With the possible exceptions of The Ramones and New York or Nirvana and Seattle, no band is more inextricably linked to a city than The Doors are with Los Angeles. It’s only fitting then, that in a formal ceremony in Venice, the City of Angels will proclaim January 4th the “Day of the Doors.”
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the release of the band’s self-titled debut on Elektra Records. The Doors was a commercial and critical darling, honored by Rolling Stone as the very best in the juggernaut year of music that was 1967. For context, Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced, Cream’s Disraeli Gears and The Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band all came out that year as well.
With that in mind, let’s stroll through the band’s studio album discography with some fascinating trivia and must-listen tracks from each release. We’re focusing on the records that feature Jim Morrison because, let’s face it: Once he was gone the band—and the world—was never really the same…
LA Woman came together at The Doors’ “work space” at 8512 Santa Monica Boulevard, with the vocals recorded in the bathroom, where the tiles provided adequate acoustics.
The Doors (1967)
The debut took less than a week to record, a fact immortalized in Oliver Stone’s 1991 biopic when producer Paul Rothchild, as played by actor Michael Wincott, declares: “An album of killer music in six days… six days… unreal.” (Kevin Dillon of Entourage fame played Doors drummer John Densmore in the film.) The Doors was also the first album ever to be promoted on a billboard near the famed Chateau Marmont hotel on the Sunset Strip. Elektra Records President Jac Holzman placed the ad for $1,200 a month. Must listens: “Break On Through (To the Other Side),” “Light My Fire,” “The End”
Strange Days (1967)
Strange Days featured one of the first-ever uses of the Moog Synthesizer in rock, as played by keyboardist Ray Manzarek on the album. However, no singles featuring the Moog were released. The first single was “People Are Strange,” which climbed to number 12 on the U.S. singles chart. British post-punk rockers Echo and the Bunnymen covered the song for the soundtrack of the cult classic vampire film, Lost Boys. Although this version did not chart in America, it did reach number 29 in Britain. Must listens: “Strange Days,” “People Are Strange,” “Love Me Two Times”
Waiting for the Sun (1968)
Waiting for the Sun was the only number-one album for the band. The album’s biggest hit was “Hello, I Love You,” which began as a poem penned by Morrison while he and Manzarek watched a girl walking on the beach. It was the Doors’ second number-one single (“Light My Fire” was the first and the first single from Elektra Records to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart). Unfortunately, courts in the UK determined that the structure was too similar to The Kinks’ “All Day and All of the Night.” As a result all British royalties from the song went to Kinks’ frontman Ray Davies. Must listen: “Hello, I Love You”
The Soft Parade (1969)
Despite a grueling nine-month recording session and an $86,000 recording budget, The Soft Parade is universally considered The Doors’ weakest album. The band rarely played the title track live, but a notable performance of the song in its entirety was filmed for a 1969 PBS documentary. Despite the critical derision, the album still made it to number six on the Billboard Pop Charts. Must listen: “Touch Me”
Morrison Hotel (1970)
Surprisingly, the Doors fifth studio offering featured no top 40 singles. The track “Waiting for the Sun” appeared on this album because it was not ready when the album of the same name was released. The title is a metaphor for the American dream. John Sebastian of the Lovin’ Spoonful played harmonica on the album’s opening track, “Roadhouse Blues.” Must listen: “Roadhouse Blues,” “Peace Frog”
L.A. Woman (1971)
L.A. Woman is the only one of these six albums not produced by Paul Rothchild. The album came together at The Doors’ “work space” at 8512 Santa Monica Boulevard, with the vocals recorded in the bathroom, where the tiles provided adequate acoustics. Some of the lyrics for “Riders on the Storm” were inspired by an actual serial killer: “If ya give this man a ride, sweet family will die, killer on the road.” Riders on the Storm is the last track on the album and the last track ever recorded with Jim Morrison, who died, most likely from a drug overdose, three months after the album’s release. Must listens: “Love Her Madly,” “L.A. Woman,” “Riders on the Storm”