The Doors hurled mainstream pop music into the mystic unknown, launching missives of darkness, poetry, and power on the unsuspecting masses. Fittingly, the album began on a beach, with Jim Morrison appearing back into Ray Manzarek’s life and singing the melody to “Moonlight Drive”. After hooking up with a flamenco guitarist (Robby Kreiger) and a jazz drummer (John Densmore) the group spent a time perfecting their act as the house band at the Whisky A-Go-Go in L.A., where they expanded nightly on their songs until they included the stretched-out jams found on “Light My Fire” and “The End”. The latter would cause the group to lose their gig at the Whisky due to the Oedipal nature of the song and Morrison’s heavy willingness to scream the word “FUCK!” in the middle of it. It would go on to have a searing second life in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now! where it would soundtrack Martin Sheen’s descent into his final madness and his assassination of Colonel Kurtz. Following the recording session for the song, Morrison returned to the studio high on acid and mistook the studio’s red lights for a fire, resulting in all of the recording equipment being sprayed down with a fire extinguisher.
Elsewhere, “Break On Through”, the album’s first single, failed to make much of a dent in the charts but “Light My Fire” (the first composition Robby Kreiger ever penned) drove the album to #2 in the U.S. Ray Manzarek’s autobiography (Light My Fire: My Life With The Doors, highly recommended) contains a passage where he gets his first royalty check for $50,000 and he thinks that it’s supposed to be split among the whole band and his girlfriend breaks the news that it’s actually just his share. Also of note: the two covers, “Alabama Song”, a German opera song from the 1920s and “Back Door Man”, a slick, sleazy Willie Dixon song that the band hones into a finely-edged switchblade; the party-all-night swirl of “Soul Kitchen”; and the hard-charging bounce of “Twentieth Century Fox”. The combination of hip, blues and jazz-influenced rock ‘n’ roll and eerie, mystical psychedelic unease would, er, light the fire of an entire generation of kids; that half-mad nighttime beat would inform both the more direct homage of the Psychedelic Furs and the more subtle insanity of Joy Division, as well as the vampires of 1987’s The Lost Boys.