Maybe it’s the part of me that remains eternally 13 years old, but I can say without apology that I love the Doors and probably always will. It’s not even a matter of separating the band’s mystique and Jim Morrison’s penchant for pomposity from their music — to me it’s all part of the same entertaining package.
But I understand that as popular as the Doors are, they’re an incredibly polarizing band. Like another of my favorites (Steely Dan), there doesn’t seem to be a lot of middle ground for them. People seem to either embrace the group wholeheartedly or reject them as posturing clowns with bad poetry.
So for those people — well really for anyone — I’ve put together ten Doors ditties that are musically satisfying and belie the group’s tarnished critical reputation. Put on your leather pants and listen!
1 — “Wintertime Love” (from Waiting for the Sun, 1968)
This was an easy pick as it’s one of my favorite Doors songs anyway. I don’t even think I knew what a waltz was when I first heard this, but there it is on that chorus that’s so breezy it’s impossible to deny. Fantastic chord progressions abound on this track, easily one of the most easygoing in the band’s catalog.
2 — “Been Down So Long” (from L.A. Woman, 1971)
The Doors may have dabbled in psychedelia but at heart they were a blues rock band. Of course everyone’s heard “Roadhouse Blues” at least once, and it is fantastic, but “Been Down So Long” is an even greasier slab. Morrison’s tattered vocals only add to the impact, and Robby Krieger’s guitar sounds like it just crawled out of the swamps of Louisiana. Oh, and that’s Jerry Scheff of Elvis Presley’s TCB Band on bass. Thankyouverymuch!
3 — Albinoni’s Adagio in G minor (from An American Prayer, 1978)
Well if your major objection to the Doors has always been Morrison, you’re in luck. This is an instrumental adaptation of a piece by Italian Baroque composer Tomaso Albinoni. It was recorded by the remaining members of the band for the controversial An American Prayer record, which is pretty much like kryptonite to Morrison haters (being that it is centered around his poetry).
4 — “You’re Lost Little Girl” (from Strange Days, 1967)
The second song from the followup to The Doors is both beautiful and slightly menacing at the same time. Krieger’s guitar rolls in like a fog over Douglas Lubahn’s bass before a tragically brief solo in the bridge, and Morrison’s restrained vocals are outstanding.
5 — “Land Ho!” (from Morrison Hotel, 1970)
Forget the Decemberists man, the Doors knew how to craft a fun, electric sea shanty. Ahoy mateys!
6 — “Blue Sunday” (from Morrison Hotel)
I came so close to including “The Crystal Ship” on this list, but for my money “Blue Sunday” is the best ballad the band ever produced. Morrison’s baritone sounds effortless, and Ray Manzarek’s shimmering Gibson organ blends beautifully with yet another delicate Krieger guitar effort.
7 — “The Crystal Ship” (from The Doors, 1967)
Ah screw it, here it is anyway!
8 — “Touch Me” (from The Soft Parade, 1969)
Sure it’s been heard a billion times and probably impossible to listen to with objectivity, but it’s still one of the greatest songs of ’69. And dig that smokin’ sax solo from Curtis Amy!
9 — “Love Her Madly” (from L.A. Woman)
This bit of blatantly commercial pop/rock is a bit out of place on L.A. Woman, an album largely steeped in blues rock. Morrison is clearly straining here, but the rest of the band sounds energized thanks to new producer Bruce Botnick.
10 — “I Looked at You” (from The Doors)
This is a decidedly unfussy and — dare I say? — sunny track. But even with its AM radio-friendly sheen, there is a propulsive energy and raw power here that most contemporary pop bands couldn’t touch.