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Strange Days Jim Morrison's Acid Visions

“Strange Days,” is arguably one of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s first concept albums...

Jim Cherry

Jim Morrison has been dead just over forty years, The Doors haven’t existed as a band since 1973, yet The Doors are still a relevant and a vibrant presence today. Their songs still get extensive airplay on classic rock stations and since 2007, The Doors have been thinking of their legacy and their place in the future and have been taking steps to insure that legacy and legend, although some would argue Jim Morrison has insured The Doors appeal into the future. The Doors have released their entire Morrison era albums on remastered CD’s, they have worked with filmmakers to produce documentaries on the band, they’ve been collaborating with the next generation of musicians such as Skrillex and Tech N9ne, they’ve anointed 2012 as “The Year of The Doors” and have released a 40th anniversary edition of their seminal album, “L.A. Woman”, which includes a separate disc of alternate versions of songs, as well as, at least two releases of live shows from the early years of The Doors at the London Fog and the Matrix tapes. But The Doors legacy has and always will be those six classic studio albums that will influence new generations just as Bach, John Coltrane, Willie Dixon, and John Lee Hooker influenced them, The Doors are the classical music of the future.

Interest in The Doors is at an all time high (usually led by the mystique of Jim Morrison) last year alone eight new books were published about The Doors, with at least one known volume by John Densmore to come out and biographies and histories of the band have come out in the past few years, but none of these has taken a critical look at the albums individually, their influence as music and their influence on society. But why take a look at “Strange Days”? Why not the popularly acclaimed debut album? Or “L.A. Woman” which many critics, magazines and polls consider The Doors best album, or “The Soft Parade” or any of the other Doors’ albums? “L.A. Woman” has lately been getting a lot of exposure and analysis, so information on “L.A. Woman” might seem a little redundant to Doors fans, at least for the present moment in time. “The Soft Parade” while an interesting experiment in The Doors catalog is a radical departure from anything they did previous to or after it, their debut album is a bit of throw back more of a collection of songs strung together in the hopes of a hit record instead of a cohesive album. “Strange Days” is The Doors at the height of their creative powers both lyrically and musically, as a group they were never more consistently together as during the recording of “Strange Days.”

To understand The Doors “Strange Days” you have to go back to the origins of the band itself. Jim Morrison had left the UCLA film school a couple of weeks prior to graduation because his student film had been met with the scorn of his teachers and fellow students, he didn’t drop out as some sources report, he received his degree. Morrison retreated to the rooftop of an apartment building where his former UCLA roommate Dennis Jakob had an apartment.

Morrison’s rooftop residence lasted from mid-May of 1965 to early July during which time he ingested as much LSD as he could get his hands on and there was an “an intense visitation of energy” that Morrison would tap into nightly and attend “… a fantastic rock concert that was going on in my head”, he wrote down the lyrics he heard as fast as he could, sometimes he only heard the music and he wrote the lyrics just so he could remember the melody. These journals are the provenance of many of The Doors songs throughout their career, but especially for songs on the first two albums.

Was this retreat purposeful? Did Morrison intend on staying on the rooftop as some sort of vision quest or is it just the myth conscious Jim Morrison creating a context? Giving those first chaotic and unrelated events, that our minds seek order for? Maybe only Jim Morrison can answer that, but some of his actions were purposeful and seemed to be those of an artist taking those first nascent steps towards creation. The first was the burning of his old journals, he later said in an interview, “when I left school for some dumb reason - maybe it was wise - I threw them all away…But maybe if I‘d never thrown them away, I‘d never have written anything original…”, the second would be to enlist the aid of a band to bring the rooftop visions of a rock concert in his head to fruition, to reality.

Legend has it that Morrison “bumped” into fellow UCLA film school student Ray Manzarek on the beach one afternoon and they rekindled their friendship. But it is also quite possible that Morrison was purposefully seeking out Manzarek to start a band. Starting a band was on his mind as early as when he was roommates with Dennis Jakob at UCLA and he floated out the idea of starting a band called “The Doors: Open and Closed” and he envisioned himself as the singer. Morrison also was onstage with Manzarek and his college band, Rick and The Ravens, at least on a couple of occasions, once at The Turkey Joint West for a drunken rousing version of “Louie, Louie”. Another time was a more formal appearance, Rick and The Ravens needed a guitar player to fulfill a contracted appearance and they got Morrison to pretend to play an unplugged guitar. Morrison also knew where Manzarek’s house on Venice Beach was, Morrison was in Manzarek’s UCLA student film, “Induction”, in a party scene that was filmed at Manzarek’s house, so Morrison knew right where Manzarek lived and how to find him. The question might be how many times had Morrison walked past Manzarek’s house that day or that week until he “bumped” into Manzarek? Whatever the circumstances of that meeting were, it’s agreed that at that meeting Morrison told Manzarek that he had written some songs (again knowing Manzarek had a band). Manzarek asked him about the songs and Morrison sang a shaky but on key “Moonlight Drive”. Manzarek was instantly enthralled with the lyrics and right then and there the two decided to start a band. Manzarek moved Morrison into his beach house to work on the songs and The Doors were born.

By the fall of 1965 The Doors as we know them were fully formed with the addition of drummer John Densmore, and guitarist Robby Krieger The Doors absorbed Manzarek’s previous band, Rick and The Ravens when Manzarek’s brothers Rick and Jim didn’t understand Morrison or his lyrics and left the band. The newly minted Doors cut some demo tracks owed Rick and The Ravens from a contract from Pacific Records. By the winter of 1966 The Doors auditioned for and became the house band at the London Fog, and in May had moved up the Rock ’n’ Roll food chain to become the house band at The Whisky a go-go. At both of these clubs The Doors refined and in some cases expanded their repertoire until when they were signed by Jac Holzman of Elektra Records The Doors emerged as a fully formed matured band.

Even though the songs on “Strange Days” were recorded almost a full year after the first album, most of the songs on the first two albums were written in the same time period when Morrison was listening to that rock concert in his head on the Venice rooftop, the two albums sound drastically different from each other. The debut album, the eponymously named, The Doors, is more like a traditional record of the generation before, a loose assemblage of songs in the hopes that one or two would be a radio hit.

“Strange Days” was The Doors sophomore album the band started recording “Strange Days” in May of 1967 and ended in July of ‘67, just before or at the same time The Doors hit it big with “Light My Fire”. “Strange Days” is drastically different from its predecessor, it is self-consciously experimental in its approach, from something as simple as moving up to 8 track recording (The Beatles were still using 4 tracks), to the songs themselves, such as, “Horse Latitudes” which for rhythm has the band (and visiting members of Jefferson Airplane) yelling and dropping coke bottles into a wastepaper basket, the title track being one of the first examples of a Moog synthesizer on an album, other songs used a technique of playing instruments or tracks backwards on songs to give the give the listener a sense of unease that demands each song be listened to.

“Strange Days,” is arguably one of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s first concept albums, listening to the album one has the sense it has its own internal logic and coherence, it seems like it is a novel unfolding, each song a new chapter, there is the feeling of the album having a beginning and an end point that isn’t consistent with the end of a song or the end of a side and this might have been what Jim Morrison had in mind when he said, “You might buy a book of our lyrics the same way you might buy a volume of William Blake’s poetry”.

Recorded at the beginning of the “Summer of Love” and the rise of Flower Power, “Strange Days” is an album that dares to examine the dark side, the alienation we feel in a crowded society, how with more people surrounding us we feel more isolated than ever before. It is also a rare personal look inside an artist who seemed to have all the gifts the gods could offer, a facility for words and poetry at a young age that would make older poets envious and beauty that all but guaranteed the success of the band by fan and photo magazines of the day, and yet he felt a sense of alienation from the world. The Doors, as conceived by Manzarek and Morrison was supposed to be a merging of the music, poetry and theatre, while the concept of “Strange Days” isn’t explicitly articulated, “Strange Days” reflects on the alienation we feel in a society surrounded by others, we have become islands unto ourselves increasingly isolated by the very things that are supposed to free us, sex, death, and ourselves.To understand The Doors “Strange Days” you have to go back to the origins of the band itself. Jim Morrison had left the UCLA film school a couple of weeks prior to graduation because his student film had been met with the scorn of his teachers and fellow students, he didn’t drop out as some sources report, he received his degree. Morrison retreated to the rooftop of an apartment building where his former UCLA roommate Dennis Jakob had an apartment.

Morrison’s rooftop residence lasted from mid-May of 1965 to early July during which time he ingested as much LSD as he could get his hands on and there was an “an intense visitation of energy” that Morrison would tap into nightly and attend “… a fantastic rock concert that was going on in my head”, he wrote down the lyrics he heard as fast as he could, sometimes he only heard the music and he wrote the lyrics just so he could remember the melody. These journals are the provenance of many of The Doors songs throughout their career, but especially for songs on the first two albums.

Was this retreat purposeful? Did Morrison intend on staying on the rooftop as some sort of vision quest or is it just the myth conscious Jim Morrison creating a context? Giving those first chaotic and unrelated events, that our minds seek order for? Maybe only Jim Morrison can answer that, but some of his actions were purposeful and seemed to be those of an artist taking those first nascent steps towards creation. The first was the burning of his old journals, he later said in an interview, “when I left school for some dumb reason - maybe it was wise - I threw them all away…But maybe if I‘d never thrown them away, I‘d never have written anything original…”, the second would be to enlist the aid of a band to bring the rooftop visions of a rock concert in his head to fruition, to reality.

Legend has it that Morrison “bumped” into fellow UCLA film school student Ray Manzarek on the beach one afternoon and they rekindled their friendship. But it is also quite possible that Morrison was purposefully seeking out Manzarek to start a band. Starting a band was on his mind as early as when he was roommates with Dennis Jakob at UCLA and he floated out the idea of starting a band called “The Doors: Open and Closed” and he envisioned himself as the singer. Morrison also was onstage with Manzarek and his college band, Rick and The Ravens, at least on a couple of occasions, once at The Turkey Joint West for a drunken rousing version of “Louie, Louie”. Another time was a more formal appearance, Rick and The Ravens needed a guitar player to fulfill a contracted appearance and they got Morrison to pretend to play an unplugged guitar. Morrison also knew where Manzarek’s house on Venice Beach was, Morrison was in Manzarek’s UCLA student film, “Induction”, in a party scene that was filmed at Manzarek’s house, so Morrison knew right where Manzarek lived and how to find him. The question might be how many times had Morrison walked past Manzarek’s house that day or that week until he “bumped” into Manzarek? Whatever the circumstances of that meeting were, it’s agreed that at that meeting Morrison told Manzarek that he had written some songs (again knowing Manzarek had a band). Manzarek asked him about the songs and Morrison sang a shaky but on key “Moonlight Drive”. Manzarek was instantly enthralled with the lyrics and right then and there the two decided to start a band. Manzarek moved Morrison into his beach house to work on the songs and The Doors were born.

By the fall of 1965 The Doors as we know them were fully formed with the addition of drummer John Densmore, and guitarist Robby Krieger The Doors absorbed Manzarek’s previous band, Rick and The Ravens when Manzarek’s brothers Rick and Jim didn’t understand Morrison or his lyrics and left the band. The newly minted Doors cut some demo tracks owed Rick and The Ravens from a contract from Pacific Records. By the winter of 1966 The Doors auditioned for and became the house band at the London Fog, and in May had moved up the Rock ’n’ Roll food chain to become the house band at The Whisky a go-go. At both of these clubs The Doors refined and in some cases expanded their repertoire until when they were signed by Jac Holzman of Elektra Records The Doors emerged as a fully formed matured band.

Even though the songs on “Strange Days” were recorded almost a full year after the first album, most of the songs on the first two albums were written in the same time period when Morrison was listening to that rock concert in his head on the Venice rooftop, the two albums sound drastically different from each other. The debut album, the eponymously named, The Doors, is more like a traditional record of the generation before, a loose assemblage of songs in the hopes that one or two would be a radio hit.

“Strange Days” was The Doors sophomore album the band started recording “Strange Days” in May of 1967 and ended in July of ‘67, just before or at the same time The Doors hit it big with “Light My Fire”. “Strange Days” is drastically different from its predecessor, it is self-consciously experimental in its approach, from something as simple as moving up to 8 track recording (The Beatles were still using 4 tracks), to the songs themselves, such as, “Horse Latitudes” which for rhythm has the band (and visiting members of Jefferson Airplane) yelling and dropping coke bottles into a wastepaper basket, the title track being one of the first examples of a Moog synthesizer on an album, other songs used a technique of playing instruments or tracks backwards on songs to give the give the listener a sense of unease that demands each song be listened to.

“Strange Days,” is arguably one of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s first concept albums, listening to the album one has the sense it has its own internal logic and coherence, it seems like it is a novel unfolding, each song a new chapter, there is the feeling of the album having a beginning and an end point that isn’t consistent with the end of a song or the end of a side and this might have been what Jim Morrison had in mind when he said, “You might buy a book of our lyrics the same way you might buy a volume of William Blake’s poetry”.

Recorded at the beginning of the “Summer of Love” and the rise of Flower Power, “Strange Days” is an album that dares to examine the dark side, the alienation we feel in a crowded society, how with more people surrounding us we feel more isolated than ever before. It is also a rare personal look inside an artist who seemed to have all the gifts the gods could offer, a facility for words and poetry at a young age that would make older poets envious and beauty that all but guaranteed the success of the band by fan and photo magazines of the day, and yet he felt a sense of alienation from the world. The Doors, as conceived by Manzarek and Morrison was supposed to be a merging of the music, poetry and theatre, while the concept of “Strange Days” isn’t explicitly articulated, “Strange Days” reflects on the alienation we feel in a society surrounded by others, we have become islands unto ourselves increasingly isolated by the very things that are supposed to free us, sex, death, and ourselves.

In this Article

L.A. Woman
Release Date: 
4/19/71
more infobuy
Strange Days
Release Date: 
9/25/67
more infobuy

“Strange Days,” is arguably one of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s first concept albums...

Jim Cherry

In this Article

Strange Days
Release Date: 
Monday, September 25, 1967 (All day)

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Comments

1 year 2 months ago

Good article, interesting theory on Morrison's fateful beach meeting with Ray...the undiscovered holy grail according to audio maestro Steve Hoffman is the original dedicated MONO mix of the album. It has only been released on vinyl once and apparently the vinyl was made very poorly. Hoffman had the opportunity to listen to the mono master mix and says "you haven't really heard the album till you hear the mono mix". Also, the mono mix is a dedicated mix, meaning there are some interesting differences in the songs themselves (slightly different lyrics/effects etc)

Hopefully the doors will release a new copy of the mono mix of strange days for the fans in the future.

The best stero version of this album to listen to is the 24bit version from HDTracks, it is incredible and blows every other mastering out of the water, even hoffman's DCC, and especially the anniversery mix.