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The Doors: Many Happy Returns To 'The Doors'

Friday, 06 January 2017 Written by Graeme Marsh

As 1967’s Summer of Love swirled around Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, the free spirits of the hippie movement reached their zenith in a cocktail of sex, drugs, music and anti- Vietnam war sentiment.

The year duly threw out some huge albums influenced by the psychedelic, LSD-infused times. Among them you’ll find ‘Disraeli Gears’ by Cream, ‘The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn’ by Pink Floyd, the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s ‘Are You Experienced?’, the Beatles’ ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ and the eponymous release by the Velvet Underground and Nico. These collections enjoyed varying levels of success at the time, but all have reached legendary status.

But an oft-overlooked fact is that all of these undoubted masterpieces followed in the wake of the Doors’ self-titled debut. Released just four days into a year forever marked in history as the apex of drug-fuelled genius, it continues to stand out as a one off.

To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Los Angeles recently dubbed January 4 as the Day Of The Doors, bestowing the highest of accolades upon an album that had been threatened in its very existence ever since founding members Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek first came together two years before its release.

Recorded in just six days at Sunset Sound Recorders on Sunset Boulevard, the record masterfully fused blues, psychedelia, jazz and rock on its way to number two in the Billboard chart and (eventually) worldwide sales of over 20 million copies. In themselves those are no mean feats, but with a loose cannon like Morrison steering the ship, the record’s success becomes even more remarkable.

“It would have been so great if we’d just had a guy like Sting,” guitarist Robby Krieger confessed to Guitar World in 2008. “You know, a normal guy who’s extremely talented, too. Someone who didn’t have to be on the verge of life and death every second of his life.”

The dynamism within Morrison, though, undoubtedly catapulted the band to a higher plain while he was regularly reaching his own highs. It wasn’t long before Krieger knew Morrison was different and another strong influence, the band’s organist Manzarek, paled in direct comparison, for example. “[Manzarek] was a major character,” Krieger told Guitar World. “But Jim kind of kept him in his place. Jim was so out there that Ray’s personality was overwhelmed – which, oddly enough, created a good balance.”

The Doors had served their time building up material and honing their skills during a residency at the Whisky a Go Go club, with songwriting duties gradually shifting outward from Morrison to encompass a more collaborative feel. Krieger penned the bulk of the LP’s breakout single, Light My Fire, with further big moments arriving in the form of Break On Through (To The Other Side), the psychedelic gem The Crystal Ship and the disturbing, near 12-minute epic The End, which traverses Oedipal ground and plays out like a heavy trip in itself.

The success of ‘The Doors’ was quickly capitalised upon. Its follow-up, ‘Strange Days’, arrived later that same year and ushered in a prolific run that would encompass six LPs by the time ‘L.A. Woman’ hit shelves in 1971. But just a month after that album’s arrival the ride was over.

On July 3, 1971 Morrison was found dead in Paris. The circumstances of the vocalist’s death remain shrouded in mystery almost 50 years later, but what is certain is that drugs robbed of an extraordinary talent. If the band, and Morrison in particular, had not been experimenting, though, it’s hard to see how this masterpiece would have arrived at all. ‘The Doors’ remains a huge milestone in rock history.

'The Doors: 50th Anniversary Edition' is out on March 31.

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