Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek both attended the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television and met at a beach in July 1965. Jim sang a song he had written, and the two immediately decided to form their own band. By early 1966, they had recruited drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger as permanent members of the group.
Aldous Huxley had written the novel The Doors Of Perception which took its name from a line in the William Blake poem, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: “If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is: infinite.” The group began appearing as The Doors.
The group became the house band at the Whisky a Go Go and were soon signed by Elektra Records. The group recorded their first album by using most of the songs from their nightly sets. The album was released in January 1967. The first single was Break On Through (To The Other Side). The single failed to reach the Hot 100 and Elektra pinned their hopes on a second single. The album contained a seven-minute version of Light My Fire that Elektra cut down to three minutes and released as a single. The record sold over a million copies and topped the Hot 100 in 1967.
The group recorded and released their second album in September. They began touring and appearing on television shows. Troubles with the law began at a concert in Hartford, Connecticut in December 1967. A police officer who did not recognize Jim got into an argument with him and used mace on him. Jim responded with a verbal tirade during the show and began taunting the police. In response, the police dragged him offstage and arrested him. They filed charges of inciting a riot, indecency and public obscenity. The charges were eventually dropped.
The group ran into a lot more legal problems after a show in Miami in 1969. Police officials accused Jim of exposing himself during a song and additional obscene behavior. A lot of radio stations banned the Doors music, and many promoters refused to book the Doors for live concerts. A trial was held in Dade County in 1970 while the Doors were at a show in England. The court convicted Jim. Jim turned down the offer to settle with the court by giving a free concert in Miami and appeals were filed instead. Jim died before they could carry out any sentence. The governor of Florida pardoned Jim posthumously in 2007.
In December 1970, the group appeared at a show in New Orleans. Jim appeared to be drunk and apparently had a breakdown of some sort. In the middle of a song, he smashed his microphone stand against the floor multiple times before sitting down and refusing to perform. The group decided that it was time to stop live performances.
The group completed recording their next album shortly after the end of the year.
In March 1971, Jim announced that he was taking a break from the Doors and moved to Paris with his girlfriend. Elektra had the final mixing completed for the L. A. Woman album. They released the first single (Love Her Madly) in March and released the album in April. The single peaked at #11 on the Hot 100 and the album became their second-best-selling album (their first album was their highest seller).
On July 3, two things happened: their record company released Riders On The Storm as a single in the US and Jim Morrison died in Paris. The death certificate listed heart failure as the cause of death without a formal autopsy.
Jim was only 27 when he died. Between 1969 and 1971, Jim, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin all died at age 27. When Kurt Cobain also died at age 27, rumors of the 27 Club spread. Amy Winehouse’s death at age 27 reignited interest in the deaths of musicians at that age.
Riders On The Storm only reached #14 on the Hot 100 and #11 on the Adult Contemporary chart. The vocal on the song is interesting because Jim dubbed whispered lyrics over the top of the singing. The single was eventually deemed important enough to be added to the Rock (single) category in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame (Light My Fire is there as well).
The Doors attempted to continue without Jim but disbanded in 1973.
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