soundstreamsunday #105: “Light My Fire” by the Doors

doors3The Doors built its finest work around straight-ahead rock’n’roll, adding a whirling, baroque jazz samba momentum from the alchemy of keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger, and drummer John Densmore, all schooled in the post-bop cool permeating, by the mid-1960s, the many stripes of a blossoming California pop music scene.  Jim Morrison brought the goods of fame, an impassioned thunderhead vocal whether singing his own lyrics or Krieger’s (the band’s most successful writer), and a hip pin-up beauty boosting the band’s pop darling status.  (There is great irony here, as the New York Factory crowd crowed over Morrison’s veneer — with appropriate Warhol-esque fascination — and Morrison himself did everything he could to make and then deface his pretty boy shell, revealing the rot within, in one of rock’s most infamous stories of self-creation/immolation.)  At the core of Elektra’s push to advance American rock in the wake of the British Invasion, the Doors — along with label mates Love, the Stooges, and the MC5 — subverted from within, using their musicianship and Morrison’s undeniable charisma to chart a course for a freedom in pop music that contained the seeds of both progressive rock and punk.  In this they were like the Velvet Underground, although their east coast analogue never achieved anywhere near the popular impact of the Doors (V.U.’s influence notwithstanding).

Of their six studio albums with Morrison, all of which have their strengths, the self-titled debut is the Doors’ most cohesive LP.  Released in the first days of 1967, it counterpointed the hippie cheer of the Sgt. Pepper era, playing to rock’s shadowy furies and heavily influenced by the day-glo punk creep of Love, a band greatly admired by Morrison and which, although still months away from its masterpiece Forever Changes, had already taken the dive into the seamy pop noir that Los Angeles inspired in those who saw desperation in greater relief the brighter the sun shone.  It was a darkness with extreme definition, fascinating to both Arthur Lee and Jim Morrison, and the Doors came out of the gate startlingly fully formed in concept and execution, with Manzarek’s keys and Krieger’s unusual, flamenco/finger-style guitar conjuring a smooth jazz carnie ride driven by Densmore’s muscular but lithe drumming.  Nothing else sounded remotely close to the Doors, thanks in large part too to producer Paul Rothschild and engineer Bruce Botnick, who used the studio as if they were recording a jazz group, attaining a clean, lively separation absent from the period’s rock recordings.  Chalk this up to Elektra’s genius and artist-first philosophy.

Krieger’s “Light My Fire” was the band’s first great success, although its shortened radio single eviscerates its midsection, which contains one of rock’s great guitar solos and instrumental interplay that made its artists’ statement clear: this wasn’t the Wrecking Crew or session players, but a group intent on pushing limits as a band, as if that in itself meant something.  Even the simple final line — “Try to set the night on fire” — Morrison treats as life or death (to this day few singers can build towards and deliver the final utterance of a song as Morrison could).  More revolutionary for its time than it now might seem — and diminished by Oliver Stone’s clunky telling of its creation — “Light My Fire” and the first Doors record as a whole established the notion of a rock group as artistically independent from its record company, a sea change in American music in the late 1960s.  For all of the attention focused on Jim Morrison’s histrionic deterioration and Ray Manzarek’s eulogizing of the Lizard King, the Doors were a cooperative, artistic effort that continues to influence, and haunt, rock groups that hew the edge.

soundstreamsunday presents one song or live set by an artist each week, and in theory wants to be an infinite linear mix tape where the songs relate and progress as a whole. For the complete playlist, go here: soundstreamsunday archive and playlist, or check related articles by clicking on”soundstreamsunday” in the tags section.

BillyNews: A Tribute to The Doors

Light my Fire Cover med res
Superstars Of Classic Rock Honor The Music & Legacy Of The Doors Feat. Members of Deep Purple, Foreigner, Yes, Rainbow, Mountain, Moody Blues, ELP and Others!
Featuring Todd Rundgren, Ian Gillan, Edgar Winter, Steve Morse, David Johansen, Larry Coryell, Mark Farner, Patrick Moraz, Mick Box, Keith Emerson, Lou Gramm, Leslie West, Thijs Van Leer, Steve Cropper, Rick Wakeman, Roye Albrighton, Nik Turner, Billy Sherwood, Steve Hillage, Zoot Horn Rollo and Others!
Los Angeles, CA – A star-studded syndicate of rock virtuosos have gathered together to pay tribute to one of the best loved and most influential bands of all-time, The Doors, on a new CD release titled Light My Fire – A Classic Rock Salute To The Doors to be released by Purple Pyramid Records on June 24th! Produced by the extraordinarily talented Billy Sherwood, the album features brand new interpretations of classic Doors cuts that defined an entire generation, songs such as “Light My Fire,” “Riders On The Storm,” “Break On Through (To The Other Side),” “Love Her Madly,” “L.A. Woman,” “People Are Strange,” and lots more!
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear some of The Doors’ peers and prodigies tackle these seminal songs. Not one but TWO members of the quintessential prog rock band Yes, keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman and lead guitarist Steve Howe, joined Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan on the signature song, “Light My Fire,” which as Wakeman explains, “has always been one of those iconic tracks that keyboard players listen to because of the fact that there are so few tracks with keyboard/organ solos on them compared to our six-stringed buddies. It’s also a solo area that is totally open to interpretation so whatever you do is not comparable to the original, so it was an absolute joy to do.” Howe likewise enthuses, “I was delighted to play on this album as The Doors were a band I heard a lot as everywhere I went in the late ‘60s their music was playing, at friend’s, in restaurants, gigs & bars throughout London. I’m sure I saw them play at Middle Earth, a then hip club. Then, when the reissue more recently came out, I got totally back into their music, especially ‘Light My Fire.’”
Another keyboard legend, Geoff Downes, likewise extolled the genius of Doors’ organist Ray Manzarek saying, “It was a real privilege to be asked to participate in this project. Ray Manzarek was one of the pioneers of keyboard playing in rock music, and had a major influence on me and many others. His style was totally unique, and an integral element into what made The Doors sound the way they did.”
Meanwhile, renegade guitarist Steve Morse, of Dixie Dregs fame, recollects that The Doors were “a soundtrack, literally, for some of the most memorable times, good and bad, that I experienced as a young teen. Like many of my favorites, they were adventurous, improvising, unafraid of what the media might say, and all with a sort of lyrical freedom that still stands up today.” The Cars’ lead axeman Elliot Easton proclaims, “I had a wonderful time reinterpreting ‘Spanish Caravan,’” a song Easton found both “challenging and very rewarding!” And jazz fusion Larry Coryell concludes, “The Doors were the unofficial representatives to the world for LA, not ‘Los Angeles,’ but ‘LA.’ Their sound – raunchy, cluttered, sassy, leering, kind of mean, and always horny was the sound of LA/Los Angeles itself. How many times circa ‘65-66 did my first wife Julie and I drive through LA on the freeway listening to, say, ‘Love Me Two Times,’ and think that The Doors were the sound of LA just as clearly as Thelonious Monk was the sound of NYC.”
That sound continues to reverberate outward through both space and time, touching each new generation around the globe and keeping The Doors’ flame burning brighter than ever! Producer Billy Sherwood sums it up when he declares, “The Doors’ music will live on forever, and it’s my hope that we’ve paid tribute to the band in the highest way possible.”
1. L.A. Woman – Jimi Jamison (Survivor), Ted Turner (Wishbone Ash) & Patrick Moraz (Moody Blues)
2. Love Me Two Times – Lou Gramm (Foreigner), Thijs van Leer (Focus) & Larry Coryell
3. Roadhouse Blues – Leslie West (Mountain), Brian Auger & Rod Piazza
4. Love Her Madly – Mark Stein (Vanilla Fudge) & Mick Box (Uriah Heep)
5. Riders On The Storm – Joe Lynn Turner (Rainbow), Tony Kaye (Yes) & Steve Cropper (Booker T. & The M.G.’s)
6. The Crystal Ship – Edgar Winter & Chris Spedding
7. Intro (People Are Strange) – Keith Emerson, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter & Joel Druckman (John Fahey)
8. People Are Strange – David Johansen (NY Dolls) & Billy Sherwood (Yes)
9. Touch Me – Robert Gordon, Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), Steve Morse & Nik Turner (Hawkwind)
10. The Soft Parade – Graham Bonnet (Rainbow), Christopher North (Ambrosia) & Steve Hillage (Gong)
11. Hello, I Love You – Ken Hensley (Uriah Heep) & Roye Albrighton (Nektar)
12. Spanish Caravan – Eric Martin (Mr. Big) & Elliot Easton (The Cars)
13. Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar) – Todd Rundgren & Geoff Downes (Yes / Asia) & Zoot Horn Rollo (Captain Beefheart)
14. Break On Through (To The Other Side) – Mark Farner (Grand Funk Railroad) & Chick Churchill (Ten Years After)
15. Light My Fire – Ian Gillan (Deep Purple), Rick Wakeman (Yes) & Steve Howe (Yes)
16. The End – Pat Travers & Jimmy Greenspoon (Three Dog Night)
To pre-order the CD at Amazon:
To pre-order the album on iTunes:
Press inquiries: 
Glass Onyon PR
Billy James