Ray Manzarek died today.
If you check the date of this post against Wikipedia or something you’ll note that it went up a day after his passing… but I’m writing on the night it happened. Recently I picked up The Doors Vinyl Box released by Rhino, which includes the bands’ first six studio albums and a seventh record that is a mono recording of their debut. With Ray’s passing Holly and I decided a little tribute to Ray was in order, in the original mono… which stuck out in a way that caught us totally off guard with it’s unique sound.
Now, to be clear, I’m a classic rock fan, but I never really got into The Doors. I never had my “Doors Phase”. Actually, I’ve only owned two Doors albums or, to be more precise, CDs – their two disc greatest hits, and the movie soundtrack that I bought primarily because it included “Heroin” by The Velvet Underground & Nico and, even more importantly, “Carmina Burana”, which I’ve been in love with ever since I first saw the movie Excalibur as a little kid. So I’m not exactly mister Doors superfan. I’ve never read any of Morrison’s poetry (though I have read No One Gets Out of Here Alive), and in fact I’ve never even owned one of the band’s studio albums, so it’s a bit odd I ended up with the Vinyl Box.
Regardless, let me make one observation after listening to the band’s first record:
The Doors may have the greatest A side of any album. Ever.
Bold statement? Yes. But I submit the following for your consideration:
1. Break on Through
2. Soul Kitchen
3. The Crystal Ship
4. Twentieth Century Fox
5. Light My Fire
The prosecution rests, your honor.
The CD has made the whole concept of “the best album side” sort of tenuous, at least for new releases or to those who’ve never had to flip a record or tape to get to the other half of an album. That being said, for those of us of a certain age or older, the phrase still holds meaning. And thus I stand behind what I wrote. Mind you, there isn’t a single song on that side that would probably make my personal top 20 songs of all time… hell, not even my top 20 classic rock songs of all time. But that doesn’t take away from the quality side A of The Doors gives you from start to finish – you will be hard pressed to find five better songs on the same side of an album that isn’t a greatest hits or some other type of compilation. Maybe in a future post I’ll tackle my top five all time greatest album sides… and The Doors will have a great shot at making the list.
Side B isn’t a slouch either. “Back Door Man” may have some of the most amazing lyrics ever (You can eat your dinner / Eat your pork and beans / I eat more chicken / Any man’s ever seen…) and the album closes with the song that pulled Apocalypse Now together, “The End”. I went through a phase where I thought “The End” was one of the greatest songs of all time, and regularly sang it all the way through any time it came on the radio. And by “phase” I mean about the last 25 years or so. It’s that good.
Look, you don’t need to tell me how amazing or influential The Doors were, and I won’t pretend they were some massive influence on me the same way they were for my buddy Tim. But… they’re still one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands ever, and I’m embarrassed I made it this long without listening to one of their albums all the way through. Fortunately tonight I rectified that situation, and gained an even greater appreciation for their music. I’m really looking forward to listening to the rest of the band’s catalog.
The Doors came out in 1967. I wasn’t even born yet in 1967. But it’s still relevant, and still as fresh today as it was then… 46 YEARS AGO.
RIP Ray. You were one of the greats.