The Soft Parade – 1969

The Soft Parade was released in 1969, and is The Doors’ fourth studio album. It is widely considered to be fairly uneven and less unified than their previous albums, and was certainly the least successful in terms of retaining their UK and European audience.

Genre

The Doors’ producer, Paul Rothchild, reccommended a total departure from the genres of the first three albums, and this was certainly what happened, although not for all of the best reasons. The band had very little time to actually record the album, and Jim Morrison was battling personal issues and wished to focus more on his poetry at the time. As a result, Robby Krieger ended up writing most of the songs in the album, and the overall effect was one of unevenness. The band was assaulted with criticisms from their fan base, and denounced outright by critics. They were accused of transforming the style into ‘popular music’.

 

Lyrical inspiration in The Soft Parade

This is the first album where the writers are listed separately; before ‘The Soft Parade’ each song had been credited to ‘Songs by The Doors’, but now individual names were written down. Robby Krieger effectively wrote half of the album, and Jim Morrison the other half, allowing Krieger the opportunity to hone his skills in composition. However, a negative result of this is that the album lack the unified styles that their other albums brought.

On the one side, Krieger was heavily influenced by jazz music, and incorporated this into his songs

On the other side, there was Jim Morrison, who of course used his own poetry and life experiences as inspiration for his songs. The title track for the album portrays Morrison as a preacher, emphasising his roots in the South. It displays acid rock in conjunction with sunshine pop, and has been said to be Morrison’s most diverse composition. The atmosphere and tension in the song is heightened by the vivid and bizarre imagery, which is so rich in allegorical detail that it is hard to unpick it all in detail.

“All our lives we sweat and save
Building for a shallow grave
Must be something else we say
Somehow to defend this place
Everything must be this way
Everything must be this way, yeah”

In this line, Jim mocks the way that people strive for the American Dream, for meaningless goals, before finding, as they die, that they have not contributed anything to the world, and lived a pointless existence. This is the general tone of the whole song, as it criticises the epitome of consumerist culture that is capitalist America. As we die, we frantically grasp for something, anything, that had worth in our lives, but come up empty-handed; there is nothing to defend this way of life, and yet everything must stay the same.

“The Soft Parade has now begun
Listen to the engines hum”

In the next verse, life is referred to as a soft parade, which almost seems a nostalgic term, at odds with the overall tone of the poem. “Soft” connotes gentility and warmth, whereas “parade” would represent the superficiality of life, as a parade by which one’s best self is glossed over, and made perfect, before being presented to the world, and paraded around in a parody of reality. Many writers and poets have used a machine as a metaphor for life, showing the input-output style, the monotony of it all. It is repetitive, and the process never changes, as we live the same manufactured and identical lives as those who came before us, and those that will come after.

Reactions to The Soft Parade

The Soft Parade failed to chart in the UK, but it did peak at number six on the Billboard, showing a steady fan base in the US. However, the reviews were overall quite negative, although the album is said to be the band’s favourite, as they were able to experiment with whatever they wanted. It was successful in terms of allowing the group to break into the popular market, but this entailed a loss of support from the original, underground fanbase, as they disliked the direction of mainstream culture that the band seemed to be following. ‘Touch me’, a single released before the album, reached number one in America, although other singles released for the album failed to do so well.

The release of the album was marked by scathing reviews from critics, who mostly argued that Paul Rothchild, the producer, had ‘botched’ the arrangements for The Doors, and by introducing so many different styles into the mix, had cluttered the sound. Miller Francis Jr. of ‘The Great Speckled Bird’ remarked disdainfully that ‘The Soft Parade’

“comes on so pretentious…”

Whilst Richie Unterberger was slightly more positive in his review of the album, saying that

“about half the record is quite good, especially the huge hit ‘Touch Me,'”

he also vociferated that this album was the weakest studio album recorded with Jim Morrison. His contributions to this album were lacking in comparison to other albums, both before and after, but the actual sounds lacked the clarification and lucidity of the other albums also.

As a result, although in later reviews ‘The Soft Parade’ has fared better unter critics’ scrutiny, overall, it was not well received in 1969.

Track listing

A Side
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. Tell All the People Krieger 3:21
2. Touch Me Krieger 3:12
3. Shaman’s Blues Morrison 4:49
4. Do It Morrison, Krieger 3:08
5. Easy Ride Morrison 2:43
B Side
No. Title Writer(s) Length
6. Wild Child Morrison 2:36
7. Runnin’ Blue Krieger 2:27
8. Wishful Sinful Krieger 2:58
9. The Soft Parade Morrison 8:36

Jim Morrison’s Poetry

Jim Morrison’s poetry contains some of  the intense lyricism found in his songs; he wrote a lot of poetry, inspired by events around him. Some of these did feature in his lyrics, but others were standalone poems, published posthumously by others. Had he lived, perhaps these would have found their way into more songs composed by the band.

Early Poetry

Morrison started composing his poetry during his adolescent years, and self-published a collection in 1969, titled ‘The Lords and The New creatures’. The collection itself shows Jim Morrison as an excellent poet, who could certainly have gone on to do even greater things with his words. However, as the volume is self-published, it lacks the rigorous editing process that his song lyrics underwent before they could be released for the scrutiny of the rest of the world. The style of poetry is very flamboyant, and excessively melodramatic in places, as Morrison had no-one to temper his self-indulgence by publishing privately. As a result, the poetry is less gripping than some of his songs, and poems published posthumously.

Later Poetry

After his death, two more volumes of poetry were released, under the name ‘The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison’. The first volume is titled ‘Wilderness’, released in 1988, instantly becoming a New York Times bestseller upon its release. Within is a compilation of drawings, diary entries, photographs and poems from the young poet. It is especially a great read for those interested in Jim Morrison and how his mind worked, with lots of creative and intriguing poems. Although, of course, he was no professional poet, his wild yet troubled psyche makes for interesting content, and an insight into the man who was so important in advancing the sounds of the sixties.

The second volume, ‘The American Night’, was released in 1990, and was also very successful. The incendiary emotion captured in his poetry is thought-provoking and raw. It contains a multitude of poems and lyrics, as well as the screenplay of ‘The Hitchiker’. Morrison was certainly a product of his generation, but his dark and cynical outlook on many aspects of life are what makes this text worth reading, whether or not you are a fan of The Doors.

Recorded poetry

On two separate occasions, Morrison recorded his own poetry, and some of this was featured in ‘An American Prayer’, a reunion of the remaining members of The Doors. The first recording session was in 1969, the second in 1970, and this one included some sketch pieces and was attended by friends. Some parts of the 1969 session had been used to form the ‘The Lost Paris Tapes’ album, but other parts remain private and unreleased, in the possession of the Courson family.

The Doors – 1967

The exciting début album by The Doors broke new ground in the development of psychedelic rock, and breakthrough single ‘Light My Fire’ helped propel the group to stardom. It was highly rated, and laid the foundations for The Doors to progress.

Genre

The eponymous album drew together psychedelic and acid rock, expanding it into popular culture, but remaining grounded in a socio-political commentary that the band is known for. However, it remains difficult to categorise The Doors’ specific genre. It seems to incorporate elements of psychedelia, but overall perhaps fits more neatly into the ‘proto-progressive’ genre.

Lyrical Inspiration in The Doors

The début album contains some of The Doors’ most well-known songs, such as ‘Light My Fire’, and ‘Break On Through (To The Other Side)’. However, the finale song of the album, simply titled ‘The End’, was inspired by a Greek tragedy, Oedipus Rex. In a spoken word section of the song, Morrison tells the tragedy of Oedipus, who was prophesied to fall in love with his mother and kill his father, the king. In order to avoid this tragedy, the parents sent their child away, so that he would grow up apart from them. Of course, in an inevitable, inescapable turn of events, Oedipus returned to his home town, killed a man who he didn’t know as his father, and then fell in love with a woman whose true identity remained unknown to his – his mother. There was no way of avoiding the fate that had already been mapped out for him.

This song is perhaps one of the most interesting from The Doors lyrically, as superficially it retells this Greek myth, but has subtler and more nuanced interpretations that are also important to note.

“[The end] Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I’ll never look into your eyes again”

This verse can be seen as an expression of Morrison’s nihilistic views, as the only end is death. However, the song was originally intended to be a comment on a Morrison’s recent, difficult breakup. In another sense, the end that the song is referring to could simply mean the end of the album, as in ‘Strange Days’, released later in 1967, the final song is titled ‘When the music’s over’. In Jim Morrison’s words:

“Sometimes the pain is too much to examine, or even tolerate… That doesn’t make it evil, though – or necessarily dangerous. But people fear death even more than pain. It’s strange that they fear death. Life hurts a lot more than death. At the point of death, the pain is over. Yeah – I guess it is a friend…”

Whatever the interpretation may be, this very dark and haunting finale song certainly captures the raw melancholy of the singer, and gives a theatrical yet sombre ending to the whole album.

Reactions to The Doors

There was highly positive critical acclaim for this album, whose constant melodicism, accompanied by Morrison’s charismatic vocals and lyrical beauty, was in many ways never equalled by the group. The album peaked at number two on The billboard, with a slower start in Europe, but eventually ‘Light my Fire’ hit number 7 in the UK singles chart, after a re-release in 1991 following ‘The Doors’, a film by Oliver Stone.

Robert Christgau had mixed reviews for the album, praising ‘Twentieth-century Fox’ as a clever song, and ‘Break on Through as a “great hard rock original”. However, he had some reservations about “esoteric” material such as ‘The End’, which he rebuked as a “long, obscure dirge”. Lyrics such as “our love becomes a funeral pyre”, which Morrison added to Robby Krieger’s ‘Light My Fire’ he proclaimed were self-indulgent. Certainly, I would agree with this to some extent, but I see his self-indulgence as a result of his influences. He was heavily influenced by Romantics such as William Blake, that fitted in the literary canon of nebulous and sensuous language and imagery, a reaction to the industrial revolution of the 19th century. Therefore, Jim Morrison’s lyrics may not have been ‘genius’, and definitely appear ‘fluffy’ at times, but overall, The Doors were successful because of their innovation, and uniqueness in the way that they were able to let so many genres co-exist in the same space.

However, The Doors has frequently been placed in list such as ‘The greatest albums of all time’, and many critics laud this enterprising melange of so many styles. After all, who else could have so seamlessly combined psychedelic rock with Greek mythology?

Track Listing

A Side
No. Title Length
1. Break On Through (To the Other Side) 2:29
2. Soul Kitchen 3:35
3. The Crystal Ship 2:34
4. Twentieth Century Fox 2:33
5. Alabama Song (Whisky Bar) (writers: Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill) 3:20
6. Light My Fire 7:06
B Side
No. Title Length
7. Back Door Man”(writer: Willie Dixon) 3:34
8. I Looked at You 2:22
9. End of the Night 2:52
10. Take It as It Comes 2:23
11. The End 11:41

Morrison Hotel – 1970

Morrison Hotel is The Doors’ fifth album, released in February 1970. At the time, the group were struggling with Jim Morrison’s legal problems, after he allegedly took off his clothes on stage in Miami at a concert. However, Morrison Hotel was a way for the band to get back down to basics, to a simpler, cleaner ‘bluesy’ sound, which it later continued with the L.A. Woman album.

Genre

The style of The Doors’ fifth album is opposite in style to ‘The Soft Parade’ (1969), which was much more experimental, and much less successful. They tried a more raw and ‘back to basics’ approach with this album, and the return to their ‘norm’ – psychedelic and blues rock – certainly helped the album be much better received.

Lyrical Inspiration in Morrison Hotel

Jim Morrison wrote most of the songs on this album, and was inspired by his own poetry and experiences, such as in ‘Peace Frog’ and ‘The Spy’. In ‘Peace Frog’, he references an event which he experienced as a child, when he witnessed an accident that left some Native Americans bleeding and injured on the highway.

“Indians scattered on dawn’s highway bleeding

Ghosts crowd the young child’s

Fragile eggshell mind”

The lyrics come from a poem which Jim Morrison wrote, called ‘Dawn’s Highway’, which explains the same event. He was also inspired by his tumultuous relationship with Pamela Courson, and it is thought that the songs ‘The Spy’ and ‘Queen of the Highway’ were about her.

“Dancing through the midnight whirl-pool, formless

Hope it can continue a little while longer.”

The end to ‘Queen of the Highway’ shows most obviously the link between Morrison and Courson, as he wishes for their intense but problematic relationship to last a little longer. The song also has psychedelic overtones, with “dancing through the midnight whirl-pool, formless” echoing a desire for freedom and the removal from physical presence. Unfortunately, the song uncannily reminds us of the fact that it couldn’t last much longer for Morrison, as he died a year later.

In ‘No-one gets out of here alive’, the 1980 Doors biography, we learn more of this ambivalent relationship with Pamela Courson. During the recording sessions for Morrison Hotel, the couple had an aggressive confrontation after she drank his bottle of liquor so that he could not, in an attempt to curb his alcoholism. Engineer Bruce Botnick explains that they were both

“completely out of their minds and crying. He started shaking her violently…She was crying out of control, telling him he shouldn’t drink anymore and that’s why she drank it…He looked up, stopped shaking her…hugged her and they walked out arm in arm…”

Reactions to Morrison Hotel

The album received mixed reviews, Lester Bangs from ‘The Rolling Stone’ commenting that after ‘Roadhouse Blues’,  “the road runs mainly downhill.” He criticised the group for sounding the same as their other albums, and seemed disappointed at how the album turned out:

“This could have been a fine album; but the unavoidable truth — and this seems to be an insurmountable problem for the Doors — is that so much of it is out of the same extremely worn cloth as the songs on all their other albums. It’s impossible to judge it outside the context of the rest of their work. Robbie Kreiger’s slithery guitar, and Manzarek’s carnival-calliope organ work and whorehouse piano are the perfect complement to Morrison’s rococo visions. But we’ve all been there before, not a few times, and their well of resources has proven a standing lake which is slowly drying up.”

However, there was a lot of positive feedback, many people praising The Doors’ return to something that they were good at – blues and psychedelic rock. In 1987, David Prakel in ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll on Compact Disc’ commented that

“Putting aside their arty-politico pretension as leaders of the youth generation The Doors surprised fans and critics by turning aside from the lightweight pop of Soft Parade – this album hit with a beam of pure R&B. The Compact Disc is clean and lively with a fair dynamic freedom, relaying the songs with an appropriate directness. Rim shots crack out through Ray Manzarek’s organ chords while Morrison’s vocals come across with a new freshness.”

In ‘The All-Music Guide to Rock’, 1995, William Ruhlmann praised this album for containing “some of Morrison’s most visionary songs,” referring to the socio-political commentary that most of the songs in this album seem to make. For example, to me, ‘Waiting For The Sun’ is a criticism of the consumerist culture, and of false aspirations that allude to perfection and freedom, but in fact never come within reach.

“At first flash of Eden
We race down to the sea
Standing there on freedom’s shore”

The song itself gives the title to The Doors’ third studio album, but the song wasn’t finished until Morrison Hotel, which is why it is present here.

Track Listing

Hard Rock Café – A side
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Roadhouse Blues” Morrison 4:03
2. “Waiting for the Sun” Morrison 3:58
3. “You Make Me Real” Morrison 2:53
4. “Peace Frog” Morrison, Krieger 2:51
5. “Blue Sunday” Morrison 2:13
6. “Ship of Fools” Morrison, Krieger 3:08
Morrison Hotel – B Side
No. Title Writer(s) Length
7. “Land Ho!” Morrison, Krieger 4:10
8. “The Spy” Morrison 4:17
9. “Queen of the Highway” Morrison, Krieger 2:47
10. “Indian Summer” Morrison, Krieger 2:36
11. “Maggie M’Gill” Morrison 4:23

John Densmore

John Densmore was the drummer for The Doors from its formation in 1965 to its end in 1973. This is what he is best known for, but he has also worked as a dancer, actor, playwright and author.

Family life and influences

Born John Paul Densmore in December 1944, John Densmore played piano,  drumming in a marching band for his school in Los Angeles. His parents, Ray and Margaret Densmore, were Catholic and lived in Santa Monica, California. Even as a child, John loved improvising on piano tunes that he learnt, but when considering a second instrument, he didn’t originally choose the drums.

In fact, John wanted to play the clarinet, but was disallowed from doing so as he had braces, meaning that his orthodontist forbade him any attempts to wrap his mouth around reed instruments. Luckily for us, he didn’t disobey his orthodontist, and chose the drums as his instrument instead.

In his teenage years, John Densmore was inspired by Elvin Jones’s playing in John Coltrane’s band, and particularly enjoyed jazz music, a style that expresses itself in a lot of The Doors’ music.

Early Career and The Doors

Densmore met Robby Krieger whilst they were at UCLA together, and they formed ‘The Psychedelic rangers’. Densmore then joined Ray Manzarek, Manzarek’s two brothers and Jim Morrison in ‘Rick and the Ravens’, but when Manzarek’s brothers left in 1965, Krieger joined, and the four of them formed The Doors.

Densmore in fact quit the band at one point, as a reaction to Jim Morrison’s worsening depression, addictions, and self-destructive behaviour. However, the next day he returned. Krieger and Manzarek were resistant to his urges for the band to stop touring, but after a disastrous concert in 1970, they finally agreed with Densmore.

Upon Jim Morrison’s death, the group played as a trio until their dissolution in 1973.

Career after The Doors

John Densmore formed the Butts Band in 1973 with Robby Krieger, but this was short-lived; the group disbanded in 1975. After this, Densmore freestyled as a solo artist – quite literally. He became a dancer, touring for two years, and in 1984 went on to screenplay, performing at the La Mama Theatre in New York.

From 1973 to the present, John sporadically wrote and published some plays and books, and famously filed a lawsuit against Krieger and Manzarek, who were using The Doors branding in a 21st century revival of the group. He won this case, and in ‘The Doors Unhinged’ (2013), reveals his victorious fight against Manzarek and Krieger to stop them using The Doors’ branding. The book also explains his stand against commercialisation, refusing to allow multinationals such as Cadillac and Buick the use of The Doors’ songs.

 

Relationships

John Desmore has been married three times, and had many relationships overall. He had a brief encounter with Pamela Courson in 1966, although she is better remembered for being Jim Morrison’s girlfriend. He then met Julia Brose in 1967, and during their relationship, Julia found out that she was pregnant. The couple had an abortion in Mexico whilst The Doors were on tour there, and John married her in 1970 with Robby  and Lynne Krieger as best man and bridesmaid. However, their marriage was brief, and they separated in 1972.

A few years following the divorce, John married Debbie Fife, but this relationship didn’t last either, and they divorced a few years later.

Next, John Densmore married actress Leslie Neale in 1990, and they had one daughter. Unfortunately, they did separate in 2006 due to irreconcilable differences.

Currently, Densmore is in a relationship with Ildiko Von Somogyi, and has been since 2012.

Legacy

In 2010, Modern Drummer magazine noted that Densmore’s explorations helped to give The Doors’ music its colour and flair:

“There are many reasons to love this slyly inventive, often underrated drummer.”

John Densmore is still active, sharing his political views with the world, and revisiting his time in The Doors. In 2010 he published ‘The Doors Unhinged: Jim Morrison’s Legacy Goes on Trial’, the story of The Doors who, after Jim Morrison’s death, began to unravel at the seams, eventually leading to a court case which split them.

Robby Krieger

Robby Krieger joined The Doors in 1965 as their lead guitarist, writing and co-writing many of their songs. He is listed as one of the best guitarists ever by Rolling Stone magazine.

Family life and influences

Robert Alan Krieger was born in 1946 to a Jewish family in Los Angeles. He was fascinated early on by classical music, but at seventeen started playing guitar. His musical style moved through flamenco to blues, then to jazz before settling into rock and roll. However, we can still see these different styles in songs by the doors such as ‘Spanish Caravan’, where Krieger’s flamenco playing comes through.

Robby mentions that he was influenced in his playing by flamenco records by Sabicas, Mario Escudero and Carlos Montoya, only really getting into blues at high school. He liked Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, Mace Lipscomb, and Robert Johnson, for his blues themes. Krieger professed his love for Bob Dylan and folk music, as well as Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Bud and Travis, and Woody Guthrie.

Early Career and The Doors

Robby studied physics and Indian music at UCLA, and encountered John Densmore during his time there. They began playing together, John on the drums, and Robby on the guitar, improvising blues melodies. Whilst at a class on meditation, Robby Krieger met Ray Manzarek, and the two halves of the band were brought together as Manzarek and Jim Morrison invited Krieger and Densmore to join the band.

Robby Krieger’s broad musical tastes and skilled playing were combined with his flair for musical composition, and went a long way into helping The Doors to establish themselves as a unique brand of music.

After Jim Morrison’s death in 1971, Robby Krieger continued playing with Ray Manzarek and John Densmore for two years, sharing lead vocals with Manzarek on their two subsequent albums.

Career after The Doors

After The Doors disbanded in 1973, Krieger played in the Butts Band with Densmore, releasing a couple of albums. In 1977, he released his first solo album, Robby Krieger and Friends, which enjoyed some success.

Since then, he has been in various bands, and has also had steady success as a solo artist. In 2002, he joined Ray Manzarek in forming ‘Doors of the 21st Century’, but following a court case against them from John Densmore, they became ‘Riders on the Storm’.

Relationships

Krieger has been married to Lynne Krieger since 1972, and they have had one son, Waylon Krieger. Although Lynne briefly had a relationship with Jim Morrison before Robby, they have been together ever since.

Guitars

Robby Krieger is most known for having played a Gibson SG Standard, which he only ended up using as it was the best guitar that he could afford at the time. Since then, his net worth has risen to $15 million, so he certainly no longer has that problem. Although he has played with a Gibson ES-335s and ES-355s, he has always found the SG most comfortable, and been drawn back to it.

Unfortunately, Krieger no longer has the original SG which he bought so many years ago, as it was stolen. However, he says that the ’67 which he uses is practically identical, so he still uses this all the time.

Additionally, Gibson recently reissued a Robby Krieger SG, copying his current 1967 SG, but using the neck of a ’61, as he preferred it. The guitar is made out of Grade A tonewoods, with a Maestro Vibrola tailpiece for performance versatility, and a traditional Lyre plate to complete the retro look.

In terms of amps rigs, when with The Doors, Robby used a Magnatone with two 12″ speakers. After a deal with Acoustic, he and Ray used the Acoustic 260 model for a time, switching later to some Twin Reverbs rebuilt with JBL speakers. However, Robby currently uses two Fender Hot Rod Devilles.

Legacy

Krieger still plays guitar, in albums and at concerts. The Rolling Stone call him one of the greatest guitarists of all time, as he had such “improvisatory flair” in The Doors.

“Schooled in flamenco and jazz, Robby Krieger pushed beyond rock at a time when most players were still bound to the blues.”

Not having a bass or rhythm player meant that Krieger had to, in some ways, be three players simultaneously. However, this allowed him to really develop his skill and style, and will be remembered as one of the best guitarists of all time.

Ray Manzarek

Ray Manzarek was best known as the keyboard player or ‘keyboard bass’ player for The Doors, which he co-founded with Jim Morrison in 1965. He was present on all of the eight albums made by The Doors until they disbanded in 1973.

Family life and influences

Ray Manzarek was born in Chicago, Illinois, as Raymond Daniel Manczarek Jr. to Polish parents Helen and Raymond Manczarek in 1939. Originally, Ray wanted to be a basketball player, until he received an ultimatum from his coach that he could only play defence, or not at all.  Ray swiftly proceeded to quit basketball, and learnt to play the piano instead.

He spent a brief time in the army, but refused to sign the security clearance which would have allowed him to have a role as a ‘spy’, analysing intelligence and transmissions that came through on a radio. This was because, after signing himself to secrecy, he would have been forever barred from visiting Poland, although he was of Polish descent, as, at the time, Poland was part of the Soviet Union, and was therefore considered an enemy to the US. After a few months, he was discharged as a PFC (Private First Class) and went to study cinematography at UCLA in 1962, where he met Jim Morrison.

Musically, Ray Manzarek was drawn to the Blues sound which he heard in his late teens, and was a fan of jazz, like his band-mate, John Densmore. This musical style was perfectly complementary to the darker, more brooding personality of Jim Morrison, and helped The Doors to access their own unique sound.

Early Career and The Doors

After a chance encounter with Jim Morrison on Venice Beach in California, the two co-founded The Doors. Ray then met the next band members, Robby Krieger and John Densmore, at a lecture on Transcendental Meditation, and proceeded to recruit them for the band.

Ray Manzarek acted as the keyboard player, and also played the baselines for songs written by The Doors, as they had no bass player.  Such was his skill at this role that he is considered by USA Today as “one of the best keyboardists ever.”

Ray also sang backing vocals for the band, but was occasionally lead vocalist, for instance in covers of ‘Close To You’ or ‘You Need Meat’. After Jim’s death in 1971, he and Robby Krieger shared lead vocals on subsequent albums, such as ‘Other Voices’ and ‘Full Circle’.

Career after The Doors

After The Doors disbanded in 1973, Ray Manzarek played in other bands, such as Nite City, who released two albums in 1977 and 1978. His memoir (Light My Fire: My Life with The Doors) was published in 1998, and after a collaboration with trumpeter Bal in 2006, he produced the ‘electronica’ album ‘Atonal Head’, which incorporates elements of ethnic, classical, jazz and rock music.  With these and many other publications and albums from 1973 to 2013, Manzarek has been on the music scene for a long time after his depart from The Doors.

Relationships

Ray met Dorothy Aiko Fujikawa at UCLA, marrying her soon after in 1967, with Jim Morrison and Pamela Courson as witnesses. This relationship was comparatively lacking in melodrama, and the happy couple stayed married until Ray’s death in 2013.

Death

In March 2013, aged 74, Ray Manzarek was diagnosed with  cholangiocarcinoma, a rare cancer found in the bile ducts which drain bile form the liver into the small intestine. He reconciled with estranged John Densmore before his death, and after his passing, Densmore and Robby Krieger performed a tribute to Manzarek, reuniting for the first time in 15 years in 2016. That day would have been Ray’s 77th birthday.

Legacy

After Ray’s death, both Robby Krieger and John Densmore had great words for Ray Manzarek.

“I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of my friend and bandmate Ray Manzarek today. I’m just glad to have been able to have played Doors songs with him for the last decade. Ray was a huge part of my life and I will always miss him.” – Robby Krieger

“There was no keyboard player on the planet more appropriate to support Jim Morrison’s words. Ray, I felt totally in sync with you musically. It was like we were of one mind, holding down the foundation for Robby and Jim to float on top of. I will miss my musical brother.” – John Densmore

In terms of a musical legacy, that has most certainly been left behind by Ray Manzarek, as his highly innovative playing gave The Doors the unique sound which they are known for, and also allowed him to have continued success after he left the group.

Jim Morrison

Jim Morrison was the lead singer of The Doors from 1965 to his untimely death in 1971, and is known for his unique voice and presence on the blues and psychedelic rock scene. He was also known as ‘The Lizard King’ and ‘Mr Mojo Risin’, an anagram of his name, and became iconic in his representation of youth counter-culture.

Family life and influences

Jim Morrison was born as James Douglas Morrison on December the 8th, 1943, to parents Clara Virginia and George Stephen in Melbourne, Florida. He had two younger siblings, a sister, Anne, and a brother, Andrew. In terms of the formative events of his early life, Jim often put much emphasis on an accident that he witnessed as a child, when a truck overturned and left a group of Native Americans bleeding at the side of the desert highway.

Many references to this particular event are made in songs produced by The Doors, namely ‘Peace Frog’  from ‘The Morrison Hotel’ in 1970 –

“Indians scattered on dawn’s highway bleeding
Ghosts crowd the young child’s
Fragile eggshell mind…”

Even posthumously, in their songs ‘Dawn’s Highway’ and ‘Ghost Song’, the group acknowledged this key event in Jim’s life.

Bizarrely, despite all of this, Jim’s family tells the story differently. Jim’s father explained that the family drove past a reservation, and that Jim was upset by a crying Native American at the scene. However, his sister even argued that Jim liked to exaggerate the story when he told it, and that it did not have such a profound influence on him as he claimed.

“He enjoyed telling that story and exaggerating it. He said he saw a dead Indian by the side of the road, and I don’t even know if that’s true.”

Jim demonstrated a rapacious enthusiasm for reading early on, and was soon reading obscure texts covering sixteenth and seventeenth century demonology, and the works of many philosophers and poets. He was particularly influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche, whose views on Apollonian and Dionysian duality permeate through Jim’s prose, poetry, and songs.

Early Career and The Doors

Jim briefly met Ray Manzarek at UCLA, where they studied cinematography as undergraduates, and later formed the group in the summer of 1965, where they had an accidental encounter. Manzarek was impressed by Morrison’s poetic lyrics, and they later added Robby Krieger and John Densmore to the mix.

Jim’s idiosyncratic presence on stage and The Doors’ distinctive brand of psychedelic rock was finally fruitful when their second single, ‘Light My Fire’, hurtled to number one on The Billboard in 1968.

Relationships

Jim Morrison spent the majority of his life in a relationship with Pamela Courson, whom he met at college. Though Jim had other casual relationships and more serious ones, this seems to have been the most long-lasting, up until his death in 1971. Ray Manzarek commented on their relationship in ‘The Life and Death of Jim Morrison’, 1991:

“I never knew another person who could so complement his bizarreness.”

Despite the fact that they never actually got married, when Pamela died (after Jim) she was buried as Pamela Susan Morrison. He also dedicated his published poetry books to her, and based many of his songs on their tumultuous, yet thriving, relationship.

On the other hand, Jim also had regular romantic and sexual experiences with ‘groupies’, fellow musicians, and others in the industry. These included Pamela Des Barres (a groupie), Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane, and
16 Magazine’s Gloria Stavers. He was also in a relationship with Mary Werbelow as a teenager, who said in a 2005 interview that Jim had confessed that his first three albums were about her.

Death

At the forefront of the music scene, Jim’s public and private life became increasingly entangled, causing his drug and alcohol addictions to worsen. Being so relentlessly in the public eye was difficult for Jim, and in a catastrophic culmination of events, he was confronted by a police officer in Conneticut, 1967. While he was backstage at a concert, drunk, high, and making out with a woman before the show, the officer pepper sprayed him, provoking an outburst onstage where he delivered a profane monologue laced with imprecations. This resulted in his subsequent arrest, which sparked riots.

With his condition so rapidly deteriorating, after recording his sixth and final album, Jim Morrison took a break from song-writing and went to Paris with Pamela Courson. However, he continued to be plagued by depression and addictions, resulting in his death at the age of 27. No autopsy was taken after his demise, as there was no evidence of foul play. As a result, there have been many conspiracy theories surrounding Jim Morrison’s death. For instance, some speculate that the true cause of Jim’s death was a heroin overdose, and imply a cover-up of these events.

Legacy

Jim Morrison was most certainly an influencer, and as the figurehead for The Doors, he inspired many through his songs and his poetry. He is highly regarded as the quintessential rock star, with his leather trousers and dynamic, charismatic personality.

In Fatboy Slim’s ‘Sunset’, we find Jim Morrison’s poem ‘Birds of Prey’, and Radiohead overtly reference him in their song ‘Anyone Can Play Guitar’, and numerous other artists have attributed elements of their music or inspiration to him.

In addition, a fossil of a large lizard was found in June of 2013, and was named the  Barbaturex morrisoni after Morrison himself, due to his common sobriquet ‘The Lizard King’, a nickname taken from his poem ‘The Celebration of the Lizard King’.

 

L.A. Woman – 1971

One of their best albums, L.A. Woman was released by The Doors on April 19th 1971, and peaked at number nine on the Billboard 200 upon release. It includes singles ‘Love her madly’ and ‘Riders on the storm’, released before and after the album itself respectively, which individually had successes on the Billboard.

Genre

In this album, The Doors reverted back to blues rock, harking back to an earlier time in their musical career, with John Densmore commenting in his autobiography that “[their] last record turned out like [their] first album.”

L.A. Woman is seen as a fitting swan song for Jim Morrison, the band’s lead singer, who passed away later that year, but was pleased to have finally recorded a more blues-orientated album.

Lyrical inspiration in L.A. Woman

Drawing from a plethora of sources, the album was composed in a more traditional blues style. ‘Riders on the Storm’, for instance, was prompted by an old song from a 1948 western – ‘Ghost riders in the sky: a Cowboy legend.’ As The Doors began to play along, improvising on the tune, ‘Riders on the Storm’ was born. The song was also inspired by Jim Morrison’s 1969 desert film ‘HWY: An American Pastoral’, which starred Morrison as a killer hitch-hiker. The character was based off Billy Cook, a real serial-killer who murdered 6 people in 1950 whilst posing as a hitch-hiker over the course of 22 days.

Another interpretation for ‘Riders on the Storm’ would be Jim Morrison’s own nihilistic views – the only certainty for the eternal wanderer is death. The song therefore speaks, superficially, of a serial killer on the road, but at a deeper level reflects Jim Morrison’s crisis of existentialism.

The title of the lead single ‘Love Her Madly’ was taken from Duke Ellington’s ‘Love You Madly’, the lyrics generated after an exceptionally loud argument between Robbie Krieger and Lynne, his wife. The song seems to roughly echo Robbie’s tumultuous relationship with Lynne, although not quite perfectly; they have been married, despite everything, from 1972 to the present day.

Reactions to L.A. Woman

The Doors’ L.A. Woman was met with mainly positive critical acclaim. David Quantick from BBC music praised The Doors on “a stripped-down yet full sound, a developed mysticism tied tightly to the band’s brand of rock, and confidence born of having been a functioning unit for several years.”

However, The Doors had some difficulty in actually producing this album. Paul Rothchild, producer of their first five albums, declared that ‘Riders on the Storm’  sounded like “cocktail music”, and dismissed everything that the band had come up with so far. Suffice it to say, Rothchild did not help to produce The Doors’ sixth album. Despite this major setback, and the loss of their fifth band member, the group was eventually successful overall.

The whole album seems, to me, a thoughtful masterpiece, with Jim Morrison really contemplating his own life, and the issues lurking beneath the surface. It is less pretentious, perhaps, than previous songs, consistent in tone and quality, and reflects the band’s increasingly cynical and disturbing American portraits. The album belongs further back in time, and we can see this in its finale, ‘Riders on the Storm’, which completes the lonely, moody atmosphere.

Track listing

A Side
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. The Changeling Jim Morrison 4:21
2. Love Her Madly Robby Krieger 3:20
3. Been Down So Long Jim Morrison 4:41
4. Cars Hiss by My Window Jim Morrison 4:12
5. L.A. Woman Jim Morrison 7:49
B Side
No. Title Writer(s) Length
6. L’America Jim Morrison 4:37
7. Hyacinth House Ray Manzarek, Jim Morrison 3:11
8. Crawling King Snake Anonymous, arr. John Lee Hooker 5:00
9. The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat) Jim Morrison 4:16
10. Riders on the Storm Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, John Densmore 7:09