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?
|1.||Break On Through (To the Other Side)||2:29|
|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|
|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|