Apr 102009

Yes, Jim Morrison was a bad poet with a ridiculous persona. Yes, Ray Manzarek is still smugly obsequious nearly 40 years after Jimbo’s death. And yes, that tour with Stewart Copeland and the dude from The Cult is one of the most pathetic attempts to keep a boomer-rock brand on the shelves waaaaayyy past its sell-by date.

But do The Doors suck? Like, is their music that bad? They had a kinda seedy punk-rock intensity about them, like The Velvets. They had jazz and blues chops that, to my ears, are more appealing than those of The Grateful Dead. They managed to convey both of the above in their singles, which are often hella punchy and catchy to boot.

I mean, if you think “Light My Fire” sucks, but “Marquee Moon” is awesome, that’s a little strange, right? You should have some really solid data backing up your statement, I think.

I’m not saying I’m a Doors fan all of a sudden. I just wonder if there’s an objective reason for saying they suck. But more importantly, I’d like to hear what Townspeople really think of The Doors.


  48 Responses to “Do The Doors Actually Suck?”

  1. Mr. Moderator

    Good to see that shot of “Ray” getting some more use! Nice work, Oats. I’ll have a good deal to say on this later tonight, I’m sure.

  2. The Doors are terrific. People who just kind of don’t like them, so be it. To each his own, no accounting for taste…all that bullshit.
    People who hate them on the other hand, have something to hide.
    Not like every album and every song are great, but The Doors are an essential component of the Rock and Roll buffet, and to deny them is futile.

  3. Hank Fan

    The Doors are perfect rock music for 16 year old kids. For me, it was kind of educational going through a “Doors phase” before moving onto other, better rock and roll things. So, at a minimum, they serve a purpose. They’re like a gateway drug.

  4. Mr. Moderator

    OK, I’ve always liked a at least a dozen Doors songs at any given time while NOT liking a lot of obvious things about them. As time goes on, I become more attuned to the excellent drumming of John Densmore and the bluesier, more badass, fat, bearded Morrison of Morrison Hotel and LA Woman. Those last two albums are very strong to my ears. The band cuts way back on the poetry, the lounge act horn section, and the Kurt Weill stuff and plays rock ‘n roll more consistently than they did in their earlier years. I wish they could have moved forward and just become a full-blown, early ’70s boogie band, a West Coast, intellectual alternative to Lynyrd Skynyrd. The hits would have fallen away, but they could have been around when punk hit, jamming with X and The Blasters the way Phil Lynott used to party and jam with the Rockpile crowd. In this scenario, circa 1983, they could have been a lot less painful for rock nerds to rediscover. Even the earlier, fruity stuff would have sounded better.

  5. Mr. Moderator

    WOW! I think I just hit the fourth dimension of RTH. This post is up on the screen, showing the lovely image of McLachlan as Manzarek, and what random image pops up in the top right corner of the banner but…McLachlan as Manzarek!

  6. no way dudes-VIVA LA DOORS!!!

  7. Yes, they suck.

  8. Mr. Moderator

    Cher, musically – and I know you know your stuff – why? We’re talking “suck” here. If you think they suck for extra-musical reasons, that’s cool, but do tell. Thanks!

  9. hrrundivbakshi

    Funny, I was slumming in a local thrift store yesterday and the Doors cheese-stravaganza that has the bit where Jim croons: “I’mmmm… gonna luvvvv you… til the sun refuse to shiiiine… I’mmmmm gonna LUVVVVVV you… ” etc. I thought at the time: shit, was there ever a more blatant discrepancy between the work of a band designed to win hipster favor and the work of a band designed to peel 13 year-old panty than *this*?

    The Doors suck for shitloads of reasons: the singer was a tool, the keyboard player was a tool, the drummer was boring, the guitar player was boring *and* reminds me of Clint Howard, and — well, I can never figure out if they ever had a bass player or not. If they didn’t, that’s *another* reason why they suck. If they did, and I still can’t remember whether he/she actually existed, that’s damning evidence of their suckitude, too.

    Plus, there’s the cover of “Morrison Hotel,” which says more about the vast divide between my tastes in music and Mr. Mod’s than could ever be detailed in these halls. Come on, Mod — that beard is the most obvious, egregious example of a “credibility beard” in the history of Rock!



  10. hrrundivbakshi

    Whoops — it seems I confused Morrison’s credibility beard appearance on “L.A. Woman” with his clean-shaven, pussy-magnet Look on “Morrison Hotel.” Maybe they don’t suck after all!


  11. Give ’em a different — and less screamingly pretentious — singer and the Doors would be acceptable.

  12. Mr. Moderator

    Hrrundi, Oats asked you to consider the music and all you start out by speculating on whether they wanted to be hipsters or pop stars? Then you call them tools? Then you play the smelly hippy card? That’s all to be expected, but there’s nothing boring about Densmore’s drumming. He’s cool!

  13. Mr. Moderator

    Also, to those of you saying that The Doors “suck” with no supporting evidence, at least register whether you dig Love or own only one Springsteen album: Nebraska.

  14. I would not count myself as a huge Doors fan for various reasons, but none of them really musical ones. Morrison just bugs me. I think all the hip adulation he has received from high schoolers all over this land just grates on my nerves (Hankfan). I think there are two “classic” bands that high schools kids really get into: The Doors and Led Zeppelin. I think that the stuffing of the Lizard King down my throat during those years just turned me off to him. And that movie just didn’t help things. I think it’s an awful Rock movie of the highest order. Poor Ray. I just don’t like hearing this dude anymore. He has also contributed to this self-important image of The Doors that make them seem more important than they really were/are.

    On the other hand, I like some Doors music. I crank “Love Her Madly” when it comes on the radio. I like the L.A. Woman album on the whole. They have some really good tunes.

    Perhaps had Jimmy lived maybe he could have dispelled some of that tortured poet crap that he’s saddled with. Perhaps he would have a laugh at himself and called bullshit on this image. “Wasn’t I a tool?” But, he didn’t. He’s a rock n roll martyr destined to share the pedestal of lost giants like Hendrix, Joplin, Moon and Cobain. So, this is the way he is remembered. And this is precisely what turns me off to his music.

    The Doors do not suck musically. I would even go so far to say that they are above-average. But they do have an image problem and most of that is due to their keyboardist (Kreiger and Dinsmore seem okay, but I don’t know anything…) and their dead singer.


  15. saturnismine

    I like the doors. each of them could be lame, especially ray and jim. and i don’t think densmore was a great drummer, but he was certainly coming from a different place than most drummers of his era. So was Krieger for that matter. a truly versatile player.

    true, the sum of these parts was capable of real shmaltz (“touch me” is wretch-worthy), and utter pretentiousness (e.g. that whole lizard king thing). but they were also capable of some truly sublime stuff (for instance, “moonlight drive”) or powerful rock (e.g. the song “waiting for the sun”).

    until Morrison Hotel, their albums truly suffer from that really weird mid to late 60s sound of not knowing what to do with stereo and not knowing how to record drums.

    i’m not a huge fan of the first album, but “strange days” is a highly underrated psyche masterpiece. it might be the best sounding album of the first four.

    I’ve “never heard anything quite like” the title track (and i mean that in a good way…it’s a really creative approach to making a song sound like confusion and neurosis without simply making noise). And in addition to “moonlight drive” there are some real sleepers on that album (e.g. “unhappy girl” and “my eyes have seen you.”).

    i also think that “morrison hotel” is a really strong album. side 2 is a real surprise that suggests where they might’ve gone in the 70s had morrison lived. it has a nice heavy sound.

    i can’t really get behind L.A. woman, which always sounded like a drop off in quality to me (in songwriting, recording, and performance). but even that album has some nice moments: “hyacinth house” and “the changeling” are pretty great.

    thoughts turn to baseball….

  16. BigSteve

    The Doors are an essential component of the part of the rock buffet that sucks.

  17. hrrundivbakshi

    Mod, I made no reference to smelly hippies. I could care less what bits of egg, stale cheese and bread crumbs are stuck in Morrison’s facial hair. *You’ve* not listened. That’s a full-on Credibility Beard, Jim — you need to confront that.

  18. They’re better than The Byrds.

  19. 2000 Man

    Hankfan is dead on – they’re a gateway band. When I was sixteen (and Led Zeppelin was a fully functioning shit factory) I was apparently trying to simplify things and I found the Doors to be the perfect fit between some of the Blues Rawk I liked, and the Prock I loved. All of a sudden I had a band that gave me some of the grandiosity of Yes with some cool guitars like Rory Gallagher. Jim’s famous appetite for dope really appealed to me at that time, too. I bet I had about an 18 month total infatuation with The Doors and while I don’t remember many specific events, I remember it was cool that I could afford their entire recorded output on a high school student with no job budget.

    They really kinda dropped off my radar after that, though. When I got off the chemical side of life I thoguht Morrison was a dink of the highest order and I quit paying attention to them. When Strange Days came out on cd I got that, and it was the first truly shitty sounding cd I had heard up to that point. I had bootlegs of TV performances recorded from a TV onto a cassette recorded using the condenser mic that sounded better, so I really gave up on them.

    Now I can sit back and appreciate them somewhere in the middle of those two positions. Some of it is cringe worthy, but it really isn’t all that bad. I certainly don’t love them anymore (I don’t love Hostess Chocolate Pies either), but I can appreciate them now.

  20. Hey Doors Haters-Listen to Morisson Hotel, skipping Roadhouse Blues, as you would skip Brown Sugar on Sticky Fingers, and see if you aren’t able to enjoy this record without all the baggage.

  21. The Morrison pretentiousness is a bore, but I don’t know personally anyone who really ever believed in that part of it, so I don’t feel as offended about it as others might.

    I kinda like the band–even the early stuff–in limited doses. On the other hand, I heard them so much in so many contexts in high school, college and after that I almost feel like I never need to listen to them again. So I can enjoy it when I hear it without strong feelings.

    On the offchance that I did need to, I took the Mod’s suggestion a couple years back and repurchased Morrison Hotel. It rocks pretty hard, but I have to say that over the course of a whole album, it also gets a little dull. Still, I think it’s better than any comparable Steppenwolf album, the band that the work on Morrison Hotel most reminds me of.

  22. saturnismine

    kilroy, glad to see you’re checking into the morrison hotel with me.

    just stay off my floor, okay?

  23. When I was in high school, all the assholes liked Bobby Brown, MC Hammer, and Big Daddy Kane. So I can certainly understand this revulsion to anything that has been shoved down your throats.
    That being said, I also never listened to the doors seriously until i was about 24. By that time, the stupid Oliver Stone movie had come and gone. The Soft Parade is a pretty terrible record and Jim and Ray certainly have their personality problems.
    The Doors do not suck.

  24. BigSteve

    I wish the Doors had quit after Break On Through, and they’d be remembered fondly as a cool garage/psych one hit wonder.

    But they didn’t and most of the rest of their work drowns in excess. Light My Fire? Not a bad little pop song, but it gets weighed down by extended noodling and a vocal that sings the ‘fuck me’ lyric as if it were the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Moonlght Drive? Coulda been a cool little psych gem, unfortunately undone by the preening vocal in the main body of the song, the uncalled for move to the high register towards the end, and then the dreaded descent into shamanism at the fadeout.

    I do sometimes like Krieger’s guitar, and I like it when he plays slide. But the other two instrumentalists are fair to middling, and I get sick of the the weedy sound of the organ that is Manzarek’s default setting.

    Someone mentioned Love Her Madly, and it’s a good example of them realizing a nice little number without suckcumbing to their worst tendencies. But overall I think the Doors are an example of a band whose ambitions simply outpaced their abilities. And then when they played within their abilities, you end up with moderately successful boogie like the Morrison Hotel album.

    Their singer’s self-regard was a major problem. Pushing the boundaries can work as an artistic strategy, but as an end in itself it’s a dead end. As I believe William Blake said, the Road of Excess leads to a Bathtub in Paris.

  25. I’ve never really bothered getting to into them, nor do i have much of an urge. I have the two disk best of and i think it’s perfectly addequete. Attitude and legacy aside, which hasn’t really spoiled my view of them, their best stuff is unique, intersting, and pretty good. But i dunno, maybe all the other album material sucks.

  26. saturnismine

    BigSteve wrote of “Moonlight Drive” as “undone by the preening vocal in the main body of the song, the uncalled for move to the high register towards the end, and then the dreaded descent into shamanism at the fadeout.”

    These are matters of taste, to be sure. I never thought of the vocal as “preening” and i never gave the key change a second thought. And what “shamanism” is there in the fadeout? All he says is that they’re going to “take a little ride down by the ocean side” and “get real tight.” Is that what shamans do? He’s just opening it up in the fade the way any rock or r and b singer would…

    Also, describing Morrison Hotel as a moderately successful boogie album is a gross misrepresentation of it. I’ll give you “Maggie McGill”, “Roadhouse Blues”, and “You Make me Real”, and “Peace Frog.” But “Waiting for the Sun” isn’t boogie, neither are “Land Ho,” “Ship of Fools,” or “Blue Sunday”, “Indian Summer,” “the Spy” or “Queen of the Highway.” That’s over half the album.

  27. saturnismine

    but BigSteve, i DO agree with you about Robbie: i like his slide. And yes, Ray’s organ sound is one of the reasons why I can’t go back and listen repeatedly. One of the things I like about Morrison Hotel is that there’s more piano.

  28. Mr. Moderator

    I’m standing by my beliefs that the band was coming around to playing within its boogie strengths – in a good way – and that their earlier albums had more good songs combined than the combined worthwhile output of Love, The Byrds, and a lot of contemporaries that are more likely to get a free pass because they a) were flops or b) had no members with a personality.

    What BigSteve said about liking them better had they been a 1-hit garage-rock cult band is telling. Ask yourself, would The Doors really have been better as The Chocolate Watchband, the sort of band BigSteve referred to, with maybe 2.25 great songs over the course of an import-only greatest hits album than if they had produced what they did: a greatest hits album containing maybe 3 great songs as well as a solid album’s worth each of boogie workouts, Kurt Weil-inspired drama, and lounge act showstoppers, there for the taking for those of you who might have a soft spot for one of the band’s styles?

  29. 2000 Man

    Anyone skipping Brown Sugar is committing a Rock Crime in a felonious manner. It’s a punishable offense and should be stopped immediately.

    I like Moonlight Drive a lot. I think it’s definitely one of the Doors’ best songs, and any band would be proud to have it in their arsenal.

  30. Mr. Moderator

    Oats, as the Townsman behind this question, are you satisfied with the quality of discussion from the “Doors Suck” contingent?

  31. BigSteve

    Mod asks:

    Ask yourself, would The Doors really have been better as The Chocolate Watchband?

    Yes. I wouldn’t have had to hear the Watchband’s ancient keyboard player constantly refer to his band’s late singer as a shaman or see him replace said shaman with that embarrassing dude from the Cult.

    And saturn, what I meant about the fadeout to Moonlight Drive is that he goes into the ponderous faux vatic tone when all he’s singing about is “let’s go for a drive along the beach.” I think I’m changing my vote for most pompous voice in rock to Jimbo.

  32. dbuskirk

    Whether you fall for their Act or not, there is a least a dozen Doors songs everybody on this list knows by heart. That alone counts for something, they had a pretty memorable batch of songs.

    I was into them in a major way in junior high, when Ray was on a tear with all those mythologizing radio specials that ran on FM rock stations. I completely bought the poet thing, the mystic thing, the whole ball of wax. I was even digging AN AMERICAN PRAYER, which I’m surprised none of you hater have kicked around yet.

    I think I have all of their records except for SOFT PARADE these days, although I can really only listen to selected (off-the-beaten) tracks. I did check out their early Perception demos recently, and was reasonably amused. Still, I’m kinda done with them at this point. But suck? No.

  33. mikeydread

    Although I like the idea of The Doors as gateway band, I’m with Big Steve. Break on Through – track one, album one – is a cracker. After that, well. I give you The End. Hideous.
    I laughed like a drain when I found this definition of The Doors in Frank Portman’s angsty teen novel King Dork. (Which I highly recommend to all Kinks fans.)

    “There is an extremely well-organized conspiracy among boomers to cultivate the fiction that this band doesn’t totally suck. The worst thing in the history of the universe.”
    More Dorkish wisdom here:

  34. Mr. Moderator

    BigSteve, beware the Postscript Fallacy!

  35. I’m a Doors defender. I like Densmore’s jazz feel on the drums. If you don’t take Morrison as seriously as Manzarak obviously does, (I think he takes Jimbo more seriously than Morrison himself did) he can be pretty entertaining. I believe that Lester Bangs had a nice piece about Morrison as the great buffoon that might give Morrison haters a better perspective to appreciate him.Although the Doors were in the thick of psychedelia, and their first couple of albums were regarded as seriously highlights in the thick of that era, five or ten years later, when Strawberry Alarm Clock or Iron Butterfly sounded ridiculous on the radio, the Doors remained in heavy rotation and didn’t sound dated. I also agree with Saturn that Strange Days is their best record. It exploits the small combo restraint that I see as a by producet of their relatively modest, but clean and clever musicianship. Finally, I think Alabama Song may be the smartest cover of all time, a thoroughly integrated interpretation of obscure source material that simultaneously said something about the band and the song.

  36. Sorry I’m late to the party – been finishing things up on my former (as of Friday) job.

    I say thumbs up to the Doors and “Morrison Hotel”. “Land Ho”, “You Make Me Real” “Peace Frog” are all great tunes.

    As I have said before on RTH, I thought The Doors were a great singles band. I do not get caught up into the “Jim is God” stuff. I jyst listen to the tunes. I know it is schmaltz, but I think “Touch Me” is really great (especually the drums and bass)

    In fact, for a band that did not have a bassist, their bass arrangements are excellent. And as few have mentioned, John Densmore is an excellent drummer.

    Happy easter to all you RTH christians out there

  37. And what about Jim’s groundbreaking bravery and honesty? Not many singers would show their junk on stage like Jim did in Florida.

    I can easily name 20 Doors songs I totally dig. Musically, they don’t suck. With the passage of time, even their image doesn’t bother me anymore: West coast Velvet Underground. Plus, he had Meg Ryan as a girlfriend.

  38. alexmagic

    I’ll join in on the thumbs-upping for Morrison Hotel. A lot of genuinely good songs on there. I like some of the stranger stuff on Waiting For The Sun, too. Haven’t listened to Strange Days in a long while, but I know I do like at least a few songs on that.

    The parts of The Doors that do suck – Doors Fans, some of the more overblown songs, the Morrison Mythos – still have plenty of value, especially in a place like Rock Town Hall. I think the world would be a slightly sadder place if there were no jokes to make about Manzarek and Morrison’s Ghost, or songs like “Tell All The People” to nominate for most unintentionally funny rock song.

  39. Oats, as the Townsman behind this question, are you satisfied with the quality of discussion from the “Doors Suck” contingent?

    For the most part, although I do think Hrundi, BigSteve and others are having a little trouble getting past Morrison’s poses. But I’m with them in some regard. I think of “Roadhouse Blues” — a cool, driving rock-blooze single, but then in the middle, after the guitar solo, Jimbo goes into his little scat rap. UGH! In many ways, Great48 nailed it: They’d be a lot easier to take with another lead singer. Although I don’t think Morrison was totally worthless.

    Also I find it funny that we can’t get a consensus on whether Densmore was great or crap. Funny how Townsmen hear things differently.

  40. BigSteve

    This is a different kind of sucking from Billy Joel, who can barely muster a song or two that doesn’t suck.

    With the Doors it seems to me we have a band that could have not sucked but who pissed away their good qualities by betting on the ones most likely to lead to suckitude.

  41. Mr. Moderator

    The way you phrase this argument now, BigSteve, is interesting. Now I think it’s important that we identify what their “good qualities” were.

    See, what I was saying was that their best qualities were their somewhat garage-rock foundation, which they started strong with on songs like “Break On Through” and “Soul Kitchen” and then, I would argue, returned to on Morrison Hotel. Would you agree their way with pounding out 2 or 3 chords was among their strengths, or do you regret that they didn’t do more of those show tunes or the jazz-poetry explorations?

    You did rate their late-period “boogie” era as merely adequate, or something like that, but to my ears it was a return to what they did best – and with least chance for exposing all the stuff that’s so easy to dislike.

  42. diskojoe

    I had all the Doors’ albums (including American Prayer and Other Voices, the first post-Jim album)from high school until my sophmore yr. in college when I sold them to a dear friend of mine who probably still has them. I’m of the opinion that they did have good songs, but they were a bit overrated, although I would rather listen to them over Billy Joel in a heart beat.

    What I really want to say is that I was wondering for many years why The Soft Parade was so overblown w/horns until I read in Riot In Sunset Strip that it was the Doors’ attempt to emulate Forever Changes by Love, Mr. Mod’s fave rave “bullfighting music” album, which made perfect sense.

  43. BigSteve

    I basically think any band’s late boogie era is adequate at best.

    I understand that a lot of bands, and a lot of ordinary people too, felt the need to pull back from psychdelia, the idea being that going farther and farther out was ultimately destructive.

    The problem was that bands applied the same ethic of excess to the blues and rock & roll roots music they claimed to be returning to.

    I think if Krieger had been in charge they could have kept turning out nice little pop songs like Love Her Madly. But the bloated blooz stuff doesn’t work for me, and new directions that might have worked (e.g., Riders on the Storm) got undermined by the bad poetic affectations.

    I admit I haven’t listened to these albums in years, but I’m not inclined to revisit them.

  44. I can’t think of a band more ambitious, and yet, more lazy, than the Doors. But they did try to experiment with the power and glory of rock, channeling it through Brechtian theater and the American poetic tradition. They didn’t quite pull it off, though.

  45. Doors fans aren’t made, they’re born…

  46. Tdw – thanks for the Kids In the Hall!

    The Doors have a three-cd best of out of a 5 year career (out of 6 back to back LPs). That is damn impressive. Did they release some crap? yes.. so did everyone else who had to put out 2 Lps a year and tour (exceptions – Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Who)

    They fell apart long before Jim Died and the last 1/4 of their output was rough, lazy 2 chord biker boogie(And post Jim a joke)

    End of the day… Doors do not suck, just had a few rough moments (the 1990’s doors being one of them..the movie and the tour? yuck!)

  47. I know I’m a bit late to the party here, but I thought I’d weigh in on this topic. I concur with those who view The Doors as a gateway drug. When I was 14/15, I loved their 1st Lp and to my ears, it’s still their best album, though I tend to go for either that one or L.A. Woman (a very close 2nd) when I wanna hear them. That brings me to another point. Because of how overexposed they’ve been, the sense of self-importance and the cult of Jimbo, I’ve definitely rated them lower on the totem pole than other rock heavyweights and I’ve played their stuff less, too.

    I don’t think they suck, though, and furthermore I think that most of the hate from rock nerds in recent years is more because of the image/movie/myth and has little, if anything, to do with their music.

    I also concur with 2000man. Skipping “Brown Sugar” is definitely a rock crime, though nowhere near as much as skipping “Gimme Shelter” on Let it Bleed.

  48. Context matters! In the context of their era & hometown, the certainly did not suck. They were a fine rock band.

    40 years later, eh, they don’t sound all that new & groovy. But who does?

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