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The Doors - The Doors CD (album) cover

THE DOORS

The Doors

 

Proto-Prog

4.33 | 709 ratings

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ExittheLemming
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Apollo 1 v 1 Dionysus

I seem to have an aversion to most of the music that came from the west coast of the USA in the late 60's. Jefferson Airplane's brand of smug hippy elitism came to resemble the casting of a damp spell during the summer of love, Janis Joplin was a barred pub singer who performed outdoors, Arthur Lee was the 'black' Johnny Mathis, the Byrds should have flown south for the winter and stayed there, the Grateful Dead were the first noodle franchise and the remnants of Captain Beefheart's streams of consciousness are probably still trickling their way through sewage systems the world over.

By dint of complete unorthodoxy, such flippant dismissals are not appropriate for the Doors, who almost single handedly wrote one of the most memorable (but short) chapters in the history of popular music. The dreamlike and collectivist bent of the hippy ethos is almost completely absent here and is replaced with a boisterous celebration of the individual will, intoxication and a dark and ancient primitivism i.e. the Dionysian spirit is unleashed. Morrison's 2nd rate poetry works much better heard than read and it would be churlish to pretend that the lyrics on this album were even intended to stand up on their own on the printed page. The entire spirit of tragedy (as originated by the Greeks) negates the separation of melody from drama (Guess where the word 'melodrama' comes from?) That Mr Mojo Risin' should have broken ranks from the peace and love corps is really no surprise given that his formative inspiration and influences were predominantly European e.g. Nietzsche, Aldous Huxley (The Doors of Perception), William Blake (The Marriage of Heaven and Hell), Artaud, Brecht/Weill (Alabama Song), James Frazer, Baudelaire, Rimbaud and Celine (Journey to the End of the Night)

What seems particularly ironic about Morrison's breakneck demise and ultimate early death is that for such a brilliant and perceptive individual he remained oblivious to the necessity of harnessing his anarchic and dissolute muse from within the confines of the Doors. Without the balancing Apollonian restraint and discipline of Krieger, Densmore and Manzarak the band would probably have sounded like four drunken speeding pedestrians with road rage. (a.k.a. The Stooges) Therein lies the compensating tension that all satisfying structures need to possess for longevity. Where Jimbo erred (like Syd Barrett perhaps) was in believing that the unfettered chaotic instinct should vanquish the controlling ordering elements. Incoherence and genius are but the flick of an eyelid/wrist apart and the ancient Greeks alone it seems understood that Apollo and Dionysus were really aspects of a single entity with neither being deemed inseparable from the other. (erm...sorta like Republicans and Democrats y'all)

Enough of this wanky verbose blather I hear you say and on with the music:

Break On Through - If I told you that objectively this is a bossa nova and that Kreiger's irresistible guitar riff is but a short kick in the rear off a Paul Butterfield tune I'd be guilty of describing the crockery instead of the food in a restaurant. Enjoy your meal (It's delicious)

Soul Kitchen - Ray Manzarak somehow coaxes a timbre from his Vox Continental organ that inhabits the realm of neon Gothic kitsch and this habitually fey instrument was never invested with this level of grandeur in anyone else's hands.

The Crystal Ship - How can something as emotively haunting as this beautiful song have been inspired by an oil rig off Sands Beach in Isla Vista, California? (Remind me to wean myself off those 'obscure and completely irrelevant trivia' sections of Wikipedia)

Twentieth Century Fox - Even the serial satyr Morrison might douse his ardour at the chick he describes rather ambivalently with alternating disdain/regard in this song. A proto StarF*cker for the 60's.

Well she's fashionably lean and she's fashionably late She'll never wreck a scene, she'll never break a date But she's no drag just watch the way she walks

Alabama Song - It's incredibly refreshing to hear a band take something sourced from European music hall tradition and invest same with the primordial energy of rock without adulterating the ironic sophistication of the original. Jim changes the lyrics here slightly from show us the way to the next pretty boy and Manzarak adds some genuinely spooky piano roll ambience. Borderline camp in places and all the better for it as befitting the spirit of the original.

Light My Fire - A song more than capable of surviving with dignity intact despite being shamelessly ripped off for Madonna's Beautiful Stranger. A perennial classic that has been covered with varying degrees of wretchedness ever since. Allegedly the lyrics are Robbie Krieger's but why can't Islam declare a fatwa on Jose Feliciano?

Back Door Man - The Willie Dixon staple receives a spirited and raucous reading by the Doors but for me they were a faux blues band at best. The first instalment of Morrison's enduring and ultimately failed wish to be considered a credible bloozman. Ray's gaudy organ gives a rather tired standard a much needed fresh coat of dayglo paint.

I looked at You - Breezy 60's pop and pretty damn nifty despite the 'psychedelia by numbers' construction. Some consider this filler but for me, it manages to straddle successfully the precarious abyss between sweet and sickly.

End of the Night - here in embryonic form we have the Joy Division, Bunnymen, Cure and Banshees kernel that inspired an entire generation of post-punk musicians. A truly indispensable lesson in how to build a forbidding and sinister atmosphere with minimal resources.

Take It as It Comes - One of my favourite Doors songs blessed with an implied middle eastern tonality reinforced by Manzarak's thrilling 'arabian night' organ solos. I particularly adore the breakdown section where the infectious groove is carried just by Densmore's funky latin tinged drums and the bubbling bass under Morrison's lascivious vocal.

The End - The erm... mother of all album closers and a track that has quite rightly earned its place in the pantheon of 'rock songs that were at least 10 years ahead of their time'

So..does Jimbo dip his Mom then?

The Oedipal aspects of the lyrics have been a tad overstated I feel as although they confront some hitherto forbidden taboos for 1967 their use is principally that of Artaud theatre/shock and the symbolism I alluded to in the introduction e.g. the 'Father' represents the authoritarian controller (Apollo) that if left unchallenged would stifle the psyche into an unthinking conformity while the 'Mother' represents freedom and creativity (Dionysus) with its corollary being that of a self destructive pure subjectivity. There is also a reference to the Vietnam military draft I think re 'blue bus' (from a poem by William Caughly) which must have pricked the ears of one Francis Ford Coppola methinks. Kreiger's subtle and sinister eastern inflected glissandos on the quiet opening are masterful here and the Doors reap the dividends of having road-tested this number beforehand countless times in their live Whisky A Go Go sets. What started life as a simple break up song about one of Morrison's ex girlfriends mutated and grew into a 12 minute opus that practically defines the nascent dark side of rock. Recorded in one take with no overdubs, the whole thing just builds inexorably to its viscerally shocking conclusion before calm is restored on the desolate outro which repeats the opening verses but you just sense that something cherished and fragile has been bruised irreparably in the interim (innocence)

Jim Morrison and the Doors were light years ahead of anyone at this point and continued their stellar trajectory on the rather unjustly neglected second album Strange Days. Thereafter the drink swallowed the man and the real 'end' was the pitiful spectacle of the blurred and bloated visionary dead in a Parisian bathtub at 27 years old. Perhaps the only crumb of comfort that we can scour from the early deaths of Brian Jones, Hendrix, Morrison and Ian Curtis is that at the very least we never had to stomach them gorging from the trough on something like We Built This City by Jefferson Ratship.

Were I to list the antecedents to this album I could come up with precisely: NONE

Were I to list the consequences that this album presaged, this review would be the longest in the history of Prog Archives: As influential and far reaching for the heavier and darker end of the rock spectrum as the Beatles were to pop music.

ExittheLemming | 5/5 |

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