An enigmatic quartet with a musical style unlike any of their contemporaries, The Doors’ divisive legacy still incites impassioned debate. The motley collection of artists, led by a virtuoso keyboardist and a larger-than-life rockstar poet, find themselves both revered and reviled by modern audiences, but they are inarguably one of the most important acts in rock history. Their unique sound lives on through an eccentric, but immortal collection of songs—of which Blues Rock Review selects their best.
10. “The Crystal Ship”
Beginning with Jim Morrison’s sultry crooning, and climaxing around Ray Manzarek’s forceful piano interlude, “The Crystal Ship” eschews any sort of rock conventions. The nebulous lyrics—four quatrains of loose rhyme—deliver a hallucinatory farewell to a lover over sparse accompaniment in what is one of the Doors’ best attempts at fusing poetry and music.
9. “The Unknown Soldier”
The Doors paste together a sonic collage that owes as much to the extra-musical additions as the written music itself. Between the snapping gunshots, roaring crowds, and victory bells, Morrison’s voice ranges from a near-whisper to a roaring scream as he contrasts the realities of eating “breakfast, where the news is read” and a life where a “bullet strikes the helmet’s head.”
8. “Maggie M’Gill”
The final track on Morrison Hotel is a fitting culmination of their gruffest, rawest, studio album. The grimy sleaze drips off the notes in a sordid tale of life’s underbelly, darkly colored by the brooding instrumentation. Robby Krieger displays some of his best playing with his creeping licks and slide bursts lurking around the corner of every verse.
7. “People Are Strange”
“People are strange, when you’re a stranger.” The opening lines lay bare the outsider’s perception of life as told by a band that hovered around the outskirts of mainstream society. Morrison’s haunting voice and downtrodden lyrics cast a pall over his impromptu revelations. Coupled with Manzarek’s jangly tack piano, the song sounds more like an old western lament played from a dingy saloon than a hit by one of the most popular bands in the ‘60s.
6. “Peace Frog”
From the funky guitar chops to the unforgettable bassline that pulls the track forward, “Peace Frog” is one of The Doors’ most infectious grooves. The verses—at odds with the title—are a lyrical collage of some of Morrison’s most violent poetic imagery, and not-so-subtle political commentary.
5. “Five To One”
With a dark, militant cadence, Manzarek and John Densmore set the stage for a two-headed, vocal and guitar spectacle. Krieger and Morrison ratchet up the intensity, pushing each other to their emotive limits before receding into an almost demonic chant that coaxes listeners to, “get together one more time.” Sounding like it was written for a cult, this cult favorite emphatically closes Waiting For The Sun.
4. “Riders On The Storm”
On what many consider to be The Doors’ magnum opus, Manzarek’s piano plays the part of the titular storm as Morrison delivers his treatise on the human condition. Unlike many other songs where Morrison’s vocal antics highlight the lyrics, here his sober restraint reinforces the gravity of his somber, chilling message—that we are all riders on the storm.
3. “Light My Fire”
The best selling single and perhaps the most recognizable tune in the band’s catalog, “Light My Fire” heralded the arrival of the band and all of their dark, dangerous, sex appeal. Written largely by Krieger, the full seven-minute version of this pop gem features Manzarek’s dazzling keys and Krieger’s flamenco stylings as they expand past the boundaries of rock and into jazz.
2. “Love Her Madly”
Morrison incessantly begs the question throughout this rollicking song of lust and longing. Driven by jangling piano chords and highlighted by an understated guitar solo, the minor/major change from verse to chorus comes as a slight surprise, but works as a perfect example of the taut, creative songwriting The Doors were capable of.
1. “The End”
Perhaps the most famous song about death in rock history, “The End” can’t decide whether it wants to be a ballad, a poem, or an extended jam session, so it settles on being all three. Krieger’s eerie off-kilter guitar intro leads into a sequence of disturbing lyrical images and unsettling instrumental sections kept together by a Densmore performance for the ages. Many songs of the era broached taboo topics, often startling and angering authorities, but the sheer depth and darkness of “The End” is unrivaled to this day.