Home' Rhythms Magazine : 2016 Sept-Oct Contents 16 Rhythms
2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the recording of
the Doors eponymous debut. "the Doors", a fusion
of rock, blues, classical, latin, jazz and poetry, has
frequently been listed among the best debut albums in
rock history. the Doors was conceived in los angeles
in July 1965 when jazz and blues fan, keyboard player
ray manzarek re-connected with Jim morrison who
he had met when both attended the uCla school of
theatre, film and television.
When Manzarek mentioned that he was in the process of
putting a band together, Morrison revealed that he'd been
writing songs, he sang bits of "Moonlight Drive", "Summer's
Almost Gone" and "My Eyes Have Seen You", Manzarek
responded with; "Those are the best lyrics I've ever heard
for a rock and roll band. I could play incredibly great music
behind that. Why don't we get a great band together and
make a million dollars!"
Classically trained guitarist Robby Krieger, who'd only
been playing electric guitar for six months when he joined,
and jazz drummer John Densmore, completed The Doors'
Soon after, Columbia Records, on the strength of a demo
tape, offered them a six month contract. Despite the fact
that Terry Melcher expressed some interest they were
dropped without having recorded. All the band had going
for them was a residency at an unfashionable Sunset Strip
club, The London Fog.
Manzarek: "There was only one band, us, at this hole-in-the
wall. Nobody came into the place. Three or four drunks
would wander in, replaced by a couple of hookers, two or
three business men would come and go. So we could play
whatever we wanted, improvise, hone our songs throughout
the four or five sets we played each night".
"Then, a week before we were fired, a girl who booked bands
for The Whisky a Go Go saw us, fell in love with Jim and
asked if we'd like to be the house band at the Whisky, the
Mecca of Sunset Strip rock and roll".
Over the course of three months The Doors opened for Van
Morrison & Them, Buffalo Springfield, The Animals, The
Mothers Of Invention, The Seeds, Captain Beefheart, Love,
while songs such as "Light My Fire", "The End", "When
The Music's Over", developed at The London Fog, were
perfected at the Whisky.
Jac Holzman, founder of New York's Elektra Records,
eager to extend his catalogue of West Coast bands, was
unimpressed. Had it not been for Love's Arthur Lee urging
him to see the band a second time, Holzman might never
have taken them on.
Once signed, albeit to a one album deal, Holzman
connected the band with no-nonsense producer Paul
Rothchild who'd engineered Bob Dylan's infamous electric
set at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival and had worked on
albums with Tim Buckley and the Paul Butterfield Blues
Band. Along with Bruce Botnick who engineered the
sessions, Rothchild had a lot to do with the way "The Doors"
turned out. The project needed someone with Rothchild's
authority to keep Morrison's mind on the job as he was
already displaying some of the chaotic behaviour that
would in time have such a negative effect on the band. By
the time they got into the studio they'd written more than
thirty songs, enough for two albums. While they never
used a bass player on stage, Rothchild brought in session
musician Larry Knechtel (uncredited on the album) from
The Wrecking Crew and later Bread ,to play Fender Bass
on a few songs to add depth to Manzarek's Fender Rhodes
Their first album, recorded in a week with very few
overdubs is basically The Doors live. While composer
credits went to all four members, the album's primary
writers were Morrison and Krieger. "Break On Through
(To The Other Side") was the album's first single with a
bossa nova drum groove, a guitar riff inspired by Michael
Bloomfield's on the Paul Butterfield Band recording of the
Elmore James song "Shake Your Moneymaker" and an
organ solo borrowed from the introduction of Ray Charles'
"What'd I Say".
Holzman, impressed by the response of young female fans
to Morrison's on-stage allure, set a precedence when The
Doors became the beneficiary of the very first advertising
billboard for an album to appear on the Sunset Strip. "The
Doors Break On Through With An Electrifying Album"
read the sign with a huge photo of the band, Jim out front,
beneath it. Despite the promotion and limited radio play,
the single failed to trouble the scorers, it wasn't until the
release of the edited "Light My Fire", largely written by
Krieger that the album began taking off. It spent three
weeks as the nation's number one single, eventually selling
a million copies. The depth of material on "The Doors"
was impressive, each track had something different to say.
"The Crystal Ship", a love song, revealed the influence of
Frank Sinatra (one of his favourite singers),on Morrison's
treatment of ballads.
"Back Door Man" a blues song written by Willie Dixon
and recorded by Howlin' Wolf in 1960 and "Alabama Song
(Whisky Bar"),written as the "Alabama Song" by Bertolt
Brecht and Kurt Weill for the 1927 play "Little Mahagonny"
and first performed by Viennese actress and dancer Lotte
Lenya, Weill's wife, are the album's two cover songs. The
rock song "Take It As It Comes" took its title from one the
Maharishi's favourite sayings, (Krieger and Densmore were
devotees of transcendental meditation). Recorded live in
the studio with no overdubbing ,a nearly twelve minute
track, "The End" ,originally written by Morrison about
breaking up with a girl friend, evolved through months of
performances at The Whisky into a half spoken, theatrical
enactment of the Oedupus complex, rock and roll's take on
Fifty years on, "The Doors" is firmly entrenched among the
greatest rock albums of all time.
Links Archive 2016 Jul-Aug 2016 Nov-Dec Navigation Previous Page Next Page