The album was once again remastered and reissued on March 31, 2017, to celebrate the album's 50th anniversary. This 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition contains the original stereo mix (including Light My Fire in its original incorrect speed) and the original mono mix, both available for the first time in remastered form.

5. Reception and legacy

In a contemporary review for Crawdaddy magazine, Paul Williams hailed The Doors as "an album of magnitude" while likening the band to Brian Wilson and the Rolling Stones as creators of "modern music", with which "contemporary 'jazz' and 'classical' composers must try to measure up". Williams added: "The birth of the group is in this album, and it's as good as anything in rock. The awesome fact about the Doors is that they will improve." Robert Christgau was less enthusiastic in his column for Esquire, recommending the album but with reservations; he approved of Manzarek's organ playing and Morrison's "flexible though sometimes faint" singing while highlighting the presence of a "great hard rock original" in "Break on Through" and clever songs such as "Twentieth Century Fox", but was critical of more "esoteric" material such as the "long, obscure dirge" "The End". He also found Morrison's lyrics often self-indulgent, particularly lines like "our love becomes a funeral pyre", which he said spoiled "Light My Fire", and "the nebulousness that passes for depth among so many lovers of rock poetry" on "The End".

The Doors has since been frequently ranked by critics as one of the greatest albums of all time; according to Acclaimed Music, it is the 27th most ranked record on all-time lists. In 2003, Parke Puterbaugh of Rolling Stone called the record "the L.A. foursome's most successful marriage of rock poetics with classically tempered hard rock — a stoned, immaculate classic." Sean Egan of BBC Music opines, "The eponymous debut of The Doors took popular music into areas previously thought impossible: the incitement to expand one's consciousness of opener 'Break on Through' was just the beginning of its incendiary agenda."

The Doors is ranked number 42 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time and also on "The Rolling Stone Hall of Fame". It is ranked number 75 on Q magazine's "100 Greatest Albums Ever" and ranked number 226 in NME magazine's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". In 2007, Rolling Stone put it on their list of the 40 essential albums of 1967.

6. Track listing

All tracks written by the Doors (Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, and John Densmore), except where noted.

Side A

  • "Break On Through (To the Other Side)" (2:29)
  • "Soul Kitchen" (3:35)
  • "The Crystal Ship" (2:34)
  • "Twentieth Century Fox" (2:33)
  • "Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)" (writers: Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill) (3:20)
  • "Light My Fire" (7:06)

Side B

  • "Back Door Man" (writer: Willie Dixon) (3:34)
  • "I Looked at You" (2:22)
  • "End of the Night" (2:52)
  • "Take It as It Comes" (2:23)
  • "The End" (11:41)

Retrieved 29 December 2018 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Doors_(album)

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