you know that it would be untrue, you know that I would be a liar, if I was to say to you, girl we couldn’t get much higher…
Welcome back vinyl lovers to another edition of The Sunday Spin. This week we are throwing it back to a classic album from arguably the most transcendent band of all time. This group managed to revolutionize rock music, creating a unique brand of psychedelia and blues and rock and roll to create melodic magic. This, combined with the brilliant poetry of the quartet’s legendary frontman, was the beginning of a cultural icon and an exploration into the psyche of music and how we experience it. I am of course talking about the Doors.
The Doors were a staple of late 1960s music, embodying the true spirit of the most creative and introspective era of American culture. They were a band that was truly ahead of their time. They had both number one hits and what we would understand as “hipster cred.” They were offensive and innovative and psychological, while still being groovy as Hell. Their music transcends the spectrum of sound and turns the listening experience into a trip beyond sensory comprehension. This was especially achieved with their 1967 debut, the self-titled The Doors.
This record is a perfect vinyl to own. It is diverse and energetic, while being extremely trippy and introspective. This is an album that not only makes you think, but it makes you feel. Arguably the most popular of the Doors albums, due to its immaculate tracklist and musicianship, spinning this record is an experience like nothing else.
When I was a broke teenager, with a new record player and 2 or 3 LPs to my name, I began hunting everywhere I could to find good, cheap records. I was talking to relatives and friends trying to find whatever they had and were willing to part with. I found some interesting things here or there but I never did get quality albums this way. Then I went to my dad.
Can you picture what will be so limitless and free?…
My father, has probably the best collection of pre-1990s vinyl that you’ll find anywhere. He had everything from the Beatles and the Stones to Elton John and Billy Joel. Every classic record between 1965 and 1989 was collected from his brothers and sisters, and filled an entire basement of neatly alphabetized shelves. These records had not been used in years but I was always under the impression that my dad did not want anybody touching them. But my music starved teenage mind couldn’t take it anymore. I decided to ask him if I could take some of his records (eyeballing Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd specifically), and much to my surprise, he said I could. The only condition was that he had to have a digital or CD copy of the album before he could part with it. I had no idea he would be so willing to part with them, but without hesitation I agreed.
Now I had two options, I could to to the local Sam Goody (cheers to those of you who remember CD stores) and spend about $12 dollars apiece, slowly rebuilding a digital music library to replace my father’s physical one, or I could simply download them all. And this whole endeavor began because I had no money, and at this point LimeWire was still around so my choice was pretty clear.
I raided my father’s basement, collecting classic album after classic album. I was able to acquire almost entire discographies from bands like The Who, The Alan Parsons Project, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, and more, including a band I was not entirely familiar with, The Doors.
I took the records home and listened to them one by one, spending day after day eating up the music of the late 60s and 70s, discovering that this was clearly the generation I should have grown up with. I was so shocked at how this music could be so relevant and inspired and ahead of its time. Music will never be quite the same as it was back then. So artistic and free, but still at the top of the charts and big in the mainstream. Never again will those two aspects of music align in the same way.
Then I made it to the eponymous Doors album. At first I knew some of the bigger tracks on the record like: “Break on Through,” and “Light My Fire,” which on their own are great songs, but played through on the vinyl are part of a much deeper experience. One that would change my musical life forever.
Tried to run, tried to hide. Break on through to the other side…
Before I delve into the record itself, let me just applaud the vinyl format and its engineers for developing a technology that almost 50 years later still sounds amazing. Sure there are little pops and scratches and imperfections here and there, but that does not take away from the experience in any way. In fact, it enhances the uniqueness of each and every vinyl. On top of that, it is an amazing feeling to sit and listen to incredible music, from the best era for music ever, in the same way that kids like me growing up then were listening. I’m sitting here in my room spinning this record with some colorful lights going and some incense burning to more perfectly recreate the vibes that the original hippie kids and rebels were feeling when this music was released.
Even as I sit here and type this with the album playing in the background I’m getting chills because the stereo effects on this record make it feel like my head is right between Ray Manzarek’s hands, with the characteristic organ melodies on one side, and the bass line on the other. I’m wondering how a band from almost 50 years ago could be so ahead of its time. The Doors are truly on another level artistically.
The album opens with the explosive “Break on Through.” Possibly the Doors most famous song other than “Light My Fire,” this song is a marvel to experience on vinyl. The jazzy entrance of John Densmore’s drumming and Robby Krieger’s bluesy guitar riff dance on either end of your stereo combined with Jim’s passionate screams and that chugging chorus make the song truly unforgettable. On vinyl you can feel every build-up and break-down, to the point where you can almost visualize the band positioned around your room. I’m geeking out right now because I forgot how much this album moves me.
speak in secret alphabets…
Next is “Soul Kitchen.” Within the first 5 notes of the song, you instantly know that this is Doors bread and butter right here. More brilliant poetry combined with music that is somehow both classic and futuristic. This song is a groovy follow up to “Break on Through” and fits perfectly on the album. It also works to lead into the organ driven introspective deep cut “The Crystal Ship.”
show me the way to the next whiskey bar. Ohh don’t ask why….
Following another bluesy classic “Twentieth Century Fox,” is one of my favorite Doors songs, and possibly one of their most bizarre. “Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)” is a creepy carnival ride of alcoholism and drunken stupor. The verses are a foreboding oom-pah-pah of desperation during a night out, followed by an abrupt descent into childish yet haunting circus music. As I listened to this song for the first time on vinyl, I understood the progression and was able to draw my own interpretations of the characters in the story of the song. The song’s mood reflects that of a night out of heavy drinking. The oom-pahs of the verse represents the time before drinking, desperately searching for the best place for the night, and having the initial drinks that are a little harder to take down. While the chorus represents the point of inebriation where one is in a childish state and looks at the world as a playground, but every once in a while, an eerie chord is heard, reflective of the uneasy feeling of drinking too much, and the foreboding worry of tomorrow’s hangover.
Next up is the Doors number 1 hit “Light My Fire.” You hear that first click of the snare and know that that legendary and instantly recognizable organ solo is about to blow your mind again. In case it wasn’t clear earlier, it should be noted that the Doors have no bass player. Keyboard player Ray Manzarek would play at one time both the organ riffs on one hand, while maintaining a separate bassline on the other. This makes the experience so much more incredible because the musicianship of just these four men is powerful and creative enough to sound like a small army. Especially in the 6 and a half minutes or so of “Light My Fire.”
Coming back to the ground a little after the trip of “Light My Fire,” is slow blues jam “Back Door Man.” This song is great to throw on, when you’re vibing out to this song you feel like a cool guy as the guitar riffs and bass line pumps you through a song that you should be listening to while wearing a leather jacket and lighting up a smoke. And the instrumentals and vocals grow and become more intense and passionate as the track progresses making it one of the Doors best blues songs of all time.
Take a journey to the bright midnight…
Following the classic, So-Cal vibes of ” I Looked At You” is one of the deepest and best songs that the Doors have ever created. The haunting ebb and flow of “End of the Night” has the ability to send the creepy yet soothing darkness into the deepest recesses of your brain. It is a truly transcendent psychological song that must be heard to be believed. If you do anything tonight after reading this article, let it be this: before bed, throw on some headphones and play “End of the Night” as you drift off to sleep. I can promise you’ll have dreams and thoughts like you never had before. The song brings a cosmic darkness that chugs along, eerie and peaceful, haunting and enlightening all at the same time. I have never experienced anything like I have listening to “End of the Night” for the first time on vinyl.
Ride the snake…
One last high energy track “Take it as it Comes” follows “End of the Night,” before the final song on the record, the aptly titled “The End.” This is another song that words can not begin to explain. It has a very Eastern vibe to it, while being very minimalist. Only small organ variations and simple basslines accompany sitar-like guitar interludes, as this song, while completely brilliant musically, clearly defines itself as an outlet for the poetry and vocal art of Jim Morrison. “The End” is a free-form musical experiment that blends Eastern atmospheres, modern (at the time) rock and roll, and bold poetic expression into a nearly 12 minute endeavor that will leave you lost inside the waves of the legendary track. The centerpiece of this song is Jim Morrison’s dark Oedipal narrative that was so offensive at the time, part of it was edited out, and was not included until a 1990s reissue of the album. The lyrics were meant to be controversial, because that is what good art is. To Jim Morrison and the Doors, good art is supposed to make you uncomfortable at times, that means it is reaching you on some deep primal level. And I believe that with this album the Doors have achieved truly great art.
For a time, I listened to this record almost on a daily basis, I could not stop listening. It truly changed my life. Even now, I played it through three times just so I could pick up on every little detail and subtlety of the magic that the Doors created with this record. I will never grow tired of these songs and I think that it is the perfect vinyl experience for anybody like me who is desperately trying to achieve the synesthesic effect of feeling music. The Doors is a record that transcends thought and senses and takes your mind on a trip that is both unique and familiar at once. And my words can not do it justice, so vinyl fans, go find a copy of this record and spin it until you see the world in a new way. Use these songs as a spirit guide to help explore your psyche and learn new things about yourself. Spin this record and harness its psychic energy, and try to set the night on fire.