Sunday, 1 December 2013

The Doors

Who knows just how many bands, who crashed and burned in the 60s or 70s, have become unknown in the decades that have followed. Bands who never got beyond a cult status, or are only known to people who were there “at the time”. The Doors are different. Their profile was raised to an almost unimaginable level of fame thanks to the 1991 movie, and although there have been some half hearted reunions since, usually under banners other than The Doors due to in band legal fighting, this is a band who officially ceased to exist over 40 years ago, and yet still seem as relevant as ever.

They didn’t really last that long - a period of just four and a half years occurred between their debut single and their final one with Jim Morrison as front man, and by the end of 1972, it was really finally all over. Yet in that time, they managed six studio albums with Jim (and two without) and played enough shows to capture a sizeable chunk of live material on tape. 2013 has seen the release of a singles boxset which has kept them in the public eye still, so in celebration of the box, I thought I would have a quick look at the band’s UK releases.


The band released their self titled debut LP in 1967. Home to several of the band’s most famous compositions (“Light My Fire”, “Break On Through”, “The End”), it set out the band’s agenda from the off. It featured the famous band logo on the front, and perhaps telling of how much of a rockstar Morrison would become, features his image far more prominently than his band mates. Before the year end, the band had a second classic album in the shops, “Strange Days”, housed in the famous “circus performers” sleeve. It was home to the epic “When The Music’s Over” and “People Are Strange”, later covered by uber-fans Echo And The Bunnymen, and continued the band’s psychedelic blues style.

1968’s “Waiting For The Sun”, housed in a beautiful sleeve with the sun providing a backdrop behind the four band members, has been the subject of mixed reviews over the years. Home to the bouncy organ pop of “Hello I Love You”, it was this move away from the more “far out” sound of their past that upset some of their most vocal supporters, but it was also home to the snarling anti-war march of “The Unknown Soldier”, and last time I listened to it, it sounded quite good.

Similarly, few people seem to ever name check 1969’s “The Soft Parade”, although it’s title was appropriated by the Brighton based band of the same name (although later changed to “The Electric Soft Parade” due to legal wrangling with a Doors cover band who were already using the name). However, I seem to recall having listened to this one numerous times over the years and enjoying it every time, perhaps the prog-esque looking title track, nine minutes in length, has always been epic enough to entice me back time and time again.

But it was 1970’s “Morrison Hotel” that was regarded as a superior album, their “comeback”, driven along by the boogie woogie romp that was album opener “Roadhouse Blues”. Parts of the album consisted of songs originally started on several years earlier (“Waiting For The Sun”, after it failed to make the LP of the same name, appeared here instead) which would suggest an element of barrel scraping, but critics love it. I think the picture of the band looking out of the window of an actual Morrison Hotel is rather clever.

Another one I keep returning to, probably because of it being home to two enormous Doors tunes, is 1971’s “LA Woman”. The title track is a glorious eight minute, hi energy, rock and roll blues workout, but the crowning achievement has to be the closing “Riders On The Storm”, a beautiful, atmospheric, and epic piece of music, whenever I hear it, it conjures up images in my head of some big Cadillac car driving through the desert, with nobody and nothing else in sight. It’s a stunning, towering piece of work, a brilliant end to a magnificent record - and also, strangely, more or less, the song marking the end of the band’s career. Only a few months later, Morrison was found dead in Paris.

The band decided to carry on, keyboard player Ray Manzarek had sung lead on several Doors tunes previously, and thus sort of took over as front man. Two albums with the remaining trio, “Other Voices” and “Full Circle”, were issued in October 71 and July 72 respectively before they finally split, and for many years, these albums have been dismissed or ignored by many - including the band themselves. Try hard enough, and you will find these records on CD (they can be found on what seem to be unofficial 2-on-1 sets), but unlike the other albums in the back catalogue, they haven’t been reissued multiple times since their original release, and probably remain as the black sheep of The Doors family.

Before the band’s six albums were reissued as 40th Anniversary editions from 2007 onwards (often with alternate mixes of several songs included instead of the original versions), several boxsets had been issued that had cobbled them together in one place. I have a 1999 set called “The Complete Studio Recordings” (US Only 7xCD, Elektra 62434-2), which has reissues of all of the Morrison era albums, along with a CD of rarities called “Essential Rarities”, which included one previously unreleased song (this bonus album was later released separately in it‘s own right). Each of the albums were housed in vinyl style boxed sleeves, with each CD housed in a nifty paper inner sleeve as well, and were designed to return the design of the albums back to their original LP state - “LA Woman” came in the “shiny see through” cover of the original, previous CD releases having just tried to replicate this design by simply using the basic cover image with the photo of the band tinted in yellow. “The Doors” is also of interest, because some previous vocals “lost” in the mix of the original 1967 version, were brought to the forefront - both “Break On Through” and “The End” have sections that are significantly different to the original version(s).

I have never really thought of The Doors as a singles band - indeed, I think that most of my singles are from countries other than the UK. But the band did originally issue 15 singles with Morrison, and three more without, although some were spectacular flops. The band also didn’t really do “B-sides”, with only “Who Scared You” and “Don’t Go No Further” being non album flipsides from the Morrison days, and “Treetrunk” thereafter. The aforementioned “Essential Rarities” CD includes “Who Scared You”, although the version in the “Complete Studio” boxset is an edited mix. The version on the “separately released” edition is the original mix. After the end of the band, several posthumous singles would surface, often using an A-side that had previously been released as a single in the UK before (such as 1991’s “Light My Fire”) but sometimes not (1980’s “The End”).


With the band having garnered something of a live reputation (even without mentioning that “on stage exposure“ incident in Miami), it should come as no surprise that a sizeable number of live releases have surfaced ever since the band’s first live record, 1970’s “Absolutely Live”, issued after the release of “Morrison Hotel” and thus the only live album to appear whilst Morrison was still alive.

1983’s “Alive She Cried”, I guess, was an attempt to get new Doors material out on the market - it was an LP consisting entirely of unreleased live recordings, and probably showed that the vaults were full of Doors tapes just waiting to be exhumed. To further emphasize it’s importance, the live version of “Gloria” included on the LP was issued as a UK single to coincide. Although “Live At The Hollywood Bowl” is listed as it’s official follow up, this was actually just an EP (or mini album) that surfaced in 1987. It has since been revamped into a full blown album, and is also available, in a variety of forms, on both VHS and DVD.

1991’s “In Concert” was the next release to exhume things from the vaults. It was essentially a 2-CD set compiling both the “Absolutely Live” and “Alive She Cried” releases, although the track listing was, for some reason, slightly mixed up in parts. There was one song from the Hollywood Bowl EP (“The Unknown Soldier”) and a live version of “Roadhouse Blues”, previously only available on the (in my view) fake Doors album from 1978, “An American Prayer” - a record that consisted, mostly, of a reformed Doors playing backing music to a series of poetry recitals by Morrison. Indeed, even the album itself was not really credited to “The Doors”, so in my view, one for completists only. The big rarity on “In Concert” was the closing “The End”, which was previously unreleased.

Come the millennium, and the surviving members of the band announced the formation of Bright Midnight Records, which was designed to make available previously unavailable Doors material - mainly dealing with concerts, but with some other odds and sods lined up for release. The album series was to be made available as mail order only releases from the band’s website, and as a preview to the releases, an album called “The Bright Midnight Sampler” was issued, with highlights from eight gigs that were to be made available in coming years. A delayed UK release, in a totally different sleeve, surfaced later in 2001 as “Bright Midnight Live In America”.

The series commenced properly with “Live In Detroit”, a 2-CD trawl though a gig the band had played at the Cobo Arena on 8th May 1970. It was followed by a box set, the 4-CD ‘Audio Documentary‘, “No One Here Gets Out Alive”, mostly interviews but with some musical interludes contained within. The next “proper” release was 2001’s “Live In Hollywood: Highlights From The Aquarius Theatre Performances”, another album that appeared later in the UK - with an alternate track listing and new sleeve - as 2002’s “Live In Hollywood”.

The next two releases from the website were the two Aquarius Theatre shows, with a rehearsal from the same venue issued as the next release, titled “Backstage And Dangerous” in late 2002. Since then, seven more sets have been released (along with the “expanded” Hollywood Bowl show), but this still means that several concerts are seemingly sitting in the vaults, as the band claimed 36 albums were to be released on the label. Quite whether the series will continue after Manzarek’s death, we shall wait and see. It is worth noting that several of the latter albums in the series are available via online retailers like Amazon as they were issued “normally“, and whilst the older ones - like the Detroit show - seem to be available on there as well, they sell for a small fortune when you look closely...after all, these are the deleted mail order ones being sold by record dealers through the site. It is worth pointing out that the 2003 boxset “Boot Yer Butt” seems to source material from no less than 30 shows, whilst just one song on the “Bright Midnight Sampler” seems to be (now) previously unreleased, so maybe the vaults have already been emptied, bar this one gig (Bakersfield, 1970).


Well, it’s difficult to know where to start with Doors compilations. For a band who didn’t really do B-sides, and for whom all of their singles were lifted from their most recent studio album, the question has to be - how many greatest hits albums does one band need?

1980’s “Greatest Hits” (LP, Elektra K 52254) does what it says on the tin, and although not the first compilation issued in the UK, does - by virtue of it’s release date - cover the entire band’s career, from “Light My Fire” through to “LA Woman”. 1985’s “The Best Of The Doors” (2xCD, Elektra 7559 60345 2) does more or less the same, albeit in much longer form. It is a sort of expanded reissue of an earlier, identically titled 1973 version (LP, Elektra K 42143), and was for some years the definitive hits set before being deleted in the 90s. A third variant of the album surfaced in another new cover in 2000, which was initially released as a numbered double CD with a series of previously unreleased remixes on disc 2 (2xCD, Elektra 7559 62569 2). Pointless, but there we go.

1997 saw the release of “The Doors Box Set”, a quadruple CD trundle through the band’s past (4xCD, Elektra 7599 62123 2). Two discs were devoted to rarities and live material, with another disc titled “Live In New York”, featuring a series of performances from the band’s shows at the Felt Forum in the city on January 17th and 18th 1970. One of the Bright Midnight releases is effectively a heavily expanded version of this disc. The fourth disc in the box is called “Band Favourites”, and you can probably guess what it is. A 15 song “best of”, with each of the - at the time - surviving band members selecting five of their favourites. Nothing rare then. The box was also available in two halves, with “Box Set Part 1” (2xCD, Elektra 7599 62295 2) including the New York stuff, and “Box Set Part 2” (2xCD, Elektra 7599 62296 2) the band favourites disc. All three releases used the same basic cover image.


I have listed the details of the original CD pressings of The Doors seven Morrison era albums, just because I have had the Doors albums for years, and so I know a few of the albums from these versions as opposed to the “tarted up” editions that have surfaced post 2007. The singles listed are the original UK singles issued from 1967 to 1983, anything that appeared thereafter was effectively a reissue of something already released.


The Doors (CD, Elektra 7559 74007 2)
Strange Days (CD, Elektra 7559 74014 2)
Waiting For The Sun (CD, Elektra 7559 74024 2)
The Soft Parade (CD, Elektra 7559 75005 2)
Morrison Hotel (CD, Elektra 7559 75007 2)
Absolutely Live (CD, Elektra 7559 61972 2, CD version housed in different cover to original LP release)
LA Woman (CD, Elektra 7559 75011 2)

There aren’t too many other “odd” releases knocking about, apart from a vinyl version of “LA Woman” featuring alternate takes exclusively (Rhino 8122 79577 7) and the soundtrack CD to the film “When You’re Strange” (Rhino 8122 79811 3). All of the 2007 reissues had originally appeared in the “Perception” boxset from 2006, which also included a freebie DVD as part of the package. Whilst the new singles boxset quite happily covers the post-Morrison years, the two LP's from the period have, as mentioned earlier, become long lost vinyl/cassette/8-track rarities never re-released in the UK - "Other Voices" (Elektra K 42104) and "Full Circle" (Elektra K 42116). 2011 also saw the release of the "Collection" box, which includes reissues of the six Morrison albums in their "40th Anniversary" remix form, but with the bonus tracks from the original reissues missing.


Alive She Cried (CD, Elektra 7559 60269 2)
In Concert (2xCD, Elektra 7599 61082 2)
Bright Midnight: Live In America (CD, Elektra 7559 62656 2)
Live In Detroit (2xCD, Bright Midnight RHM2 7902)
Live In Hollywood (CD, Elektra 7559 62733 2)
Live At The Aquarius Theatre: The First Performance (2xCD, Bright Midnight RHM2 7906)
Live At The Aquarius Theatre: The Second Performance (2xCD, Bright Midnight RHM2 7907)
Backstage And Dangerous: The Private Rehearsal (2xCD, Bright Midnight RHM2 7908)
Boot Yer Butt! The Doors Bootlegs (4xCD, Bright Midnight RHM2 7911)
Live In Philadelphia 70 (2xCD, Bright Midnight RHM2 7912)
Live In Boston (3xCD, Bright Midnight 8122 79979 0)
Live At The Matrix 67 (2xCD, Bright Midnight 8122 79884 8)
Live In Pittsburgh 1970 (CD, Bright Midnight 8122 79970 7)
Live In New York (6xCD, Bright Midnight 8122 79838 0)
Live In Vancouver (2xCD, Bright Midnight 8122 79786 8)

Also worthy of a mention, aside from the expanded “Live At The Bowl” set (Rhino 8122 797120 - which I‘d personally get on DVD really if I were you), is the aforementioned “No One Here Gets Out Alive” (Bright Midnight RHM2 7903). Several other Bright Midnight releases exist which seem to be nothing more than interview sets, so they are not mentioned here. Generally, the “RHM2” releases were the US ones only available via mail order, the last five ones in the list were made available via general outlets, and - box sets aside - can be hunted down quite easily and relatively cheaply.


Break On Through/End Of The Night (7”, Elektra EKSN 45009)
Alabama Song/Take It As It Comes (7”, Elektra EKSN 45012)
Light My Fire (Edit)/The Crystal Ship (7”, Elektra EKSN 45014)
People Are Strange/Unhappy Girl (7”, Elektra EKSN 45017)
Love Me Two Times/Moonlight Drive (7”, Elektra EKSN 45022)
The Unknown Soldier/We Could Be So Good Together (7”, Elektra EKSN 45030)
Hello I Love You/Love Street (7”, Elektra EKSN 45037)
Touch Me/Wild Child (7”, Elektra EKSN 45050)
Wishful Sinful/Who Scared You (7”, Elektra EKSN 45059)
Tell All The People/Easy Ride (7”, Elektra EKSN 45065)
You Make Me Real/The Spy (7”, Elektra 2101 004)
Roadhouse Blues/Blue Sunday (7”, Elektra 2101 008)
Love Her Madly/Don’t Go No Further (7”, Elektra EK 45726)
Riders On The Storm/Changeling (7”, Elektra K 12021)
Tightrope Ride/Variety Is The Spice Of Life (7”, Elektra K 12036)
Ships With Sails/In The Eye Of The Sun (7”, Elektra K 12048)
Get Up And Dance/Treetrunk (7”, Elektra K 12059)
The End +1 (7”, Elektra K 12400)
Gloria (Live - Edit)/Love Me Two Times (Live) (7”, Elektra E 9774, 12“ also exists but plays album version of a-side)

Wherever a Doors single was reissued again in the UK, the b-side was usually the same, or at the least, another “oldie” - these may well be easier to find than some of the original pressings, although the reissue of “Love Her Madly” that exists replaces the original non-album B-side with an easy to obtain oldie, which seems a bit pointless. Later reissues, such as 1991’s “Light My Fire”, come in full picture covers, unlike their 60s/70s originals. Anybody interested in finding the original b-sides “Who Scared You” and “Don’t Go No Further” on LP would do well to hunt down the 1972 album “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mine” (LP, Elektra K 62009).

The recent singles boxset is based on Japanese 45's, and thus includes reissues of all of these except “Break On Through”, “Alabama Song”, “Wishful Sinful”, “You Make Me Real”, “Roadhouse Blues” and “Ship With Sails”. “The End” and “Gloria” are also missing because they are posthumous releases. It is also worth pointing out that the box also includes singles that were never issued in the UK (“Runnin Blue”, “Land Ho!” and “The Mosquito”), whilst there are the usual mono mixes and unique edits, with the likes of “Love Her Madly” shorter than the album mix, but still longer than the US 7” mix. More info about it here:

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