Review: The Doors’ “When You’re Strange” Soundtrack

CD Review: The Doors’ When You’re Strange Soundtrack
by Adam Perry for The Albuquerque Alibi

If I hadn’t been gifted a copy of the Jim Morrison biography Break On Through as a 14-year old, I may never have been exposed to Rimbaud and Huxley, subsequently thwarting the passion for literature I’ve had ever since. But 15 years and a whole lot of music and poetry later, hearing the dated music of the Doors and Morrison’s mediocre poetry (as read by Johnny Depp) juxtaposed on the soundtrack to yet another film about the Doors just isn’t exciting. When You’re Strange might be a cool documentary, with rare footage and a focus on Morrison as a poet, but (unlike the unearthing of new Hendrix or Nick Drake tracks) there’s really nothing new to experience here musically.

Looking back, the Doors played a whole lot of shitty music (anyone heard “Running Blues”?) and sometimes took hundreds of drunken and/or stoned vocal takes to get anything acceptable from Morrison. As the story goes, one late-60’s session was so bad that as a last-ditch effort they tried to record Morrison while he received fellatio from his girlfriend. With his sumptuously howl, his bare chest, leather pants and long hair, Morrison was the prototype for countless rock, punk and alternative frontmen – from Iggy Pop to Eddie Vedder to the Black Angels’ Alex Maas – but by the time of his death in 1971 at age 27 Morrison’s voice and mind had so deteriorated due to intense substance abuse that he sounded like a washed up old lounge singer.

A handful of timeless Doors tracks certainly stick with people as they get older – “Soul Kitchen” and “Peace Frog” for instance – but the L.A. band was only together for about five years and it’s been 39 since Morrison’s death effectively ended the relevant careers of everyone else in the group. In essence, the farther we get from the Doors’ late-60’s run of hit albums, and the farther we get from our love of the Doors as teenagers, the more clear it becomes that Morrison was mostly famous for his bombastic, unhealthy reputation and his good looks than his hit-or-miss lyrics and singing.

Still, if you’re a teenager – and can prove it – email me and I’ll give you my review copy of When You’re Strange.

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