The Doors – “The Doors” (1967)

July 23, 2010 at 12:37 pm (Jim Morrison, Music, Reviews & Articles)

Written by the late, great Greg Shaw for Mojo-Navigator Rock & Roll News in April 1967. Mojo-Navigator was the second major rock & roll fanzine/magazine after Crawdaddy! This was issue #13. There would be one more in August of that year before going under. A few months later, Rolling Stone would begin and the floodgates of rock journalism would open up. Greg Shaw & Mojo were one of the first, and best, though…

I first heard of the Doors last July while visiting Los Angeles. The newly-formed group was playing at the Brave New World and the hand-drawn poster said, “hear the wild new sounds of the Doors.” I didn’t get to see them, but I heard several good reports. Since then ever-growing numbers of people have been praising the Doors, and now with the appearance of their first album the whole music world should soon be talking about them.

The personnel of the band are Jim Morrison, vocalist, and unquestionably one of the finest rock singers in the country; Ray Manzarek, who plays piano, organ and bass; Robby Krieger, guitar, and John Densmore, drums. All four are extremely competent musicians, and their music has a tightness, a solidness, a totality of sound that is unequaled on the West Coast except perhaps by the Grateful Dead.

Of the 11 songs on the album, all but two are originals. The rendition of “Back Door “Man” is the best recorded version yet by a rock group, and “Alabama Song,” from Kurt Weill and Bertholt Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, comes across nicely. Instrumental effects give it a delightful German beer-hall sort of sound. Of the original songs, “Break on Through,” a fast-moving, hard rock number, has been released on a single, though it’s received little airplay here as yet. “Light My Fire” features a five minute instrumental break, consisting of first an organ and then a guitar solo. The effect is similar to that achieved by the Grateful Dead in such songs as “Viola Lee” (the live performance of it), and is indicative of some of the trends toward use of jazz techniques in recent rock albums, best exemplified by the Blues Project’s Projections album and Butterfield’s East-West album. An extremely exciting song. The songs are all well-written, especially “The Crystal Ship” and the last song on the record, “The End.”

I have saved this song for last because it is by far the most original and significant song on this album. Nothing like it has ever been recorded except on certain obscure experimental jazz records, and its appearance here is really a breakthrough in the development of rock music.

The song is 11 ½ minutes long and done in the improvisational style used in the Stones’ “Going Home,” though the lyrics here have such poetic perfection that they were obviously not improvised. Jim Morrison narrates the song, sometimes singing, sometimes chanting, sometimes talking. The instrumental background is very soft throughout the song except where it builds to a couple of really fine climaxes. The sitar-like sound of the guitar is superbly and tastefully done. The story itself is based on a section of the Tibetan Book of the Dead setting forth the method for destroying oneself without hurting anyone close to you and without remorse. If one listens carefully through the splendid imagery of the lyrics a modernized version of the ancient story can be extracted. Briefly, the narrator starts off saying goodbye to his best friend, then his words ramble for awhile like the ravings of a madman, though each unconnected phrase is a quote from the Book of the Dead, and it all makes perfect sense if one is familiar with the mystical background of the song. Then he tells how he woke up that morning and murdered his sister and his brother and his parents, and lured his girlfriend and other good friends into a blue bus where he killed them in a violent frenzy of destructiveness (the musical accompaniment during this part is particularly good). Then he says goodbye to his friend again and at the end of the song it is implied that he kills him and then himself.

Suggested listening for this song is quietly, in a dark room, with perhaps a candle and/or incense, at greatest possible volume, or through headphones if they are available. It really is an amazing song.

The Doors are perhaps the best group to come out of Los Angeles, and this album is certainly the finest yet by any West Coast group. I suggest that everyone who reads this buy a copy. There is not a bad cut on it, there are three standout, truly great songs, and the better this record sells the sooner it will be before the Doors’ next album.

Greg Shaw

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