When The Doors went into the recording studio in August 1966 for one week to record their debut album, no one had any idea that within a year they would have a Number 1 single in America with Light My Fire and spark a trajectory that would catapult the band to stardom, a career of controversy and eventually the death four years later of the charismatic Jim Morrison. The first single released in January 1967 had been Break On Through, the opening track on the album but it stalled and it wasn’t until July that year that Light My Fire (heavily edited), released in April, scaled the charts. (Light My Fire was also a hit just one year later for blind Puerto Rican guitarist and singer José Feliciano).
Break On Through, Soul Kitchen, The Crystal Ship and Twentieth Century Fox all had that groovy sixties sound, but the difference was that Morrison added a danger to the songs that wasn’t present in most of the groups of that era. It wasn’t just that he was anti- establishment, there was something truly dark about him. Everyone knows about his run-ins with the authorities, getting arrested for indecency, causing a riot, drunk and disorderly, all kinds of things happening at gigs, on flights, you name it, all allegedly fuelled by drugs and alcohol. Coming from a military family (his father made Rear Admiral in the Navy), he must have had a seriously strict upbringing in that environment – rebellion was always on the cards for such a voracious reader of poetry and esoteric literature and R’n’R was the catalyst that set him on a destructive path that led to his death in Paris in 1971. The leather pants, poetry and a disregard for what anyone thought, Morrison continues to spawn imitators. David Crosby referred to him in a song as “mad and lonely”. It’s hard to imagine where he would have ended up, but to me he is like the R’n’R equivalent of Oliver Reed – poetic, talented, passionate and trouble at every turn.
The album features two covers, the 1927 Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Veill, The Alabama Song with the lyric changed, (“Show me the way to the next little girl” ), and Willie Dixon’s, Howlin’ Wolf recorded 1961 Chess records classic, Back Door Man. Songs sexually charged, decadence recovered from the Jazz Age and screaming, with Morrison’s stage presence and that beguiling voice, the lyrical songs, the eerie organ and the underlying tension especially realised in the final track, The End, this ground breaking album is as important as any record in rock history.