THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE DOORS.
The Life and Times Of The Doors.
By 1972, The Doors had decided to call the upon their career after the tragic death of their charismatic frontman Jim Morrison, who had died on the 3rd July 1971. The Lizard King became the latest entrant into the twenty-seven club, where he joined Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Alan Wilson and Jimi Hendrix. This meant that The Doors’ career ended at the top and their fans memories of them were never tarnished.
The Doors were never going to grow old together and they would forever be the band that featured on their final album L.A. Woman. Never would they age and nor would they make a series of ill-advised comebacks or reunions that resulted in the release of third-rate albums. That would never happen as The Doors career ended whilst they were at the top and had just released another classic album. What saddened their fans is that The Doors’ career ended in tragic circumstances. However, their many fans still have their musical memories and can enjoy the group’s rich musical legacy.
These memories included a sextet of critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums. Between 1967s The Doors and 1971s L.A. Woman, The Doors only ever released six albums. Their debut album, The Doors was certified platinum five times over. After that, four of the next five albums were certified platinum and one double platinum. That wasn’t all.
1970 saw The Doors’ release Absolutely Live which was certified gold. The same year, they released their first compilation, 13 in January 1970, and it was certified platinum. Then six months of the tragic loss of Jim Morrison, a second Doors’ compilation was released, Weird Scenes From Inside The Gold Mine. It was a fitting tribute to one of rock’s greatest ever groups, The Doors. Their career began in LA in late-1965.
The Doors were formed in Los Angeles in 1965 and took their name from Aldous Huxley’s seminal book The Doors Of Perception. The nascent quartet was led by the charismatic vocalist Jim Morrison.
Jim Morrison was more than a singer and was also a lyricist and poet. He was a free spirit, charismatic, enigmatic and wildly unpredictable. Life was for living and Jim Morrison lived a thousand lives in twenty-seven years. However, The Doors weren’t a one man band.
The Doors’ success was down to the four band members and this included drummer John Densmore, guitarist Robby Krieger and keyboardist Ray Manzarek. Together, they were about to enjoy the kind of commercial success and critical acclaim that they could only have dreamed of.
The Doors got their break in 1966 when they signed to Elektra Records. It was the first label to spot the potential in psychedelic rock and before long it started signing up a whole host of psychedelic rock bands. Among the most successful were Love and The Doors who recorded their debut album in the summer and autumn of 1966.
By then, classic lineup of The Doors had been together since late-1965 and Bobby Krieger had only been playing the guitar for six months. During that time, they were a familiar face on the LA live scene where they honed their sound and the songs the group had written.
By the time The Doors arrived at Sunset Sound Recorders, in Hollywood, Los Angeles, they had already written eight of the ten tracks that would eventually feature on the album. This included Break On Through (To The Other Side), Soul Kitchen, The Crystal Ship and The End. They were joined by covers of Alabama Song (Whisky Bar) and Back Door Man on The Doors. It was recorded between the August the ‘29th’ to September the ‘23rd’ 1966 and was produced by Paul A. Rothchild.
Six months later, on 4th January 1967, The Doors was released to mostly positive reviews. It opened with Break On Through (To The Other Side) which invited listeners to expand their consciousness and was bookended with The End an example of Jim Morrison’s rock poetry. The Doors was hailed by some critics as a future classic and would become one of the group’s most influential album.
Break On Through (To the Other Side) was released as the lead single in January 1967 but stalled at 126 in the US Billboard 100. This was an inauspicious result for The Doors’ debut single.
Gradually, The Doors reached number two in the US Billboard 200 and was certified platinum five times over. Meanwhile the album was was certified platinum in Germany, certified platinum twice in the UK; three times platinum in France and four times platinum in Canada. This was helped by the commercial success of Light My Fire.
Light My Fire was released in April 1967 and reached number one on the US Billboard 100 charts. It became a Doors’ classic and so would several songs from the group’s sophomore album, Strange Days.
The Doors returned to Sunset Sound Recorders, in Hollywood, LA, in May 1967 and during breaks in their touring schedule recorded what become their sophomore album Strange Days. It featured ten tracks written by The Doors which were produced by Paul A. Rothchild and completed in August 1956.
Eight months later, on the The Doors released their sophomore album Strange Days on the on the ‘25th’ of September 1967. It was released to the same widespread critical acclaim as The Doors and hailed a heavy, psychedelic classic. Strange Days featured some of the most psychedelic songs The Doors ever released. Among them were Strange Days, Love Me Two Times, When The Music’s Over and the moody, haunting People Are Strange.
When Strange Days was released it reached number three in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in another platinum disc for The Doors. The lead single People Are Strange reached twelve in the US Billboard 100 whole the followup Love Me Two Times reached just twenty-five. This was just part of the story.
Elsewhere, Strange Days was certified gold in Germany and Britain; two times gold in France and platinum in Canada. Eventually, nine million copies of The Doors’ sophomore album were sold worldwide. That’s no surprise given the psychedelic delights of Strange Days which later became The Doors’ second classic album.
However, by the time The Doors released Strange Days they were already one of the heaviest, psychedelic rock bands of the sixties. The chameleon-like band were led by the charismatic Lizard King and critics wondered what direction their music would head?
Waiting For The Sun.
In January 1968 The Doors headed to TTG studio to record their third album with producer Paul A. Rothchild. Just like Strange Days, many of the songs had been written before The Doors signed their recording contract with Elektra. The Doors had matured early as songwriters and had enough material for several albums of material. This included Waiting For The Sun. However, the album which was completed in May 1968 and would be released two months later has almost exhausted the band’s stock of songs.
On the ‘3rd’ of July 1968 The Doors release their much-anticipated third album Waiting For The Sun. Although it was generally well received many critics believed the album lacked the quality of The Doors and Strange Days.
Despite that, Waiting For The Sun became The Doors’ first number one album. The album also gave the The Doors’ their second platinum album. Just like their two previous albums, Waiting For The Sun was a huge success worldwide and eventually sold seven million copies worldwide.
When it was released, Waiting For The Sun was certified gold in Britain and Germany; double gold in France and platinum in Canada. Whether it was Britain, Europe or North America,The Doors were providing the soundtrack to a generation’s life
This included the two singles which were released from Waiting For The Sun. The lead single was The Unknown Soldier which stalled at thirty-nine in the US Billboard 100. It was Jim Morrison’s reaction to the Vietnam War and was a poignant, dramatic anti-war song that gave voice to the frustration and anger a generation felt. Instantly, The Doors became the voice of a generation and this showed another side to their music.
Very different was the second single from Waiting For The Sun, Hello I Love You which is a two minute, timeless pop anthem that topped the US Billboard 100. On the B-Side was Love Street which started life as a poem and became a baroque pop song. It’s another example of Jim Morrison’s talents as a poet and lyricist.
Despite some disappointing reviews, The Doors were celebrating they first number one album and their first number one single. The big question was how would The Doors top Waiting For The Sun?
The Soft Parade.
After the commercial success of Waiting For The Sun The Doors were being offered vast sums of money to play live. They embarked upon a gruelling touring schedule and it was a case of fitting recording sessions in when they could. This wasn’t ideal and there was very little time to write and develop new songs.
To complicate matters, Jim Morrison the “acid-evangelist of rock,” was behaving erratically, drinking heavily and suffering from anxiety. At one point he thought that he was about to have a nervous breakdown. Things were becoming increasingly difficult for The Doors’ charismatic frontman who was struggling to cope with his newfound fame. So much so, that he considered leaving the band but Ray Manzarek convinced him to complete the album.
Jim Morrison was also spending more time writing poetry and was less involved with the songwriting process. This meant that the Lizard King and Robby Krieger had to divide songwriting duties. They each wrote four songs each and joined forces to write Do It. The nine new songs were recorded at Elektra Sound West with Paul A. Rothchild who encouraged the band to change and develop their sound.
On The Soft Parade The Doors dispensed with the stripped down, understated sound of their first three albums. Instead, Paul Harris who was an arranger for the Los Angeles Philharmonic was brought onboard to arrange the strings and horns which were played by local jazz musicians. They were joined by session musicians Doug Lubahn and Harvey Brooks who were both bassists and were drafted in by producer Paul A. Rothschild who was also going through a difficult time.
By then, Paul A. Rothschild was addicted to cocaine and took control of the sessions. The Doors hadn’t any readymade songs and what they had was work in progress. This resulted in numerous takes of each song being recorded. It didn’t help that the Lizard King lacked enthusiasm during the sessions. Engineer Bruce Botnick later remarked that: “It was like pulling teeth to get Jim into it.” The Soft Machine wasn’t an easy album to record and it took until early 1969 to complete and cost $80,000 to record.
The Doors flitted between art rock, blues rock, fusion and psychedelic rock on The Soft Parade where producer Paul A. Rothschild tried to get the band to reinvent their original sound. Music was evolving and he knew that The Doors music had to evolve.
This genre-melting The Soft Parade had the potential to become the most ambitious release of their career. It was a good idea in theory but with the Lizard King seemingly uninterested in writing and recording the album it wasn’t up to the standards of their first two albums.
The Soft Parade was released on the ‘21st’ of July 1969. Never before had a year passed before The Doors’ released an album. That was until they released The Soft Parade which showcased their new sound. However, some fans and critics didn’t welcome this change of sound and also had a problem with the lyrics.
Some critics and fans felt that The Soft Parade was the group’s weakest album. They also felt that the lyrics on the album were formulaic. The accusation was that the group were now following a formula when it came to writing lyrics. This was disappointing given that when The Doors released Waiting For The Sun they were regarded as the voice of a generation. Something had to change if The Doors were to make up the ground that they had lost. Despite this, The Soft Parade and the singles were a commercial success.
In December 1968, The Doors released Who Scared You as a single. Although it didn’t feature on The Soft Parade it reached number three in the US Billboard 100. This augured well for the release of The Doors’ fourth album.
When The Soft Parade was released it reached number six in the US Billboard 200 charts and was The Doors’ least successful album. Despite that, it still was certified platinum in America and across the border in Canada. Elsewhere, The Soft Parade didn’t sell in the same quantities as their three previous albums and it was only certified silver in Britain. This was disappointment and so was the performance of the singles.
Wishful Sinful reached forty-four in the US Billboard 100 while Tell All The People stalled at fifty-seven. Then Runnin’ Blue reached a lowly sixty-four in the US Billboard 100. The commercial failure of the three singles released from The Soft Parade was a disappointment for The Doors. By then, critics were wondering what was next for The Doors?
Especially after the events of the ‘1st’ of March 1969 when a drunken Jim Morrison took to the stage in front of an audience of 12,000 at the Dinner Key Auditorium in Coconut Grove, Florida. That night, it’s alleged that he exposed himself during the concert. This resulted in him being charged with indecent exposure on the ‘4th’ of April 1969 and resulted in a March For Decency” at the Miami Orange Bowl.
The rest of The Doors’ tour was cancelled and their records were blacklisted by radio stations. To add to their woes, twenty-five concerts on their next tour were cancelled. Drummer John Densmore estimated that the cancellation of the concerts cost the band one million dollars. It was a disaster for The Doors.
Eight months after that fateful night in Florida that proved so controversial and costly for The Doors started recording their fifth album. By then, Jim Morrison was trying to shed his Lizard King image and had got rid of his stage leathers and had grown a beard. Worryingly his weight had ballooned, his alcoholism was worsening and he was becoming increasingly unpredictable.
Having just stared recording the new album, Jim Morrison decided to fly to Phoenix to see the Rolling Stones in concert. During the flight the drunken Lizard King caused a disturbance and was charged under a recently introduced skyjacking law. He could be sentenced to ten years in jail or fined up to $10,000. The Doors could’ve been looking for a new frontman.
The Doors entered Elektra Sound Recorders in November 1969. This time around, Jim Morrison had written four new songs, cowrote five with Robby Krieger and two with the rest of The Doors. These songs would become Morrison Hotel.
Joining The Doors in the studio was John Sebastian of The Lovin’ Spoonful who played harmonica on Roadhouse Blues. Just like on The Soft Parade two bassists were used. This included session musician Ray Neapolitan and blues rock pioneer Lonnie Mack. His addition made sense as The Doors flitted between psychedelic rock and blues rock on Morrison Hotel. It was completed in January 1970.
Just a month later, Morrison Hotel was released on the ‘9th’ of February 1970. The first side was entitled Hard Rock Cafe and featured classic tracks like Roadhouse Blues, Waiting For The Sun and Peace Frog. Amongst highlights of the second side which is entitled Morrison Hotel are The Spy and Indian summer.
When Morrison Hotel was released it was billed as The Doors’ comeback album. Critical acclaim accompanied an album that an album of blues rock, hard rock and psychedelic rock which reached number four in the US Billboard 200 and was certified platinum. The Doors were back with their best album since Strange Days. However, the only disappointment was when the single You Make Me Real stalled at fifty in the US Billboard 100..
Elsewhere, Morrison Hotel was certified gold in Austria, Britain and Switzerland. In Canada, France, Poland and Spain The Doors’ comeback album was certified platinum and became their most successful album since Strange Days. The Doors were back with one of their finest albums and a future classic.
Just five months after the release of Morrison Hotel, The Doors released their first live album, Absolutely Live. It was a double album that had been compiled from concerts that took place between July the ‘21st’ 1969 to May the ‘8th’. 1970. Producer Paul A. Rothchild claimed that he had edited different versions of songs to create: “the ultimate concert…I couldn’t get complete takes of a lot of songs, so sometimes I’d cut from Detroit to Philadelphia in mid-song. There must be 2,000 edits on that album”
When Absolutely Live was released on the ‘20th’ of July 1970 the reviews were mixed. Some critics, including Robert Christgau of The Village Voice wrote favourable reviews, while other were highly critical of the Lizard King’s performances. This included Gloria Vanjak in Rolling Stone magazine. It seemed that even 2,000 edits couldn’t salvage Absolutely Live.
On its release Absolutely Live sold just 225,000 copes and reached number eight in the US Billboard 200. Eventually The Doors’ first live album was certified gold. The same year, they released their first compilation, 13 and the commercial success kept on coming.
Released in November 1970, 13 featured some of greatest music The Doors released between 1967 and 1967. So, it’s no surprise that it reached number twenty-five in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in 13 being certified platinum. It seemed The Doors could do no wrong.
L.A. Woman was recorded between December 1970 and January 1971 at The Doors’ Workshop, Los Angeles. This time there was no sign of longtime Doors’ producer Paul A. Rothchild. He had been replaced by Bruce Botnick who coproduced L.A. Woman with The Doors.
L.A. Woman featured nine songs penned by The Doors and a cover of John Lee Hooker’s Crawling King Snake. At this point in his life, Jim Morrison was heavily Influenced by legendary blues singers like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. This influence began on Morrison Hotel, and continued on L.A. Woman. Little did The Doors know when they completed what was their sixth studio album that it wold be the last to be released during Jim Morrison’s lifetime.
When L.A. Woman was released on 19th April 1971 it was to mostly positive reviews. Just like Morrison Hotel, L.A. Woman saw The Doors combine blues rock and psychedelic rock. This had been a successful formula for The Doors over the last few years.
Prior to the release of L.A. Woman Love Her Madly was released as a single and reached twenty in the US Billboard 100. Then when L.A. Woman was released it reached number eight in the US Billboard 200 and was certified double platinum. When Riders On The Storm was released it reached fourteen in the US Billboard 100 and gave The Doors another hit single.
Meanwhile, across the world, L.A. Woman was selling in vast quantities. In Australia, L.A. Woman was certified four times platinum; three times platinum in Canada; two times platinum in France and platinum in Spain. L.A. Woman was also certified gold in Austria, Britain, Germany and Switzerland. It was the most successful album of The Doors’ career. Their decision to return to their blues rock roots had worked.
Just three months after the release of L.A. Woman The Doors’ charismatic frontman Jim Morrison died on the ‘3rd’ of July 1971. Music was in mourning at the death of the man they called The Lizard King. He was only twenty-seven and had achieved a lot in the six years The Doors were together. However, who knows what they might have gone on to achieve?
One can only speculate the direction that The Doors’ music might have headed? They did release one further album, Other Voices. It was released in October 1971 and reached just number thirty-one in the US Billboard 200. Without the charismatic Lizard King’s vocals The Doors weren’t the same band. Despite that, they continued their career.
Weird Scenes From Inside The Gold Mine.
In January 1972, the second compilation of The Doors music was released. This was Weird Scenes From Inside The Gold Mine which reached number fifty-five in the US Billboard 200. It was certified gold and is a captivating compilation of one of the greatest bands in musical history. One of the reasons for this, is the choice of music on Weird Scenes From Inside The Gold Mine, which was a double album.
Rather than just make Weird Scenes From Inside The Gold Mine a greatest hits album it features B-Sides, rarities and album tracks. The result is a fascinating overview of one of the most innovative and pioneering bands in musical history. It’s also a fitting tribute to The Lizard King who had played a huge part in the rise of The Doors.
On August the ‘15th’ 1972, the three remaining members of The Doors returned with their second album as a trio, Full Circle. Bruce Botnick who produced L.A. Woman and their previous album declined to produce Full Circle. Instead, The Doors produced the nine tracks they recorded at A&M Studio. Joining them were some top session players which allowed the group to take their music in new and different directions.
The result was an album where The Doors flitted between funk-rock, fusion and rock. Critics weren’t won over by the album which wasn’t the group’s finest hour. It was an unremarkable and unfocused album that very occasionally hinted at The Doors’ past glories.
When Full Circle was released it reached sixty-eight in the US Billboard 200. Just like Other Voices there was no gold or platinum disc. The Doors without their charismatic frontman just weren’t the same band. Critics and the band’s fans wondered what the future held for The Doors?
In January 1973 The Doors disbanded. There was no point limping on as a trio and releasing mediocre albums. It was best to call time on their career rather than damage the band’s reputation. This looked like the end of the road for The Doors.
An American Prayer.
Five years later, The Doors released An American Prayer on November the ‘17th’ 1978. This was an album of Jim Morrison’s poetry and also featured pieces of music and spoken word during the audio collage. Excerpts from the short film HWY: An American Pastoral, snippets from jam sessions and a composite version of Roadhouse Blues recorded in New York and Detroit were included on An American Prayer.
When An American Prayer the reviews were mixed. It was an album that divided the opinion of critics. Despite that, it reached fifty-four in the US Billboard 200 and was certified platinum. An album that divided the opinion of critics and continues to do so had sold over a million copies.
The classic lineup of The Doors was formed in late-1965 and they released their eponymous debut album on the ‘4th’ of January 1967. They were at the peak of their powers between the release of The Doors in January 1967 and the release of L.A. Woman in April 1971. By then, they had released six studio albums, one live album and a compilation and in America alone, The Doors had sold over 12.5 million albums.
Across the world, The Doors were one of the biggest selling bands of the late-sixties and early seventies. That’s no surprise as The Doors’ music was ambitious and innovative and led by the charismatic Lizard King they released a quartet of classic albums during a four year period.
This began with their 1967 debut album The Doors which they followed with Strange Days later that year. The Doors’ fifth album Morrison Hotel marked a return to form and their swansong L.A. Woman is regarded as one of their finest albums. However, their most underrated album is The Soft Parade which is the most experimental and ambitious album of their career. Just like their quartet of classics it’s a reminder of one of the greatest groups of the late-sixties and early seventies.
Sadly, The Doors’ career was tragically short after releasing just six studio albums. L.A. Woman was the original lineup’s swansong and never again would they set foot in a recording studio. The original lineup of The Doors’ final album L.A. Woman was a classic and one of their most successful albums.
After the death of Jim Morrison the three remaining members of The Doors decided to continue and released two more albums, 1971s Other Voices and 1972s Full Circle.. Without the charismatic Lizard King at the helm The Doors were a pale shadow of the group they once were and it was no surprise when they disbanded in 1973. Many of the group’s fans thought that they should’ve called time on their career after the death of Jim Morrison rather than limping on as a trio.
The Doors briefly reunited in 1978 to release their ninth album An American Prayer. It was another album divided the opinion and the group soon disbanded. It was the last album the band released. By then, seven years had passed since the death of Jim Morrison.
Despite the three remaining members releasing three decidedly average albums this hadn’t tarnished memories of The Doors. Instead, their legion of fans remembered the group in their prime. In their eyes, The Doors were forever young and would always remember the band that featured on their swansong L.A. Woman.
It brought to an end of what had be a roller coaster ride that lasted four years. During that period, The Doors had enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim but controversy was never far away. Despite that, The Doors will forever remain one of the most important, innovative, influential and successful groups in musical history whose contribution to musical history is the is six albums they released between 1967 and 1971 including a quartet of classics.
The Life and Times Of The Doors.