Who are The Doors?
The Doors were an American rock band formed in 1965 in Los Angeles. The band consisted of four members while active; vocalist Jim Morrison, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger, and drummer John Densmore. Known for hit songs like “Break On Through (To the Other Side)” and “Roadhouse Blues”, The Doors are one of the most successful bands of the late 1960s.
Although the music of The Doors is overall classified as psychedelic rock, blues rock, and acid rock, they’re discography is incredibly diverse and encompasses many subgenres. Many of their albums are considered among the greatest of all time, including their debut, self-titled album The Doors, Strange Days, and L.A. Woman. The band was most active in the 1960s up until Morrison’s untimely death in 1971, after which the band only produced three more albums before permanently disbanding.
What is the Origin of The Doors
In the summer of 1965, UCLA film student Jim Morrison met with keyboardist Ray Mazarek on Venice Beach, who was impressed by Morrison’s poetry. Mazarek invited Morrison to join his band called Rick and the Ravens as the lead vocalist. Guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore were recruited soon after from a band they played in together named Psychedelic Rangers.
The band’s name was taken from Aldous Huxley’s book title The Doors of Perception. In early 1966, The Doors held a residency at a Los Angeles club London Fog before moving up to the highly esteemed Whiskey a Go Go Club. Here, they were discovered and signed by Elektra Records and would soon after achieve worldwide fame.
Band Members of The Doors
- Lead vocals, harmonica, percussion (1965-1971)
- Died on July 3, 1971 at the age of 27
- New worth: $20 million
- Keyboards, backing and lead vocals (1965-1973; 1978)
- Died on May 20, 2013 at the age of 74
- Net worth: $25 million
- Guitar, backing and lead vocals (1965-1973; 1978)
- Age: 75
- Net worth: $15 million
- Drums, percussion, backing vocals (1965-1973; 1978)
- Age: 76
- Net worth: $14 million
Styles and Themes in the Music of The Doors
The instrumentalist of the band, Manzarek, Krieger, and Densmore had combined backgrounds in classical music, blues, and jazz that came through in the music of The Doors. Stylistically, The Doors explored Baroque art-rock, jazz, pop, blues, and bossa nova while sounding psychedelic and bluesy. Even flamenco guitar finds its way into the band’s music.
The Doors pushed the boundaries of rock music, both musically and lyrically. With heavy keyboard and organ sounds, they offered a contemporary sound that was both dark and vibrant. A poet, Morrison explored primal issues like violence, sex, freedom, spirit in his lyrics. There were also seasonal themes and a focus on the transient nature of life. Military themes are also present in some songs, expressing the band’s feelings about the Vietnam War that was ongoing at the time.
The Doors (January 4, 1967)
Shortly after signing with Elektra Records, The Doors were at Sunset Sound Studios recording their debut album. This album features a variety of influences including jazz, classical, blues, pop, rock, and R&B. Instrumentation was limited to keyboards, electric guitar, drums, and bass on some tracks.
The breakthrough single “Light My Fire” scaled the charts to number 1, and the album peaked at number 2. The Doors has gone on to achieve multi-platinum status and has since been ranked as one of the greatest albums of all time by many critics and publications. In 2015, the album was selected by the Library of Congress for inclusion in the National Recording Registry based on its cultural, artistic, or historical influence.
Strange Days (September 25, 1967)
The Doors second studio release encompasses acid rock, psychedelic pop, psychedelic rock. It also features musique concrete, a compositional technique that utilizes recorded sounds as raw material and creates modified sounds from audio effects and tape manipulation.
There is unusual instrumentation that includes instruments such as the marimba and Moog synthesizer. The sonic experimentation was inspired by The Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band that had been released around the same time. Strange Days produced two hit singles, “People Are Strange” and “Love Me Two Times”, and the record itself reached number 3 on the US Billboard 200.
Waiting for the Sun (July 3, 1968)
The band’s only number one album, Waiting for the Sun exemplified a cinematic approach in The Doors’ music. Two songs with military themes, “The Unknown Soldier” and “Five to One”, are featured on the album, and the hit “Hello, I Love You” is The Doors second US number one single.
The mellower melodic ballads and avant garde aspects received mixed reviews from critics. Despite this, it was commercially successful and was the band’s first hit album in the UK.
The Soft Parade (July 21, 1969)
While Krieger had been contributing to the songwriting on all albums, he increased his creative output for The Doors’ fourth studio album release. Prior, lead singer Jim Morrison had been the chief songwriter. Morrison became less involved due to personal issues.
The Doors were looking for a fresh, innovative sound and hired Paul Harris to add orchestral arrangement to achieve art rock, blues, and jazz fusion styles. “Touch Me”, the first single for the album, features a saxophone soloist and is one of the band’s biggest hits.
The album peaked at number 6 on the Billboard Hot 200 but failed to chart in the UK. The Soft Parade established The Doors in the pop market, but it was viewed by the band’s original underground music fans as “selling out” by trending into popular music.
Morrison Hotel (February 9, 1970)
The Doors fifth studio album release marked a return to blues-rock and was seen as a comeback for the band. No major hit singles came from this record, but some of the band’s most popular songs did, including “Roadhouse Blues” and “Peace Frog”, both of which would become classic rock staples.
The album’s single “You Make Me Real”/”Roadhouse Blues” peaked at number 50. The album reached number 4 on the Billboard Hot 200 and peaked at number 12 in the UK.
L.A. Woman (April 19, 1971)
The second best-selling album after their debut, self-titled album, L.A. Woman is heavily blues influenced and rooted in blues-rock. R&B is also present on the album. Lyrically, the album contains contemporary topics such as life in Los Angeles, love, and the intricacies of the human experience.
The promo single “Love Her Madly” reached the Top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100, and along with the second single “Riders on the Storm”, are mainstays of rock music. The album achieved number 9 on the Billboard Hot 200 and also charted in the UK Albums Chart at number 28.
Following the recording of the album, Morrison moved to Paris with girlfriend Pamela Courson, but was sadly found dead in the bath a few months later on July 3, 1971. The cause of death is listed as heart failure, however no autopsy was performed and some have speculated his death may have been caused by an overdose.
Other Voices (October 18, 1971)
Keyboardists Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robby Kreiger shared lead vocals on the album following Morrison’s death, Other Voices. This album took a deeper delve into jazz and employed session musicians. It reached number 31 on the Billboard chart
Full Circle (July 17, 1972)
Full Circle contains the final Doors single to chart, “The Mosquito”, which was a global hit for the band and in Spanish. The record also contains influences of Latin fusion with added elements of funk and jazz.
After Full Circle, the three remaining Doors members disbanded upon the end of their contract with Elektra Records, but would reunite for one last album 5 years later.
An American Prayer (November 27, 1978)
The Doors reunited for this final studio album, An American Prayer. Featuring Morrison posthumously, the album features spoken word poetry recordings from 1969 and 1970 set to music. There are also other pieces of music and spoken word by Morrison and The Doors, such as parts of jam sessions and dialogue from Morrison’s film HWY: An American Pastoral. This final studio release achieved a RIAA platinum certification in the US.
Legacy and Influence of The Doors
One of the best-selling bands of all time, The Doors were both the first American band to accumulate eight consecutive gold LPs and the first in rock history to use the synthesizer. Their music was controversial, influential, and theatrical.
Morrison’s lyrics and erotic stage persona brought increased attention to the band. In fact, there were multiple riotous concerts provoked by Morrison’s antics. One such incident occurred in Miami, where Morrison was accused of indecent exposure. This led to radio and conservative media bans and cancelled shows. Despite the bad press, The Doors were able to continue playing concerts around the world. Morrison’s fame has endured as one of the most rebellious icons of popular culture, representing the youth counterculture prevalent at the time.
In the late 1970s, there was a revival of interest in the music of The Doors, creating a new generation of fans. This is traced to the release of An American Prayer in 1978 and its live version of “Roadhouse Blues”, which received considerable radio play. Re-releases of their earlier albums re-entered album charts and in 1991, a second revival occurred with the release of the film The Doors.
The Doors’ music has been featured in countless movie and television scenes. In the film Apocalypse Now, the song “The End” is dramatically featured.
The innovative, rebellious, and creative spirit of The Doors inspired other writers, artists, activists, and the creative community and continues to today. The Doors were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.
Awards and Notable Nominations
- 1998 – song “Light My Fire” inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame
- 2002 – self-titled album inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame
- 2007 – Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement
- 2007 – received star of Hollywood Walk of Fame
- 2010 – “Riders on the Storm” inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame
- 2011 – Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video with the film When You’re Strange
- 2016 – Grammy Award for Favorite Reissues and Compilation with the live album London Fog 1966
- Jefferson Airplane
- Based in San Francisco, California, this American rock band was a pioneer of psychedelic rock They also toured with The Doors in the 1960s.
- Led Zeppelin
- Formed in London in 1968, Led Zeppelin’s bluesy folk rock songs are similar to the blues-rock of The Doors.
- The Rolling Stones
- An English rock band formed in 1962, The Rolling Stones defined hard rock rooted in blues and early rock and roll. They were also influential in the counterculture of the 1960s.
- Formed in London in 1966, Cream spanned many genres of music similar to The Doors, such as blues rock, psychedelic rock, and hard rock.
- Pink Floyd
- One of the first British psychedelic groups, Pink Floyd formed in London in 1965 and were also sonically experimental and diverse.