“Save us, Jesus, save us”: The Doors – Strange Days (1967)

the doors strange days front

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.
the doors side aSide 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!

the doors backMy 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.

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46 Comments

  1. The Doors are one of those bands that I just never got. I remember introducing Roadhouse Blues for Sausagefest 2014 with Uncle Meat. I loved the way he worded it: “Here’s some mumbo jumbo from the king of mumbo jumbo…on the mumbo jumbo countdown!”

    Having said that I love the musicianship of the players.

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    1. The Doors definitely deserve to be listened to in an album setting, Mike. I’d honestly start with this and then hit Waiting for the Sun, Morrison Hotel, and L.A. Woman. They’re my essentials.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I dare say that, as much as this is my favourite, Morrison Hotel is the one I spin most often (I still need to pick up a copy of L.A. Woman on vinyl).

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  2. Excellent post. I grew up on The Doors. My parents had LA Woman and The Doors Greatest Hits on vinyl(both of which made their way into my collection.) My brother got heavy into The Doors when he was a senior in high school, and sort of adopted the Morrison look for a bit.

    I’ve always liked The Doors, just not as much as everyone else. There were times where I couldn’t get enough, then I wouldn’t listen to them for a year. Still, Strange Days, Waiting For The Sun, and LA Woman would be absolute favorites. They contain all the songs I would need to sustain my Doors diet for life.

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      1. Yeah, with the exception of a few tracks(Peace Frog/Blue Sunday, Maggie McGill), as well as a couple you mentioned I never really cared for Morrison Hotel as a whole. Just in bits, I’m afraid.

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  3. Great review James. Almost makes me want to revisit The Doors (who I’m afraid I once described as ‘a first class bar band’). I do like the first album though, so maybe should give this another chance. Thanks.

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    1. Thanks, Bruce. I’m glad that I’ve inspired (possibly) a spinning of an album you may have overlooked. I’d be interested to know what you think if you do give it another chance.

      … and I guess them being ‘a first class bar band’ aint so bad; I’m rather fond of Rod and the Faces, who quite clearly fall into the ‘bar band’ bracket! (maybe not even first class!)

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  4. All my friends used to play The Doors to death when we were teens (blame Oliver Stone) so I honestly could not stick this band for the longest time. But over the last 5 or so years I’ve really got into them. Especially the last two albums. This is one of the better albums though, I think I prefer it to the debut as well.

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    1. Yes! Oliver Stone and that bloody film! Admittedly I was one of those who fell mad in love with that film when I started listening to them. I don’t think much of it now, though – maybe a fine introduction to the music, but beyond that it’s a bit unbalanced!

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      1. I did quite like the film back then. When I got into them recently I thought it’d be a good idea to get the movie again. Really didn’t get much out of it! I got that People Are Strange doc on DVD too, that wasn’t that great either.

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      2. Ah – shame. There was a big hullabaloo about how great that documentary was. Always been one I’ve been meaning to check out, but I’ll probably leave it. Clearly Johnny’s too cool for The Doors. He needs a Rolling Stones feature.

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      3. Bloody Johnny Depp, Scott! He coulda jazzed it up a bit. A vocal performance to rival that in Ed Wood. I’ll keep my eye out for it. Just in case.

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      4. Pft. Johnny Depp. We just tried watching that Mortdecai movie. It’s the biggest sodden steaming turd ever. Seriously, we shut it off after 10 minutes (and that was generous). Did anyone check the sell-by date on this guy?

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      5. Yeah – I don’t know what the deal is. A fine actor (I think), but things are all wrong. Still, I was very close to watching The Lone Ranger this evening …

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      6. Oh man, I heard that Lone Ranger is just as bad. I haven’t seen it yet and I’m really not feeling the need to do it at all. Maybe he should stop acting and go play with his band full-time.

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      7. I’m glad I opted for Life After Beth. That’s a really good fun flick. Still, I do want to see Lone Ranger *gets coat*

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      8. I’d love to hear what you think of Lone Ranger, but I’m afraid of encouraging you to waste two hours of your life. You’re on your own recognizance. 🙂

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  5. This is a fantastic write-up! It inspires me to get back to their records proper. I’ve been leaning on the 2CD Hits set too long! I have their debut and this one on LP here, time to get back into it! Cheers.

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    1. Cheers, sir! And yes! Get those albums spinning! The compilation is good, but I think the music’s better served in the album setting. As you would say, GIVE ‘ER!

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  6. Great album – though in fairness they all are with the arguable exception of The Soft Parade (and, you know, the post-Morrison ones). In my head, though, it’s the Siouxsie & the Banshees version of You’re Lost Little Girl I hear first. I’m of an age.

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    1. Oh, aye – those post-Morrison albums … I’d forgotten about them. I’ve started to enjoy The Soft Parade a bit more. Mostly for little moments here and there. But yeah – not great that one. Haven’t heard Siouxsie & the Banshees doing You’re Lost Little Girl *hits YouTube*

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  7. I’ve never got around to owning this one, I clearly should do.

    My folks saw them play the Roundhouse in London in ’68(?), supported by Jefferson Airplane – their only UK show apart from the IOW festival.

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  8. I just might have to check this out. I always listened to The Doors one song at a time without paying much attention to which album it was on. It’s funny you mentioned your initial indifference to the band. I had the same reaction when I was about 16.

    Liked by 1 person

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