A half century ago in the first week of January, a band from sunny California released a debut album that would go on to become one of the most influential and cherished rock records of the era. The Doors released their self-titled debut album Jan. 4th and most critics agree they along with artists such as The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, brought in the age of psychedelic rock.

Light my fire

The Doors’ members Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore and Robby Krieger recorded the album at the legendary Sunset Studios in Hollywood after their gigs at nearby nightclubs.

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The first single released from the record was “Break On Through” which peaked at number 126 on the Billboard Top 100. The group’s first major hit was the second single released from the record, “Light My Fire”. The album reached the number 2 spot behind The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club” in September 1967 and the rest is history.

The Music

The Doors’ first album is considered by many to be a top-five album from the 60’s era, and upon its release ushered in a new era of experimental and deeply reflective music.

The organs of Manzarek, which doubled as a bass line on many tracks, gave the music a distinct sunny quality that mirrored the sun-soaked locale where the band recorded the album. Morrison’s introspective lyrics, which bordered a line somewhere between the troubadours of medieval courts and a grief-stricken bluesman, along with the group’s knack for writing buoyant melodies introduced something distinct that felt almost radical and inspired many artists for generations to come. Memorable tracks such as “Crystal Ship” and “The End” melded the boundaries of art and pop psychology to create music to not only entertain but which also provoked listeners to look deeper at their self and the world around them.

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Legacy

The album has been put on many greatest of all time lists including the Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time and NME magazine’s 500 greatest albums of all time. The band has influenced a cornucopia of diverse artists like Iggy Pop, who credits a Doors concert he saw as a teen as inspiration to pursue music, to more contemporary artists like The Strokes or Mazzy Star. Morrison’s ascension to rock royalty among front men along with his ability to cause mass hysteria at concerts provided a blueprint for future charismatic front men that would follow such as Guns N’ Roses’ Axel Rose and INXS’s Michael Hutchence.

At fifty-years-old, the album still manages to pull you effortlessly into its magic which is a testament to the band’s iconic place in the pantheon of rock.

If you happen to have been hiding under a rock for the last fifty years, this week is the perfect time to pick up The Doors’ debut album and go on a journey with the Lizard King.