Throughout the ages music has been a method for people to express emotions, convey ideas, tell stories, and say what is on their mind. In the process of its development there have been many different types of music that have formed. They range as widely as classical symphonies to modern day hip-hop rap. Countless musicians and bands have left a long lasting impression on society, and many have become such legends that even generations after their performances, people still appreciate their works. One such group that many refer to as the greatest rock and roll band of all time , has done just that and much more. The band known as The Doors took rock and roll music to the edge, reflected the society of its time, and influenced many of its listeners.
James Douglas Morrison was born on December 8th, 1943 (Kristofferson). He grew up in a military family in the southern United States, and his family moved often from naval base to naval base (Kristofferson). His peers knew him as a thoughtful, shy, and intelligent person, hardly very outgoing. During high school Jim developed a strong love for literature, poetry, and alcohol, and he kept these loves with him throughout his life. After high school he enrolled at Florida State University, but he soon transferred to the UCLA film school in 1964 (Kristofferson). It was here that Jim met Ray Manzerick, a musician and friend to be. Together Jim and Ray began experimenting with poetry and music, and they soon put together a band that eventually gained them superstar status.
quote by William Blake about The Doors of Perception (The Doors). English author Aldous Huxley was sufficiently inspired by Blake s quote to title his book on mescaline experiences The Doors of Perception. The quote by Blake which stated, If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite was interpreted as a reference to psychedelic drugs such as LSD, peyote, and mescaline (Huxley 15). It was believed that through the taking of LSD or mescaline, the user would be able to perceive things more accurately and have a greater appreciation and understanding of his or her surroundings (Huxley 20). Morrison was so connected to both the works of Blake and Huxley s book, that he proposed the band name The Doors to the others. Everyone agreed that the name, as well as the inspiration from which it sprang, was perfect to express who they were and clearly represent what they stood for (Box Set 46). It was also during the 60 s that people were beginning to use and experiment with such drugs, and as a result The Doors name alone reflected this aspect of their society.
Ray Manzerek, a classically trained pianist, was raised in Chicago with a deep love for the blues. He wrote the themes for many of the songs and played not only the keyboard parts, but simultaneously used his other hand to make the bass lines (Box set 45). John Densmore, a jazz drummer with a keen ability for rhythm and timing, acted as the band’s heart. Robby Krieger, was an unbelievably talented guitarist that could play anything from flamenco to bottle-neck guitar, and he could also write songs when needed. With Jim as the lead vocalist, Ray on the keyboard, John on the drums, and Robbie with the guitar, the band had begun their career in Venice Beach (Kristofferson). Even though they faced very little success at first, Ray was sure that with Jim s poetry and lyrical talents they were sure to excel. By 1966 things were looking better for The Doors. They were playing at a local bar called the Whiskey a Go-Go , and they soon became its official house band (Kristofferson). It was here that they opened for many famous band of the time such as the Rascals, and Van Morrison s band Them (Kristofferson). However, Jim was still very shy on stage. In fact, he usually would not even face the audience while singing (The Doors). Yet with the opportunity to play regularly at The Whiskey, The Doors were able to gradually get used to the life of a rock and roll band. Gradually, Jim conquered his stage fright and The Doors were truly on their way to gaining national and even worldwide fame.
The Doors soon began to gain recognition by record companies as well as more listeners. Jac Holzman, Elektra s founder, signed the group to Elektra Records in 1966 and then later to a small folk music company in July of 1966 (Box set 46). By the fall of 66 The Doors had their first self-titled album released, and as 1967 came, it reached the number one album spot on the charts (Box set 46). They also had a number one single off of the album, called Light my Fire . By April 1971, The Doors had recorded six landmark studio productions, and a two-record set of live performances with the help of their producer Paul A. Rothchild (Box Set 47).
Many of the artistic works produced by The Doors reflect the time period and era that they were in. The song Five to One for example, represents the rebellious state that much of their society was in. It was during the Vietnam War and protests were running rampid. The song was recorded live at the Dinner Key Auditorium in Miami. Jim figured that by 1969, there would be 5 times as many people under the age of 21 as would be over, therefore, why not rebel (Box set 22)? Rebellion was a thing that was beginning to become quite common during the 60 s. Men were burning their draft cards and even American flags in defiance to the Vietnam War. Women were fighting for equal rights and they acted out in such ways as not wearing bras. The Civil Rights movement was also taking place and there were many rebellions concerning it. Protests and marches were held frequently all over the United States especially around Washington D.C.
With such a mass of rebellion and chaos, The Doors song Five to One clearly represent the society that they were in and all the changes that were going on. With it the band urged the young people of society to rebel against the injustices they were faced with, and to fight against anything they did not want to do.
Another song that reflected much of the era that The Doors were in was titled The Soft Parade . It was recorded live on PBS Television in New York during 1970 (Box set 38). The main body of the work and even the title of it reflected the new hippie outlook focusing on love and peace. The Soft Parade is a metaphor for the beginnings of what was known as flower power (Box set 38). People wanted to make love not war. Flowers were placed inside of soldier s guns in protest of all the fighting that was taking place in Vietnam. It was a time when free love was coming about and everyone wanted to get along with one another. The Soft Parade is a song about flower power . In a time when hippies were prevalent, love and peace were a major focus for many, this Doors song certainly reflects the society they were in.
Similarly to The Soft Parade , another song called The Peace Frog reflects a focus on peace and love. The song was originally an instrumental, yet it was later set to words with the help of a collection of Jim s poems (Box set 29). In reference to the song and its meaning Ray Manzerek stated All you have to do is step into it. It s always there just waiting for us to join it, because it is us. We are the energy and the energy is God and we are all one! That s L.S.D. talk. The oneness. That s what I discovered on acid (Box set 30)).
Most of The Doors music was inspired by Jim s poetry and writings. Just as the songs depict the time period that the group was in, so do such poems. There s blood in the Streets was a poem written by Jim which is a reflection upon the bloody times in which they lived (Morrison 109). One verse in it that describes the battles and how the blood level is rising, symbolizes the Vietnam War and all the soldiers that were being lost. As the war continued the body count and fatalities increased, and this poem described the blood in the streets increasing as an analogy. The Doors certainly put a lot of emphasis and focus on death, and it is the result of the period that they were in. When the U.S. was at war and most people did not even understand what for, the senseless fighting stood out as a tragedy. With this being the case, it is no doubt that Morrison wrote often about such topics, and thus many of The Doors songs refer to death and blood.
Many of The Doors songs and Jim s poems also referred to sex among other things. For example, a poem entitled Sex for you clearly defines this as its topic (Morrison 86). In it Morrison explored the realm of sexual encounters between people, and he viewed it as something that was meant to be shared. It depicts sex as an act that everyone should have and that it is necessary for one s existence. There are also many other poems of his that take the same look upon this topic. For example, The Wild Whore Laughs , Lament for the death of my Cock , Cock-Pit , and many more all share the same theme (Morrison 67). During the 60 s and the time that The Doors were in, sex was becoming a big part of the hippie revolution. Instead of surpressing sexual activity as past generations had, many people embraced it during the 60 s. This is certainly the case with many of The Doors works, and consequently they were a product of that time.
As stated before, the 60 s and The Doors had a big connection with drugs. There is one poem in particular, titled Time Works Like Acid , that Jim wrote which sums up a big part of what The Doors were a great deal about (Morrison128). It went as follows:
Time Works like acid / stained eyes/ you see time fly
We are not constant / we are an arrow in flight / the sum of the angles of change
With this poem Jim said a lot about how his outlook was on life. He made an analogy of time to the way acid works, and he described this in the poem. Acid was a huge part of his life among other drugs, and he in fact tripped on L.S.D. well over two hundred and fifty times (Kristofferson). Jim himself can be quoted for saying, I believe in a long detachment of the senses in order to obtain the unknown (The Doors). The Doors were certainly heavy into acid and other psychedelic drugs. At the same time the society around them was also experimenting with such things in the hippie peace and love movement. As a result, the focus upon such things by The Doors is only a mere mirroring of the things that were going on around them.
In the end, after conquering America Jim and The Doors parted and he escaped to Paris France. In a land that he had always loved and dreamed of, Jim set out to pursue his life as a poet (The Doors). But his body was too worn down and his heart was too weak from all that he had done. He had drunk too much and lived wildly while enjoying all that stardom had given to him. As a result, Jim Morrison passed away in Paris on July 3, 1971 while in a bathtub (Box Set 48).
From their beginnings during the summer of 1965 at Venice Beach, California, The Doors were truly a band with a remarkable fusion of creative energies (Box Set 44). A lot of attention has been focused on Jim Morrison, yet Jim was well aware that the magic of The Doors could never have happened without the forging of John, Robby, Ray, and himself. Collectively they made what was successful music group (Box Set 45). Thus, it is no big mystery why Jim never went solo the other three musicians were an essential part to what was needed. Without Robby, Ray and John there is a strong chance that Jim s songs would never have made it off of the page and into the ears of generations to come.
There have certainly been many different musical groups throughout history. Even though many of them have varying styles and techniques, every band is in someway a reflection of the society they are in. This is certainly the case with The Doors, as they were a remarkable group that was able to fuse many different things together. They focused on sex, love, yet also on death, hate and war, each of which topics is in some way
related to the era that they were in. Countless musicians and bands have left a long lasting impression on society, and many have become such legends that even generations after their performances, people still appreciate their works. As many people believe to be the
greatest rock and roll band of all time , the band known as The Doors took rock and roll music to the edge, reflected the society of its time, and influenced many of its listeners.
With Jim as the vocals, Ray on the keyboard, Robbie on the guitar, and John on the drums, The Doors created sounds that will forever remain a legend for all music lovers, and they paved the way for all that rock-and-roll was to become.