I didn’t really dig The Doors when I first heard them. I remember giving them a cursory listen as a ‘grunge’ soaked teenager and I was all “eh? say what?” All that jazzy rock nonsense just didn’t resonate with me. I didn’t want disillusionment and angst shrouded in poetic mystery! I wanted it enveloped in loud buzzing guitars and the likes! However, I found L.A. Woman and Morrison Hotel a few weeks before my 18th birthday and that was it. I think my head was completely turned soon after. The Doors of perception weren’t just opened, but, as Charlie Crocker would have said, they’d been blown off. A musical awakening was beginning and it wasn’t long before I was really hooked on The Doors and Jim / Jimbo (delete where applicable).
Now, I know that there’s a ton of folks who think the début is the high point in the catalogue, but I prefer Strange Days. They will likely point to the fact that much of this was made up of tracks that were left off that one, but I honestly think this is the best and most ambitious record they made. That’s just fact. All vibrant and darkly psychedelic. Or should that be psychedelically dark? It’s also the last record Jim appeared on for a while. By the time Jim came back into the fold you could hear that the energy, inspiration and urgency had left. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some brilliant music in those last four records, and Morrison Hotel and L.A. Woman remain two of my long standing favourites, but nothing was quite as inspired, moving or inspiring as Strange Days.
Side 1 opens with the title track. I love how it starts – all spiralling and suchlike before that bass kicks in (courtesy of one Douglas Lubahn); a dark psychedelic work-out, as Morrison explains “strange days have found us”. It’s a song that addresses the shifting mood and stance towards the hippies and the hippy agenda. No free love here, buddy! It’s way more sinister than that. Perhaps it always was. You’re Lost Little Girl approaches the same issues, but does so a with a bit more simplicity. Jim sounding all psychedelic crooner and Robby Krieger pulling out some nice slide work. Again, Douglas Lubahn’s bass work is exceptional … as it is on Love Me Two Times. Pure joy that one. All about the sexy time before Jim moves on / goes on tour. It’s always been a favourite (heck, even Aersomith’s version was a highlight on the, admittedly pretty patchy, Stoned Immaculate tribute album). This is Lubahn’s last appearance for a bit – complimenting Krieger’s riff brilliantly throughout. Oh, and there’s a harpsichord solo. A harpsichord solo!???!
As if the album wasn’t already awesome, we get a pretty outstanding three-track-run. Unhappy Girl is all snaking and sinister. Ray Manzarek’s playing here is utterly brilliant (there’s also some reverse reverb or something going on there) and Krieger provides some really nice spacey slide noises. Horse Latitudes continues to freak me out regardless of how often I hear it. Seriously – what with it being filled to the brim with all sorts of eerie stuffs – horsewhips and screams. It’s quite possibly one of Jim’s best moments too: “when the still sea conspires in armour and her sullen and aborted current breed tiny monsters, true sailing is dead. Awkward instant and the first animal is jettisoned”. Wow. His delivery is urgent and sincere, too. Utterly incredible stuff. It’s followed by the side closer, and deceivingly upbeat, Moonlight Drive; a song in which the protagonist is looking to go drown with his love. Happy days. I should also mention that this song makes me think of Ghostbusters. So there you go.
Side 2 is a tad shorter and, in my opinion, remains one of the most atmospheric and rocking sides of music that The Doors recorded. Particularly the opening trio, which again feature Mr. Lubahn on the ol’ bass duties (rumour has it that he was invited to join The Doors at some point between this one and The Soft Parade). I’ve always liked People Are Strange. Maybe it’s because as a youngster I could relate to it? Y’know, finding your place in the world and choosing your path. Plus, I dare say I was a little strange. But it’s a great track that still resonates … with anyone being in a foreign city or unfamiliar setting. Heck, even a party or first day in a new job. The band rock the shit up during My Eyes Have Seen You. It’s all skewed and bent out of shape. Plus, it’s got Jim harping on about television skies. Screaming about them, in fact. Psychedelic crooner Jim returns for the I Can’t See Your Face In My Mind (“I won’t need your picture until we say goodbye”).
And then to the album closer (my favourite here by a country mile), When The Music’s Over. The big eleven minute epic that will soundtrack the apocalypse. Trust me, when the end times come the Earth will stop singing and we’ll be left in darkness as we lost all we needed. But what will come first? Clearly Mother Earth has had a pretty rough time over the last while (“What have they done to the earth?”). Jim the psychedelic crooner replaced by Jim the shaman who warns us, essentially, that this will come back to haunt us. Orchestrated by the band (awfy remiss of me not to mention his skills and performance of John Densmore!). And see when the band demand the World? Jim’s primal scream. Man, that just highlights what was great about The Doors! Oooft!
My copy is a European reissue (unsure of the year) and it’s in really nice condition. My brother got it cheap (along with Waiting For The Sun) and, knowing I was a fan, told me I could have them. It comes in a plain white inner.