Last summer, while snooping around my mom’s room for her pot stash, I came across the two-disc set of the Doors greatest hits. I instantly knew that this was a memento to her marriage with my father—her only momento that wasn’t a child. This was a first for her and I.
She could not listen to the Doors for the longest time after their divorce as it brought up hard-to-process emotions. Also, this CD was amongst other rainy day contraband, meant to remain hidden from her children—from me in particular.
But I found it! I slipped it into my car and didn’t say a word. Still haven’t. I knew that she did not want me to know she had a Doors CD, let alone two of them.
This greatest hits collection seemed to encapsulate who my parents were at the time they eloped. My old man was a well-behaved rebel with business sense. Jim Morrison allowed my father to appreciate poetry. By listening to the Doors, my father was able to subconsciously nourish his inner-deviant.
My mother was happy to meet someone who had his shit together and was OK with her four year-old son. Being a woman in her mid-twentys during the early 90’s, I’m sure she appreciated the trippy-hippy nature of my dad’s favorite band. She went to college, but didn’t complete it on account of my brother’s unplanned entrance to the world. My dad graduated from somewhere back east and worked for Pepsi in rural Wyoming. The songs they were listening to and vicariously living through would wind up on a greatest hits collection fifteen years later.
The entirety of the two CDs makes me think about my folks in their creekside condominium. My earliest memories were of the quaint place. My mom’s parents still lived in town, but for once she lived in a place that wasn’t her childhood room or a dorm.
I was familiar with the Doors‘ songs that perpetuated their stardom over the airwaves, though most of the cuts in the greatest hits package were unknown to me. “The [Very] Best of the Doors” was released late in 2008 through Warner, so my mom had to have purchased it after her and my father had split.
Eleven years later, I listened to the analog instruments formatted for the digital medium as I drive through the Utah dessert with my honey sittin’ shotgun. It’s ironic how Jim Morrison himself predicted that the majority of 21st century music would be digitized and heavily electronic. In that exact moment, I was glad I hadn’t inherited a crate of vinyl. I was also glad that the Doors didn’t have a bass guitarist. They were deifiers of convention, no two ways about it.
The question arises; why has the Doors music survived, even flourished into generation after generation when so many other groups of their era have fallen by the wayside? Why the Doors? Why now? Why still?
In short, because they married rock’n’roll with poetry in a way no one else had.
From the poet/artist William Blake they took their name. Blake had written, “When the doors of perception are cleansed, man will see things as they truly are, infinite.” Author Aldous Huxley was sufficiently inspired to title his book detailing his experience with psychedelic drugs “The Doors of Perception.” This gives an idea of their intergenerational audience and cult following that persists today. Hell, I’m among them.
Disc one kicked off with two songs I was familiar with; “Break on Through” (of course) which I remember hearing in a Tony Hawk videogame. “Light My Fire” was another one I recognised. “The Crystal Ship” threw me through a perfectly uncomfortable loop before the classic “People Are Strange,” a high school anthem of mine. What proceeded were “Strange Days,” and “Love Me Two Times” which felt as if I was hearing them for the first time, though simultaneously living through them as I drove way to fast through the frosty canyons. The “Alabama Song,” (which I always though was called “Whiskey Bar”) retained its meaning of a group of people who are ready to find “the next whiskey bar” and “the next little girl” or else they’d die.
Track eight, “Five to One,” a song entirely new to me at the time, remains the crunchiest Doors record I’ve heard to date. The guitar and bass communicate by chugging melodically, sounding as if they hate each other but knowing that they have a job to do. After all, “Five to One” refers to the ratio of Viet Cong to American troops. My dad was three in 1968 when the Vietman War began, the same year the Doors released Waiting For the Sun, their first and last album to reach the #1 spot. The Doors made rock that was chopped and screwed, but still necessarily protestant. This song was originally off a release of theirs that audiences expected to be teenybopper, but scared the shit out of so many. “Five to One” was and is bubblegum free, concluding their breakout album. From the same album, the title track “Waiting for the Sun,” and “Spanish Caravan” made for relatively easy listening. Concluding disc one of The Best of the Doors is “When the Music’s Over,” reserved for the hardcore fans like my father who don’t mind how Morrison’s words get increasingly more fucked as the song progressed. The same goes for “L.A. Woman” and “The End,” each on disc two.
"When the Music’s Over” is a crazy good protest song which supports environmentalism. Y’know… hippy shit.
“What have they done to the earth? What have they done to our fair sister? Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn And tied her with fences and dragged her down”
This became one of my new favorite songs. Fans of the Doors were probably fans of Hayduke as well.
I felt like I was in a special club for recognising most of the songs on the second disc.
Finding these CDs amongst things my mother wished to have remain hidden proves that the Doors shouldn’t be classified as just dadrock. Be it dadrock or mommyrock, it will always be the rock I heard in utero.