Writings about Music
Heavenly In Its Brilliance
The music of The Doors is among the greatest of all time. Jim Morrison was a brilliantly creative person, as was Ray Manzarek, his best friend. And the same for Robby Krieger and John Densmore, still with us. Producer Paul Rothchild and recording engineer Bruce Botstein were also key components towards realizing their transcendental excellence.
Amazing the controversy The Doors still arouse, likely a testament to their unconventional rasas, genre expansion, and uninhibited potency. All I can think of is somewhere along the line, perhaps some clueless people made it fashionable to dislike The Doors, and equally clueless imitators have clamored onto this unfortunate bandwagon. It's true that a number of major publications apparently had at least an initial history of disliking their music, something that fortunately had no real effect. It was not love at first sight like it was with Bob Dylan and the Beatles. Beyond that, the vitriol towards The Doors is often so extreme it even gives off the odor of something they feel they are expected to do for reasons other than music. And yes, I recognize different people have different tastes and body chemistry, and respect others having differing opinions, too.
But I've honestly found that people who don't get The Doors tend to lack musical sophistication with music possessing what might be inadequately termed "true grit" (I really most come up with a better descriptive phrase for this elusive yet centrally vital quality, and will add it here when and if I do so), not to mention other considerable attributes also requiring no defense such as their seamless incorporation of jazz and Indian classical music elements that sometimes passes over people's heads, expecting more ordinary rock. They simply cannot handle the combined intellectual and musical intensity of The Doors, preferring lighter fare. And they miss pertinent things like how Frank Sinatra is deep within Jim Morrison's singing style, and how he is a sublimely original blues stylist. In terms of lyrics, Jim's represent a pinnacle of the genre second to known, utterly wedded to the music as one. Ridiculous, missing the point, to consider the lyrics alone, as it is with Bob Dylan and the Beatles. Genuinely amazing how some will actually criticize the lyrics of the Doors while supporting the most incredibly banal, stereotypical lyrics of others, again projecting a sense of this being something other than music going on.
Pathetic how some seem to feel that their cover of a Kurt Weill song is the band's single finest accomplishment. In fact, this idea didn't originate from the band, and the original music of The Doors far surpasses anything Weill ever did. Nothing against Weill, but The Doors are on an infinitely higher musical level. There appears to be some Eurocentric thinking here. In fact, its always been my least favorite Doors recording, making me cringe, even though I understand the band enjoyed doing it, which is fine.
I know David Crosby, whose bands, The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash (& Young), I love, has voiced criticism of them, but my sense is this was something personal and not musical. Will definitely ask David about that if and when we ever meet for clarification.
Yes, it's a bummer even recognizing dumb negativity about The Doors, and I haven't done so in previous writings, but some recent exposures to it beckoned me to address these issues, and so I took the time to spell things out. And there may be another more personal reason, too, suspecting some matters addressed here also apply to my own music.
Their music is a miraculously original assemblage of rag (melody), tal (rhythm) and rasa (expression) colored with exalted instrumental and vocal timbres, including bringing the aesthetics of Indian classical music filtered through their collective temperament to the West, augmenting exponentially what their hero, John Coltrane, did previously. Their textures are descendants of another shared deep attraction, West Coast jazz.
Loved the film, The Doors, by Oliver Stone, too, even if it isn't nearly as perfect as their finest music, of course, being more a fleeting snapshot. Watching it at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood was among the best this medium has to offer. Best scene was the concert sequence with imaginary Indians - awesome. Stone believes The Doors captured the zeitgeist of the time more so than any other band. I wouldn't go that far, feeling the Beatles are in a class by themselves. But after that, no band surpasses The Doors, while there were equally great bands that go beyond the scope of this essay.
For more detail about the music of The Doors here are some additional writings.
- Michael Robinson, May 2020, Los Angeles
© 2020 Michael Robinson All rights reserved
Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer and writer (musicologist).