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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

20. The Doors: The Doors

Marc, Turn That Down! is going way back for this next post...over 40 years the 1967, self-titled debut album from The Doors. In fact, to emphasize how far back we're going, here's a short list of long-gone people who might have grooved to Jim Morrison and company at least once in their lifetime: the father of the atomic bomb--J. Robert Oppenheimer; saxophonist/composer--John Coltrane; baseball Hall of Famer--Jimmy Foxx (who made his major league debut in 1925); singer-songwriter--Woody Guthrie; 1928 gold medal figure skater--Sonje Henie; leader of the American civil rights movement--MLK; Argentine guerilla leader--Che Guevara (though he was probably busy that year, and I don't think Bolivia had any good radio stations at the time anyway); and deafblind author and political activist--Helen Keller (well...she could've felt the vibrations and grooved just the same).

The album The Doors is universally hailed as one of the greatest albums of all time. As far as debut albums go, The Doors is often rated anywhere from #1 to #5 all time on any reputable list. It is the place to start if you are interested in exploring classic rock music, and, overall, is the band's best album.

Just like the leadoff hitter in baseball sets the table for the rest of the lineup, the first song sets the tone for the album. If we single out the very first song from a band's very first album, we see some greats throughout time..."I Will Follow" by U2 (Boy), "Gloria" by Patti Smith (Horses), "Foxy Lady" by Hendrix (Are You Experienced?), even "Welcome To The Jungle" by Guns and Roses (Appetite for Destruction). However, I envy the young fans who, in 1967, put The Doors on the turntable and heard "Break On Through (To The Other Side)". Without knowing what the future held for The Doors, they must have been awestruck, for "Break On Through" is the greatest debut-leadoff song of all time.

What follows "Break On Through" is a cast of characters that range from German Opera ("Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)") to Chicago blues ("Back Door Man"). The entrancing song "The Crystal Ship" was my first exposure to The Doors. As a youngster, I would listen to my brothers' 45s and I remember playing this song, the B-side to one of the most well-known songs in history, "Light My Fire", over and over, believing it to be the better of the two. "Twentieth Century Fox" and "Soul Kitchen" are outstanding songs that stir up similar feelings in me, and singing one often leads me to sing the other in a sort of Glee-style mash-up (minus the choreography).

The Doors closes with the 12 minute musical drama "The End". Building to a series of crescendoes like Ravel's Bolero three times over, this Oedipal opus hypnotizes the listener with Robbie Krieger's haunting guitar, John Densmore's rolling drums, and Jim Morrison's poetic visual imagery. It does so for all of about nine minutes before arriving at the final, explosive, psychedelic climax...and the denouement, "...The end of laughter and soft lies/The end of nights we tried to die/This is the end". All in all, the song is a perfect ending to this timeless Doors album.

Ah, videos! For you I have provided the video for the restored, uncensored version of "Break On Through" (which includes the lyric "...She gets high!"). The video is the same as the original, so it's a bit choppy when the word "high" is returned to its proper place. The second video is the 3 minute speed version of "Light My Fire" from The Ed Sullivan Show. Once again, the word "high" was the cause of controversy as Morrison was supposed to compromise his lyrics by singing "Girl we couldn't get much better" instead of "...higher" during the national TV performance. He did not. After the show The Doors were told that their six future appearances on the show were now canceled, to which Morrison replied, "Hey man...we just did the Sullivan show." The final video of the day is "The End" live from the Hollywood Bowl. It's fifteen minutes long, but, after viewing these three videos, one is reminded that any young boy from the day who aspired to be a rock star had Jim Morrison to thank for those aspirations. He was one of the most iconic rock stars of all time.

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