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fromheadtoheart flag US - California - Full Moon 250 - 01/12/17

From head to heart
The Doors by The Doors

Following our retroscope series going on for several years, here we go again. Yes, for one more year! Here's Speakers' corner's cousin; From head to heart. Luna Kafé's focused eye on great events, fantastic happenings, absolute milestones, or other curious incidents from the historic shelves'n'vaults of pop'n'rock. Blowing our ears and our head, punching our chest and shaking our heart, or simply tapping our shoulder. Making us go sentimental, but not slaphappy. This moonth we'll revisit, dare I say re-enter, a 50 year old platter. It was even a debut album, by a band inspired by Aldous Huxley's novel The Doors of Perception - which again had got its title from William Blake's poem "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" (1793) going: 'When the doors of perception are cleansed, things will appear as they really are....' They were a band from the psychedelic pop and popping drug era in the mid 60s. They formed in 1965 and were expanding their minds, their music and their career through 1966, which was the 'birth-year' of psychedelic music. So when they entered the year which later unfolded the first Summer of Love, the band had hit big time. High times, around the peyote cactus. The rest is history, drenched in sex, drugs, rock'n'roll lifestyle, and sudden death.

coverpic The Doors
The Doors
Elektra Records

Ladies and gentlemen, from Los Angeles, California: The Doors!

A lot could be said and a lot has been said about The Doors, Jim Morrison in particular, and the band's stunning debut album. Too much probably. But The Doors was much more than the lyrics, vocals and stage presence of Jim Morrison. It was also John Densmore, drums, Robbie Krieger, guitar and Ray Manzarek, organ, piano and keyboard bass. 11 tracks of mainly rhythm'n'blues-based rock'n'roll. There are no weak songs involved, though "I Looked At You" and "Take It As It Comes" seem a bit more ordinary compared to the remaining nine. All of them are recorded with skill, confidence and the characteristic sound of Manzarek's Continental Vox organ, supported by Robbie Krieger's guitar licks throughout. The organ sound might seem old-fashioned nowadays. I prefer to think of it as vintage and quite original.

The album was recorded in just one week, at the end of August 1966, and released on 4. January the following year. 50 years ago. It was a confident young band that entered the Sunset Sound Recorders studio in Hollywood after residencies at Los Angeles clubs like London Fog and The Whisky a Go Go the previous moonths. The Doors includes two cover versions, Willie Dixon's "Back Door Man", the bluesiest of them all, and "Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)" by German Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, one of the most unobvious and original songs of the album with a bit changed lyrics and melody compared to the original song. Weill's wife and foremost interpreter Lotte Lenya (maybe most known as Colonel Rosa Klebb, the Soviet chief spy who tried to kill James Bond with a poison-tipped shoe by the end of the movie From Russia With Love) acknowledged The Doors' dynamic version as the best there was back in the days. (If you compare it to David Bowie's much more theatrical, it's not hard to understand. It's not one of his best, far from it, even though it's closer to Lenya's version.) Some of the lyrics written by Jim Morrison are more pretentious than what was usual for the average rock'n'roll lyrics when the album was released 50 years ago. He was influenced by classic European writers and wanted to be for the 20th century what the French modernist poet Charles Baudelaire had been for the 19th century.

The two first Doors' singles are included on the album. "Break On Through (To The Other Side)", the album opener with some surprising, but still fitting bossa-nova influences was released on 1. January 1967. It wasn't a big success. The drug reference in the line 'She gets high' was censored by the record company, the word 'high' was removed and didn't surface until several decades later. The second single "Light My Fire" released in May 1967 fared much better. It was an edited version of the seven minutes album version with most of the soloing being removed. It went to no. 1 and became one of the anthems of The Summer Of Love. The lyrics deal with the ignition of a love affair and Elektra didn't censor the line 'Girl we couldn't get much higher' in this context. But there was trouble when Jim sang the line live on The Ed Sullivan Show. In advance he had agreed to sing 'better' instead of 'higher', but didn't fulfil the agreement. It was only one incident concerning Jim's unwillingness to compromise. Anyways, the song seems a bit worn-out nowadays, having been played too much over the years. We also have the two beautiful ballads "The Crystal Ship" and "End Of The Night". Gripping both of them. Robyn Hitchcock's cover version of the former from his album The Man Upstairs two and a half years ago ain't half bad either. And let's not forget the more up-tempo and snappy "Soul Kitchen" and "Twentieth Century Fox", art-pop more than r'n'b, especially the latter.

There's one track that really stands out, though. At the end: "The End". It starts as the end of a love affair but soon turns into an apocalyptic nightmare. It had been developed during gigs for several moonths prior to the recording of the album. My first profound encounter with The Doors was Francis Ford Coppola's stunning Vietnam War epic Apocalypse Now! (meaning the original movie, not the Redux version that is too long and thus less stunning.) The most fitting soundtrack at the beginning and close to the end of the film was "The End". I still think the start of the movie when a large part of the rain forest in the Philippines, where it was filmed, seems to be napalmed to death, works as the best music video there is. Augmented with the helicopters and their silicified sounds flapping in and out and the close-up of the face of Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) upside down with the napalmed and burning palms still visible. An excerpt further into the song returns towards the end of the film starting with the camouflaged face of the same Captain Willard breaking the water surface before he enters the temple to slaughter the haunted Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando) in parallel with an ox (my DVD says it's a caribou but it doesn't look like one) sharing the same destiny and it works about as excellent as the start. This nearly 12 minutes epic was recorded live in the studio in just two takes. Amazing! Nico whom Jim Morrison had a brief but intense affair with, who later called him his soul brother, recorded a version of the song on her album named after the song. It cannot quite match the original, though apart from the lyrics they're so different it's hard to compare.

Since this being the very last menu here at Luna Kafé it seems appropriate to end the last dish with the entire lyrics of "The End":

This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I'll never look into your eyes, again

Can you picture what will be, so limitless and free
Desperately in need, of some, stranger's hand
In a, desperate land

Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane, all the children are insane
Waiting for the summer rain, yeah
There's danger on the edge of town
Ride the King's highway, baby
Weird scenes inside the gold mine
Ride the highway west, baby
Ride the snake, ride the snake
To the lake, the ancient lake, baby
The snake is long, seven miles

Ride the snake, he's old, and his skin is cold
The west is the best, the west is the best
Get here, and we'll do the rest
The blue bus is callin' us, the blue bus is callin' us
Driver, where you taken us

The killer awoke before dawn, he put his boots on
He took a face from the ancient gallery
And he walked on down the hall
He went into the room where his sister lived, and, then he
Paid a visit to his brother, and then he
He walked on down the hall, and
And he came to a door, and he looked inside
Father, yes son, I want to kill you
Mother, I want to, *** (guttural sounds) you

C'mon baby, take a chance with us
C'mon baby, take a chance with us
C'mon baby, take a chance with us

And meet me at the back of the blue bus
Doin' a blue rock, on a blue bus
Doin' a blue rock, c'mon, yeah
Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill
This is the end, beautiful friend

This is the end, my only friend, the end
It hurts to set you free
But you'll never follow me
The end of laughter and soft lies
The end of nights we tried to die
This is the end

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