January 1967: The Doors Release "The Doors"

American rock band The Doors pose for their first album cover, 1967. They are vocalist Jim Morrison, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, drummer John Densmore, and guitarist Robby Krieger. (Photo by Mark and Colleen Hayward/Getty Images)
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(Mark and Colleen Hayward/Getty Images)

It was on January 4, 1967, when the Doors released the band's self-titled debut album to the world, sending fans and critics alike into a frenzy. The freshly minted outfit had put the LP together in record time, according to singer Jim Morrison.

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"We started almost immediately, and some of the songs took only a few takes. We’d do several takes just to make sure we couldn’t do a better one." the singer explained to Rolling Stone in 1969. "It’s also true that on the first album they don’t want to spend as much. The group doesn’t either, because the groups pay for the production of an album. That’s part of the advance against royalties. You don’t get any royalties until you’ve paid the cost of the record album. So the group and the record company weren’t taking a chance on the cost. So for economic reasons and just because we were ready, it went very fast."

The first single from the full-length, the manic "Break On Through (To the Other Side)," however, landed on the charts with a thud, peaking at just #126 on the Hot 100.

When it came time for Elektra to release a second single, the most obvious choice was "Light My Fire." The song was already being requested at rock radio stations, but the song's length--more than seven minutes--made it a hard sell for regular radio play. The only solution: cutting the song down to a radio-friendlier length.

"We had that huge problem with the time length," Elektra Records founder Jaz Holzman told Mojo magazine in 2010. Nobody could figure out how to cut it. Finally I said to (The Doors producer Paul A.) Rothchild, 'Nobody can cut it but you.' When he cut out the solo, there were screams. Except from Jim. Jim said, 'Imagine a kid in Minneapolis hearing even the cut version over the radio, it's going to turn his head around.' So they said, 'Go ahead, release it.' We released it with the full version on the other side."

"Light My Fire," now whittled down to just short of three minutes, was released as a single on April 24, 1967. The slimmed-down version of the track was an instant hit, climbing up the charts before finally peaking at #1 for the week of July 29, 1967. With American youth engrossed in 1967's "Summer of Love," "Light My Fire" held the #1 spot for three weeks in a row. The tune was dethroned on August 18, 1967, by the Beatles' "All You Need is Love."

The Doors' storied debut is about much more than the two legendary singles. It also contains some of the band's deepest and most revered album cuts, none more so than the nearly 12-minute set closer, "The End."

"Every time I hear ["The End"], it means something else to me," Jim Morrison told Rolling Stone in 1969. "It started out as a simple good-bye song ... Probably just to a girl, but I see how it could be a goodbye to a kind of childhood. I really don't know. I think it's sufficiently complex and universal in its imagery that it could be almost anything you want it to be."

The Doors would spend an impressive 122 weeks on the Billboard 200, peaking at #2 for the week of September 16, 1967. The album that blocked Morrison and company from the top spot? The Beatles with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

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