Line Out Music & the City at Night

Monday, January 23, 2012

Can't Knock 'Em: The Doors' Greatest Non-Hits

Posted by on Mon, Jan 23, 2012 at 10:44 AM

Megan’s recent post about how KISS, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and the Doors polarize listeners inspired a lot of chatter about the merits of the latter. (I don’t give a damn about KISS or RHCP, really. Y’all can debate about ’em till Gene Simmons’ tongue turns burnt sienna, for all I care.)

I maintain that most Doors haters haven’t delved deeply into the LA band’s catalog, and therefore have a superficial and/or distorted perception of them. Scattered among the Doors’ six albums proper, cut with the original four members, are many excellent songs. You can loathe Jim Morrison’s “poetry” or his alleged self-importance and self-mythologizing or body odor, but you have to have tin ears not to appreciate some of the Doors’ music’s serpentine beauty and psychedelic grandeur.

Haters gonna hate™ (Line Out commenter Chris Jury thinks the Doors “had no business making music”; harsh and so very wrong), but in the spirit of trying to convert or initiate at least a few readers, I’ve compiled what I think represents the group’s best material that hasn’t been overplayed on radio, jukeboxes, film soundtracks, TV programs, or your uncle’s home stereo system (not to imply that many of those songs aren't worth your precious time; most of them are). Which means I’m going to exclude “The End” and “When the Music’s Over,” which are mighty and sublime epics in which you should luxuriate at least once a year. Would the climax of Apocalypse Now be so momentous without the former scoring it? No. Recognize its majesty.

So, finally, here are the tracks with which I will make my case for the Doors’ greatness and relevance, even in 2012, even with the knowledge that “Horse Latitudes” exists. “Ride the snake,” motherfuckers.

01 The Crystal Ship (The Doors)
02 End of the Night (The Doors)
03 You’re Lost Little Girl (Strange Days)
04 My Eyes Have Seen You (Strange Days)
05 I Can’t See Your Face in My Mind (Strange Days)
06 Strange Days (Strange Days)
07 Unhappy Girl (Strange Days)
08 Moonlight Drive (Strange Days)
09 Not to Touch the Earth (Waiting for the Sun)
10 The Unknown Soldier (Waiting for the Sun)
11 Five to One (Waiting for the Sun)
12 The Soft Parade (The Soft Parade)
13 Peace Frog (Morrison Hotel)
14 Waiting for the Sun (Morrison Hotel)
15 Indian Summer (Morrison Hotel)
16 L’America (L.A. Woman)


Comments (33) RSS

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lowlytootle 1
Thanks for doing this. I used to be a HUGE Doors fan as a teenager, and as an adult I fall into making fun of the Doors, but I so easily forget how much I loved some of these songs. It is easy to make fun of The Doors and Jim Morrison, too easy in fact. These are really good examples of The Doors not sucking. 'The Crystal Ship' is a fine psych ditty that still makes me swoon.
Posted by lowlytootle on January 23, 2012 at 11:26 AM · Report this
corey j brewer 2
This looks a lot like a cd I burned for a friend entitled: "Doors mix for people who hate the Doors".
Posted by corey j brewer on January 23, 2012 at 11:33 AM · Report this
Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In 3
@1 I'm in the same boat as you. I'm eminently qualified to criticize The Doors, but really, what's the point? The sad fact for me is that their songs have a shelf life. After so many listenings, they lose their freshness. A lot of McCartney songs are like that as well. I think if people hadn't idolized Morrison so much, the hate wouldn't be so vitriolic. Danny Sugarman did Jim no favors by writing that ludicrous hagiography, but his cult certainly didn't start there.
Posted by Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In on January 23, 2012 at 12:19 PM · Report this
Original Monique 4
I have never understood the hate for The Doors. Sure. their radio songs reek from being overplayed (to death, really) but the majority of their music is really good. Haters gonna hate, I guess.
Posted by Original Monique on January 23, 2012 at 12:25 PM · Report this
Gotta include Maggie McGill (Morrison Hotel), Roadhouse Blues (Morrison Hotel), and the Changeling (LA Woman). In fact, I think the entire LA Woman record is tops. And the Oliver Stone movie? Classic.
Posted by gasjet2000 on January 23, 2012 at 12:32 PM · Report this
My Doors appreciation arrives in waves- I'll miss listening to them, re-add a couple of my favorite Doors albums to the iPod, and enjoy hearing "Shaman's Blues" and "Peace Frog" pop up randomly. Their best stuff- when Jim was not too drunk and the band got on a decent groove- rivals the output of the best bands of the sixties. It's been eye-opening for me hearing the band tear into their songs on alternate takes and live recordings that have only seen the light of day in the past decade. My appreciation is not just nostalgia- though, like many, I first encountered and embraced the Doors as an adolescent, and every time I play Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine I am taken straight back to that bone-dry summer of 1983 when I owned a '68 Mustang with an 8-track player and played that album on road trips- but I still find plenty of things to enjoy in the remastered albums- an unexpectedly hot Robby Krieger lick, Jim saying something odd off-mic, the sheer exhilaration of a rock solid alternate take of "Roadhouse Blues" colliding with Jim making it up as he goes- "You know money beats soul every time!"

Referring to the article that probably spawned this response- it's all a hell of a lot more interesting than anything than Kiss or Red Hot Chili Peppers ever did.
Posted by modrachlan srarmons on January 23, 2012 at 12:40 PM · Report this
robotbutler 7
Needs more Soft Parade.
Posted by robotbutler on January 23, 2012 at 12:41 PM · Report this
YES! Thanks so much. Great list. It really made me sad to see The Doors lumped in with the execrable KISS and the almost-completely-awful Chilis.

I think it's easy to see how great The Doors were - listen to 95% of the music made during that era and tell me it's aged as well. Listen to the Electric Prunes or even Love (who I love) and it sounds like 60s 60s 60s, but The Doors mostly just make me think of The Doors.
Posted by Daily in LA on January 23, 2012 at 12:43 PM · Report this
I think of the 3 (4) bands set forward, they are the least objectionable...but beating out Sublime is not a very high bar. The problem is familiarity- everyone over 30 has heard all their songs, and everyone under 30 inherited a copy of the Motion Picture soundtrack from an older cousin. There are no surprises. The End, Peace frog and a few others have some merits, as catchy or interesting, but much less so than songs by The Monkees or the Dave Clark Five.

Kiss' disco output was their pinnacle, in terms of musicianship and inventiveness, in much the same way that Picasso's best work was actually in ceramics. I think The Doors just never got a chance to find what they would have been best at. A friend, upon hearing The Modern Lovers for the first time, suggested that they were like a much better version of The Doors, replacing the pompous with the joyful and simple...I like that analysis.
Posted by Chris Jury on January 23, 2012 at 12:43 PM · Report this
lucida c. 10
“Horse Latitudes”! Haha. Hahahaha. I had blocked that particular traumatic musical memory. (I agree that many of the songs on that list are worthwhile.)
Posted by lucida c. on January 23, 2012 at 12:52 PM · Report this
blip 11
I would never consider myself as having more than a casual familiarity with The Doors, so I'm surprised by how many songs on this list I know.

Anyway they're great musicians and all that but it's just not my thing. There is precious little music from the 60s I don't hate. It's just the general aesthetic of that era. The sounds that were popular at the time are cheesy as fuck.
Posted by blip on January 23, 2012 at 12:57 PM · Report this
Riders on the Storm
Posted by paulus on January 23, 2012 at 1:09 PM · Report this
Please don't forget "Soul Kitchen", the funkiest the band ever got. "Alabama Song" is also one of my faves. What other '60s act could have covered a Bertholt Brecht song on a debut album and gotten away with it? Come to think of it, that first album doesn't have one bad track on it, even though two of them are admittedly way overplayed.
Posted by apollo winnefred on January 23, 2012 at 1:13 PM · Report this
Let's not forget "Soul Kitchen", the funkiest the band ever got. Also, there's "Alabama Song". What other '60s act could have covered a Bertolt Brecht song and gotten away with it? Come to think of it, there's really not one bad track on that album, even though two of them are admittedly overplayed.
Posted by apollo winnefred on January 23, 2012 at 1:18 PM · Report this
You missing The Doors greatest song - Summer's Almost Gone!

Great list.

Made a spotify playlist out of it…
Posted by aweissman on January 23, 2012 at 1:36 PM · Report this
You missing The Doors greatest song - Summer's Almost Gone!

Great list.

Made a spotify playlist out of it…
Posted by aweissman on January 23, 2012 at 1:38 PM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 17
The Red Hot Chili Peppers would be be remembered more fondly if they'd died in a Paris hotel room right after Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magic came out. I'd hate to think of The Doors churning out albums into the 80s...

But I loved them to death as a teenager in the 90s and like them now.
Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings on January 23, 2012 at 1:44 PM · Report this
derek_erdman 18
"Hey, man, listen up. I'm gonna let you in on a little secret.

You know that new Depeche Mode album? It sucks. You know what? That new Cure album? It sucks. That new Happy Mondays album? I don't know if there is one, but, if there is, it sucks.

I can say this 'cause I know, 'cause I'm a Doors fan.

And, you know, if you wanna be a Doors fan, you know what? You might already be one and you don't even know it. You know, sort of like being gay. You're walkin' around, you know somethin's up, you just don't know what it is yet.

You see, Doors fans aren't made, they're born. I bet right now, in Africa, there's some guy madly beatin' on a drum. He's one. Or an old lady on a bus, sucking humbugs. She's a "rider on the storm" and she don't even know it. I do, 'cause I'm a Doors fan.

And, if you wanna be a Doors fan, don't just go buy a "greatest hits" album either. Greatest hits albums are for housewives and little girls. If you want to be a Doors fan, you got to do it right. It's very scientific. You got to buy Waiting For The Sun. It's their third album, but, really, it's their first. We call it "the departure point".

Okay. Quick quiz: who's playing bass? Hmm? No bass. That's right, the Doors had no bass. You see, the gypsies had no homes. Don't let that scare you, let that free you. Let that liberate you. 'Cause when you're free-flying with the Doors, man, you don't need no safety net.

If you just scream "Viva la Doors!" loud enough for your landlord to start thumping on the wall, then you might, in fact, be a Doors fan.

There's one way to know for absolute sure. Get an eight-track tape of L.A. Woman (there's only a few in existence) and steal a car. Even if you own one, steal a car. Get in that car, play the tape, full-blast, and drive West. When the tape ends, get out and go to the nearest bar and start to play pool or pinball or possibly even foosball and wait to get into a fight. Afterwards, get back in that car and drive it until it runs out of gas. Then, torch it. And, as you're standing there watching those flames, if you can still hear the Doors sound, then, my friend, you will have become a Doors fan.

You wanna know how I know? You wanna know who told me? Well, last year, Jim fucking Morrison told me, that's who! He came to me. 'Cause I'm a Doors fan! I'm a Doors fan, man! Man. I love this sound. I like the Doors."

- Bruce McCulloch, 1995
Posted by derek_erdman on January 23, 2012 at 1:45 PM · Report this
Gurldoggie 19
Are you people even serious, or is this some kind of grand joke? Because I do NOT get it. The Doors are the worst fucking band ever. Amateur musicians playing predictable rubbish behind the cheesiest hokiest middle-school narcissist lyricist THAT EVER WAS. Disgusting creeps playing anthems for nothing, and using the cheapest most nauseatingly awful theatrics to hide their total lack of musicianship and intelligence. God, I'm getting sick just thinking about those poseur jerks. I'm just relieved the guy is dead and gone.

Not one of you knows what you're talking about. I can't even believe we're still having this conversation.
Posted by Gurldoggie on January 23, 2012 at 1:46 PM · Report this
I rather enjoy "My Wild Love" AND "Horse Latitudes". They don't have to be examples of amazing songwriting for them to give me chills.
Posted by GlassMoon on January 23, 2012 at 1:56 PM · Report this
I love "Soul Kitchen" but it seems like it's already very well known. The aim here was to spotlight lesser-known worthy songs in the Doors' catalog.

@19 The Doors are the worst fucking band ever. Speaking of grand jokes...
Posted by Dave Segal on January 23, 2012 at 2:01 PM · Report this
biffp 22
It's the Doors list for people who can't listen to the Doors on the radio. I'd put Riders on the Storm at the top of that list. The crap they play on the radio is the stuff I can't imagine they were serious about when they recorded. Peace Frog is an awesome song.
Posted by biffp on January 23, 2012 at 2:09 PM · Report this
I never thought of "Soul Kitchen" as being too overplayed. It was never a single (to my knowledge at least) and I almost never hear it on the radio. Actually, I have heard some of the songs listed above way more often on the airwaves. Then again, I don't listen to the radio that much these days, so maybe I've missed something... Back when I was younger even classic rock stations were more regional, so perhaps it has something to do with where one grew up.

But just to redeem myself, how about "Cars Hiss by my Window"?
Posted by apollo winnefred on January 23, 2012 at 2:30 PM · Report this
LEE. 24
this is a great compilation of songs, but there's no need to delve so deep. anyone who doesn't like "Touch Me" is a fucking dick. there, I said it.

also, @18, thank you, sir!
Posted by LEE. on January 23, 2012 at 2:33 PM · Report this
cosby 25
'Soul Kitchen' wasn't a single, but was covered by X, and thus has been played for too often on the West Coast.

I don't mind 'Horse Latitudes', but then I don't really pay attention to the words. It's kind of a ballsy inclusion for a band making their second album.
Posted by cosby on January 23, 2012 at 3:29 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 26
@ 19, name some popular rock bands that you like. Bands with gold and platinum records, please, and not just their earlier, more obscure works.
Posted by Matt from Denver on January 23, 2012 at 3:46 PM · Report this
I've got a lot of time for "Riders on the Storm," but, again, I've heard it a lot on the radio and elsewhere.

@20 I came thisclose to putting "My Wild Love" on this list.
Posted by Dave Segal on January 23, 2012 at 4:10 PM · Report this
Thanks for posting this, Dave. I've always been into the music of The Doors, and only recently have encountered people who are vehemently against every element of the band. Maybe they're closeted Doors fans who don't have the balls to admit they once smoked a joint and rocked out to 'Break On Through'. Oh the scandal!
Regardless...when compared to their contemporaries, The Doors brought a sexy, edgy and mysterious darkness to rock & roll that many other bands of the day never touched upon. Look up the Billboard top 100 songs of 1967 for comparison of other bands (and their hits) who were around at the time. Interesting stuff. They also pushed musical boundaries by straying from the 'traditional' rock band set up, forgoing a live bass player - not to mention that in the day Morrison would have been an utterly captivating front-man.
Posted by granny smith on January 23, 2012 at 4:33 PM · Report this
Kathy Fennessy 29
Derek: that was great. For any Doors fan who hasn't seen Tom DiCillo's documentary, People Are Strange, you won't regret it. Oliver Stone's overwrought melodrama did the band no favors.
Posted by Kathy Fennessy on January 23, 2012 at 6:16 PM · Report this
Cynic Romantic 30
@ 29 "The Doors: When You're Strange".

Man, I love The Doors. But I quit listening to radio a long time ago.
Posted by Cynic Romantic on January 23, 2012 at 7:33 PM · Report this
I'd just like to relate something from my childhood:

In 7th grade I was heavily into the Doors and for an English paper I wrote on Death and Geneology (god I wish I still had a copy of paper), I used some 'poetry' from "The End" as an epigraph. It sure seemed deep and perfectly evocative of... something, way back then...

I haven't thought of this in a million years, but I'm going to see if I can recite it from memory...

"You know how pale and wanton thrillful comes death in a strange hour? Uncalled for, unannounced, like haunting, overfriendly guest you've brought to bed. Death makes strangers of us all, and gives us wings where we had shoulders, smooth as ravens claws."

I probably got it a little off, but you get the picture. Imagine what it's like for a 7th grader to think about bringing a guest to bed! Far out.
Posted by Jude Fawley on January 23, 2012 at 8:37 PM · Report this
Can someone make this list into a YouTube playlist for those of us that don't do Spotify?
Posted by Grease Wizard on January 24, 2012 at 9:17 AM · Report this
Just love The Doors! Spotted a great new book recently: "We Want The World: Jim Morrison, The Living Theatre and the FBI" - check it out on Amazon!
Posted by parkp on May 7, 2012 at 3:46 PM · Report this

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