Thursday, 11 August 2011

Top Fifty - The Doors

The Doors - Waiting for the Sun

On this album, Jim Morrison was not just the mysterious Lizard King - he was also the Crooner King. I don't know if this is their 'best' album - perhaps that is LA Woman - but this is the first The Doors album that I bought and was in fact my major introduction to their music, having heard, naturally, Light My Fire and radio plays of other songs, but not a whole album's set of tracks. It was an influential introduction.

The album opens with two crooner tunes, the radio friendly and hit Hello I Love You followed by Love Street, a beautiful ballad foregrounding Morrison's mature and polished vocals. These two tracks reflect the pop sensibilities of the band, perhaps commercially skewed, but I think more genuinely a reflection of the band's love of melody and varied songcraft.

Third track Not To Touch The Earth is The Doors at their rock and poetic best. A shortened version of The Celebration Of The Lizard, this track grabbed a different attention from this listener and prompted its more specific influence on my emerging love of poetry. I didn't then and do not now understand the lyrics, but they had their mysterious impact:

Dead president's corpse in the driver's car
The engine runs on glue and tar

C'mon along, we're not going very far

To the east to meet the Czar

And I went along. Reading Ginsberg too and other American poets of the time [the Evergreen Original The New American Poetry, ed. Donald M. Allen] I wrote my own surreal but naive verse, clouded in its own obtuse and colourful imagery but, unfortunately, not having the inkling, let alone depth of real experience these adults and intellectuals and performers had actually lived.

My GCE English teacher at the time was a nasty person: a bully and a patronising older man who constantly ridiculed and challenged my and a few others' incipient political and cultural awakenings. I do recall, however, taking my gatefold album into class and his agreeing to play Not To Touch The Earth and then give an interpretation of the full poem The Celebration Of The Lizard printed on the inside. I can't remember what he said, but it was, surprisingly, calm and genuinely exploratory. Perhaps Morrison had if but for a fleeting moment blown away his prejudices and myopia. It didn't last.

Summer's Almost Gone is the fourth track on Side One and another gentle ballad. This side ends though with the powerful anti-war song The Unknown Soldier which at the time was particularly evocative, especially the military snare drum roll and shooting that peak in the story's melodrama.

Side Two begins with the flamenco guitar-driven Spanish Caravan that is musically distinct because of its virtuoso opening as well as lyrically romantic and exotic. The chanted song My Wild Love continues this sense of mystique and magic with Morrison's vocals powerfully inflected at the ending of words. The next two tracks, We Could Be So Good Together and Yes, The River Flows are classic pop gems at about 2.30 minutes each - the first a punchy number and the second another sweet, sweet ballad with its seductive mystic heated wine - then this side and the whole album ends on the pummeling Five To One where the lyrics again beguile:

Your ballroom days are over baby
Night is drawing near

Shadows of the evening

Crawl across the years

Others had crafted lyrics to act as a code for real or imagined experiences, often drug oriented or simply to suggest and tease about hallucinogenics, or simply as a code to prompt endless and fruitless decoding. The Doors and obviously Jim Morrison were the band to put language out there as an uncompromising key element. As I said, I can't remember what my English teacher made of the language, but it was surreal in its own way to hear him reading the following to a group of 15 year olds, most of whom couldn't give a toss, apart from myself and a few others:

I am the Lizard King
I can do anything

I can make the earth stop in its tracks

I made the blue cars go away

For seven years I dwelt

In the loose palace of exile,

Playing strange games

With the girls of the island.

Now I have come again

To the land of the fair, & the strong, & the wise.

Brothers & sisters of the pale forest

O children of the Night

Who among you will run with the hunt?

Now Night arrives with her purple legion.

Retire now to your tents & to your dreams.

Tomorrow we enter the town of my birth.

I want to be ready.


  1. I love The Doors and these two blog entries have rekindled my interest in listening to them, having not done so for quite a while. I wish I had seen the tv programmes you mention- although I'm sure they will be repeated in the future. Your English teacher sounds like an unpleasant individual but perhaps, in a way, he reinforced your youthful determination to explore the wonders of poetry!

  2. Sky Arts, if you have, and they do repeat. I have contemplated if Mr Woods antagonised to force a resilience in response, but actually he was just an asshole.

  3. At least he didn't put you off English! Will keep an eye on sky arts, cheers. Off to SA tomorrow so will catch up on the blog in a couple of weeks. Happy musical musings and poetic ponderances(!) T x

  4. I personally think The Doors are an example of a 'great' artist that never released a 'great' album. Is this unfair? I would also file Elvis, The Who, The Kinks and James Brown in this category.

    Looking forward to seeing which Zeppelin album you choose. Decisions.... (cough, IV, cough)

  5. Certainly interesting! Having listened to 'LA Woman' today I do prefer 'Waiting for the Sun'. I think you might be right - I actually made a compilation today to make my own 'great' The Doors album [which isn't necessarily like any other 'hits/collection' out there].

    Have to thinks about The Who! As for Led Zep, obvious inclination is II, but perhaps I is better still. You know, I don't know/listen to the others enough to judge on them - yet another aural challenge!

    Thanks for stopping by and input.