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The Doors - Strange Days CD (album) cover

STRANGE DAYS

The Doors

 

Proto-Prog

4.20 | 350 ratings

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ExittheLemming
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Dead Poets Society

I'm really not so sure the daring has to be admired. We are led to believe that the dearth of info on the sleeve to identify the artist was considered a cardinal sin in the still damp unorthodoxy of 'groovy' marketing circa 1967. However, the closer one gets to the revisionism that surrounds Strange Days the less impressive and resilient it's curiously European grotesques start to appear (Most Decca albums from as early as 1965 did not have the artist's name on the cover either e.g. the Stones, Them, and more of erm... them later. Kudos to Jim Morrison however for refusing to allow Elektra to use his lucrative image on the sleeve in the manner of the debut album. The majority of material presented here was prepared circa 1965-66 when Morrison was still a Venice beach bum who could choose to escape into the oblivion afforded by alcohol c/f the subsequent prisoner in front of bars. Most bands have creative spikes at their inception until the inevitable law of diminishing returns sets in (or their drinks get tampered with). Save the mini second wind represented by Morrison Hotel, the Doors were still mining this fertile period right up to and including the Waiting For the Sun album where indolent hippy flotsam such as Love Street or We Could Be So Good Together are now portrayed as brilliantly ironic pastiche (yep, that will always be an anagram of it's cheap)

The conventional wisdom of Jimbo as rawk's prototypical enfant terrible is tempered by a baby sitter in the huge Afro-American ex Marine form of one Tony Funches, his bodyguard and constant companion whose remit was to keep the singer out of trouble/jail y'all. Breaking on through to the other side must be considerably less fraught with a minder methinks? Similarly, the iconography of the incubus of prim suburban damsels is lost on me (although a pale Scottish hetero with external genitals is probably not the best judge) I've seen a grand total of exactly two Doors concerts, being the London Roundhouse and LA Forum videos and for me Morrison is wooden, leaden, resolutely hinged and about as threatening or sexy as two coats of varnish primer. Check out Them's Van Morrison for a proto Lizard King circa 1965 as he creates a template for those moody and tormented front-men crouching menacingly beside the bass drum that every ambitious ne'er do well has exploited ever since. It's really no accident that the Doors supported Them at the Whisky A Go Go in LA prior to their breakthrough via Light My Fire and the younger Morrison clearly studied his elder namesake with a keen attention to detail. The inspiration is also more than cosmetic on something like When the Music's Over which borrows from Belfast's finest Gloria right down to the breakdown section where the already meagre harmonies are stripped back to just the bass-line and the singer's ruminations over the top. I'll give portions of When the Music's Over the benefit of the doubt by dint of it containing much apparent irony e.g. anyone intoning the scream of the butterfly with a straight face even in 1967 must be either taking the mick or an insecticidal maniac. (Someone should have told Ray though, to save him the trouble of attempting to replicate such an unlikely sound via that unconvincing tinny squeak he coaxes from his Vox Continental) This is a fumble in the End zone Part 2 being but a pale imitation of the latter from the debut and Morrison's faux poetic fluff and dreck which oscillates between the precise and the careless has certainly not aged gracefully in the interim:

Come back, baby, Back into my arms We're gettin' tired of hangin' around, Waitin' around with our heads to the ground

Similarly, when Mr Mojo Risin attempts to damn his fellow creatures for their exploitation of the planet's resources, the rape analogy is probably sincere but hopelessly cliched:

What have they done to the earth? What have they done to our fair sister? Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her. Stuck her with knives in the sight of the dawn And tied her with fences and dragged her down

Ditto the risible call to arms implored by a singer who cared as little for music as the hippies he pretends to cajole into collectivist action here:

I hear a very gentle sound, With your ear down to the ground We want the world and we want it...We want the world and we want it...Now!

This empty rhetoric was rife throughout the so-called counter culture and we could be forgiven for having shed-loads more grudging respect for the unpalatable agendas of the Baader Meinhof Gang or Black Panthers than those unheeded ceasefires declared by the unarmed. We are advised by Jimbo scholars that such was the latent threat he posed to conventional morality, the CIA kept a file on the Lizard King and monitored his every utterance and activity very closely. Gawd, what a dreary, thankless and futile assignment that must have been. A reconnaissance report from around this time might have resembled the following:

Day One - He's awake, he's sober, he's getting drunk, he is drunk, he's collapsed in the gutter, everyone in LA now ignores this pariah so his 24/7 bodyguard is carrying him to his apartment. Over.

Day Two - He's awake, he's sober, he's getting drunk etc

Poetry plus lederhosen = zero sales. Morrison's abiding ambition for the Doors was to mount the jewel represented by his own poetry onto the handsome ring provided by his colleagues more experimental and challenging music. Notwithstanding An American Prayer where the excellent music by the remaining Doors almost rescues the wretched poetry, the example of Horse Latitudes provided here is all the proof needed that if they had embarked on such a career path, you would not be reading this now.

Strange Days - The female as 'siren' metaphor is bloated with interpretations, none of which would qualify the author as Cosmo Man of 1967 - does the feminine corollary to the patriarch delight in the destruction of the male? Morrison's 'significant others' were principally Pamela Courson, a dippy smackhead with a habit that would have floored a (wall mounted) Rhino and Patricia Kennealy, a Rock journalist with an abiding interest in Celtic Pagan traditions. The latter continues to appropriate the late singer's name today as his wife on the basis of an occult hand-fasting ceremony that consummated their union witnessed by precisely no-one. Perhaps both these opportunistic little starf*ckers may have soured Morrison's view of the fair sex to be less than equitable?

Strange eyes fill strange rooms, Voices will signal their tired end The hostess is grinning, Her guests sleep from sinning Hear me talk of sin, And you know this is it

Although the spectral delay effect ladled onto Jim's vocal provides an attractive and suitably hallucinogenic timbre, it robs his range of any bottom end and could perhaps have been used a tad more sparingly. Strong musical ideas abound however and the song contains some subtle synth shenanigans in the background of which many cite Morrison as being the source. Listen out also for several of those very delightful lurches in tonality via some unconventional chord choices. Densmore's drumming is always a treat irrespective of the material and his interaction with session man Doug Lubahn's bass on the latter's double time ascending scalar runs towards the conclusion is reminiscent of the exhilarating synergy of Hendrix and Mitchell on Hey Joe

Anecdotal evidence suggests Jimbo didn't care much about the Lizard King persona, but it was good for sales, gave his family and lovers an estate to fight over, and when intoxicated, he was more than happy to confirm anyone's worst confirmation bias. I genuinely think his real ambition was to pursue poetry but like his hero Rimbaud, the muse had abandoned her vehicle long before the engine stalled. The surviving Doors get scant recognition these days for being a very fine and accomplished band shorn of their meal ticket and doubters should check out the music on An American Prayer and the unjustly neglected Doors w/out Jim albums for abiding proof of their talent.

Perhaps Strange Days represented storm clouds looming for the summer of love, but with every passing year, the reality of those halcyon days becomes increasing difficult to disentangle from the hype, cant and obfuscation provided by some very unreliable weathermen and weather girls in our midst. It's certainly the most overtly psychedelic album in the group's output but why some people think this a litmus test of quality or originality escapes me. Much of Paul Rothchild's production merely serves to date the contents to their detriment and document yet another victim laid low by the debilitating 'pepper' spray at around this time. The uncanny brilliance of People Are Strange, You're Lost Little Girl and Love Me Two Times keeps 'well dodgy' company with inconsequential trippy candy like I Can't See Your Face in My Mind and Unhappy Girl plus the strangled rabid yelp that is the execrable but mercifully brief My Eyes Have Seen You (My ears have heard you) A similar failing blights Moonlight Drive which starts as a brilliant ensemble arrangement of fairly modest musical ideas until it just has nowhere else to go but more of the same albeit louder, heavier and with a screamed desperation that will never camouflage a paucity of developmental ideas.

Robert Fripp's phrase 'benign anarchy' to describe a phenomenon that inhabited the common mind for a few very fleeting months during the late 60's is the only anecdotal source I care to trust. Let's not confuse a nostalgia for something that never really happened in the first place with a revolution in the head.

ExittheLemming | 3/5 |

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