It's been 40 years since the Doors stood the Summer of Love on its head with a self-titled statement of purpose that sent the brooding fuck-me pop of "Light My Fire" all the way to No. 1 but also included the Oedipal midnight rambling of "The End," a terrifying, album-closing portrait in dysfunction. And that same year brought an even darker, more disorienting second album, Strange Days, which feels even creepier in retrospect (despite the presence of another sexed-up pop hit, "Love Me Two Times"). This was dangerous stuff, as dark and nihilistic as The Velvet Underground & Nico ever was, but sexier and more surreal. And like the Velvet Underground, it played a crucial role in punk's developing aesthetic. The Stooges borrowed freely from the Doors on their revolutionary debut two years later. And without the Stooges? Well, there is no punk. The Doors had major pop hits, though, which may be why they're rarely mentioned in the same breath as those alternative icons. But they should be. Sure, Jim Morrison could be hard to take at times, a "poet" best appreciated while extremely high or still in high school. But the Doors' greatest moments transcend Morrison's goofiest lapses into pseudo-intellectual buffoonery "Horse Latitudes" included. And the albums haven't lost their luster or their edge even now, as the 40th-anniversary reissues of those first six albums hit the streets on Rhino. They've survived a ridiculous myth-making movie by Oliver Stone, an absurd, ill-advised reunion tour with that dude from the Cult on vocals, and the fact that total losers really like them. They've survived because they're classic albums well, four of them anyway (the debut, Strange Days, Morrison Hotel and L.A. Woman). And the other two are not without their fucked-up charms. There's definitely nothing to suggest what Blender magazine was thinking when, four years ago, they placed the Doors at No. 37 as the token controversial entry on their list of the 50 Worst Artists in Music History. Few artists worked the dark side of the psychedelic dream to more profound effect than the Doors, whether warning that "Strange days have found us" or telling the tale of the killer who woke before dawn and put his boots on in a song that makes you wonder how much scarier the Manson Family could have been if their leader had looked to the Doors and not the Beatles for clues.
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