Talkin' 'Bout My G-Generation - Chapter 4

PetSounds
It's late July, 1967. The AM airwaves are loaded with psychedelic pop. Even the Rolling Stones have traded their raw blues rock for a flirtation with the genre. Finding tunes to relax with on a sunny afternoon should be easy. You adjust the dial of your transistor radio, searching for a familiar song--perhaps The Beach Boys' 1966 mega-hit, "Good Vibrations" or The Beatles' latest release, "All You Need Is Love". Static--ah, there's something! No, they're playing The Monkees' "I'm a Believer". You've had enough of that song--it was #1 for over a month earlier in the year. More static, as you fiddle with the tuning. What's this? The DJ has just finished introducing a song. Too bad you didn't catch its name or performer. Oh well, maybe they'll announce it after the song ends. It begins with a fast organ lick. Then, a voice, unlike any you've heard before--rich and silky like Elvis, yet with a rebellious and lustful edge--begins singing lyrics the world would soon know by heart.

"You know that it would be untrue,
You know that I would be a liar,
If I was to say to you,
'Girl, we couldn't get much higher.'
Come on baby, light my fire.
Come on baby, light my fire.
Try to set the night on... fire!"

The song is "Light My Fire", the band is The Doors, and they are on their way to the top.

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Last weekend, I was talking to a baseball teammate. He has decent knowledge of and taste in music and is familiar with The Beatles, The Stones, The Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, U2 (his favourite), etc. However, when I mentioned my co-favourite band, he remarked, "Never heard of them." Not many people from my generation have.

That's a shame. The group of which I speak was arguably the most important American rock band of the 1960s. In a decade oozing with incredible music, their mystic lyrics, talented musicianship, large doses of LSD, and iconic frontman made them stand out as pioneers. Ladies and gentlemen, from Los Angeles, California... The Doors.

The Doors consisted of the same four members throughout their entire career.
Jim Morrison was the lead vocalist and primary songwriter.
Ray Manzarek played keyboards.
Robby Krieger played guitar and wrote quite a few songs.
John Densmore was the drummer, and also contributed creatively.

The band didn't have a regular bassist--a session musician played bass on most of their recordings, but Manzarek would play the bassline on the keys in live performances.

Onto the music.

"Light My Fire" was the lead single of The Doors eponymous debut album, which was released in early 1967. The original song has a lengthy instrumental section and clocks in at almost seven minutes, but a trimmed, three-minute version reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It became the band's signature song and an anthem of the late '60s. Other highlights of that album include "Break on Through (to the Other Side)", "The Crystal Ship", and "The End". In fact, I recommend listening to the whole thing. My fellow TopTenner and Doors fan, LizardKing99, has just posted a review of the album. Check it out. Oh, and here's a YouTube link to the music.

Before 1967 was through, The Doors had another another album on the charts. Strange Days solidified their popularity, and its lead single, "People Are Strange", would become one of the band's best-loved songs, thanks in part to its displaying a lighter side of the band, with Ray Manzarek's jazzy piano.

1968 reinforced The Doors popularity. Both the album Waiting for the Sun and its lead single, "Hello, I Love You" reached #1 on their respective charts. Overall, I feel the album is stronger than Strange Days, but not as strong as their debut. However, the group began experimenting with different instruments, notably the new Moog synthesizer.

Then, things began to fall apart. Morrison's drug and alcohol abuse began affecting the band's recording sessions. Other members took over more of the songwriting, and their quality dipped. The result was The Soft Parade. It featured a much poppier, "bigger" sound, with orchestration. The Doors were accused of selling out. However, the album's lead single, "Touch Me" (which might be my favourite Doors song) climbed to #3 in late 1968, preceding the album's release by a few months.

Soon, they were back at their best. 1970's Morrison Hotel saw the group exploring the blues rock that had long been at the heart of their music. Jim once again became a creative force to be reckoned with. There really wasn't a big hit single from that album, but its opener, "Roadhouse Blues", is one the band's best-loved songs. The studio version is fantastic, but here's a live recording--one of the best ever, in my opinion. This shows what incredible performers The Doors were. Just be warned that Jim drops a couple expletives.

1971 saw the release of what many consider their best album, L.A. Woman. It reinforced the blues direction established on its predecessor, and three of its songs still get regular airplay. In fact, "Riders on the Storm" is probably the Doors song I hear the most on the radio. It was to be their last single.

Years of substance abuse inevitably caught up with Jim Morrison. On July 3rd, 1971, his girlfriend found him dead in their Paris apartment. Jim was 27 years old.

Before I close this instalment, I'd like to add one more recommendation. There are many moments when The Doors could have been said to be at a creative peak, but none stands out to me more than the closing track of their second album. In my opinion, this was the band's magnum opus, their "A Day in the Life" or "Bohemian Rhapsody". Here's "When the Music's Over".

This is the end, beautiful friend.
This is the end, my only friend. The end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end,
No safety or surprise, the end.
I'll never look into your eyes again.

For the music is your special friend,
Dance on fire as it intends.
Music is your only friend
Until the end.

Comments

*claps* - LizardKing99

I actually wrote a parody of Light My Fire with the help of my dad. :P - RiverClanRocks

Post the lyrics! - PetSounds

(Severely late reply)
I will, if I can remember them. - RiverClanRocks

I've heard great things about the Doors, but never got into them. But I did only listen to one or two songs, so I don't believe that I gave them a fair shot. I'll have to check them out again, sometime. - Alpha101

Awesome - bobbythebrony

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