The Doors are one of those bands that can do no wrong. Their music is weird and poetic and sexual and funny and ahead of its time. I know a lot about the history of the band, and I understand the role the record company and radio and TV played in recording and promoting records back in the day. I love that The Doors fucking did whatever they wanted, and since this album has been written about over the years in glowing and derisive words at once, I want to tell you what I think.
I have heard this record hundreds of times over the years, and though it is my second favorite Doors album (Strange Days being my hands-down favorite) I think it is brilliant. Some might consider it uneven or just plain messy, but to me, that is why it works. The opening track “Break on Through” is a powerhouse, “Soul Kitchen” is a funky follow-up, and by the time you get to their cover of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s “Alabama Song” you are like WTF just happened? And that is why it works!
Everyone knows “Light My Fire,” and this is where you can hear the entire nearly seven-minute-long version. It’s a gigantic song in so many ways. I listened to this album over and over for the past week, and I kept thinking about Oliver Stone’s cheesy Doors movie and how he tells the story of this song, and how he throws in song lyrics as part of the dialogue. Other bio-pics have used that technique as well, but The Doors’ music really lends itself to such a thing, as its innate drama and catchiness makes us feel like we’re in on the story. And since Jim Morrison was a film student it makes perfect sense that his music would be part of the soundtrack for so many movies.
Like many bands of the 60s and 70s The Doors were also influenced by the blues. Jim’s orgasmic version of “Back Door Man” is awesome, and I love to sing along with it. I started listening to the blues really heavily in junior high school. There was a radio show in Cleveland called “Blues with Fitz” that I listened to religiously every weekend, and I always wrote like crazy while it was on. Since this was far before music downloads I used to tape record whole programs just to get this great music so I could hear it whenever I wanted. I heard Willie Dixon’s “Back Door Man” on that show, along with lots of Koko Taylor and John Lee Hooker. Knowing the influence the blues had on the formation of rock and roll, I was curious about the music itself. I got all of my records from my mom and uncle, but they had no blues albums. I learned all those songs thanks to Fitz.
When I bought The Doors boxed set in 1999 I was about to become obsessed with Foo Fighters. There were already a lot of soundtracks for certain parts of my life, and The Doors were part of my childhood, as I listened to my mother’s 45s and her copy of Strange Days repeatedly. Jim fit right in with my Jack Kerouac obsession. When I was in my twenties and I learned more about their music and Jim as a person, their music became more interesting to me, and I really wanted to be an artist like Jim. I was all about that “tragic artist” bullshit that Jim lived. I had a huge poster of him in college. I studied his poetry. I knew that if I had been around back in the day, I totally would have hit that.
“The End” has so much to offer. It is definitely high drama. It is different. It is beautiful. I can apply it to many situations in my life. Whenever I have had to let someone go, this song fit. The lyrics are strange and somewhat rambling, but that sort of confusion makes sense for someone who is contemplating The End of anything, especially when it is a necessary but difficult ending to bring about.
This is the end
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
Can you picture what will be
So limitless and free
Desperately in need of some stranger’s hand
In a desperate land
Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane
All the children are insane
Waiting for the summer rain, yeah…
Strange Days reminds me of the boy I was in unrequited love with in junior high and high school. This album brings me back to that time as well, because it has the same darkness and humor and anger as Strange Days. I am listening to it differently now. It makes me feel almost like I did back then, but I do have a different perspective on things. I had to end a five-year friendship a few years back, and these lyrics are speaking to me in a more palpable fashion now. I like that. And since I have listened to it so much recently, and since I have been writing so much lately about the music of my life I appreciate it on a whole other level. As an album, it kicks ass. As a part of my music collection, it is essential. And as another volume of my life’s soundtrack, I wouldn’t be who I am without it.