Top 10 Doors Songs
Like so many other classic bands from the ’60s, the Doors truly were a sum of their parts. But more than any of their contemporaries, they came dangerously close to being overshadowed by the magnetic presence of Jim Morrison, one of rock’s original swaggering rock gods. He got most of the attention — much of it for his onstage antics, which often included drunken confrontations with fans, police and his penis. But the band’s music is why they matter 40 years after their debut album came out. They made six mostly great records before Morrison’s inevitable death at the age of 27. Our list of the Top 10 Doors Songs covers all of them.
The opening track on the Doors’ fifth album drew from their blues roots while jolting the genre with an electric performance by the entire band. Even though the song wasn’t a huge hit (as the B-side of ‘You Make Me Real,’ it reached No. 50), ‘Roadhouse Blues’ became one of the band’s most popular songs, thanks in no small part to the hedonistic lifestyle espoused by Morrison.
‘Hello, I Love You’
The Doors’ second, and final, No. 1 single comes from their only No. 1 album. It’s basically a love song built around a riff played by keyboardist Ray Manzarek and augmented by guitarist Robby Krieger‘s buzzing stabs. It’s one of the band’s most straightforward songs, clocking in at two-and-a-half minutes and primed for radio play.
‘People Are Strange’
The Doors’ second album, ‘Strange Days,’ is a musically richer record than their self-titled debut. The carnivalesque atmosphere running throughout the songs strikes a late-’60s balance of hippie idealism and pre-war nostalgia. The album is best taken in all at once, even though its lead single, ‘People Are Strange,’ just missed the Top 10.
If ‘Hello, I Love You’ (see No. 9 on our list of the Top 10 Doors Songs) is a love song, then ‘Touch Me’ is all about sex. Morrison was brimming with carnal energy and raging confidence when the band released its fourth album in 1969. Filled with strings and horns, ‘The Soft Parade’ is the Doors’ most troubled, and troubling, record. But the swinging ‘Touch Me’ punches things up.
‘Love Me Two Times’
The Doors’ second album came out when their debut was still in the Top 10. ‘Strange Days’ is both a continuation and expansion of ‘The Doors,’ driving more musically adventurous performances (see No. 8 on our list of the Top 10 Doors Songs) while retaining the band’s bluesy foundation. ‘Love Me Two Times’ is the sturdiest bridge between the two albums. Plus, Manzarek manages to make the harpsichord sound like a natural rock ‘n’ roll instrument here.
‘When the Music’s Over’
‘Strange Days” 11-minute centerpiece not only closes the album, it defines it. Like ‘The End’ from the debut LP (see No. 2 on our list of the Top 10 Doors Songs), ‘When the Music’s Over’ sounds like one long, final apocalyptic warning before the band’s exit. It’s scary, and scary good, featuring one of the band’s all-time best performances.
The title track to the band’s final album became a tour de force for Morrison, who died three months after the record’s release. His “Mr. Mojo Risin'” chant (an anagram for his name) is silly but effective. And the band revs up for its big finish after almost eight minutes of steady acceleration. Still, it’s a remarkably efficient performance and highlight from one of the group’s best albums.
‘Break on Through (To the Other Side)’
The opening song on the band’s classic debut album didn’t chart, never making it any higher than No. 126. But the Doors’ first single still manages to sound like a monster hit. The band’s template was pretty much set on ‘Break on Through': Manzarek’s elastic keyboard riffing, Krieger’s piercing guitar lines, John Densmore’s jazzy drumming and Morrison controversy-courting lyrics (his original “she gets high” line remained unreleased for 30 years). This is the beginning.
The Doors’ epic closer to their debut album sounded monumental even before Francis Ford Coppola used it in ‘Apocalypse Now’ a dozen years later. The band honed its tight performance of the song at its nightly gigs in Los Angeles. There’s barely enough breathing space in ‘The End,’ a claustrophobic and paranoid nightmare/fable that delays its apocalyptic penance for 12 harrowing minutes.
‘Light My Fire’
From its opening spare drum smack to the entire band’s closing shot seven minutes later, ‘Light My Fire’ sums up just about everything you need to know about the Doors. It’s sexy, a little too long, a little too fussy, kinda pretentious and absolutely brilliant. The song hit No. 1 just as the Summer of Love was heating up. It’s a perfect symbol of the era.