It seems like every week I talk about albums considered to be among the greatest of all time. On Rolling Stone’s infamous list, today’s record comes in at #42 – and would probably be a touch higher on my personal list. It was a revolutionary record to the music industry and really introduced most of the world to psychedelic rock.
Ladies and gentlemen, from Los Angeles, California—THE DOORS! All the way back in 1965, a couple guys who went to UCLA to study theater and film met up to discuss forming a band. Jim Morrison had been writing music and looking for guys with different jazz, rock, blues and folk backgrounds. They took their name from Aldous Huxley’s book, The Doors of Perception, which is derived from a line in a William Blake book, “if the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is: infinite.” The only reason I mention that, if you are familiar with The Doors lyrics and sound, it’s almost as though they made music surrounding that idealism.
This self-titled album came out on January 4th, 1967. This would be the first album out of nine released by The Doors. It was recorded at Sunset Sound Studios over just six days, with the 11-minute conclusion track ‘The End’ taking two sessions to get just right. They had been playing local clubs for months prior to recording, and all those shows had the band feeling very ready and confident in what they had recorded. Their hunch was correct, as this would go on to be their best-selling record at over 17 million copies worldwide.
Interestingly enough, the album was stuck at #2 on the U.S. charts for many weeks. The only reason this happened was because this other band happened put out a pretty popular album as well that year—it was called Sgt. Pepper’s and was by this small act called The Beatles. Initially they struggled to get air play, as ‘Break On Through’ had seen some early success, but didn’t quite catch on as the record execs had hoped. Arguably the next track that made most sense to play on the radio was ‘Light My Fire’, and based on the album cut, was over seven minutes long. The producer trimmed it down to three minutes, removing all the lengthy keyboard and guitar solos, and the single to hit #1 on the charts and really put the album on the map. The rest, as they say,is history.
Similar to Radiohead last week, you really have to be open minded to experimental rock to sit back and groove to this one. The term “psychedelic rock” typically refers to the heavy drug use popular in the mid to late 60s, and that overall vibe really translates to the listener. Heavy keyboard use is semi signature to The Doors sound, and this album is also heavy on long solos for all instrumentals. Robby Krieger and Ray Manzarek are two of the most respected guitarists and keyboardists of all time respectively.
There are obviously a lot of albums out there that have lasted the test of time. The Doors self-titled effort is certainly one of them. The two biggest, most popular tracks on the album won’t be in my top three, as the rest of the record is just that good. Sure, I’m a sucker for long guitar solos – and I love some keyboard in my rock and roll – but even if you’re not in that boat, this is well worth $5 bucks. Take yourself back to 1967 and drift away.