There is a widely held view that most American music of the mid-to-late sixties was indelibly linked with peace and love and hippies, and indeed a lot of it was. Utter shite such as Janis Joplin, Scott McKenzie and The Grateful Dead. Sixth form college tutors with long grey hair still listen to it now because it reminds them of their youth, they were all against Vietnam and wanted to ban nuclear arms, even though they lived with their parents in a quiet suburb on the outskirts of Altrincham and neither ‘Nam or Nukes affected their world in the slightest. While Jerry Garcia was preaching leather head bands and tie-dye tee-shirts to the idiotic masses however, there were much less wholesome things stirring elsewhere stateside. In New York Andy Warhol’s violent, punishing Exploding Plastic Inevitable would spawn The Velvet Underground, Frank Zappa was recording his intensely confrontational debut with his Mothers Of Invention, and then were The Doors, the most iconic of them all and one of the most mysterious, brooding and subversive bands ever.
Even for a sixties band, The Doors were weird. Their strange influences (blues, flamenco, German cabaret) and unusual line-up (guitar, drums, organ) meant that they needed a really strong focal point to hold it all together, and in Jim Morrison they certainly had it. A singer of limited range, his huge advantage was the immense gravitas in his sonorous baritone, which embellished both the screamers and the slow burners on this album with such depth. His voice had much in common with his unwitting protégé Ian Curtis (we’ll get to him later) in that he seemed to embody every single word of his songs, and, as with all great rock stars, he gave the impression he was singing about a world that us normal folk will never quite know.
The Doors recorded output was relatively patchy, and this debut album is almost a Greatest Hits. Break On Through and Light My Fire are obviously the most well known songs, with cover versions from Krusty The Klown and Will Young respectively, but the album tracks are, for the most part, astonishing. In many ways it is impossible to listen to this album in the daylight, such is the evocativeness of the music. End Of The Night, for example, lasts two minutes and fifty-three seconds, yet the glowing organ and shimmering guitar and tales of being born into sweet delight drag you into some decadent vortex and when it finishes it seems like you’ve been listening to it for hours. Obviously, the album’s centrepiece is the eleven minute Oedipal nightmare, The End, now forever associated with watching Martin Sheen go insane in his pants, but the rest of the record shouldn’t be overshadowed, especially the standout, The Crystal Ship, one of the most hypnotic songs ever written.
My wife tells me that Jim Morrison was very good-looking.
Best Tracks: The Crystal Ship, Take It As It Comes, The End
Best Moment: The first ninety seconds of The End, you will never hear this without visualising a forest being napalmed.
Like This? Try: Forever Changes by Love, 1968