Week 1 : 4th January 2017 : The Doors debut turns 50


Accompany music : Light My Fire

1967, seems the right place to start. It’s January 4th,  and over the last month, the Vietnam War has continued on, Harold Wilson and the UN are struggling with the crisis in Rhodesia, East German Chancellor Ulbrect is talking about German reunification whilst in California actor Ronald Reagan is being made Governor. Closer to home, my parents have been married for four days, unaware that in 10 months a bundle of creative madness would arrive in their lives. I would put a bet on that they, Wilson or even Reagan were aware of what was happening in West Hollywood, California where the Doors released one of the great debut albums of all time.

Morrison, Manzarek, Keiger and Densmore supposedly recorded this album after nights at local hot-spots in Hollywood California, such as the Whiskey a Go Go and this adds to the mayhem, fun  and subject matter provided. It has the reputation of being one of the influential albums of popular Psychedelia, forming a bridge from other musical styles of that era. It also gives a glimpse into the influence it would give to acts in the future, through their songwriting and delivery.

The album starts the Bossa Nova beat of Break On Through, dives into driving rock and Morissions short punchy lyrics ‘The Day destroys the Night, the Night divides the day” and short verses. The chorus carries on the madness. Cymbals, Keyboards and guitar taking turns at disjointed solos, before returning to the pace to a desperate finish. Love the urgency and almost punk feel to this song.

img_1992Next Soul Kitchen, throws the blues kitchen sink into psychedelia. A slightly sleazy keyboard and percussion, slide guitar and Morrisons copyrighted drawl and shouty chorus. The Crystal Ship, a huge psychedelic ballad that builds during the track. Especially enjoy the combination of piano and organ on this. Morrisions lyrics are delicate, sweet and slightly dubious…. but it’s class. The fantastic Twentieth Century Fox adds some real sixties stomp which feels like it should belong in the forthcoming Glam Rock scene.

Side one finishes with Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar) a cover version of a piece composed by Brect/Weill’s for the Opera ‘Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny’. This seems to be a fun track not at all taken seriously and sums up the almost hedonist atmosphere of this album and recording. Morrison is at his sleazy best and pushing the boundaries of the song into dubious territory. The music does the same, following a musical show structure with anthem like verses/choruses interluded by distorted fanfares and un-nerving funfair sounding organ solo, played by Manzarek on a Marxophone.

Side 2 and Light My Fire, I love this track. The spiralling keyboard start, the breathless Morrison vocals with the lyrics as though being read in a poetry reading . The keyboard solo, kicks in with a chilled wallowing, deliberate sequence that moves and changes as the pace increases and decreases throughout the solo. Slowly builds in crescendo with added drum. finally giving way to relaxed guitar. And then the Keyboard spiralling riff kicks in again taking us from this chilled section to the final reading. Quickly building to the songs end and one more keyboard refrain. Its 7 minutes of perfection that sums up for me, late 60’s music.

img_1994A cover of Willie Dixon’s Back Door Man brings back the blues in a slightly more menacing fashion. Morrison sounds like he’s having a ball. There’s something very clockwork about the start of ‘I looked at You, the chorus and verses are so mid-sixties although their in a slight change of chord at the end of the chorus which throws a darker slant onto this. This darkness is so apparent in End of The Line. Everything paired back, strained and distorted. Whereas Take it as it Comes, travels at a great rolling pace with yet more almost choral keyboard pieces at the end of each chorus.

The preparation of cymbal and keyboard leads in meandering guitar. Single cymbal and tambourine, paired back bass join in setting the slow pace, ready for Morrisons first lyric “This is The End“. The dark, brooding lyrics spaced out over this wide-open music landscape. Every so often a fill from Manzarek,  Kreiger  and Densimore punctuating the journey. Morrisons spoken set section is so dark with an Oedipus like lyrical subject. The final section of spiralling middle eastern influenced music climaxes with the crash of drums, finishing by returning to the gentle meandering refrain of This is the End. Is it about sex, death, religion, or all three? Not sure.

img_1993I do love this album, because of the straddling so many musical styles in the sixties and embracing them into the feel of the Summer of Love. The tracks move from the punk like, to blues standards, sixties pop, dark poetic pieces and of course psychedelia.

Morrision of course is the lead man, his unforgettable image embraces and takes over the front of the sleeve, and it takes a while to notice the rest of the band lurking in the background. The album is very much the same, Morrisons performance is for all to hear, whether whispered or shouted his impenetrable dark lyrics scream attention especially in The End. What should be said is how great the band is, Kreiger playing solid heartfelt guitar and Densmore setting complex beats (Bosa-nova start to Break on Through) and his ability to fill at will. My hero of the album and of the Doors career is Ray Manzarek. On this album Ray plays his Vox Continental organ, piano, marxophone and keyboard bass, creating the mood of the album with swaying harmonies and keeps the music moving with distinctive blues based riffs. The sound is what would become copyrighted sixties. I especially enjoy his solos, the atmosphere is set, the changes in timing and the almost disjointed, meandering approach. I loved the times the keyboards spiral almost out of control, like the start of light my fire. That starting piece alone is enough to put this album in late sixties folk law.

Okay the rules were I make a card/artwork in the time of the album (This one was 45 minutes long). The only idea I had was I wanted to capture my favourite elements which are Manzareks keyboard spiralling riffs. So I decided to create a spiral of fire which was cut out of a suitable free photograph. The spiral sits on the from of a brown card, which because of the shape was cut into a circle with a folded edge for the hinge and a slightly flat bottom. behind the spiral a picture of the doors album is placed. This can only be seen once the spiral is extended. To help with this element, I made a ‘handle’ which is a 50 sign. This probably took the longest time to do, as I could not perfect the doors typeface to create a 5. In the end the spiral works and gives a faux psychedelic feel.  Although once standing up, it makes the card a bit wobbly like its had too much too drink…. which is kind of right for this great album.

Billy (aged -10 months at time of album release)


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