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.


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
1.Tell All the PeopleKrieger3:21
2.Touch MeKrieger3:12
3.Shaman’s BluesMorrison4:49
4.Do ItMorrison, Krieger3:08
5.Easy RideMorrison2:43
B Side
6.Wild ChildMorrison2:36
7.Runnin’ BlueKrieger2:27
8.Wishful SinfulKrieger2:58
9.The Soft ParadeMorrison8:36

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.


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
1.Break On Through (To the Other Side)2:29
2.Soul Kitchen3:35
3.The Crystal Ship2:34
4.Twentieth Century Fox2:33
5.Alabama Song (Whisky Bar) (writers: Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill)3:20
6.Light My Fire7:06
B Side
7.Back Door Man”(writer: Willie Dixon)3:34
8.I Looked at You2:22
9.End of the Night2:52
10.Take It as It Comes2:23
11.The End11:41

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.


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
1.“Roadhouse Blues”Morrison4:03
2.“Waiting for the Sun”Morrison3:58
3.“You Make Me Real”Morrison2:53
4.“Peace Frog”Morrison, Krieger2:51
5.“Blue Sunday”Morrison2:13
6.“Ship of Fools”Morrison, Krieger3:08
Morrison Hotel – B Side
7.“Land Ho!”Morrison, Krieger4:10
8.“The Spy”Morrison4:17
9.“Queen of the Highway”Morrison, Krieger2:47
10.“Indian Summer”Morrison, Krieger2:36
11.“Maggie M’Gill”Morrison4:23

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.


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
1.The ChangelingJim Morrison4:21
2.Love Her MadlyRobby Krieger3:20
3.Been Down So LongJim Morrison4:41
4.Cars Hiss by My WindowJim Morrison4:12
5.L.A. WomanJim Morrison7:49
B Side
6.L’AmericaJim Morrison4:37
7.Hyacinth HouseRay Manzarek, Jim Morrison3:11
8.Crawling King SnakeAnonymous, arr. John Lee Hooker5:00
9.The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)Jim Morrison4:16
10.Riders on the StormJim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, John Densmore7:09