The Doors self-titled debut album is frequently regarded as one of the greatest debut efforts ever, and if anything serves as a decent introduction to the band who on the surface almost deliberately acted as a contradictory outfit. Whereas lead singer Jim Morrison could only muster energy for life whilst dancing on the dangerous side of excess and spiritual pretentiousness, keyboardist Ray Manzarek kept the band on a tight avant-garde hook that met Morrison’s unpredictableness in the middle to form what was, for a time, perfect beyond-the-crypt rock music. With Robby Krieger on guitar and John Densmore behind the drums, four musicians that seemed incapable of existing together on record almost instantaneously seemed incapable of existing without each other once The Doors was released.
This is The Doors as stark as you could hope for; they rightly sound as if they have something to prove to an unsuspecting world. Producer Paul Rothchild keeps a tight ship and lets the music flow through the left/right channels as if you are listening to a well mixed garage-blues band in session. What better way to start than the strongly-arresting Break On Through (To The Other Side), which could perfectly act as a mantra for the aims of the band through the eyes of Morrison’s ambitions. This was the band named after the Aldous Huxley poem The Doors Of Perception after all. The opening song is so groovy, primarily through Manzarek’s fiery keyboard playing, and yet so crisp and pulsating-like-a-speeding-train in its bluesy bite that is as uncharacteristic of nineteen sixty-seven as you could imagine. Thankfully, the remastered version of the album reinstates the full uncensored lyric of “she gets high”, which further exemplifies the demonic notions so quickly introduced by the album. Soul Kitchen is more overtly pop in its tone, and yet contains some splendidly-tight rhythmic backing to allow Morrison’s pleas a suitable house.
The Crystal Ship marks a distinct departure from the sounds delivered on the first two tracks, with a balladry at play that suggests Morrison could seduce whoever his gaze is fixed upon, and simultaneously offer them as a sacrifice to which ever god he was worshipping that day. Morrison is transfixing by his ultra-conviction; you don’t trust him with your soul but you turn to stone under his power. As it’s the sixties, and a debut album, fillers and cover versions are lightly spread throughout The Doors, even if Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar) has some merits on a blues checklist.
It’s Krieger’s Light My Fire that propelled the band to chart-topping stardom and instant notoriety. The seven minute relentless rocker, forever covered and ingrained into popular musical folklore, caused the band to be banned from the Ed Sullivan show over Morrison’s refusal to change the “girl we couldn’t get much higher” lyric, and heightened the inner-battle between the band’s predilection for both pop-rock and soul-jazz. A truncated version was released for the singles market, but in the twenty-first century it is the full version that is available, suggesting The Doors were never comfortable with their chart image. End Of The Night is a decidedly creepy ramble that generates an air of fog around any calm the listener might have settled into, and along with filler Take It As It Comes aptly suits as an hors-d’oeuvre the epic finale that is The End.
The End in its full, eleven minute incarnation (as opposed to the shorter version which memorably featured in the film Apocalypse Now) is a brooding, deathly build-up to one of the greatest conclusions to any debut album. Overtly oedipal in lyrical content, and intense both in Morrison’s embittered delivery and the use of the word ‘fuck’, which was still a bold move in early nineteen-sixty-seven. The song and its content forced the band to be thrown out of the memorable Whiskey venue, and has a strong case to be considered as the finest Doors track of all time, if not the most memorable. The End has an honest approach inherent in a song without a trace of formulaic song-writing. It almost acts as a perfect antithesis to the summer of love that was forming and self-destructing within the era; bear in mind that the month that The Doors was released also saw The Monkees reach number one with I’m A Believer, which is as good an example as any of the tug-of-war that existed between certain musical ideologies prevalent at the time.
Whilst The Doors is probably not the greatest album from the band (and deciding what is the best is a struggle for any Doors fan), it’s easily the best introduction. Any album with Break On Through (To The Other Side, Light My Fire and The End certainly warrants a purchase for anyone fascinated by the iconographic facets of any rock and roll star, and how Morrison shaped to define them.