46 Years Ago: The Doors’ Debut Album Released
When the Doors entered a Hollywood recording studio to make their debut album at the end of August 1966, they knew what they wanted. Months of serving as house band at the Whisky a Go Go had sharpened their playing and performing skills to the point where one member of the quartet could abruptly swerve toward a new direction and the others would follow without missing a beat.
And they had become adventurous songwriters in the process, coming up with a culture-tipping set of songs that sampled the flavors of 1967, from blues and pop to folk and psychedelia. Built on Ray Manzarekâs woozy organ (which fell somewhere between old-man jazz and tripping-balls garage rock), the Doorsâ music sounded playful and serious, stoned and studious, artsy and yes, it must be said, pretentious.
Its dubiously in-charge ringleader was Jim Morrison, one of rockâs most magnetic frontmen, a swaggering mound of sweaty flesh who was defined by a combination of slurred lyrics and pants-down-now sex. His penetrating presence turned âThe Doorsâ into something more than just another hippie-era relic; he got under your skin and wormed his way into your systemâs vital wiring. Without him, the music was an empty vessel.
But it all came together in a collision of ideals, ideas and high-as-a-kite philosophy during that week in late August 1966. When âThe Doorsâ was released on Jan. 4, 1967, it sounded both part of and a distraction from a scene that was on the verge of discharging. âBreak on Through (To the Other Side)â was the albumâs lead track and single, but the showpieces came at the end of each side: âLight My Fireâ was Top 40 pop with a hard-on; âThe Endâ was apocalyptic theater laced with oedipal tension. And they pretty much summed up âThe Doorsâ experience.
âBreak on Throughâ failed to crack the Top 100, but âLight My Fireâ made it to No. 1, hitting the peak position in July, just as the Summer of Love was ramping up. The song has become a pivotal moment in that momentous year. So has the album, which reached No. 2. Its blues (âBack Door Manâ) and pop-art (âAlabama Song [Whisky Bar]â) covers blended with originals like âSoul Kitchenâ and âTwentieth Century Foxâ for the start of a trip that helped open rockâs expanding perceptions.
Listen to the Doors’ ‘Light My Fire’