Catching up tonight with The Doors’ second album, both second overall and second released 1967, “Strange Days”. This was one of the first albums to be directly influenced by “Sgt. Pepper” as the Doors were inspired to advance their sound and build upon their own success as well as the monumental Beatles release that impacted many artists in mid-1967 and beyond. This album did not prove to be quite on the same level as their debut album earlier in the year, but there is still a lot to like here.
The first two songs on side one aren’t considered classic hits, but I do consider them classic Doors songs. The title track “Strange Days” and “You’re Lost Little Girl” perfectly marry Jim Morrison’s distinct voice and unique lyrics with the inimitable keyboard sounds of Ray Manzarek. “Love Me Two Times”, one of the two big hits from this album is next, and side one ultimately ends with an iconic Doors song, particularly in its historical context. “Moonlight Drive” is an outstanding mix of imagery and cosmic ragtime blues, if there is such a thing. Moreover, this song represents the first song Jim Morrison ever shared with Ray Manzarek when they discussed the possibilities of forming a band on the beaches of Venice, California. The movie “The Doors” really captures this scene and it is worth a watch (this scene and the movie as a whole). If you think it is “too Hollywood” to be real, like many biopics, there are several interviews with Ray Manzarek where he describes this moment verbatim as it appears in the film. I’ll say it again, it is quite impressive how quickly these film students pulled their act together as a top-shelf band. I’m not quite sure why “Moonlight Drive” was passed over until the second album, but it is an absolute favorite of mine.
Keeping it rolling, Side Two opens with what I probably consider my all-time favorite Doors song, “People Are Strange”. Again, this soft and sad observation of the world through the eyes of Jim Morrison paints a vivid picture, and it is musically beautiful at the same time. The interplay of Robbie Krieger’s guitar and Manzarek’s piano work so well together, especially as a second track with Manzarek on organ blends in on the second verse. As good as that all is, Morrison remains the centerpiece and irreplaceable face of this band, on this song and throughout the album. The album’s last song, “When the Music’s Over”, replicates the dramatic and extended end of “The End” from the first album. Like “The End”, I think this song could have possibly been slightly compressed in duration, but overall, I like this song and its powerful concluding theme.
This follow-up carries a lot of weight and proves the staying power and overall quality of the Doors in a highly dynamic musical era. With these two albums alone, the band produced as many quality songs as some acts do in a career, but fortunately there was still more to follow in their limited time.