May 2007 Issue
Love Them Madly
New generations discover The Doors, whose unique sound reverberates at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
In a field populated by Byrds, Animals, Turtles and Buffalo Springfield, The Doors provided access to a different sound.
They were, explains Howard Kramer, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's curatorial director, "much darker, much more literate and more blues-and-jazz as opposed to blues-and-folk."
"That's why," he adds, "they really stand out."
From May 25 through October 7, the Rock Hall is spotlighting the group's influence and four-decade durability in "Break on Through: The Lasting Legacy of the Doors."
Emerging during the tumultuous '60s, the band, consisting of lead singer Jim Morrison, drummer John Densmore, keyboardist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robby Krieger, derived its name from the "doors of perception" references in works by English writers William Blake and Aldous Huxley. Their 1967 debut album included "Light My Fire," which quickly rose to the top of the charts during the Summer of Love.
Six albums followed over the next five years, filled with such destined-to-become-classics as "Riders on the Storm," "Love Her Madly" and "Roadhouse Blues."
Kramer credits the group's dark, brooding mystique - exemplified by the charismatic Morrison - coupled with their musical diversity, as keys to the band's success.
"They were the anti-psychedelic," Kramer says. "The Doors were going for a different type of feel and sound than, say, Jefferson Airplane or the Mothers of Invention. And the group incorporated dissimilar influences into their music. Krieger and Densmore studied Eastern music with Ravi Shankar; when they applied what they learned, the result was different from what anyone else was trying to do."
The exhibit will spotlight artifacts already part of the Rock Hall's collection, including Morrison's Cub Scout uniform and report cards issued while he was a student at California's Alameda High School. "Generally speaking, he was a very good student," Kramer says. "Like most kids who grow up in military families, he had his manners down and understood what he was supposed to do."
The exhibit also puts a new spin on memorabilia.
"We've also come up with some very interesting things that have never been seen in public before," Kramer promises, including posters and handbills from "every performance for which a poster or handbill was created," including the December 12, 1970 concert in New Orleans that proved to be their last: Jim Morrison would die of an apparent heart attack seven months later at age 27.
"Through Jim's death, The Doors personify the axiom that when you die young, no one can ever see you grow old," Kramer says. "Here's this bunch of guys who remain eternally young in the photographs, who weren't around long enough to make any bad records, weren't around long enough to become old and fat.
"And every year, a new group of teen-agers discovers them through their parents, older siblings, cousins or the radio and the memory and their music remain permanent."
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum
Location: One Key Plaza, 751 Erieside Ave., Cleveland, 216/781-ROCK. www.rockhall.com
Hours: Daily 10 a.m.â€“5:30 p.m., Wed. 10 a.m.â€“9 p.m.
Show admission: Adults $20, ages 9-12 $11