It’s probably an understatement to say that the The Doors played an enormous role in forming the soundtrack to my adolescence. So in honor of Ray Manzarek’s recent passing (Check out this excellent profile from NPR) . . .
Here are my 10 favorite Doors songs (in no particular order):
Soul Kitchen: This one was covered at the first concert I ever attended by Echo and The Bunnymen at Radio City Music Hall and was my first true introduction to the Morrison’s weirdly poetic lyrics. I had no idea what he was talking about (or why you would sleep in a “soul kitchen”), but the organ hit me immediately and I loved the way that Morrison flipped words around in ways that literally made them snap. The choppy rhythm of the song could never be described as danceable, yet it absolutely makes you tap your foot . . . HARD.
20th Century Fox: This really worked for me in terms of wordplay the first time I heard it and still does today. It uses 60’s phrases that fell out of favor by the 80’s but still made perfect sense at the time. Manzarek and Krieger work off each other perfectly here. It almost connotes Roxy Music to me and would feel at home in a glam setting or sound-tracking a fashion runway. In my own personal deranged mind-of-Frazer music video, it was like I could see tall angular brunettes with massive attitude “swaning” down lower 5th Avenue.
The End: It’s no accident this was the only possible choice for the conclusion of Apocalypse Now.
Peace Frog: Hippie protest? Not so much – This is the band as CNN reporters (well, if CNN produced accurate news, that is…) However, its jumpy upbeat rhythm simultaneously makes it a classic and exceedingly fun drinking song that hippies, yuppies, rednecks and frontline combat grunts seem to all enjoy equally.
Riders on the Storm: Even darker than “The End” with the hero being a serial killer and its bone-chilling soundtrack. This one is a “loungey” groove fest filled with dread. One of my favorite things about this track is that I actually sang it at a Karaoke night at the Flora-Bama Lounge after graduating from law school. Let’s just say BAD IDEA (I was physically forced off the stage). Still, only made me love (and respect) the Doors’ genius all the more.
People Are Strange: I think this song feels completely in place nowadays exuding a sort of surreal saloon vibe. I know Echo and the Bunnymen covered it for their Lost Boys soundtrack, but the original feels almost like something by Depeche Mode or Garbage and its messages of disaffectedness resonate well with TV and Unternet saturated young people grasping for ideologies in a frequently nihilistic age.
Road House Blues: Simply the ultimate party song. This is just a bunch of guys getting ready to go out, have dangerous fun and causing unfathomable trouble. Indeed, it reminds me fondly of high school (or rather, the pretend version of my high school self), raucous college parties and masculine bluster generally. Plus, who doesn’t want to wake up in the morning and get themselves a beer?
Not to Touch the Earth: Here we a treated to a REALLY bad acid trip populated by shot presidents and a Dante-esque musical descent into disorder that was 100% courtesy of Manzarek. The song almost turns into pure noise, but then Mansarek pulls the plane back up mere seconds before the crash. It swirls and yearns – but what makes it work is how the band builds in so much brooding and dark intensity. Morrison, far from drifting off into sleep, takes in all of this energy and transforms himself into the Lizard King . . . A mantle he’d wear straight into immortality.
Back Door Man: This song is almost as subtle as a punch in the face. Dirty, grimy, and straight from the Delta, this Doors baby doesn’t make any sense until . . . BANG! It doesn’t want . . . It takes. And it takes whatever it wants.
Moonlight Drive: An ethereal trip – some sort of black and white road movie, set in the desert, featuring a young man attempting to win over the female object of his desire. . . There’s nothing nefarious here. It’s all quirky fun and, dare I say, a rare dose of innocence.
LA Woman: Hands down, this is the best story they tell. Kreiger is the real emphasis here as it’s his guitar “tell” that shoves you into that unforgettable car with a presumably heart-stopping woman hell bent on a mission to conquer LA. The band doesn’t remotely give a damn whether you’d have had the balls to open that car door yourself . . . And therein lies the greatness. It’s all fun and games until “Mr. Mojo Rising” slows things down, and brutally begins to reveal the unbearable darkness that characterizes LA’s half-fantasy, half-nightmare dichotomy. In movie terms, it’s sort of a like Jack Nicholson’s Chinatown – on A LOT of high-grade Bolivian Marching Powder. Surely, this is one song that should NEVER have had a music video made. Whatever images permeate your head as you listen ought to be be considered personal gifts from the band – and respected accordingly.