Break On Through (To the Other Side)
The Crystal Ship
Twentieth Century Fox
Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)
Light My Fire
Back Door Man
I Looked At You
End of the Night
Take It As It Comes
It’s easy to take The Doors too seriously: the dark subject matter (“The End”), the heavy, poetic stance (“The Crystal Ship”), the sense of significance lurking around every candlelit corner. When Jim Morrison offered up the second verse of “Light My Fire” (“Try now we can only lose/And our love become a funeral pyre”), guitarist Robby Krieger, who’d written the song’s initial sketch, said it was cool and all, but man, did everything have to be about death with this guy?
For all its revolutionary gravity, The Doors is also a deeply funny, theatrical album—a feat of rock poetry, a Vegas spin on a psychedelic happening, a newfangled show put on with old-world polish. Musically, they don’t look to the underground so much as to the exotic, whether they find it at the carnival (“Alabama Song [Whisky Bar]”) or the seance (“The End”), the cocktail lounge (“Break on Through”) or the topless bar (“Twentieth Century Fox”). When the album’s engineer, Bruce Botnick, showed Morrison the microphone he’d be using (a Telefunken U47), Morrison was ecstatic: It was the same kind that Frank Sinatra used.
The album changed the course of rock in the ’60s, but part of why we still listen to it is that it manages to reconcile its disparate influences—James Brown (“Soul Kitchen”), bossa nova (“Light My Fire”), spoken-word poetry (“The End”), and sleazeball blues (“Back Door Man”)—while sounding of a single piece. The takeaway is that psychedelia isn’t an invention of the ’60s so much as a mood that can be gleaned from music across styles, decades, and cultures—not a movement isolated by time, but a mindset. Their showmanship was at odds with the naturalism of the hippies, but their sense of expression was raw enough to inspire punk rock. Ridiculous, and dangerously so.