The Doors

“No, no my friend…Doors fans aren’t made, they’re born.” The Kids in the Hall

I’ve always associated the Doors with the beginning of my inevitable teenage rebellion.  It was my later years in high school, and the thrill of grunge rock was already on the decline (although Pearl Jam had yet to release “Vitology” and Soundgarden was working on “Down on the Upside”, the other final masterpiece, Nirvana’s “In Utero”, was already out and bands like Stone Temple Pilots were mining the sound for all it was worth…industrial was on the horizon, but “The Downward Spiral” hadn’t landed yet).  At any rate, I was a bored teenager looking for something new.  I had pretty much decided, thanks as much to Ferris Bueller as anything else, that high school was a complete waste of time, and most nights I would drop my girlfriend off for her early curfew and head of to the Artistic One’s house, which was just a couple streets over.  Now the Artistic One’s father was one of our teachers, and an amazing teacher at that, but he never minded that we all hung out in his basement until all hours of the night playing nickel-dime poker and watching R-rated movies.  No, the Artistic One’s father understood our teenage rebellion…and after all, we weren’t doing anything that bad.  None of us were drinking or smoking or partaking in mind-altering substances.  We were just a bored group of sheltered teenagers passing the time.

Well, one of the movies that we always watched on VHS while we were playing poker was the Oliver Stone vision of “The Doors”.  We tended to be attracted to anything that involved a debaucherous lifestyle and scantily clad women (“A Clockwork Orange” was another favorite), but Oliver Stone’s movie about the Doors also offered great music and a window into the rock and roll lifestyle we all wished we were living (and as John McCrea pointed out, the lifestyle we wished we could afford).  So not being satisfied with just watching the movie, one day I went to Jerry’s Records and Tapes (or maybe it was already Slappy’s by then…I can’t remember) to buy the two disc “Greatest Hits” package.  While I was there in the store admiring the long box packaging, I ran into Dub Step.  Now, I had known Dub Step practically since kindergarten, and he played bass for our show choir, but we rarely spoke.  He was famous around school for being able to play “Enter Sandman” on bass, and we just simply ran with different crowds.  But he saw me buying the Doors’ “Greatest Hits” and he said “Man, I could listen to the Doors everyday”.  It was one of those moments were walls break down and we had our first good conversation in years.

Melodrama aside, the Doors continued to unite people in my life.  My two disc “Greatest Hits” package was a big hit on the debaucherous 19th floor of Lincoln Tower my freshman year of college.  And there was a Doors cover band called “Moonlight Drive” that used to play both back home at the Cove in Geneva-On-The-Lake and at the Newport Music Hall here in Columbus.  Well, two female friends of mine from high school were basically groupies for that band, and the first time I ever got backstage at the Newport was thanks to those girls and their connections with the band.  It goes without saying that they were huge Doors fans as well.

So knowing that this album was coming up on my list, I pulled it out and listened to it the week that Ray Manzarek sadly passed away (that same week I was playing keyboard in this little 3-man combo that was rehearsing for a retirement party and I remarked that I was not doing the spirit of Ray Manzarek justice…it was true).  It has a BMG label on it, so I’m sure I got it when I was scamming BMG back in college for countless free CDs.  It’s not my favorite Doors album (“Waiting for the Sun” takes that honor), but it is a part of a trilogy of the first three Doors albums (this album, “Strange Days”, and “Waiting for the Sun”) that are my favorite period for the band.  Stylistically, no band can match the atmosphere and the mood that the Doors were able to create.   There is actually a lot of filler on this record, but songs like “The Crystal Ship” can bring you solace while songs like “Break on Though” can incite rebellion and songs like “The End” can teleport you out into the middle of the desert on a blue bus.  Add in the cabaret humor of “Alabama Song”, a song written by German theater composer Kurt Weill, and you have quite the musical hodgepodge.  And while the focus has traditionally been on Jim Morrison and his poetry (I clearly remember Lightning 101 stealing the sign from Morrison Avenue back in Geneva and walking down the railroad tracks swinging a fifth of Jack Daniels), the band is an amazing ensemble.  Apart from the atmosphere they create all throughout the album, the jam on “Light My Fire” (that was cut for the single version) is truly remarkable, showcasing amazing interplay between Ray Manzarek’s keyboard, Robby Krieger’s guitar, and John Densmore’s drumming.  And of course, the entire album closes with Morrison’s drug-infused Oedipal opus, “The End”.  Fantastic stuff.

Other lists:  “Light My Fire” ranks #35 and “The End” ranks #336 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  The Doors are #41 on the list of the 100 Greatest Artists, Robby Kreiger is #76 on the list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists, and Jim Morrison is #47 on the list of the 100 Greatest Singers.  “The Doors” is also #34 on the newly created list of the 100 Best Debut Albums.

My favorite track:  “The End”

Honorable mention: “Break on Through (To the Other Side)”

Quote: “Can you picture what will be?  So limitless and free…”