The Doors: Solidifying Success in 1968

Jim Morrison on stage with crowd during one of The Doors most lively performances of 1968, in Cleveland | Photo courtesy mildEquator.com

The Doors formed in 1965, in Los Angeles, California. They first spent two years in obscurity before taking a quick path to fame in 1967. During that time, the band began to mold its members into its main form, adding John Densmore and Robbie Krieger to its ranks. Early on, The Doors first signed with Columbia records. They began playing shows at small venues, but eventually worked their way up to bigger and better scenes. They finally signed to Elektra Records in 1966, releasing their first couple of albums, The Doors and Strange Days. These albums were very successful and set the tone for a very impressive career for the band.1 The Doors gained publicity through their thought provoking and sometimes controversial lyrics, as well as Jim Morrison’s unpredictable and raw stage presence. Though these first two albums are highly regarded and arguably The Doors’ best work as far as content goes, they still had yet to put together an album that would reach the top spot on the charts, with these first two releases falling short.

Jim Morrison’s mugshot in January 1968, after an altercation outside a show | Photo courtesy midEquator.com

The year 1968 started in full swing for The Doors, when Jim Morrison made headlines because of an incident he caused outside a late show. Jim had gotten into trouble for taunting some security guards. The security guards had beaten him up before the police arrived, and he was charged for failure to provide proper identification. Jim’s rouge and irreverent nature shaped the public’s views of the group as a whole, and most of the time in negative ways.2 Many believed that The Doors would never be a great group because of their unprofessional and childish behavior. Their aura of questionable behavior and the uncertainty about the group followed them into February of that year, which is when The Doors began to record their newest project. Despite the hectic and fast nature of life as a performer, all seemed to start well for the project, with fresh ideas flowing and the band working well together. It seemed that the production of the new album would go smoothly and without controversy. However, within the next month, tensions rose between the different band members. This was likely caused by the rejection of “The Celebration,” which was an idea for a song brought up by Jim Morrison. With his idea rejected by his bandmates, and his feeling that he was less represented and appreciated by the band, Jim started to drink more and more, as he was displeased with many aspects of the production.3 He became more and more unreliable as time went on. He often made the others wait long periods of time for him to help and contribute, and he didn’t take the recording sessions very seriously, causing problems within the group. The Doors continued to play shows and make public appearance, keeping them relevant within the busy music industry of the sixties. But this didn’t always seem to be positive. For example, in March that same year, The Doors made an appearance at a club where Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin were performing. The night was normal, that is until Jim began to act obnoxious, getting on stage and singing sarcastically with obscene lyrics. Eventually he collapsed on stage, making such a scene that was not only unappreciated by the general audience, but by Hendrix as well.4

Ray Manzarek sits concentrated at a recording session | Photo courtesy of CNN.com

Whether it was because of Jim’s alcohol problem or the tension behind the scenes within the group, The Doors now seemed to be falling apart. Though they continued to have positive performances and were continually gaining a larger and larger fan base, they also gained many people who were opposed to the message and atmosphere of their music scene. In what may be seen as a turning point of the year and even of their career, The Doors messed up and created for themselves more bad press as they were two hours late for a show at The Back Bay Theatre in Boston Massachusetts. The crowd seemed to be angry, but luckily enough for The Doors, the promoters were able to contact a few local bands to cover up for the time. Eventually, the Doors arrived and their 4:00 PM show was set to start. Unfortunately, Jim didn’t seem to be in the mood to perform at that time, so he just seemed to be going through the motions as he performed, and even took on a sarcastic Boston accent to sing “Light My Fire,” which, of course, didn’t generate positive feedback from the audience. In their second show later that night, Jim switched from that attitude, which seemed to bring down The Doors as a group, to one that was more enthusiastic and spirited. During that show, The Doors performed excellently, marking that date as one of the most notable nights of their careers. This led to The Doors gaining more and more publicity for all their performances, and new opportunities opened up to them. With more and more eyes on them each and every day, The Doors performed at some of the most relevant venues of the time, such as the New Fillmore East. They sold out arenas, and from that point on were earning a humble 35,000 dollars a show.5

With The Doors now at a new high point, album production felt a little less hostile. The members of the band were working better together, agreeing on more aspects of the content that they were putting together. In May, after spending a week recording at Sunset Studios, The Doors continued touring California, performing at multiple venues across the state as they recorded a short film called “Feast of Friends.” At this time, it seemed to many that Jim Morrison sought out any way to push every single limit that he could, even inciting riots at shows, causing them to be cut short for concern over the band’s and other people’s safety.6 The Doors, still not finished with album production, continue to record in Los Angeles, at the same time that they were performing on an almost day to day basis. With a couple of songs finished, The Doors decided to release a single to the public. They decided to release the song “Hello I Love You/Love Street,” which faced all kinds of different reactions from the public. As anticipated, the single brought change to The Doors style that many believed to be the hallmark of what made The Doors, “The Doors.” A lot of people saw this change to be superficial and more forced than anything else. Critics of the group believe that at this point The Doors were more “pop” than ever, and that they were under the strict control of their record company. They felt that The Doors were trying too hard to stay relevant and those opposed to the new music releases saw the new single as a selfish effort to receive billboard rankings, especially after their two last singles were banned from radio play. Despite the backlash generated from their single release, The Doors were taken more seriously and were featured in magazines such as “Life” and “Cheetah.”7

Richard B. Davidson, the editor of the article, stated that “this was the first serious coverage of the progressive sounds.”8 With the year at its most hectic and busy point, The Doors finally finished and released their new album Waiting For the Sun, which did extremely well in sales and went number one on the billboard hot 100 albums. This was a first for The Doors and it is a point that they finally received the one achievement they had yet to attain. In the weeks after the album’s release, things cooled down for The Doors as they no longer had to worry about putting the album together. They focused on their performances, and went on a seventeen-day European tour. They even met The Beatles, another highly recognized band of the time, later that year.

Jim Morrison photographed by Mel Zimmer as The Doors perform at Hunter College. This photo was eventually featured in the 1968 issue of Crawdady Magazine | Photo courtesy of mildEquator.com

Much of The Doors’ success can arguably be credited to Jim Morrison for his use of the band’s image to generate publicity for them. At times, Jim’s antics seemed detrimental to the band and it almost felt like he was ruining the band’s reputation; however, image was something that Jim had in mind since the band was first brought together. He thought about this image of the band in a lot of ways, even “regarding the way they should dress, he even considered wearing suits.”9 It’s hard to tell whether a lot of things done by Jim Morrison were intentional or rather just him being careless and getting lucky results for it. Either way, the way that Jim was able to create a highly controversial topic out of the band itself was something that helped the group in the long run by getting them more and more attention. As for the content, The Doors continued to release music and perform after their big release in 1968 until Jim Morrison’s unfortunate death at the age of 27, in 1971.

  1. Billy Hadley, “The Doors interactive chronological history,” http://doorshistory.com/ .
  2. Ted Asregadoo, “Jim Morrison’s Arrest History,” Ultimate Classic Rock, August 4, 2014, http://ultimateclassicrock.com/jim-morrison-arrest-history/ .
  3. Jeff Weiss, “Surviving Doors Members Speak on Jim Morrison’s Substance Abuse,” LA Weekly, February 16, 2012, http://www.laweekly.com/music/surviving-doors-members-speak-on-jim-morrisons-substance-abuse-2401843 .
  4. Mikal Gilmore, “The Legacy of Jim Morrison and the Doors,” New York Times, no., 1 (1991), 2.
  5. Judy Huddleston, Love Him Madly (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2013), 87-90.
  6. Ben Cosgrove, “LIFE With the ‘Lizard King’: Photos of Jim and the Doors, 1968,” Life Magazine, April 28, 2013, http://time.com/3616899/jim-morrison-and-the-doors-portraits-of-the-lizard-king-1968/ .
  7. Michael Zwerin, “The Jim Morrison Bust,” Cheetah Vol.1 (May 1968): 1.
  8. Fred Powledge, “Wicked go The Doors,” Life Magazine Vol. 64, 12 April 1968, 1.
  9. Dunia Majstorovic, “A Young Lion, the Lizard King, and Erotic Politician: Tracing the Roots of Jim Morrison’s Mythical Image,” Journal Of Communication Inquiry vol. 2, no 41 (2017): 160.

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This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. I love the Doors, they are one of my favorite bands and why I enjoy rock music along with AC/DC, Queen, Alice Cooper, Guns N’ Roses. They were crazy and free spirited band. I really got into them because I am one of those people who enjoy oldies, old rock, pop, jazz, etc. I am a care free person most of the time which the Doors were as well. They are up there with Queen and AC/DC on why I like old time rock so much.

  2. I personally never heard of this group. It sounds like they were quite a popular group in the 1960s. Carefree people playing music and doing what they love and never worry about what people thought of them. It is always frustrating to consider the horrid influence that Pamela Courson had on Jim. Very fun topic to read about.

  3. The Doors have been a point of interest for me for a while now! My boyfriend is actually named after Jim Morrison and for a long time in his youth thought that Jim Morrison was his father. The Greek Tragedy of Jim Morrison did a lot to overshadow the music of the band, yet it still brings awe to hear such amazing, soulful, pained, and bold music. To this day, Strange Days is still one of my favorite albums. It is always frustrating to consider the horrid influence that Pamela Courson had on Jim, however.

  4. The doors were a big influence to why I like rock music. their bizarre and free spirited nature really rubbed off on me because to an extent I thought the Doors acted the way everybody wished they could act. Care free people playing music and doing what they love and never worry about what people thought of them. To me they’re an important piece of the puzzle to what Rock music represents.

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