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The Doors in 1966. From left to right: Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, and John Densmore

"This is the strangest life I've ever known."
— "Waiting for the Sun", Morrison Hotel
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One of the most important and influential bands of their era. Led by Jim Morrison (1943–1971), AKA Mr. Mojo Risin', AKA The Lizard King, with Ray Manzarek (1939–2013) on keyboards, Robby Krieger on guitar, and John Densmore on drums, The Doors became famous in The '60s for their dark, theatrical, blues-influenced Psychedelic Rock and Morrieveryson's surreal Word Salad Lyrics.

According to Ray Manzarek, The Doors were founded on the beach of Venice, California, where he ran into Jim Morrison a month after graduating from UCLA film school where they had both studied. He asked Morrison what he had been up to and he answered that he had been writing songs and proceeded to sing "Moonlight Drive" to Manzarek, who was enthused. Manzarek later recruited John Densmore, a jazz drummer, then Robby Krieger, a flamenco guitarist, from a transcendental meditation class - and thus, the Doors were born.

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They started playing in bars around Los Angeles, first the London Fog, and later with more success, the Whisky A Go-Go, and soon signed a record deal with Elektra Records. Morrison encouraged his fellow bandmates to write songs of their own, and thus Robby Krieger wrote "Light My Fire", which became one of their biggest hits.

Although the band quickly enjoyed commercial success, not all was going well.

Inspired in part by the behavior of Van Morrison, the singer of Them (whom the Doors had played with at the Whisky a Go-Go), Jim Morrison started behaving very provocatively toward the audience, often insulting them or getting into political rants, which eventually landed him in jail after a 1969 concert in Miami where he allegedly exposed himself on stage.

This rebellious attitude, which contributed to the band's appeal, was not just a pose. Jim Morrison had very uncompromising political ideas, among which was an opposition to commercialism. He famously got enraged that the three other members had agreed to sell "Light My Fire" to Buick for a commercial while he was away from the rest of the band in London, and Morrison threatened to destroy a Buick with a sledgehammer on television if they did not back down.

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All four band members were used to taking LSD and smoking pot, but Morrison got more heavily into all kinds of drugs, and became a very heavy drinker, which did not improve his behavior, created tensions within the band, and took its toll on their live performances, sometimes even affecting their recording sessions (it is said that Morrison recorded "Five to One" while heavily inebriated, hence his slurred performance).

In 1971, after the recording of the album L.A. Woman, Jim Morrison flew to Paris, where he died on July 3, under somewhat mysterious circumstances.note  He was buried at the Père Lachaise cemetery, and his grave became by far the most famous there (which isn't a small feat, considering said cemetery has been chock full of famous people for centuries), with thousands of people visiting it each year.

Although the band released two other albums with Manzarek and Krieger sharing the role of vocalist after Morrison's death, they parted ways a few years later. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Manzarek and Krieger reunited (with Ian Astbury of The Cult on vocals) to form The Doors of the 21st Century, to Densmore's anger. Densmore had disagreed to reform the Doors (unless Eddie Vedder was the singer), and actually sued his former bandmates over their use of the name The Doors and of the band's logo (He thought that the use of the logo and the fact that the words "of the 21st century" was written in much smaller print compared to "The Doors" was intentionally misleading). Manzarek and Krieger would be forced to their act Riders on the Storm and later Manzarek-Krieger. Densmore later reconciled with Krieger and Manzarek shortly before the latter's death in 2013 and since has occasionally reunited with Krieger on stage.

Val Kilmer played Morrison in the 1991 biographical film directed by Oliver Stone.


Principal Members (Founding members in bold):

  • John Densmore, (born 1944) - drums, percussion, vocals (1965–73, 1978)
  • Robby Krieger, (born 1946) - guitar, lead vocals, percussion, harmonica (1965–73, 1978)
  • Ray Manzarek (1939–2013) - keyboard, organ, keyboard bass, lead vocals, piano, marxophone, harpsichord, marimba, percussion, guitar (1965–73, 1978)
  • Jim Morrison (1943–1971) - lead vocals, harmonica, percussion, synthesizer, maracas, tambourine, piano (1965–71, 1978 posthumously)

Studio Discography:

  • 1967 - The Doors
  • 1967 - Strange Days
  • 1968 - Waiting for the Sun
  • 1969 - The Soft Parade
  • 1970 - Morrison Hotel
  • 1971 - L.A. Woman
  • 1971 - Other Voices
  • 1972 - Full Circle
  • 1978 - An American Prayer note 

Live Discography:

  • 1970 - Absolutely Live
  • 1983 - Alive, She Cried note 
  • 1987 - Live at the Hollywood Bowl note 
  • 1991 - In Concert note 

Non-album singles:

  • 1969 - "Wishful Sinful" note  / "Who Scared You"
  • 1970 - "Love Her Madly" note  / "(You Need Meat) Don't Go No Further"
  • 1972 - "Get Up and Dance" note  / "Tree Trunk"

The Doors are the Trope Namers for:

YOU CANNOT PETITION THE LORD WITH TROPES!

  • Acquitted Too Late: Non-death penalty version: In December 2010, the state of Florida pardoned Morrison for the infamous "lewd and lascivious conduct" charge he earned during a 1969 concert, the details of which are sketchy and vary wildly depending on which of the witnesses you ask.
  • Anti-Love Song: Subverted. Many of the songs written by Jim were true love songs to a girlfriend, his future wife Pamela Courson, with whom he had an extremely volatile relationship. Pamela herself was, according to rumour, Cute and Psycho and carried a big knife and a purse full of Thorazine.
  • Badass Baritone: Jim in spades. He had the Badass attitude expected for a Sixties rock frontman, and a surprisingly deep, silky voice for someone as young and pretty as he was.
  • The Band Minus the Face:
    • After Jim's death, the other three released two albums (Other Voices and Full Circle) with Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger on lead vocals. Both albums were out of print for years, but are now available via Spotify, iTunes, and other online sources.
    • In 2002, Manzarek and Krieger formed a band playing Doors songs, Riders on the Storm (initially The Doors of the 21st Century before John Densmore and the Morrison estate sued), which toured with numerous singers, most notably Ian Astbury of The Cult, until Manzarek died in 2013. (Densmore later reconciled with Krieger and Manzarek shortly before the latter's death, and since has occasionally reunited with Krieger on stage.)
    • The Doors appeared on VH1 Storytellers in 2000, with different singers handling vocals for different songs, including Patrick Monahan of Train, Ian Astbury of The Cult (who also toured with the band, as mentioned above), Travis Meeks of Days of the New, Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots, and Scott Stapp of Creed.
  • Beard of Sorrow: Possibly why Morrison grew one after the Florida incident.
  • Berserk Button: Jim hated being held up as the most important member of the bad or given more attention than the other members and was reportedly furious when the first album emphasized him more than everyone else. He once even refused to go on stage when they were introduced as "Jim Morrison and The Doors", insisting the announcer introduce them correctly.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: Averted during the Miami incident; one of the accounts of it states that someone brought a lamb on stage, and the only reason Jim wouldn't...touch her was "she's too young".
  • Biopic: The Doors directed by Oliver Stone.
  • Bowdlerize:
    • The lyric "She gets high!" in "Break On Through (to the Other Side)" was clipped on the original vinyl release, and all subsequent releases until the CD remaster in 2003.
    • On the same album, the Cluster F-Bomb in "The End" was buried in the original mix. See below for further info.
    • A notorious incident occurred when the band appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1967. The Ed Sullivan people told the Doors to change the lyrics from "Girl, we couldn't get much higher" to "Girl, we couldn't get much better" days before the show. Neither Morrison nor Krieger wanted to change it, partially because they didn't want to be censored and partially because they thought it'd be funny to annoy the Ed Sullivan people. After the show, Jim claimed he'd forgotten to change the lyrics because he was nervous.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Other Voices and Full Circle were out-of-print for over 40 years until they got a reluctant CD release in 2015. Both albums were critically lukewarm and commercial disasters, although this could qualify as invoked They Changed It, Now It Sucks!. The Post-Morrison Doors are also notable for being the inspiration for the Fake Band, Pusswhip Gangbang from Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!.
  • Careful with That Axe: Possible Trope Makers. Never more effective than in "Celebration of the Lizard": Immediately after the "Little Game" sequence, Jim lets out a scream so shrill that he sounds like a woman!
  • Circus of Fear:
    • The vaguely destitute circus performers seen on the cover of Strange Days.
    • Also, that's how some folks describe the sounds that come from Manzarek's organ.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: There's a heavily buried one in the original mix of "The End", between the "blue bus" segment and the reprise of the "This is the end" segment. When Francis Ford Coppola was making Apocalypse Now, he requested the use of the song, and the studio accidentally sent his sound designer Walter Murch the original masters, which enabled him to hear the unmixed version of the song. Murch subsequently created a very trippy new mix for the film that brought the Cluster F-Bomb to the forefront.
  • Compilation Rerelease: There have been several box sets collecting all their studio albums up to L.A. Woman released.
  • Concept Album: An American Prayer; Jim recorded a bunch of his poetry before he died, then several years later, the other Doors set it to music.
  • Cover Version: "Back Door Man" by Willie Dixon, "Crawling King Snake" by John Lee Hooker, "Who Do You Love" by Bo Diddley, "Gloria" (in a much more graphic rendition) by Them, and "Alabama Song" from The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: Jim famously did this in a photoshoot and it's been used in many album covers since.
  • Cultural Rebel: Arguably Manzarek, who was born in 1939, meaning that he was about 30 when the band hit it big and had come of age in The '50s.
  • Deadly Bath: Jim’s fate.
  • Descent into Darkness Song: "The End" famously starts off as a ponderous musing about the nature of finality. However, eventually the imagery shifts into describing a masked killer grappling with the desire to kill, and then killing, his parents. Afterwards, the tempo builds to create a mesmerizing climax. Which, incidentally, makes it the perfect song to be used as Bookends for Apocalypse Now — a descent into the evil that lurks in the human heart.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: From "Peace Frog": "Ghosts crowd the young child's fragile, eggshell mind".
  • Drunken Song: Morrison's drinking habit was legendary. According to those present at the session, he recorded his vocal for "Five to One" when quite hammered indeed. This is clear from his sometimes slurred words — "You walk across the floowr widda ffflower 'n your hand" — and from his spoken-word ad-lib, during the coda, about going to the woods and getting "fucked up." (The original studio release faded out before this point for obvious reasons; the full coda, complete with profanity, was restored in later CD editions.)
  • Echoing Acoustics: Many of their songs feature lots of echoing.
  • Epic Rocking: "The End" (11:43), "When the Music's Over" (10:58), "Celebration of the Lizard" (14:25 live version, 17:09 studio version), "Light My Fire" (7:06), "The Soft Parade" (8:36), "L.A. Woman" (7:49), "Riders on the Storm" (7:11).
  • Everyone Went to School Together: Jim and Ray met while attending UCLA film school and their classmates also included Francis Ford Coppola. One of their teachers was Josef von Sternberg.
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: "I Looked at You".
  • Four-Philosophy Ensemble: Jim was the Apathetic, Ray was the Realist, John is the Cynic, and Robby is the Optimist.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble
    • Jim (Melancholic) - detached, rebellious, neurotic and reckless.
    • Ray (Sanguine) - sociable, carefree, diplomatic and idealistic.
    • John (Choleric) - confident, observant, cynical and anxious.
    • Robby (Phlegmatic) - easy-going, passive-aggressive, stubborn and quiet.
  • Free Handed Performer: Jim Morrison is the only member of the band that didn't play any instruments and instead relied on his powerful voice.
  • Genius Ditz: When he wasn’t under the influence, Morrison knew his stuff. Some say you could read him a random line from any book and he’d tell you where it came from. Might be Idiot Savant depending on posthumous psychoanalysis.
  • Genre Mashup: The musicians in the band. Ray Manzarek was a classically-trained pianist before he switched to organ; Robby Krieger started out as a flamenco guitarist; John Densmore was a jazz drummer who had only just discovered the blues.
  • Goth Rock: While not outright examples of the genre, the Doors were one of the two biggest influences on it, alongside Joy Division (whose lead singer happened to be a fan of Jim Morrison, coincidentally enough).
  • Gratuitous Panning: Particularly egregious on the first album, with the drums and keyboard bass often panned to one side and the guitar and organ panned to the other.
  • Greatest Hits Album: Several through the years.
  • Hard Rock: The Doors didn't invent the hard rock genre, but they were arguably the heaviest band out there at the time of the debut of their first album in 1967.
  • Heavy Metal: Usually not cited as an influence, but "Break On Through (To the Other Side)" was probably the darkest and heaviest song in pop music during the 1960s; its climax includes an almost subliminal "doomy thunder" sound that Black Sabbath and Judas Priest would make famous. And with "TRY TO SET THE NIGHT ON... FIRRRRE!" at the end of "Light My Fire", Jim may have birthed the Metal Scream.
  • Heavy Meta: "The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat)", among others.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: It's practically impossible to imagine Jim without his leather pants.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Jim Morrison's longtime girlfriend Pamela Courson.
  • Improv: A lot of their live show (particularly Morrison's banter and spoken word segments) was improvised.
  • Intercourse with You: While maybe not the Trope Makers, definitely the Trope Codifier.
  • Large Ham: Morrison — present throughout but increasingly so from Waiting for the Sun onwards.
  • Last Note Hilarity: Jim Morrison was the lone holdout from The Doors on an offer by Buick to license "Light My Fire" for a car ad. He would ridicule the rest of the band members for this by singing "Stron-ger-Than-Dirt!" over the last four brass notes of the album version of "Touch Me" from The Soft Parade, a reference to cleaner company Ajax's slogan.note 
  • Last-Second Word Swap: In "L'America":
    Come on people, don't ya look so down
    You know the rain man's comin' ta town
    Change the weather, change your luck
    And then he'll teach ya how to... find yourself
    L'America
  • Like Father, Unlike Son: Jim’s father, George Stephen Morrison, was a naval commander during the Gulf of Tonkin incident that escalated Vietnam. You can imagine how he felt about his son’s lifestyle at first, though he came around to it before Jim’s death.
  • Literary Allusion Title: Taken from Aldous Huxley's essay extolling the virtues of psychedelics, The Doors of Perception, whose title itself is a reference to William Blake's poem The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: "If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite."
  • Live Album: Several. Absolutely Live (1970) was the first, and the only one released during Jim Morrison's lifetime.
  • Longest Song Goes Last:
    • The Doors closes with "The End" (11:41).
    • Strange Days closes with "When the Music's Over" (10:58).
    • Waiting for the Sun closes with "Five to One" (4:24).
    • The Soft Parade closes with "The Soft Parade" (8:36).
    • Morrison Hotel closes with "Maggie M'Gill" (4:24).
    • Full Circle closes with "The Peking King and the New York Queen" (6:25).
  • Long-Haired Pretty Boy: Morrison, especially in the early years. Even Ray Manzarek says in one of his interviews that Jim’s gorgeous.
  • Looks Like Jesus: Morrison when he had a beard.
  • Love at First Sight: "Hello, I love you, won't you tell me your name?"
  • Lyrical Cold Open: Most famously done with "The Crystal Ship" ("Before you slip into unconciousness..."). Other examples include "Take It As It Comes", "My Wild Love", "Easy Ride", "Runnin' Blue", "The Soft Parade", and "Been Down So Long".
  • Lyrical Dissonance: They had some of the gloomiest lyrics ever put into song with some of the most rockin' melodies ever.
  • Lyrical Shoehorn: A common ingredient of their lyrical word salads, most famously in "Riders on the Storm".
    Like a dog without a bone
    An actor out on loan
  • The Man Behind the Curtain: The principal line-up of the Doors did not include a bass player. The group used various session musicians on their studio albums, while in live shows they compensated for the lack of a bassist by having Ray Manzarek play piano bass with his left hand while playing the keyboard parts with his right.
  • Metal Scream: Jim lets a few out in "The Changeling". It sounds even more awesome in the New Stereo Mix on The Very Best of The Doors.
  • Military Brat: Jim's father was a rear admiral in the U.S. Navy and he grew up in various places around the country. They were estranged at the time of his death.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Jim on the cover of their greatest hits album. Also wore tight leather pants a lot and was tall dark and handsome. Probably the trope codifier.
  • Murder Ballad: "The killer awoke before dawn" section of "The End", as well as "Riders on the Storm". An American Prayer includes a piece called "The Hitchhiker", which retells "Riders" from the murderer's perspective.
  • New Sound Album:
    • Waiting for the Sun and The Soft Parade were considerably more pop-friendly than the group's early work, especially the latter — while the former still had some hard-edged tunes like "Five to One" and "The Unknown Soldier", the latter featured Lighter and Softer lyrics and extensive brass and string overdubs. The group returned to their hard blues-rock sound for Morrison Hotel.
    • Other Voices, the 1971 post-Morrison album, marked a calculated shift in the band's temperament. It mostly embraces a carefree, even humorous hippie image that the brooding Jim had always resisted. The Lighter and Softer approach didn't take, and within a year the band broke up for good.
  • Nobody Loves the Bassist: Probably why they didn't even have one. Well, apart from Ray's left hand. The studio albums often used session bassists, though: While Manzarek played keyboard bass during live performances, the band commonly enlisted session musicians to play actual bass on their albums; they didn't do this with most of the tracks on their debut album, and Ray wasn't satisfied with the sound that resulted. Well-known guitarist Lonnie Mack played bass on at least two tracks on Morrison Hotel ("Roadhouse Blues" and "Maggie M'Gill"), although some critics believe he played on other tracks as well.
  • The Not-Remix: A very unusual example of this with "Light My Fire" on the 2006 remaster of the debut album. A musicologist (from Brigham Young University, of all places) had figured out that the original album mix of "Light My Fire" was inadvertently slowed down by 3.5% (based on the 45 RPM single mix and existing live recordings of the song being in a different key than the album version) and informed Elektra of the issue. The speed was then corrected for the remaster and this version is the one now in circulation.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: Everything after Jim's death! The band made a marked shift in their temperament for the two albums made after Morrison's death. Their first post-Morrison album, Other Voices, even has a noticeable space between John Densmore and Robby Krieger, as if showing the literal empty space left by Jim.
  • Oedipus Complex: Again, "The End".
  • Only in Florida: The Lizard King came into the world in Melbourne, though the family didn’t stay long. 25 years later, the Miami concert would be the highwater mark for his onstage persona.
  • Posthumous Collaboration: An American Prayer.
  • Premature Encapsulation: Their third album was titled Waiting for the Sun, but the song by that name wasn't released until two albums later, on Morrison Hotel.
  • Progressive Instrumentation: Both "Wild Child" and "Peace Frog" start with guitar, then drums, then bass, then keyboard, then finally Jim keys in.
  • Progressive Rock: Their classical/baroque-influenced arrangements, Ray Manzarek's keyboard leads, and some lyrics went a long way towards influencing the genre's development. Some of their longer songs, such as "The End", "When the Music's Over", "The Soft Parade", and "Riders on the Storm", may themselves qualify as early examples of progressive rock.
  • Protest Song:
    • "Five to One", "The Unknown Soldier", and "Dead Cats, Dead Rats".
    • Many of their other songs that aren't primarily protest songs also have significant elements of protest within them; perhaps the most notable example is the "What have we done to the earth?" section in "When the Music's Over".
  • Psychedelic Rock: Their sound (especially Ray Manzarek's keyboard) made them an archetypical example of the genre.
  • Public Exposure: Being accused of this in Miami was what led to Jim's downfall. Whether it actually happened is anyone's guess.
  • Punk Rock: Because of characteristics such as the darkness of their music and Morrison's frequent use of the Metal Scream they are often considered a Protopunk band.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: As mentioned under Acquitted Too Late above, accounts of just what happened at the infamous March 1, 1969, live show at which Morrison was arrested vary widely.
  • Rock Me, Asmodeus!: "My Wild Love".
  • Scare Chord:
    • At the end of "Not to Touch the Earth": "I am the Lizard King. I can do anything." BLAAAM!
    • On a related note, in the live song "Wake Up": "WAKE UP!"
      • Also, during the performance of "The End" during the Hollywood Bowl Concert KILL!!!
  • Scatting: Jim Morrison imitates a harmonica with his voice in "Cars Hiss by My Window."
  • Serial Killer: "Riders on the Storm."
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Runnin' Blues" is clearly a tribute to Otis Redding.
    • "The Spy" references the title of a novel by Anaïs Nin, A Spy in the House of Love.
  • Shrinking Violet: By all accounts, Jim was this offstage in sharp contrast to his energetic stage persona, to the point that he couldn't stay at a party if one of the other band members wasn't there.
  • Significant Anagram: "Mr. Mojo Risin'" = Jim Morrison (L.A. Woman).
  • Something Blues: "Roadhouse Blues" and "Shaman's Blues."
  • Spoken Word in Music: "The killer awoke before dawn..." Also "Horse Latitudes," "Celebration of the Lizard," and An American Prayer. Morrison was fond of this in live performance as well. The band members have said that sometimes they dreaded what Morrison was going to say.
  • Spoofed with Their Own Words: The rant at the start of the song "The Soft Parade" has Morrison speaking thusly:
    When I was back there in seminary school
    There was a person there
    Who put forth the proposition
    That you can petition the Lord with prayer
    Petition the Lord with prayer
    Petition the Lord with prayer
    YOU CANNOT PETITION THE LORD WITH PRAYER!
    • The line "Petition the Lord with prayer" sounds like a mockery of that proposition, the way it was said.
  • Step Up to the Microphone:
    • After Jim's death, the other three released two albums (Other Voices and Full Circle) with Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger on lead vocals. Both albums were out of print for years, but are now available via Spotify, iTunes, and other online sources.
    • If Jim was too incapacitated to sing on a given night, Ray and/or Robby would handle vocals. Ray can be seen singing "Hello I Love You" in their concert film, The Doors Are Open.
    • Manzarek also sings lead on "Close to You", a Muddy Waters cover on the Absolutely Live album, and the B-Side to "Love Her Madly", "(You Need Meat) Don't Go No Further" (another Muddy Waters cover). Krieger also shared lead vocals with Morrison on the song "Runnin' Blue" from The Soft Parade.
  • Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: The "L'America" example under Last-Second Word Swap above.
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: "The Crystal Ship," "Yes, the River Knows," "Wishful Sinful," "You're Lost, Little Girl," "I Can't See Your Face in My Mind," and several others.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Jim was close to six feet tall with long dark hair and brooding good looks.
  • True Companions: The band were very tight and agreed to a rule at their inception that all major decisions would only be made with a unanimous agreement. This rule continued even after Morrison's death and all subsequent choices were made only with the approval of the other members.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Jim's silky, crooning baritone voice, which was unusual for a rock singer and largely influenced by Frank Sinatra who was his favorite singer, was striking due to how at odds it was with his youth and androgynous good looks.
  • Vocal Evolution: Heavy smoking and drinking took a toll on Morrison's voice towards the end. His voice is noticeably rougher on the L.A. Woman album.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "The Soft Parade," among others.
  • Yarling: Morrison is the arguable Ur-Example.

Alternative Title(s): Jim Morrison

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