We’re going to start Doors week off with something a little light, even though I’ve demonstrated a horrible propensity for botching lists. I’ve come back to them time and again, and at best have had mixed results.
I guess it’s just not my strength.
But speaking as a Doors fan, I have to believe that maybe we’re finally in my wheelhouse. This is a list I’m destined to get right, because I’ve been writing and re-writing it all my darned life.
In theory, if I practice enough, I’m bound to get it right.
There are five songs that don’t get real play notice from non–fans, and which speak to the depth that the band really had. All five are “non-album tracks,” further narrowing the possibilities for argument along the lines of “L.A. Woman versus Break on Through (to the Other Side).”
Now, I’m not one to second–guess their legendary producer, Paul Rothchild. The guy knew what he wanted, knew how to get it (especially from a notoriously nasty drunk like Morrison) and put together what I think are six of the best studio albums ever released. But there were some songs left on in the archives that might have proven to have a little more staying power, and possibly earned the band a little more musical respect, than some of the ones that were included on final albums.
But history is history, and to be honest, The Doors never were going to be placed on the same pedestal as The Beatles. Even speaking as a fan, I don’t think that they would have deserved it. The Beatles, for all of their later idiosyncrasies, were notoriously consistent in their polish and presentation. The Doors remain, like their lead singer, a roller coaster ride capable of giving you whiplash on an unexpected turn. The aforementioned Mr. Rothchild even quit producing the band because he was just tired of dealing with Morrison and the band. (Irony: LA Woman is regarded as possibly their best album.)
I do wonder what it would have been like if they had fought harder to keep The Celebration of the Lizard on vinyl and released that as a concept album in July 1968 instead of Waiting for the Sun and stolen the mantle of psychedelic experimentalism before the White Album was released in November of that same year by The Beatles. As an added advantage: no Yoko.
Still, I’ll never love another band quite the same way. So here are five songs (linked to Spotify URIs) for you to consider.
- Tightrope Ride
This song is the only honest, real thing Ray Manzarek ever said about Jim Morrison after his death. And even though Morrison isn’t on it (it was released on Other Voices), the raw and unpolished hurt of being left behind by someone you wish hadn’t died is all too relatable.
- Who Scared You?
This one was first released as an extra track from the first posthumous Greatest Hits compilation called Weird Scenes Inside the Golmine (1972), which I bought on vinyl from an old record store called Phantasmagoria. Love it immediately.
- Whiskey, Mystics and Men
I fell in love with it when they first released it as part of the first boxed set in the 1990s. It’s got a real flavor to it that so belonged on an album when it was recorded.
- The Ghost Song
Everyone knows Morrison recorded a ton of poetry tracks in solitude before he died, and that The Doors reuinted to record backing music and called it An American Prayer. They got blasted by Rotchchild for “raping” Jim Morrison’s legacy (decades before sci-fi fanboys used the term so nonchalantly!), but this is a darn good song and it’s a pretty darn good album if you’re OK with sometimes-offensive poetry. Side note: Every time a new edition of the album comes out on a new format, there seems to be a new and/or extended version of the song. So there’s that.
- Orange County Suite
Morrison’s actually the one plinking around on the piano (hence the simplicity). The additional music was added decades later, but pretty awesome. Very bittersweet reflections on love.
So I’ve just expanded your horizons. Good deed for the day…done.