The Music Of The Doors Essay, Research Paper
The Doors? first album, The Doors, takes the listener on a journey through the doors of perception and invites the listener to experience through music, what Jim Morrison was fascinated with throughout his brief but dramatic career..
Having never analyzed the music of the Doors before, I am extremely glad that I did. There is a wealth of information that lies through Jim Morrison?s poetry that most people seem to miss. The music contained in this album is nothing short of fantastic, and combined with the genius of Jim Morrison?s poetry, allows the listener to take a voyage through the Doors of Perception, and into another reality.
The album starts off with the song, Break On Through (To the Other Side). Jim Morrison tells us to ?Break on Through? and get out of our daily humdrum lives and into a new state of mind. The ?other side? being the fantastic reality that lies beyond our existing reality, just waiting to be explored. Jim Morrison had a macabre fascination with this altered-reality, and he frequently tested its? (and his own) limits with mind-expanding hallucinagenic drugs. This song is said by some to be the theme of his life and the reason for his excess in almost everything that he did (Curtis, p. 178). When he says, ?I?ve found an island in your arms, a country in your eyes, arms that chain, eyes that lie…? Jim tells us that although we accept reality as comforting (the arms and the eyes) it really tricks us and keeps us away from the ?other side?, and we need to ?break out? and explore these boundaries. Although most people are not willing to use hallucinagenic drugs, or live like Jim Morrison did to explore the boundaries of reality, the music itself takes the listener on a journey through the doors of perception (Gilmore, p. 97).
The next song, Soul Kitchen, refers to a ?place? where your mind goes once it is in the altered realtiy. Morrison sings, ?Let me sleep all night in your soul kitchen, warm my mind near your gentle stove? – he obviously doesn?t want to leave this place, as it is here where his mind is free to explore and test the bounds of reality. When he adds, ?turn me out and I?ll wander?, he is saying that once he leaves this place, he will feel lost and out of place.
The Crystal Ship, that Morrison sings about , can be a metaphor for the hallucinagenic drug itself. He explains ?the crystal ship is being filled. A thousand girls, a thousand thrills?. These are the pleasures awaiting him once he embarks on the crystal ship. His ?lover? in the song doesn?t want to go, ?you?d rather cry, I?d rather fly?, and so he leaves, saying ?When we get back, I?ll drop a line.?
The next song, Twentieth Century Fox, to me, can have two different meanings. One one hand, it can describe a woman that Jim Morrison admires – ?she?s the queen of cool, and she?s the lady who waits?. A twentieth century fox – an ideal woman for the time. On the other hand, it can be a metaphor for drugs. ?Got the world locked up in a little plastic box? could describe how in that box is the drug, which contains that altered reality. ?No tears, no fears, no ruined years, no clocks? all describe how in an altered state one can lose sense of time and escape their pain.
The subject of The Alabama Song (Whisky Bar) is one of needing to go to the next ?bar? in order to escape reality again. Morrison says that if he can?t find the next one ?I tell you we must die?. ?Dying? it seems, is the only alternative to this problem, and Jim seemed to have a certain fascination with death. He always wanted to test the bounds of reality, and skirt the edge of death, just to see what it was like. If he couldn?t continue his lifestyle the way he wanted it, there would be no real reason to live (Smith, video).
In Light My Fire , Morrison is constantly singing to his woman ?come on baby light my fire, try to set the night of fire?. Throughout the whole song, many of the verses explore passionate emotions, and Morrison expressed his devout love for this woman. It seems to me that it isn?t a coincidence that this song, with it?s climactic connotations, happens to be in the middle of the album. The first five songs deal with the ?voyage? through the doors of perception to the altered reality, and gradually escalate to this pinnacle of the journey through the album.
Back Door Man is what Jim Morrison refers himself as in this song. He claims he is ?out making my midnight creep? ,?the men don?t know, but the little girls understand?. Jim?s lifestyle of sex, drugs, and rock & roll, was full of excesses of each. He would be with one girl and then another one the next night. ?Back Door Man?, is a somewhat comical representation of how he is ?sneaking out the back door? to go out on the town.
The End Of The Night is a foreshadowing to the final song of the album, The End. The organ has a unique quality when it is played, as the tones modulate up and down creating a very spooky effect. The tempo in this song is very slow and solemn, which gives it a dreamlike, if not hypnotic quality. Morrison is asking the listener to ?take a journey to the bright midnight, end of the night?, summarizing the overall theme of the album, to explore the limits of reality.
In Take It As It Comes, the tempo as well as the message of the song is more upbeat than the previous. Morrison asks to ?take it easy, you?ve been moving much too fast?, saying that it is better to approach life cautiously and slowly rather than live it up and be out of control. This song, I believe, is slightly hypocritical coming from Jim Morrison. He was one of the most wild and excessive rock stars of that era and he became so addicted to drugs and alcohol that he couldn?t function unless he was under the influence of some kind of drug (Smith, video). It could be interpreted as a message to himself in a way, foreshadowing the consequences of what could come of a wild and out of control lifestyle, especially since the next song is The End.
The End is probably one of the most popular and controversial songs on this album. This eleven minute opera-song is full of symbolic messages that talk about everything from Oedipal connotations to death. Starting out with an echoing guitar argeggio, the bass line and tambourine gradually join in, and the organ has a subtle and soft delivery. Jim tells that this song is ?The End… of our desperate plans, of everything that stands.? The journey is slowly coming to a halt. He says to ?ride the snake… ride the snake to the ancient lake?, presumably the snake can deliver you from this other reality, and back to normal life. Morrison, on the other hand, is going on the ?blue bus? – where it goes, nobody knows. He invites the ?friend? to take the blue bus, but knows it has to go ride the snake. It is the ?end of laughter and soft lies, the end of nights we tried to die.? , the journey is grinding to a halt, this reality is coming to an end. This song got the Doors kicked out of the Whisky when Jim Morrison sang it with the complete lyrics, telling of how he wanted to ?kill his father and **** his mother.?. The Oedipal theme did not go over well at all, and although Morrison?s inspiration came from Nietzsche?s The Birth of Tragedy, nobody cared (Curtis, p. 178-179). His behavior was deemed out of control, much like the rest of his life.
When I first listened to this album, I thought that it was full of great sounding songs that are a pleasure to listen to, but after careful analysis, and on another darker level, it deals with the idea of an altered reality that lies beyond the ?doors of perception?. It is cyclic in nature as the ?journey? starts with ?Break on Through? and expires at ?The End?. It peaks at ?Light My Fire?, and goes downward from there, alluding to the end of the album several times. Jim Morrison?s poetry is nothing short of remarkable throughout this entire album, as it is beautiful and powerful at the same time, inviting the listener to explore the fascinating world that lies beyond these doors of perception. Although Jim Morrison?s fascination with hallucinagenic drugs are prohibitive and quesionable to most listeners, his message transcends that and instead takes the listener on a journey through the music itself.
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Gilmore, Mikal. Night Beat.. New York: DoubleDay, 1988
Curtis, Jim. Rock Eras: Interpretations of Music and Society, 1954-1984. Mass.: Bowling Green State University Press, 1987
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