When it comes to debut rock ‘n’ roll albums, 1967 was a banner year. Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, David Bowie, Canned Heat, Procol Harum, the Velvet Underground, the Electric Prunes, Moby Grape, Traffic, and Big Brother and the Holding Company all released their first albums that year. So did The Doors, which would release only five more studio albums before frontman Jim Morrison’s death in 1971.
The band’s eponymous first album dropped on January 4, 1967. Buoyed by the shortened radio version of “Light My Fire” (7:05 on the LP versus 2:52 on the 45), which was Number 1 on the Billboard charts, the album itself climbed to Number 2 (“Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” by The Beatles prevented “The Doors” from reaching Number 1). Other notable tracks include “Break on Through (To the Other Side)” (especially prized is the 1966 version of that single, backed by “End of the Night”) and the 11-plus-minute “The End,” which was used prominently in 1979’s “Apocalypse Now” by Francis Ford Coppola. Copies of “The Doors” with brown labels on the discs represent the first pressings, while those with red labels and a large Electra “E” are evidence of the album’s 1969 pressing.
“Strange Days” was also released in September of 1967, but it had to compete not only with “Sgt. Pepper’s” but also “The Doors,” which remained in the charts well into the fall. “Strange Days” had a couple of singles (“People are Strange” and “Love Me Two Times”), but the album never charted better than Number 3. As with “The Doors,” the brown labels from 1967 are more prized than the red ones (1969), while the 1967 mono versions of the album are most scarce.
With “Waiting For the Sun” in the summer of 1968, The Doors finally got to Number 1 on the album charts thanks to its Number 1 single, “Hello, I Love You.” This was also the debut of Morrison’s alter-ego, the Lizard King, in the form of a poem on the record jacket’s inside cover. Weirdly, the title track was held until 1970 for the band’s fifth album, “Morrison Hotel.” Look for white-label promo pressings of “Waiting for the Sun. “ Even more than “Strange Days,” mono versions of “Waiting for the Sun” are very rare.
The somewhat experimental (by Doors standards, anyway) “The Soft Parade” followed “Waiting for the Sun” in 1969, the year Morrison was arrested in Florida for indecent exposure. The more back-to-basics “Morrison Hotel” was released in 1970, and “L.A. Woman,” 1971, continued that blues-inspired trend. Morrison died three months after that album’s release, and although the band’s surviving members—Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, and John Densmore—released a couple more albums immediately after “L.A. Woman” (“Other Voices” and “Full Circle”), the band effectively died with its mercurial lead singer.