The Doors

The Doors

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The Most Slamming Doors

On side one, track one of this still astounding debut, a slightly disturbed Jim Morrison repeatedly bellows the phrase "Break on through to the other side." He sounds like he's found passage to a promised land, and is determined to help others make the journey. His invitation also happens to summarize the Doors' guiding idea: This is rock music for and about transcendence.

Lots of what was great about the Doors has to do with Morrison breaking through—mentally, physically, spiritually. He sings from inside a dream state; even on a song about the search for the next whiskey bar, the former UCLA film student sounds as if he's drinking to pursue enlightenment. Casting himself as the romantic poet hungry for fresh experience, Morrison (1943–1971) tells what he's seen in torrents of grandiose images, using a trick bag of howls and shouts to enhance the scenes. When Morrison begs to sleep all night in the "Soul Kitchen," his rhythm section makes it a place of sensual bliss and also psychic refuge. When he seeks a love spark, on the Farfisa organ–kissed "Light My Fire" that became the defining Doors single, the group's questing propulsion keeps that ember alive through a long instrumental interlude that has the feeling of an epic journey. (There's another, even more psychedelic one on "The End.")

This album is one of those perfect onesitting listening experiences, with no wasted notes and no extraneous poetry. Even decades after the druggy moment of its creation, The Doors somehow retains its mystique, and feels greater than the sum of its parts. Much of that has to do with Morrison, who transforms rather ordinary urgings—when you think about it, "Come on baby, light my fire" is pretty banal as refrains go—into lofty-sounding sentiments that were cherished by millions. Implicit in all of Morrison's invitations is the notion, often unstated but clearly audible, that something better awaits on the other side. He believes this, in a way that makes others believe, too—that's one reason Morrison went from being relatively unknown to the king of the rock mystics, then a cynical star, and finally a victim of the Dionysian excesses associated with his trade. The whole arc only lasted a few years, but it couldn't have happened without this album, made by Morrison and three adventure-minded musicians at a time in their lives when breaking on through was all that mattered.

Genre: Rock
Released: 1967, Elektra
Key Tracks: "Break On Through (to the Other Side)," "Soul Kitchen," "Twentieth Century Fox"
F.Y.I.: Fans of Morrison's lyrics will be captivated by his first book of poetry, The Lords and the New Creatures, published in 1971.
Catalog Choice: Morrison Hotel
Next Stop: Love: Forever Changes
After That: Nine Inch Nails: Pretty Hate Machine
Book Page: 232

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#1 from Brooks McSmith, nd - 04/15/2010 1:08

I’m interested in why you chose to recommend Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Pretty Hate Machine’ after the “Next Stop” of ‘Forever Changes’. Sonically and thematically it seems very different from both of these works, and not exactly on the same scale of greatness either. Was this a misprint?

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