To some degree, each of these responses describes my own feelings about The Doors.
It makes me wonder at one point I began to think critically about the band, and whether or not my thoughts about them today are informed by the negative opinions of people I know or if they’re entirely my own. I guess that’s the thing about joining communities—a part of you merges with the community, and after a while it becomes difficult to tell which parts are still all you.
This has been fun. Thanks for the responses, everyone.
Dreadfully dull; ponderous; get a bass guitar; lose the singer. [click to visit the Tumblr of the commenter]
My first-ever opinion of the Doors was a negative one. We were in my family’s 1984 Chevrolet Caprice Classic station wagon, driving the central Connecticut Valley, most likely on the way to New Haven from my hometown of Tolland. I was maybe six? My parents had the oldies station on, and “Hello, I Love You” was playing.
As a six-year-old, I did not have a well-developed sense of the tropes of rock and roll lyrics. The idea of instant attraction was completely foreign to me as a pre-sexual being. I couldn’t figure out how this guy could fall in love at hello. I thought that was something that took years. And consequently, I thought the song was totally stupid.
In high school, when I connected with The Doors as The Doors, and not as one song among many on a car trip, I remembered this, and wondered what I’d think of “Hello I Love You” when I heard it again. Now that I understand the stylized sexuality of it, it made a lot more sense. They’re still not great lyrics, but the weird crunch of the song has long since overtaken them to land this song in my good graces.
I didn’t really think about The Doors much from about age 19 to 27, but then a strange thing happened: I mentioned them on a message board, in passing. And then followed five posts by five people, of absolute, stunning hate, directed not at me but at The Doors. Since then, it seems like every time I bring up the band, especially in the music critic circles I tend to run in online, there is always at least one person who flat-out hates this band.
When I asked people to give me their opinions of the Doors yesterday, I wondered how many of those kinds of responses I’d get. The one up top is the closest anyone came. Thing is, I can see everything Jonathan says about the band, except for the bit about the bass player, which we’ll get to in a bit. I mean, if we’re talking about the right piece of music, I even agree with it.
What excited you in your teens is different from what excites you years later—that much is obvious. No one’s personality is static over that span of his or her life. Similarly, what excited people as new and different in the 60s sounds very different today, obviously.
I can see how, if someone loved The Doors as a teen and now sees them as horrible, past love for The Doors could be embarrassing, and consequently, this embarrassment is channeled into hate (not saying this is the case with anyone who responded yesterday, but some of the more vitriolic attacks on the band I’ve seen seem to come from this place). Which brings me to:
Fisher Price: Baby’s first 60’s Rock Band [again, click for the Tumblr]
As someone who once loved The Doors and has since moderated that stance to liking some of their working but not all of it, I think this is actually pretty apt. The Doors are, like them or not, something of a gateway for a lot of kids into venturesome music. I think this befits their place in the history of the music.
The Doors were a progressive band, any way you want to look at them. Their debut came out in January, 1967, before Sgt Pepper, Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, Are You Experienced and every other landmark LP of that year. “The End,” for all its ridiculous Oedipal overkill, was likely the first time many people who bought the LP heard a rock band attempt anything so big. That LP is its own kind of landmark, and it makes sense that successive generations have returned to it when trying to find their way off the beaten path.
Obviously, what drives most people mad about The Doors is Jim Morrison. To some people, he’s the ultimate rock frontman. Obviously, he had flare as a performer. He has a certain magnetism. He also very, very badly wanted to carry on the flame of late-50s beat poetry, and here’s where he becomes problematic for many people. I think a lot of people’s disdain for this band can be summed up in nine words: “I am the lizard king. I can do anything.” Alternately, “When I was back there in seminary school,” followed by something about whipping a horse’s eyes.
But here’s a tricky question: what would this band have been without him? We have perhaps some idea, because of what they did after him, but really, you’d be talking about a different band, and, probably, not talking about them at all. Without Morrison, maybe they would have become an American version of The Nice? I kind of doubt it.
I think Morrison’s earnest quest to be like his heroes is one of the reasons high schoolers get so fervent about this band. These are, after all, the very people who are trying hardest to forge their own identities. There is probably some subconscious empathy there.
Do you know who that is? He’s the guy who plays bass on the second, third and fourth Doors albums. He was asked to join the band in 1969, but was already playing in a group called Clear Light and declined because he wanted to focus on that band.
Anyway, the band famously had no bassist, but they never made a single LP without a bass player on at least half the songs.