The Doors – “Strange Days”

I’m dipping back into The Doors Vinyl Box set as I work my way through The Doors catalog.  I listened to and wrote about their debut a few weeks back, and figured it makes sense to move through the albums sequentially, hence today I put on 1967s Strange Days.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I was never a Doors superfan, more of a greatest hits kind of fan.  The Doors have an impressive number of iconic songs, but there’s a lot of really odd and interesting stuff on their albums as well.  I’m currently reading drummer John Densmore’s book about the band, Riders on the Storm, and it provides an interesting insider’s perspective into both the man and the psyche of Jim Morrison, making me hear the band’s music in a slightly different way.

Strange Days has ten songs, though most are quite short – all but one come in at less than three and a half minutes, and four don’t even make it to the 2:30 mark.  The album ends, however, with a monstrously long track, just like their debut did, with “When the Music’s Over” lasting an even eleven minutes.  As near as I can tell I’d heard six of the ten songs before, not being familiar with “Unhappy Girl”, “Horse Latitudes”, “My Eyes Have Seen You”, and “I Can’t See Your Face in My Mind”.

One track struck me right away.  I suspect “Horse Latitudes” is the only song ever recorded about sailors tossing horses off a seagoing ship during a storm.  I know, that may be a bold statement, but I’m guessing I’m on firm ground here.  It’s absolutely disturbing, but it does fit with the artistic vision of the band.  Not that they’re about animal cruelty, but that they wanted to explore the possibilities that existed in music and words.  I think describing songwriters as poets is massively overdone and that label gets applied to a lot of people who aren’t particularly deep thinkers just because they can rhyme some words.  But that title fits Morrison to a T.  Yes, he was a drunk.  Yes, he was an asshole a lot of the time.  But he was also smart, introspective, and had an amazing ability to use words.

Cancel my subscription to the resurrection.
Send my credentials to the house of detention,
I got some friends inside.

[…]

What have they done to the earth?
What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered
And ripped her and bit her,
Stuck her with knives
In the side of the dawn.
And tied her with fences
And dragged her down.
— “When the Music’s Over”

Musically the band is almost always impressive, especially on longer tracks like “When the Music’s Over” where they can do a lot of things with timing to help change the mood and charge the song with emotion.  I didn’t unearth any gems here in the songs that were new to me but all of them had strong points, even “Horse Latitudes”.  I have to admit I’m becoming more and more intrigued with the band (and not just Morrison) as I read more about them and listen to more of their music, so I’m curious to see where I’ll end up after I work my way through their catalog.

 

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