On this day in 1965, The Doors began recording demos together, laying down some songs set to Jim Morrison's freaky poems. Nearly 50 years later, the band is an exalted classic-rock group, firmly implanted in that pantheon with Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, The Who, and Jimi Hendrix, and every other post-Beatles band that continues to turn kids onto drugs, sex, and long hair.
It's been said you either love The Doors, or hate The Doors. You get Morrison's antics and see them as epic godhead activity, or you dismiss them as the work of privileged "drunken buffoon," a white boy trying to play poet to get laid.
Now Rocks Off has always loved the band, from those dusty LPs that showed up in our house, to the Morrison poetry album An American Prayer, and that great live footage of the leather-clad wonder doing a proto-punk march across the stage. But we also understand the theatrics that went into what made The Doors so entertaining.
We can say our favorite album is 1970's Morrison Hotel, becasuse it was first Doors record to us that had that swing in the pants, from "Roadhouse Blues" to standout "Land Ho!" Everything on Hotel is dirty, from guest Lonnie Mack's bass, Ray Manzarek's various keys and Robby Krieger's licks to some of John Densmore's funkiest drumming.
Somewhere along the line we started to see the correlation between the Stooges, one of our most beloved groups, to Morrison and company, and everything made sense. Most punks see The Doors as this dippy act on their dad's radio, but they haven't spent hours with live Doors bootlegs and heard the ferocity of someone like Morrison. The Stooges' "No Fun" just needed some organ tinkle and it would have been a Doors staple.
Rumors used to fly that Iggy Pop himself would front a new version of the band, and he even worked with Manzarek in Los Angeles, who saw in both Jim's a spiritual kinship, but nothing every solidified beyond the odd tribute gig.
So here are 10 facts you super-fans all probably know like the scratches and pops in your copy of The Soft Parade, and for the folks who only know Morrison as that guy that the asshole from Top Gun played, you are about to get hipped.
After Morrison "died" on July 3, 1971, the remaining members continued as a threesome until disbanding in 1973, and it was awful. A nice try, but bad execution. Other Voices and Full Circle featured Krieger and Manzarek sharing vocal duties. The remaining three would busy themselves for the next decades, with Manzarek producing X and Echo & The Bunnymen, Densmore started acting and writing, and Krieger still plays guitar here and there. Krieger and Manzarek play House of Blues November 16.
During the Vietnam War, Jim's father was deputy commander of U.S. Naval forces in Vietnam. The older Morrison supported his son's early filmmaking aspirations at UCLA, but didn't jive well with his music. He was initially told that his son died in a Paris hospital, and not in his Parisian apartment. His sister to this day still, sort of, believes that he could be alive and that he faked his death.
The chord progression of "Light My Fire" was lifted from John Coltrane's "My Favorite Things," which was sung by Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. Frankly, we would have preferred to hear The Lizard King bellow "When the dog bites, when the bee stings..."
In "The WASP (Texas Radio and The Big Beat)," that "Texas radio" they speak of refers to high-powered Mexican stations that one could hear up into Texas in the 1950's. The stations had no restrictions, meaning that they might be as powerful as 150,000 watts. Their call letters all started with "X" as well. ZZ Top's "Heard It On The X" touches on those stations as well, with rockers in Texas learning all sorts of voodoo on their shortwaves.
Director Oliver Stone was concerned about Val Kilmer capturing Morrison's presence in his 1991 Doors biopic, so he hired a choreographer Paula Abdul to show Kilmer how to dance, walk, and move like Morrison. Who then has been teaching Kilmer to eat these past 20 years? A garbage disposal?
John Sebastian played the blues harp on "Roadhouse Blues" as "G. Puglese" to fool his record label. Sebastian led The Lovin' Spoonful, who were an influence (seriously) on The Beatles, and he would write "Welcome Back," the opening theme to the sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter. Even more messed-up is that while the Oliver Stone film was being developed, the star of that show, John Travolta, was briefly in talks to play Morrison. Really.
The title of "Five To One" has been said to refer to the ratios in 1967 America of whites to blacks, young to old, non-pot smokers to pot smokers, and Vietnamese to American soldiers in Vietnam.
Ellen Cohen, who would become Cass Elliot in the Mamas & The Papas, attended the same high school as Morrison in Alexandria, Virginia.
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The band's appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on September 17, 1967, was the same night as The Who's scorched-earth version of "My Generation" on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Imagine being a kid and seeing both of those bands the same night. Or being a parent watching your children see that.
Morrison's death is one of the most contested topics in rock. Only his longtime girlfriend Pamela Courson and a Paris doctor, Dr. Max Vasille, saw his body, and he was buried without an autopsy, so the cause of death is unknown. Someone should exhume him one day and find out, right? Anyhow, the theories of Morrison's whereabouts are legion. Some say he turned into pure energy, joined his dad in Naval intelligence, while other conclude he was killed by evil Jewish label heads. Whatever happened, the man is gone - or at least not telling us where he is.