Jim Morrison: Mad Love
One of my musically-inclined friends once told me he thought The Doors were one of the most overrated bands of all time. I disagree — even if you approach the Doors simply for their catchy/commercial songwriting (the way popular culture seems to measure all music since The Beatles), they still have a unique songwriting style and vibe that no one else had.
But the vibe — yeah, that’s what this band is about. The Doors were some dark-siders; specifically, Jim Morrison was into some dark-ass shit. The Doors have some catchy hit songs for sure, but they aren’t light-hearted the way a lot of their peers were. There are some strange-feeling passions going on underneath there. The funny thing is how bands like Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones tried to market their dark “occult” side with references and symbolism. The Doors never did that so blatantly, but were naturally much closer to that sort of thing. To play it up would have been overkill at the time.
“Light My Fire” was the hit single off of their debut full-length, but it’s a 7+ minute song. That only makes sense if you listen to tracks like “Crystal Ship” or “Alabama Song” or “Take it as it Comes” — more concise tunes, but with a much darker feel. It’s like you’re at some weird occult seance or orgy. It’s a real direct window into the bizarre spiritual landscape of California in the 1960s. It has a strong emotional feeling to it.
The band’s sound becomes easier to describe with more musical movements to compare it to. The music hints at elements of dark-wave, prog rock/metal, and noise. I could imagine The Doors having gone into a free-jazz direction, or getting truly lounge-y with their sound. I could even see them getting drawn into sludge or early heavy metal, though I doubt anyone in the band had that interest. Between the mix of blues, jazz, acid-rock and a neo-beatnik feel, they result in a very peculiar mix.
And then that whole ’60s spiritual scene fractured and Jim Morrison was gone. An arbiter of that cultural decadence with nowhere to go once the tides shifted. He died in Paris, some Bohemian out of a Henry Miller novel, a casualty of drugs like so many people, then and now.