The Doors were an American rock band that released six studio albums between 1967 and 1971 on Elektra. They formed when keyboardist Ray Manzarek invited poet Jim Morrison to front his band with guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore.
The Doors emerged as the houseband at the Los Angeles hotspot Whisky A Go Go and rocketed to fame with their debut album and its staples “Break On Through,” “The End,” and “Light My Fire,” which hit No. 1 and inspired multiple covers. Months later, they released Strange Days, a fan favorite with the Doors anthems “People Are Strange,” “Love Me Two Times,” and “When the Music’s Over.”
In 1968, The Doors had a second No. 1 with “Hello, I Love You” from their third album Waiting for the Sun, noted for the epic poem “Celebration of the Lizard King.” As Morrison courted controversy with his wild antics and enigmatic public personae, The Doors tried lavish orchestral pop on their 1969 fourth album The Soft Parade and grittier sounds on its followup Morrison Hotel, scoring further hits with “Touch Me” and “Roadhouse Blues.”
The Doors retired from touring for the 1971 release L.A. Woman, an enduring seller with the radio evergreens “Love Her Madly” and “Riders On the Storm.” Morrison celebrated its release with an extended trip to Paris, where he died mysteriously on July 3, 1971, at age 27.
The surviving members continued with the 1971–72 albums Other Voices and Full Circle. In 1978, they set unissued Morrison poetry to new music for the posthumous release An American Prayer. The Doors popularity continues unabated through books, documentaries, and movies.
Members: Robby Krieger (guitar), John Densmore (drums), Ray Manzarek (keyboards, bass pedals, vocals), Jim Morrison (vocals, 1965-71), Pat Sullivan [Patricia Hansen] (bass, 1965)
The Doors evolved from an early ’60s rock n’ roll band called Rick & the Ravens, which featured singer–pianist Ray Manczarek (b. February 12, 1939, Chicago) and his brothers Rick Manczarek (guitar) and Jim Manczarek (organ and harmonica). They were active between 1961 and 1965 with a revolving-door rhythm section. Late in this iteration, they released three singles: one on two-press Posae and two on indie Aura Records with Ray billed as Ray Daniels.
In July 1965, Ray attended the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, where he befriended classmate Jim Morrison (b. December 8, 1943, Melbourne, Florida). A recent transplant from Tallahassee, Morrison was completing a BS in Cinematography. An avid reader, he spent his teens absorbing the works of Nietzsche, Kafka, Cocteau, Burroughs, Kerouac, and Ginsberg. He also wrote poetry influenced by French existentialism. Ray believed these poems could be rock lyrics and invited Morrison into the Ravens.
That August, drummer John Densmore (b. December 1, 1944, Los Angeles) joined Rick & the Ravens. Months earlier, the jazz-oriented Densmore played in an unrecorded band, the Psychedelic Rangers, with guitarist Robby Krieger (b. January 8, 1946, Los Angeles).
On September 2, 1965, the Ravens cut a six-song demo at LA’s at World Pacific Studios. Later that year, Ray’s brothers left the band and Krieger assumed the guitar slot. The band renamed itself The Doors, taken from the title of Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception, the phrase itself lifted from William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Around this time, Ray dropped the “c” from his surname for the more readable Manzarek.
On November 5, 1965, they performed as the The Doors on a boat ride by the Los Angeles Pioneer Club. In the band’s live arrangements, Manzarek filled in the missing bass parts with a Fender Rhodes piano keyboard bass.
In the spring of 1966, The Doors played multiple shows at the London Fog and the Warner Playhouse in West Hollywood, where they developed extended, dramatic showpieces like “The End” and “Light My Fire.” On May 9, they played for the first time at the Whisky-A-Go-Go, a thriving nightspot on LA’s Sunset Strip. Two weeks later, they became the club’s nightly housebound. Their Whisky residency included opening stints with Captain Beefheart (May 23–27), Love (May 28–June 1), Them (June 2–18), and The Turtles (July 16-23).
On June 18, the final night of the Doors–Them double-bill, the two acts joined forces for a cover of Wilson Pickett‘s “In the Midnight Hour” and a twenty-minute version of Them’s own “Gloria,” a recent garage-band staple (and US hit for the Shadows of Knight). Jim clicked with Them vocalist Van Morrison and the two namesakes vibed off each other’s performance energy.
In August, The Doors and the Chamber Brothers supported Whisky headliner Johnny Rivers. On August 10, Elektra Records president Jack Holzman and producer Paul A. Rothchild dropped by to watch The Doors at the recommendation of singer Arthur Lee, the frontman of recent Elektra signees Love. Floored by the band’s ominous sound and Morrison’s charisma, Elektra signed the band on August 18. Three days later, Whisky owner Elmer Valentine fired The Doors after Jim inserted an obscene telling of Oedipus during an extended monolog in “The End.”
Later that month, The Doors entered Studio Sunset Sound Recorders with Rothchild and recorded their first album. On October 24, they made their East Coast debut at the Ondine Club in New York City.
The Doors played more than 200 shows in 1967 and released their first two albums in a span of eight months. Mid-year, they rocketed to fame with their second single.
The Doors released their self-titled debut album on January 4, 1967, on Elektra. It features nine originals, including the flaring opener “Break On Through (To the Other Side)” and the lucid numbers “End of the Night” and “The Crystal Ship.” Each side ends with an epic: the romantic opus “Light My Fire” and the ominous “The End.” The Doors also contains covers of the Willie Dixon chestnut “Back Door Man” and the Brecht–Weill number “Alabama Song (Whisky Bar).”
1. “Break On Through (To the Other Side)” (2:25)
2. “Soul Kitchen” (3:30)
3. “The Crystal Ship” (2:30)
4. “Twentieth Century Fox” (2:30)
5. “Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)” (3:15) is a Kurt Weill composition set to a 1925 German poem by Bertolt Brecht, translated to English by his collaborator Elisabeth Hauptman. It first appeared in the 1927 Brecht–Weill play Little Mahogany and reappeared in their 1930 opera Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny.
6. “Light My Fire” (6:50)
1. “Back Door Man” (3:30) is a 1960 song by Willie Dixon and Chester Burnett, aka Howlin’ Wolf, who first released it as a 1961 Chess b-side. Recent covers included a 1965 Fontana a-side by British beatsters The Muleskinners (with a pre-Small Faces Ian McLagen) and a 1966 Verve Folkways a-side by The Blues Project.
2. “I Looked at You” (2:18)
3. “End of the Night” (2:49)
4. “Take It as It Comes” (2:13)
5. “The End” (11:35)
Sessions took place in August 1966 at Hollywood’s Studio Sunset Sound Recorders with Paul A. Rothchild, who produced The Doors in succession with Elektra titles by Love (Da Capo), Clear Light, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Tim Buckley, and Tom Paxton. The engineer, Bruce Botnick, also worked with Rothchild on the Love and Buckley titles, as well as recent albums by Jackie DeShannon, Mariachi Brass, Baja Marimba Band, and Sérgio Mendes & Brasil ’66.
Manzarek plays the marxophone (a fretless zither) “Alabama Song (Whisky Bar),” which features the whole band (plus Rothchild) on backing vocals. He also shares bass duties with Krieger, who plays the instrument on “Soul Kitchen” and “Back Door Man.” Wrecking Crew bassist Larry Knechtel plays on “Twentieth Century Fox,” “Light My Fire,” “I Looked at You,” and “Take It as It Comes.”
Rothchild and Botnick recorded The Doors on four tracks: bass and drums (track 1), guitar and keyboards (track 2), vocals (track 3), and overdubs (track 4). Sunset Sound’s acoustics enhanced the record’s echo-chamber effects. They completed a twelfth track, the lucid “Indian Summer,” but withheld it for the time being (it appeared on their fifth studio album).
Elektra art director William S. Harvey designed the album cover, which features photographs by Guy Webster (front) and Joel Brodsky (back) that depict The Doors (primarily their faces) in shadowy, dark settings. Morrison (enlarged in Webster’s image) appears as an apparition in both images. Harvey designed similar imagery (disembodied faces on dark backdrops) on 1967–68 covers to albums by Ars Nova and Shadows of Knight.
The Doors marked the first appearance of their standard logo: lower-case outline letters with wood-screw o’s and a miniature, back-slanted definite article. It reappears on their third album, their live album, and numerous single sleeves, posters, and compilations.
The Doors appeared alongside its first single, “Break On Through (To the Other Side)” (b/w “End of the Night”). The explosive a-side achieved evergreen status on FM radio but peaked outside the Billboard Hot 100.
To promote The Doors and is lead-off single, they did three-nighters at San Francisco’s Fillmore West Auditorium with The Young Rascals and Sopwith Camel (January 6–8) and the Grateful Dead (Jan. 13–15). On February 14–15, they played another joint called the Whisky A Go Go, this one a Bay Area topless bar, where they supported The Peanut Butter Conspiracy.
On Feb. 22, The Doors appeared with The Byrds at the Valley Music Theatre in Woodland Hills as part of a multi-act benefit show for the youth arrested during the Sunset Strip riots — an occurrence on November 22, 1966, in protest of a West Hollywood curfew that forced the Sunset Whisky A Go Go to change its name (temporarily) to the Whisk.
On April 24, 1967, The Doors lifted an edit of “Light My Fire” (2:52) as the album’s second single, backed with “The Crystal Ship.”
They gigged up and down Central and South California in the weeks surrounding this release, supporting the Jefferson Airplane (April 9: The Cheetah, Santa Monica) and headlining over the Steve Miller Blues Band (April 14-15: Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco) and the Steppenwolf precursor Sparrow (May 12-13: Avalon).
On May 16, the Sunset Whisky lifted its ban on The Doors, who opened five nights for The Byrds. On May 20, The Doors played a multi-act event at the Birmingham High School Stadium in Van Nuys, where they did a 6:00 pm set, followed by Jefferson Airplane, with Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Peanut Butter Conspiracy, Merry-Go-Round, and The Standells. Roughly one-third of those in attendance left after The Doors set.
On June 2, The Doors played their first show outside the US at the Victoria Memorial Arena in Victoria, British Columbia.
“Light My Fire” entered the Billboard Hot 100 (at No. 98) on the week of June 3, 1967. Over the next three weeks, it jumped to No. 61, inched its way to No. 50, and jumped again to No. 24. On the week of July 2, it burst into the Top 20 at No. 12. The following week, it rose to No. 8, just ahead of climbing entries by Procol Harum (“A Whiter Shade of Pale”), Stevie Wonder (“I Was Made to Love Her”), and the Jefferson Airplane (“White Rabbit”). It then rose to No. 3, just behind songs by Frankie Valli (“Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”) and the reigning chart-topper, “Windy” by The Association. The following week (July 23), “Light My Fire” hit No. 1 for a three-week stay at the top, where it fought off Wonder and gave way on August 13 to “Love Is All You Need” by The Beatles.
“Light My Fire” ranked No. 6 on Billboard magazine’s Top Hot 100 songs of 1967. Despite the radio-friendly single edit, most stations played (and continue to play) the seven-minute album version.
In Europe, Doors singles appeared on Hi-ton (Germany) and Vogue (France, Netherlands). The Vogue-issued “Alabama Song” (b/w “Take It As It Comes”) reached No. 3 in France.
The Doors reached No. 2 on the US Billboard 200. It has since been certified quadruple Platinum (4,000,000 units sold) by the Recording Industry Association of America. Abroad, it has certified thrice Platinum (900,000 units) in the UK and France and quadruple Platinum (400,000 units) in Canada. As of 2015, the album’s global sales exceeded 13 million copies.
Rise to Fame
On June 10, 1967, The Doors played the KFRC Fantasy Fair & Magic Mountain Music Festival, a two-day event at Cushing Memorial Theater in Mt. Tamalpais State Park, Mill Valley, Calif. KFRC featured sets by the Airplane, The 5th Dimension, Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band, Every Mother’s Son, The Loading Zone, The Merry-Go-Round, The Seeds, and the Sons of Champlin. The Doors played before 36,000 attendees on Day 1 (Saturday) along with Canned Heat, The Chocolate Watchband, Dionne Warwick, Kaleidoscope, and Spanky & Our Gang.
KFRC kicked off the Summer of Love and was the first major rock festival event, preceding the Monterey Pop Festival by one week. The Doors played their first mass-audience show at KFRC just as “Light My Fire” headed up the charts. On June 11, The Doors embarked on a three-week East Coast jaunt with multiple nights at NYC’s Scene club and one show (June 18) at Philly’s Town Hall. As their single reached No. 1, The Doors did a Northwest swing with shows in Vancouver (July 21–22: Dante’s Inferno), Seattle (7/23–24: 1967 Eagles Auditorium), and Portland (7/26: Masonic Temple).
On August 12, The Doors opened for Simon & Garfunkel at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, followed by a wing down the Atlantic and Deep South with shows at the Alexandria Roller Rink Arena (Aug. 18) and Will Rogers Exhibit Building in Fort Worth (Sept. 9). On August 25, they played the Las Vegas Convention Center with openers Hamilton Streetcar. On September 9, The Doors played Manhattan’s Village Theatre, supported by the Chambers Brothers and The Vagrants.
Amid concert dates and sessions for their second album, The Doors mimed appeared multiple times on US television. They mimed “Light My Fire” for the July 22 broadcast of the ABC music program American Bandstand. On September 17, they performed the song live on the CBS variety program The Ed Sullivan Show. Before their segment, producer Bob Precht (Sullivan’s son-in-law) asked Morrison to change the lyric “girl we couldn’t get much higher” (a perceived drug reference) to “girl we couldn’t get much better.” Jim agreed to the word change, but sung “higher” regardless, clad in collar-to-toe black leather with an unbuttoned shirt.
The Doors released their second album, Strange Days, on September 25, 1967, on Elektra. It features ten group-credited numbers, including the hallucinogenic “Moonlight Drive” and the dark, mysterious “I Can’t See Your Face in My Mind” and “You’re Lost Little Girl.” The word “strange” appears in each side opener: the title track “Strange Days” and the lead-off single “People Are Strange.” The album closes with another epic jam, “When the Music’s Over.”
1. “Strange Days” (3:05)
2. “You’re Lost Little Girl” (3:01)
3. “Love Me Two Times” (3:23)
4. “Unhappy Girl” (2:00)
5. “Horse Latitudes” (1:30)
6. “Moonlight Drive” (3:00)
1. “People Are Strange” (2:10)
2. “My Eyes Have Seen You” (2:22)
3. “I Can’t See Your Face in My Mind” (3:18)
4. “When the Music’s Over” (11:00)
Sessions took place between May and August 1967 with Rothchild and Botnick at Studio Sunset Sound Recorders Hollywood. As work on Strange Days commenced, The Doors received an advance copy of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which inspired the band’s use of overdubs on Sunset Sound’s newly installed eight-track system.
In addition to organ, Manzarek plays marimba on select passages. On “Love Me Two Times,” he plays the harpsichord, a recently re-popularized plucked keyboard common in Baroque classical music. On “Strange Days,” Morrison plays a Moog synthesizer, programmed by specialist Paul Beaver of the electronic music duo Beaver & Krause, who served as West Coast sales representatives for the instrument’s maker, Robert Moog (the duo ran a demonstration booth at the Monterey Pop Festival). Clear Light bassist Doug Lubahn guests on seven songs (everything except “Unhappy Girl”, “Horse Latitudes” and “When the Music’s Over”).
Harvey designed the Strange Days cover, which has a landscape Brodsky photo (folded on a single sleeve) of street performers in Sniffen Court between Lexington and Third Avenue beside East 36th Street in Manhattan. The image shows a heavy lifter (foreground), a juggling mime, a balancing act, a trumpeter, and dancing twin midgets (one front, one back). Despite the band’s physical absence in the photo, a Doors concert poster twice appears on mirroring walls (front and back). (In 1993, Manzarek partook in a recreation of this scenery with actual street performers in a video to “Strange Days.”)
The Doors lifted “People Are Strange” as the album’s first single, backed with “Unhappy Girl.” With its eerie lyrics and minimal yet jaunty music arrangement, “People Are Strange” reached No. 1 in Canada and No. 9 in New Zealand. In the US, it peaked at No. 10 on the Cashbox Top 100 and No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100.
As Strange Days hit shelves, The Doors headed from the Midwest (Sept. 27: KRNT Theater, Des Moines) to the Great Plains, where they played a Sept. 30 show at Denver’s Family Dog with Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band.
In October, The Doors played the Berkeley Community Theatre (10/15), the Cal Poly Men’s Gym (10/27), and the lavish Broadmoor Hotel Ballroom in Colorado Springs (10/21).
In November, The Doors lifted “Love Me Two Times” as the second Strange Days single, backed with “Moonlight Drive.” It reached No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100.
On the week of November 18, 1967, Strange Days reached No. 3 on the Billboard 200, where it sat one place above its predecessor, The Doors, which spent ten months in the Top 10 during its 122-week chart stay.
As the album reached its crest, The Doors played Oregon shows at Gill Coliseum (11/11: OSY, Corvallis) and the Uni of Ore. (11/12: Eugene), followed with Bay Area headline slots over Procol Harum at the Fillmore Auditorium (11/16) and the Winterland Ballroom (11/17–18).
The Doors closed out 1967 with December multi-nighters supported by Iron Butterfly (11/22–23: Shrine Exposition Hall, LA) and Chuck Berry (11/26–28: Winterland). Berry took the post-Christmas opening slot after the originally scheduled act, Otis Redding, perished in a Dec. 10 plane crash.
The Doors played their first concerts of 1968 on January 19–20 at the Carousel Theatre in West Covina, Calif. On February 10, they played two shows (7:00 and 9:30 pm) at Berkeley Community Theatre, supported once again by Iron Butterfly. On March 29, they played Hollywood’s Kaleidoscope club, supported by Bo Diddley, Peanut Butter Conspiracy, and Clear Light.
On April 13, The Doors were scheduled to make their UK debut with the Jefferson Airplane at London’s Royal Albert Hall, but the proposed double-bill was pushed back to autumn. On May 11, The Doors headlined Detriot’s 12,000-seat Cobo Arena, supported by the James Cotton Blues Band and the Crazy World of Arthur Brown. On May 25, The Doors played the Patio Gardens at the Lagoon Amusement Park in Farmington, Utah, the site of recent rock shows by The Blues Magoos, The Monkees, Strawberry Alarm Clock, and Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention.
Meanwhile, Puerto Rican singer–guitarist José Feliciano released a Latinized cover of “Light My Fire” that reached No. 1 in Canada, No. 2 in Brazil, and No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. In the UK, where The Doors’ original barely dented the Top 50, José’s version reached No. 6.
Waiting for the Sun
The Doors released their third album, Waiting for the Sun, on July 3, 1968, on Elektra. It features eleven group-credited originals, including the hit “Hello, I Love You” and the opus extract “Not to Touch the Earth,” part of an extended performance piece titled “Celebration of the Lizard.” One track, “We Could Be So Good Together,” was initially cut for Strange Days.
1. “Hello, I Love You” (2:22)
2. “Love Street” (3:06)
3. “Not to Touch the Earth” (3:54)
4. “Summer’s Almost Gone” (3:20)
5. “Wintertime Love” (1:52)
6. “The Unknown Soldier” (3:10)
1. “Spanish Caravan” (2:58)
2. “My Wild Love” (2:50)
3. “We Could Be So Good Together” (2:20)
4. “Yes, the River Knows” (2:35)
5. “Five to One” (4:22)
Sessions began in January 1968 at Sunset Sound, where The Doors recorded “The Unknown Soldier” and “Spanish Caravan.” The remain sessions took place at Hollywood’s recently opened TTG Studios, one of the first studios equipped with a 16-track console. “The Unknown Soldier” involved more than 130 takes. They demoed “Celebration of the Lizard” in its entirety but abandoned plans to properly record it as a side-long suite. However, the epic poem appears on the Waiting for the Sun inner-sleeve, backed with an illustration of the ‘lizard king.’
Paul Rothchild produced Waiting for the Sun in sequence with Elektra debuts by Ars Nova and Rhinoceros. Botnick engineered the album between projects by Van Dyke Parks and David Ackles. Bassist Kerry Magness guests on “The Unknown Soldier.” Lubahn plays the remaining electric bass parts and interacts with jazz standup bassist Leroy Vinnegar on “Spanish Caravan.”
Harvey designed the cover to Waiting for the Sun, which has an upshot of The Doors on Laurel Canyon by photographer Paul Ferrara, who also took the beach photo on the 1968 Ode Records release by folk-rockers The Comfortable Chair. Guy Webster, who photographed the front cover to The Doors, took the WftS back-cover, which shows the members walking single file (side-angle, silhouetted) across the canyon against a pink sky.
The Doors preceded Waiting for the Sun with “The Unknown Soldier,” released as a March 1968 single, backed with “We Could Be So Good Together.” The a-side omits the cheering and tolling bells of its studio counterpart.
In live performances, Krieger pointed his guitar neck at Morrison (rifleman style) and ‘opened fire’ as sound effects blasted from the speaker, thereby ‘shooting’ Jim (the unknown soldier), who fell and played dead as the song climaxed. “The Unknown Soldier” peaked just inside the Billboard Top 40.
In June, The Doors issued “Hello, I Love You” as the second advance single, backed with “Love Street.” With its hummable three-chord progression and direct couplet, the song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it displaced “Grazing In the Grass” by Hugh Masekela and bowed after a fortnight to “People Got to Be Free” by The Rascals.
“Hello, I Love You” became their first hit in the UK, where it peaked at No. 15. Its similarity to “All Day and All of the Night” prompted Ray Davies to wage a successful plagiarism lawsuit against The Doors.
Waiting for the Sun reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Abroad, it reached No. 3 in Canada, No. 8 in Finland, and No. 16 in the UK. In Germany, the album appeared on S*R International with an alternate, casual downshot cover and the apparent title open the/for the doors.
The Doors kicked off their tour behind Waiting for the Sun with a July 5 show at the Hollywood Bowl, supported by Chambers Brothers and Steppenwolf (then storming the chart with their breakthrough hit, “Born to Be Wild”). The following night, The Doors played at unannounced show at the Kaleidoscope, supported by Spirit. After shows in Dallas, Houston, Vancouver, Seattle, and Honolulu, The Doors played an August 2 show at the Singer Bowl in Flushing Meadow Park in Queens, where they headlined over The Who (then just breaking the US market).
On September 6, 1968, The Doors made their long-awaited UK live debut at London’s Roundhouse, where they played a two-nighter with Jefferson Airplane. The following week, they visited Europe for the only time with shows in Frankfurt (9/14: Kongresshalle), Amsterdam (9/15: Concertgebouw), Copenhagen (9/17: Falkoner Centret), and Stockholm (9/20: Konserthuset). In Denmark, they performed “Love Me Two Times,” “When the Music’s Over,” “The Unknown Soldier,” and “Back Door Man” for a broadcast on Television-Byen (aired Oct. 30).
On October 31, The Doors commenced an eight-date swing through the Midwest at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky. On December 14, they played the Inglewood Forum, supported by Sweetwater and Jerry Lee Lewis.
The Doors rounded out 1968 with their seventh single: “Touch Me,” an uptempo Krieger jazz-pop number backed with Morrison’s “Wild Child.” With its brassy big band arrangement and Sinatra-esque refrain (“I’m gonna love you ’till the heaven stops the rain”), “Touch Me” reached No. 1 on the Cashbox Top 100 and No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. It served as an advance taster of their fourth album, then in-progress at Studio Elektra Sound.
On January 24, 1969, The Doors headlined New York’s 20k-capacity Madison Square Garden, supported by the Staple Singers. After a five-week studio retreat, they headed to Florida for a concert that went down in infamy.
On March 1, The Doors appeared at the Diner Key Auditorium, a converted seaplane hangar in Miami’s Coconut Grove neighborhood. An intoxicated Morrison, who missed his connecting flight, arrived an hour late with a live white lamb before a restless, overpacked crowd of 12,000 in the 6,900-capacity venue. He stopped the music with anti-authority rants and taunted the crowd with obscenities. As audience members removed clothing in the seatless, humid venue, Jim grabbed the hat off a stage-side police officer and threw it into the crowd, then removed his shirt and gyrated the article.
Police arrested Morrison onstage and charged him with indecent exposure, an allegation denied by his bandmates. He rejected a plea deal, whereby the Doors would perform a free Miama concert. The case pended for the rest of his days.
Meanwhile, The Doors released their eighth single: “Wishful Sinful,” a Krieger ballad backed with the Morrison–Krieger number “Who Scared You,” an exclusive track. “Wishful Sinful” peaked inside the Cashbox Top 30 and reached No. 3 in Denmark.
The Doors made their stage return with June 14–15 shows at Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre and the Minneapolis Auditorium, supported on both nights by the Staple Singers. They closed the month with four nights (June 27–30) at The Forum in Mexico City.
Meanwhile, covers of “Light My Fire” proliferated by acts across the music spectrum, including Clarence Carter, Erma Franklin, Four Tops, Friends of Distinction, Julie Driscoll (with Brian Auger & Trinity), Nancy Sinatra, Rhetta Hughes, Stevie Wonder, the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, and Young-Holt Unlimited. Rhetta titled her 1969 Tetragrammaton–Polydor album Re-Light My Fire.
The Soft Parade
The Doors released their fourth album, The Soft Parade, on July 18, 1969, on Elektra. It contains both sides of the “Touch Me” single and the recent a-side “Wishful Sinful,” plus six new originals: three by Morrison (“Shaman’s Blues,” “Easy Ride,” “The Soft Parade”), two by Krieger (“Tell All the People,” “Runnin’ Blue”) and the co-written “Do It.”
1. “Tell All the People” (3:24)
2. “Touch Me” (3:15)
3. “Shaman’s Blues” (4:45)
4. “Do It” (3:01)
5. “Easy Ride” (2:35)
1. “Wild Child” (2:36)
2. “Runnin’ Blue” (2:27) is a tribute to Otis Redding by Krieger, who harmonizes with Morrison on the chorus — the only such occurrence on a Doors album. Bluegrass mandolinist Jesse McReynolds (of Jess & Jim) and fiddlist Jim Buchanan (ex-Greenbriar Boys) guest on this song.
3. “Wishful Sinful” (2:56)
4. “The Soft Parade” (8:40)
Sessions occurred sporadically between July 1968 and May 1969 at Studio Elektra Sound Recorders, Holzman’s newly built facility on La Cienega Blvd. in Hollywood. The Doors were among the first four artists to use the studio, along with Judy Collins, Diane Hildebrand, and multi-national folk rockers Eclection. As Soft Parade neared completion, Morrison recorded several poems (“Bird of Prey,” “Under Waterfall,” “Orange County”) as spoken-word pieces.
For the first time on a Doors album, Rothchild used brass and strings conducted by Paul Harris, an arranger on folk albums by Bobby Callender, Eric Andersen, Tom Rush, Ian & Sylvia, and Smokey & His Sister. The brass section includes trombonist George Bohanon, a future Karma member who appears on seventies jazz-funk albums by Donald Byrd, Freddie Hubbard, Gene Harris, and Willie Hutch.
Lubahn plays bass guitar on “Easy Ride”, “Wild Child,” and “Wishful Sinful.” The remaining tracks feature Electric Flag bassist Harvey Brooks, who also plays on 1969 albums by Karen Dalton and Mark Spoelstra. Select tracks feature Manzarek on celesta (“Touch Me”) and harpsichord (“Shaman’s Blues,” “The Soft Parade”).
William S. Harvey designed the gatefold cover, which has a distant Brodsky photo of The Doors grouped around a tripod (front) and a horizontal reflection of their logo (back). The inner-gates feature a landscape illustration by Peter Schaumann, who depicts the members in a field setting with leaves and trees (right) and an angel and jester (left) amid faded Art Deco pieces. Schaumann’s artwork also appears on 1969 albums by Love (Four Sail), Joe Byrd & the Field Hippies (The American Metaphysical Circus), and the US Elektra version of the self-titled debut album by Renaissance.
“Tell All the People” (b/w “Easy Ride”) appeared just before The Soft Parade as the third advance single. Krieger’s line “get your guns” raised complaints by Morrison, who thought that audiences would take it literally and arrive armed at Doors concerts. When Robby refused to change the line, Jim initiated the practice of individual writing credits; a break from prior Doors albums on which all songs are group-credited.
The Soft Parade reached No. 6 on the Billboard 200. It has since received Platinum certification by the RIAA. The 2009 40th Anniversay reissue adds the “Wishful Sinful” b-side “Who Scared You” and the session outtakes “Whiskey, Mystics and Men” (two takes) and “Push Push.” The three-disc 50th Anniversary addition includes “Rock Is Dead,” a random medley of classics from rock’s fifteen-year history (at 64:03), recorded on February 25, 1969, at Sunset Sound.
The Doors returned to the Hollywood stage with a July 21 show at Aquarius Theater.
On Friday, July 25, 1969, The Doors played a two-hour, seventeen-song set at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, supported by Lonnie Mack and the Elvin Bishop Group. Humbled since the Miami incident, a now-bearded and heavier Morrison appeared in casual attire and displayed little of his once-flamboyant mannerisms.
On Saturday, July 26, The Doors appeared at the University of Oregon for the Eugene Pop Festival, which also featured Seattle garage-rockers The Bumps, Irish expat rockers Them (with only one member from the ’66 Whisky lineup) and their unsigned spinoff Truth. The event marked the Northwest debut of Alice Cooper, a theatrical psych band that just released their debut album, Pretties For You. The Doors topped the schedule over fellow big names The Byrds and The Youngbloods, who pulled from the event along with Hobbit Records recording artists Rockin’ Foo.
On July 27, The Doors played the Seattle Pop Festival, a three-day event at Gold Creek Park in Woodinville. The event featured twenty-seven acts, including Albert Collins, Chicago Transit Authority, Flying Burrito Brothers, Guess Who, Ike & Tina Turner, It’s a Beautiful Day, Santana, Ten Years After, comedian Murray Roman, and local psychsters Crome Syrcus and Floating Bridge. The Doors appeared on Day 3 (Sunday) along with Charles Lloyd, The Flock, Led Zeppelin, Lee Michaels, Spirit, and Vanilla Fudge. The Doors went right before Zeppelin, a Yardbirds spinoff on the verge of stateside stardom.
The Doors landed on stage by helicopter for their set, where a ribald Morrison taunted the festival’s 70,000 attendees in advance of “The End,” their closing number. Though touted as Seattle Pop’s lead attraction, the night was “stolen right out from under [The Doors]” by Led Zeppelin, according to Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Patrick MacDonald, who unfavorably contrasted The Doors’ “forced extravaganza” with the “electricity” of Zeppelin singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page.
In August, The Doors lifted a fourth Soft Parade single: “Runnin’ Blue,” Krieger’s harmonized Redding tribute (b/w “Do It”). It peaked just inside the Cashbox Top 40. That month, they cancelled an NYC date (8/8: Electric Circus) and declined an invitation to play at Woodstock, assuming it would be no different from prior rock festivals.
In September, The Doors flew to Canada for shows in Toronto (9/13: Varsity Stadium) and Montreal (9/14: Forum), then headed to Pennsylvania for stops in Philadelphia (9/19: Philly Arena) and Pittsburgh (9/20: Civic Arena). On October 4, they played the Las Vegas Ice Palace.
As The Doors commenced work on their fifth album, Morrison and a traveling friend allegedly caused an air-bound disturbance on a flight to a Rolling Stones concert in Phoenix. The charge, which carried a possible ten-year prison sentence, was dropped the following spring when the stewardess reversed her testimony.
On January 17–18, 1970, The Doors played back-to-back shows at NYC’s Felt Forum, the 5.6k-capacity concert venue under Madison Square Garden. They cancelled a Jan. 25 show at the Honolulu International Center, but headlined over Cold Blood on February 5–6 at San Fran’s Winterland. Mid-month, as their new album hit shelves, they played Cleveland (2/13–14: Allen Theatre) and Chicago (2/15: Auditorium Theatre).
The Doors released their fifth album, Morrison Hotel, on February 9, 1970, on Elektra. It features eleven originals across two subtitled sides: Hard Rock Café (side one) and Morrison Hotel (side two). Morrison submitted four solo compositions: “You Make Me Real,” “Blue Sunday,” “The Spy,” and “Waiting for the Sun,” a 1968 session outtake for the namesake album. He co-wrote four new songs with Krieger: “Ship of Fools,” “Queen of the Highway,” “Land Ho!” and the fan favorite “Peace Frog.”
Morrison Hotel opens with “Roadhouse Blues” and closes with “Maggie M’Gill,” both group-written numbers. The album also includes the long-vaulted “Indian Summer,” a Morrison–Krieger leftover from the 1966 sessions for The Doors.
Hard Rock Café
1. “Roadhouse Blues” (4:04)
2. “Waiting for the Sun” (3:58)
3. “You Make Me Real” (2:50)
4. “Peace Frog” (2:52)
5. “Blue Sunday” (2:08)
6. “Ship of Fools” (3:06)
1. “Land Ho!” (4:08)
2. “The Spy” (4:15)
3. “Queen of the Highway” (2:47)
4. “Indian Summer” (2:33)
5. “Maggie M’Gill” (4:24)
Sessions for the nine new songs took place between November 1969 and January 1970 at Studio Elektra Sound Recorders with Rothchild and Botnick, who engineered the album amid work on titles by Lonnie Mack and former Lovin’ Spoonful frontman John Sebastian, both guests on Morrison Hotel.
Mack plays bass on “Maggie M’Gill” and “Roadhouse Blues,” which also features Sebastian (a Reprise signee who masquerades here as ‘G. Puglese’) on harmonica. Rock bassist Ray Neopolitan (not the jazz standup bassist) plays on the album’s balance. Paul Beaver, a guest on Strange Days, handles Moog programming on the 1968 recording “Waiting for the Sun.” Manzarek plays tack piano on “Roadhouse Blues” and “You Make Me Real.”
Freelance artist Gary Burden designed the Morrison Hotel gatefold, which pictures the band inside the window lobby of the Morrison Hotel (no relation) in downtown Los Angeles. Photographer Henry Diltz snapped the band in haste during a moment of distraction for the hotel clerk, who didn’t authorize their photoshoot. The inner-gate shows them seated at the bar of a long-shuttered dive on 300 East 5th St. called the Hard Rock Café, pictured outside on the back (no relation to the international franchise). Diltz also has visual credits on Sebastion’s Reprise solo debut and 1970 albums by James Taylor, Norman Greenbaum, Stephen Stills, and Crosby Stills Nash & Young.
The Doors lifted “You Make Me Real” as the album’s only single. It peaked in the middle of the Billboard Hot 100. FM stations preferred the b-side, “Roadhouse Blues,” recognized by casual listeners for its shouted line in the last verse: “Woke up this morning and I got myself a beer.” Alice Cooper claims he originated that line at the Eugene Pop Festival, where he spoke it casually to Morrison before The Doors set, which featured an early rendition of the song.
Morrison Hotel reached No. 4 on the Billboard 200. Abroad, it reached No. 6 in the Netherlands, No. 12 in the UK, and No. 13 in Norway.
The Doors commenced their Roadhouse Blues tour on April 10 at Boston Arena. That month, they played shows in Denver and Honolulu. On May 1, they headlined over the Staple Singers and Blues Image at the Philly Spectrum. After stops in Pittsburgh, Detroit, Baltimore, and Columbus, they did an early June swing through Seattle and Vancouver. In Fairfield, Conn., and Salt Lake City promoters cancelled scheduled Doors shows over ‘decency’ concerns provoked by news of the Miami incident.
On July 20, 1970, The Doors released the double-album Absolutely Live, a document of their 1969–70 tour. It features nine numbers (77:02 total run time), including the ’67-era staples “Break On Thru,” “Soul Kitchen,” and “When the Music’s Over,” plus a medley that combines the two covers on their first album (“Alabama Song,” “Back Door Man”) with the Wairing for the Sun track “Five to One” and the new Morrison original “Love Hides.”
Absolutely Live contains six numbers absent from The Doors studio catalog, including the Morrison–Krieger song “Universal Mind” and the band-written original “Build Me a Woman,” plus covers of Bo Diddley (“Who Do You Love?”) and Willie Dixon (“Close to You”). They perform an elongated “Break On Thru” with the preamble “Dead Rats, Dead Cats.” Side four features “Celebration of the Lizard,” a complete performance of the multi-poem epic from the WftS sessions that bore “Not to Touch the Earth.”
1. “Who Do You Love?” (8:42)
2. “Medley” (10:35)
“Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)”
“Back Door Man”
“Five to One”
1. “Build Me a Woman” (3:33)
2. “When the Music’s Over” (14:49)
1. “Close to You” (5:27)
2. “Universal Mind” (4:54)
3. “Break On Thru, #2” (7:26)
1. “Celebration of the Lizard” (14:28)
2. “Soul Kitchen” (7:15)
Absolutely Live draws from assorted Doors concerts between Recorded July 21, 1969 (Dante’s Inferno, Vancouver) and May 8, 1970 (Cobo Arena, Detroit). The two main sources are the January 17–18 shows at the Felt Forum in New York City. Rothchild edited each song together from different performances. The two records came in a gatefold sleeve with a grainy, blue-tinted back shot of The Doors in concert, superimposed with a 1967 photo of Morrison. The inner-gates show recent concert pics with the now-bearded singer.
Absolutely Live reached No. 10 in Canada and No. 8 on the Billboard 200. The Doors reappeared live the following month with August shows in Bakersfield (8/21: Civic Auditorium) and San Diego (8/22: Sports Arena) — their final home-state shows in Morrison’s lifetime.
Isle of Wight Festival
The Doors made their second and final UK appearance at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, a five-day concert event (August 26–31) at East Afton Farm on the island across the Solent in the English Channel. Fifty-two acts played the event, including Black Widow, Cactus, Chicago, Donovan, Family, Free, Hawkwind, Gary Farr, Gracious, Groundhogs, Heaven, Howl (with Frankie Miller), Jethro Tull, Jimi Hendrix, Mighty Baby, Moody Blues, Pentangle, Pink Fairies, Procol Harum, Supertramp, T2, Taste, Terry Reid, and Voices of East Harlem.
The Doors appeared between Emerson Lake & Palmer (their second ever concert) and The Who (performing their 1969 rock opera Tommy) on Day 4 (Saturday, Aug. 29), which also featured sets by Sebastian, Shawn Phillips, Lighthouse, Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, and Sly & the Family Stone.
The Doors performed their two album epics (“The End,” “When the Music’s Over”) and a fourteen-minute version of “Light My Fire,” plus the recent faves “Roadhouse Blues” and “Ship of Fools” and the old staples “Break On Through” and “Back Door Man.” They rendered “The End” as an eighteen-minute, four-part medley. Morrison sung with intensity despite his rigid posture. Due to his aversion to movie spotlights, they performed in darkness.
Though booked for shows at Copenhagen’s KB Hallen and the Montreux Casino (with Black Sabbath), The Doors cancelled due to Morrison’s looming Miami trial date. On October 30, a six-person jury convicted him of profanity and indecent exposure for the March 1, 1969, incident. He was fined $500 and sentenced to six months prison time with hard labor, but freed on a $50,000 bond pending an appeal.
On November 30, 1970, Elektra issued 13, a compilation of thirteen Doors hits and popular album tracks. It contains three songs from The Doors (“Light My Fire,” “Back Door Man,” “The Crystal Ship”), four from Strange Days (“People Are Strange,” “Moonlight Drive,” “Love Me Two Times,” “You’re Lost Little Girl”), two apiece from Waiting for the Sun (“Hello, I Love You,” “The Unknown Soldier”) and The Soft Parade (“Touch Me,” “Wild Child”), and the recent “Roadhouse Blues” and “Land Ho.”
13 appeared in a single sleeve with an outdoor medium closeup shot of Manzarek, Krieger, and Densmore below an enlarged, off-facing Morrison (circa 1967) against a blue sky. Edmund Teske, a photographer for architect Frank Lloyd Wright, took the back-cover image: a translucent round-table group shot on a paint-cracked turquoise surface.
The inner-sleeve features random monochrome live shots and a closeup of Morrison at the Miami show with the lamb in his arms. William S. Harvey, in his final Doors-related visual credit, designed the cover amid 1970 Elektra releases by Bread, Bridget St. John, Crabby Appleton, and Daryl Hall‘s pre-Hall & Oates band Gulliver.
On his 27th birthday (December 8, 1970), Morrison taped a second set of unaccompanied poetry at Village Recorders in West Los Angeles. That month, he made his final two concert appearances.
On December 11, The Doors played the State Fair Music Hall in Dallas. On Saturday the 12th, they played the Warehouse in New Orleans where Morrison, in a fit of mid-show rage, stopped the set and pounded his mic stand into the floor, then left the stage. The Doors, noting Jim’s ill-suitedness for live appearances, agreed to cease touring and operate as a studio-only act. They commenced work on a new album.
Despite their retirement from the road and Morrison’s looming legal battle, The Doors opened 1971 with renewed faith in their group cohesion and creative vision.
Meanwhile, Morrison contacted Argentine film composer Lalo Schifrin for a possible symphonic score to his stockpiled spoken-word pieces. He planned to release the work as a solo album with cover art by T. E. Breitenbach, a self-taught painter from Queens. For the proposed album, Jim asked the young artist to paint a triptych with three distinct scenes: a nude beach-side couple, a lively future metropolis, and a nighttime windshield highway view.
The Doors released their sixth studio album, L.A. Woman, on April 19, 1971, on Elektra. It features nine originals, including “Love Her Madly” and the epic side-closers “L.A. Woman” and “Riders on the Storm.” Side two contains the John Lee Hooker cover “Crawling King Snake.” For the first time since Waiting for the Sun, the originals are all group-credited.
1. “The Changeling” (4:20)
2. “Love Her Madly” (3:18)
3. “Been Down So Long” (4:40)
4. “Cars Hiss by My Window” (4:10)
5. “L.A. Woman” (7:49)
6. “L’America” (4:35)
7. “Hyacinth House” (3:10)
8. “Crawling King Snake” (4:57) is a blues standard of unknown origin, believed to originate from the 1920s Mississippi Delta scene. In 1941, bluesman Big Joe Williams recorded a nine-string guitar version on the RCA-subsidiary Bluebird. It became a live staple for proto-rock icon John Lee Hooker, whose 1949 version on the Modern Records label reached No. 6 on the Billboard R&B chart.
9. “The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)” (4:12)
10. “Riders on the Storm” (7:14)
Sessions took place between December 1970 and January 1971 at the Doors’ Workshop, a converted rehearsal space equipped for the band by engineer Bruce Botnick, who assumed production chores after Paul A. Rothchild, The Doors’ producer since their debut, severed ties with the band over creative differences (and apparent grief over the recent death of his other client, Janis Joplin). Rothchild worked with subsequent Elektra signees GoodThunder on their 1972 self-titled release and (later in the decade) produced albums by the Outlaws, Bonnie Raitt, and Funky Kings.
Manzarek’s arsenal includes Vox Continental (“Love Her Madly”), Fender Rhodes electric piano (“L.A. Woman,” “Riders on the Storm”), and Hammond organ (“The Changeling,” “Hyacinth House,” “The WASP”). He plays rhythm guitar on “Been Down So Long.” Densmore uses brushes on “Cars Hiss by My Window” and plays tambourine on “Love Her Madly” and “Been Down So Long.”
Asylum Choir musician and A&M recording artist Marc Benno (another Botnick client) plays rhythm guitar on “Been Down So Long,” “Cars Hiss by My Window,” “L.A. Woman,” and “Crawling King Snake.” The bassist on Benno’s 1970 solo album, session vet Jerry Scheff (Darius, Goldenrod, Holy Mackerel, Inner Dialogue), plays throughout L.A. Woman.
Original US/UK copies of L.A. Woman are housed in a die-cut burgundy sleeve with rounded corners and a central cutout to a yellow innersleeve with a monochrome group shot and a crucifixion image. Later copies dispense with the rounded corners and inner-yellow.
The Doors lifted “Love Her Madly” in March 1971 as an advance single from L.A. Woman, backed with the non-album Willie Dixon cover “(You Need Meat) Don’t Go No Further,”the only recording of Morrison’s lifetime with a Manzarek lead vocal.
“Love Her Madly” reached No. 7 on the Cashbox Top 100 and No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100. Internationally, the song went Top 10 in Australia (No. 6), Canada (No. 3), and the Netherlands (No. 4).
In June 1971, as Doors members watched the album’s performance in separate quarters, they lifted “Riders on the Storm” as its second single, backed with “The Changeling.” With its haunting, frosty vibe, “Riders on the Storm” charted worldwide and has since become one of the most recognized Doors evergreens.
L.A. Woman reached No. 1 in the Netherlands, No. 11 in Canada, and reached the Finnish and Norwegian Top 15’s. In the US, the album reached No. 9 on the Billboard 200. Despite its relatively low chart peak for a Door studio album, it became their second-best-selling album and later achieved triple Platinum status.
The 50th Anniversary edition contains two bonus discs titled L.A. Woman Sessions, Part 1 and Part 2. The first contains extended versions of “The Changeling” (26:50), “Love Her Madly” (21:10), “Riders on the Storm” (18:09), and “L.A. Woman (Part 1)” (11:04) — the last continued on the third disc with “L.A. Woman (Part 1)” (8:42) and “L.A. Woman (Part 3)” (13:42) along with the extended takes of “Been Down So Long (Part 1)” (5:02) and “Been Down So Long (Part 2)” (23:00).
Death of Jim Morrison
On March 13, 1971, just as L.A. Woman underwent its final mixdown, Morrison furloughed from The Doors and flew to Paris, where he joined his on-off girlfriend Pamela Courson, who rented an apartment at 17–19, Rue Beautreillis in the historic Le Marais district.
In Paris, Morrison took long walks and soaked up the city’s cultural and literary history. As the months passed, he shaved his beard and shed the post-Miami weight. He recurrently phoned his bandmates in LA for updates on the album’s chart performance. They recorded a new batch of songs with hopes that he’d soon return and add vocals.
On July 3, 1971, at around 6:00 am, Pamela found Morrison dead in her bathtub at Rue Beautreillis. The death was ruled as heart failure, though multiple sources close to the singer claimed he suffered a heroine overdose.
Jim Morrison, 27 at the time of his death, was buried at Pere-Lachaise cemetery in eastern Paris. The lack of an autopsy (not required under French law) fueled speculation about his untimely passing. His death occurred two years after Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones and nine months after Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, each 27 at the time of their respective deaths.
- 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)
- An American Prayer (1978 • Jim Morrison)
- Discogs: The Doors
- 45worlds: The Doors
- 45cat: The Doors
- Concerts Wiki: The Doors
- Billboard.com: The Doors
- uDiscoverMusic: Seattle Pop Festival: Remembering “The Forgotten Woodstock”
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