For a band that was active less than ten years with only six studio albums (with all four members) The Doors became an iconic band of the late 1960s. They pushed the edge of popular rock music; crafting poetic lyrics of sex and death over blues-rock inspired instrumentation, while still managing to produce a sound that was both new, but similar enough to popular music to draw the masses, launching them into international triumph.
Following the success of their self-titled debut, The Doors released their second studio album, Strange Days, the same year. Some of the work for the album was already complete as the band had songs recorded from the previous album that didn’t make the cut, such as their second single “Love Me Two Times.”
The song was written by guitarist, Robby Krieger, and was one of the few songs during the band’s career that had minimal lyrical input from lead singer Jim Morrison. The lyrics were inspired by the bands life on the road as well as by the soldiers called away to the Vietnam War as they ask their lovers to “love me two times, babe/ ‘cause I’m going away/love me two time, girl/one for tomorrow/one just for today.” It has been noted that Morrison drops the “s” from the word “time” in certain spots, giving the song a second meaning as if to insinuate that when he leaves, his lover shall be an unfaithful, two-timing woman.
Morrison’s positivity toward others seems to be limited as the album goes from unfaithful women to the oddness of the rising hippie youth culture with The Doors’ first single off the album, “People Are Strange.” The song is an anthem for the outsider, or in the case of the late 60s, the emerging hippie. Morrison’s haunting voice almost sneaks in as begins to sing “People are strange when you’re a stranger/ Faces look ugly when you’re alone/ Women seem wicked when you’re unwanted/Streets are uneven when you’re down.”
Morrison’s haunting voice is just one of the elements that adds to the psychedelic sound that can be heard throughout Strange Days. While the album has a lot of blues influence, it does showcase some innovative sounds for its time. Strange Days opens with the self-titled single. The song begins with Manzarek on the synthesizer, setting up a psychedelic sound that wasn’t as popular as it would later become in the 1970s. As “Strange Days” comes to a close and “You’re Lost Little Girl” fades in, the eeriness is still present, but becomes less prominent as the drums pick up. The synth sounds continue to be played with throughout the album, showing up in songs such as “Unhappy Girl.”
The vocal eeriness is still present, even when halfway through the album when the listener gets a nice monologue with “Horse Latitudes” before heading into “Moonlight Drive,” another recycled song that didn’t make the band’s debut album. Written in 1965 before the formation of The Doors, “Moonlight Drive” was one of the first songs composed by Morrison. For a song believed to be about driving to the waterside for a midnight swim to commit suicide, it’s an awfully upbeat and catchy tune with Krieger’s guitar slides and pianist Ray Manzarek’s funk-driven piano lines.
The artwork for this album sticks out from the rest of the band’s releases which were notorious for featuring headshots of the musicians. The only image of the band in the cover is found on two posters featuring the band in the background. The artwork on Strange Days showcases street performers at Sniffen Court in New York. However, the group photographed is not actual street performers, but a collection of randomly paid individuals that were found on-hand when the photograph was taken, such as the man playing the trumpet who is a cab driver that was paid 5 bucks to stand in on the photo. The picture also shows photographer Joel Brodsky’s assistant and hired twin dwarves.
Strange Days was a commercial success, eventually going platinum in both the United States and Canada. It reached number 3 on the Billboard 200 chart with singles “Love Me Two Times” and “People Are Strange” both making appearances on Billboard charts coming in at number 25 and 12, respectively.
As a whole, the album is a notable work. The songs flow well and each is filled with distinctive instrumentation and lyrics, but the individual songs feel, for lack of a better word, strange when taken out of the context of the album as a whole, possibly explaining why album sales and ranking were so high, while none of the singles broke the top ten.
The Doors put out a total of six studio recordings until Morrison’s death in 1971. Morrison was 27-years-old when he was found dead at a Paris apartment. The death was declared as heart failure, although due to Parisian law, no autopsy was performed and it is speculated that Morrison’s dependency on drugs and alcohol may have contributed to the death. The remaining three members of The Doors continued to put out music, releasing two more albums before deciding to breakup in 1973. The band contemplating adding a new singer for their last recordings, but decided against it as Krieger and Manzarek took over on vocals.
The Doors have sold more than 100 million records worldwide, making them one of the best-selling bands and the first American band to have eight consecutive gold and platinum LPs. They were ranked number 41 on the Rolling Stones “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.
Reviewer: Jessica Braun Gervais
IRC: Stu Hampton
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