The Doors were a musical band of the 1960s and early 1970s, consisting of Jim Morrison (lead vocals, b. 1943 d. 1971), Ray Manzarek (organ, keyboard, b. 1939), Robby Krieger (guitar, b. 1946) and John Densmore (drums, b. 1944)
The group started in 1965 in Los Angeles, California, after a meeting between UCLA film school graduates Morrison and Manzarek. Morrison sang Manzarek some of his poetry and song lyrics including Moonlight Drive. Manzarek was already in a band called Rick And The Ravens while Krieger and Densmore were playing with The Psychedelic Rangers, but knew Manzarek from shared meditation instruction. The latter two, with a female bass player, were rapidly recruited and the band took up a number of club residences first at LA's London Fog and later the Whisky A Go-Go.
The band took their name from a line in a book by Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception, which was in turn borrowed from a line of poetry by the 18th century artist and poet William Blake: "If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it truly is, infinite."
To fans of the Doors, the music included socially and politically charged lyrics mostly written by Jim Morrison. The jazz drumming of John Densmore, the swirling keyboards of Ray Manzarek, whose left hand played the parts typically associated with bass guitar, and Robby Krieger's guitar playing, which showed the influence of flamenco, Indian, the blues and classical music, combined to form a distinctive sound.
Many of the songs made by The Doors were done in a communal way, reflected Manzarek, with Morrison usually contributing the lyrics and some melody, while the others hammered out the beat and flow of the song. While Morrison and Manzarek were walking on the beach in California, they passed an African-American girl, and Morrison wrote the lyrics to Hello I Love You in a single night, referring to the girl as the "dusky jewel".
The Doors quickly earned a reputation as an entertaining live act, as well as having a rebellious reputation. In one appearance with a live performance on the American Broadcasting Company network, the network's censors demanded the group change its lyrics in its song, Light My Fire, altering the line, "Girl we couldn't get much higher" to "Girl we couldn't get much better". However, Morrison sang the original line instead, and on live television with no delay ABC was powerless to stop it. Morrison on stage gave a whole new life to a rock band on stage in concert, and Manzarek recalled that Morrison stopped being himself on stage and became more of a "whirling dervish", or shaman, showing things of a more primeval nature. Singer Grace Slick once recalled seeing Morrison at a concert, high on drugs, and so active that he needed to be pulled off stage.
In one known incident, at a 1969 concert in Miami, Florida, Morrison allegedly exposed himself. Misdemeanour and felony charges were brought against Morrison. The misdemeanour charges stuck. The incident remains inconclusive. Morrison said: "I wasted a lot of time with the Miami trial. About a year and a half. But I guess it was a valuable experience because before the trial I had a very unrealistic schoolboy attitude about the American judicial system. My eyes have been opened up a bit."
While Morrison as the lead singer received the most attention of the group, as well as getting a far larger image of himself on album covers, he was quite adamant about all the members of the group getting recognition. Before one concert when the announcer introduced the group as "Jim Morrison and The Doors", Morrison in a rage refused to appear unless he announced the group again, solely as "The Doors".
In 1971, Morrison died in mysterious circumstances while living in Paris, leaving some fans believing that Morrison faked his death to escape the spotlight. The remaining Doors continued, Krieger and Manzarek replacing Morrison on vocals, and released two more albums, Other Voices and Full Circle.
While far from being a commercial failure, Other Voices was also far from a smash record as well. After the release of Full Circle, the band split, feeling that it was just not right without Morrison.
In 1991 director Oliver Stone released his film The Doors, starring Val Kilmer as Morrison and with a cameo by Densmore. While many were amazed at Kilmer's impersonation, the film had numerous factual inaccuracies and members of the group later voiced displeasure at Stone's portrayal of Morrison, at times making him look like an out-of-control psycho.
In late 2002, Manzarek and Krieger revived the Doors, recruiting singer Ian Astbury of The Cult, as well as drummer Ty Dennis and bassist Angelo Barbera, both of the Robby Krieger Band, calling themselves Doors of the 21st Century, and are still touring today. The Doors are remembered for shamanistic live performances. Some people of the "establishment" thought that they were just more American rock music rebels. Jim Morrison said: "I like any reaction I can get with my music. Just anything to get people to think. I mean if you can get a whole room full of drunk, stoned people to actually wake up and think, you're doing something."
Their enduring popularity is reflected by continuing sales of their early work.
Jim Morrison's metaphorical persona The Lizard King is explained with this link.
- The Doors - 1967
- Strange Days - 1967
- Waiting for the Sun - 1968
- The Soft Parade - 1969
- Morrison Hotel - 1970
- Absolutely Live - 1970
- L.A. Woman - 1971
- Other Voices - 1971
- Full Circle - 1972
- American Prayer - 1978 (last recording with Jim Morrison)
- Light My Fire: My Life With the Doors, by Ray Manzarek, Berkeley Publishing Group, ISBN 0425170454
- No One Here Gets Out Alive, by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman, Warner Books, ISBN 0446602280
- Riders on the Storm: My Life With Jim Morrison and the Doors, by John Densmore, Delta Books, ISBN 0385304471
- Official site
- The Doors Lyrics
- Lyrics of The Doors early albums
- 1998 NPR Fresh Air audio interview with Ray Manzarek hosted by Terry Gross