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*3.01-BREAK ON THROUGH (TO THE OTHER SIDE) (Doors)

Doors

LISTEN

You know the day destroys the night.
Night divides the day.
Try to run
Try to hide

         Break on through to the other side. (3x)

We chased our pleasures here
Dug our treasures there.
Can you still recall
The time we cried?

         [Chorus 2x]

         [Break]

                  Everybody loves my baby. (2x)
                  She get high. (4x)

I found an island in your arms
Country in your eyes
Arms that chain us
Eyes that lie

         [Chorus 2x]

                  Make the scene
                  Week to week
                  Day to day
                  Hour to hour.
                  The gate is straight
                  Deep and wide.

         [Chorus 2x]
         Break on through (4x)
         Yeah (9x)


The Doors took their name from the title of a book by Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception (1954). That title was in turn taken from a line in a poem by the 18th-century artist and poet William Blake: "If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to man as it is: infinite." This was the first rock group to wear aesthetic theory on its sleeve: Jim Morrison encouraged critics to speak of Dionysus, shamen, Brecht and Nietzsche in relation to his vision of an artist. Rock critic Robert Christgau would complain: “I recommend the Doors, but I would do so less reservedly, and throw in Love and the Airplane, if I thought any of those talented, serious young men were playing rock that was pop. Rock has always come to its audience and led it--the Beatles, as always, are the perfect example, but so is Dylan and even Chuck Berry. Most hippie rock and roll musicians exhibit the same in-group pretentiousness that characterized the folk and jazz purists who were their predecessors. I often like the music, but the attitude bugs me. I still remember when rock and roll was mostly fun.” I beg to differ that Dylan's psychedelic lyrics were literary as well. But it is a complaint voiced again in the 2010 novel Evening’s Empire by Bill Flanagan, "Elitist rock and roll was as silly a notion as elitist chewing gum. Rock was for everyone who wanted to listen or it was useless." But the Doors plainly contested that, and at least at first, thought of themselves more as theater rather than pop. It might sound pretentious to some modern ears, but these guys were serious artists and both musically and intellectually educated. In 1967 and for a few years afterward, artists such as the Doors would begin to appeal to an audience that didn’t have much of an interest in Top 40 Radio, an audience that probably had a college education. Such music would find a venue in the first FM Radio stations.

The Doors' theatrical approach was slow to catch on. Break on Through (To the Other Side) was the first single released by the group in 1967 and was unsuccessful compared to later hits, reaching only #106 in the United States. The album, released in January 1967 was generally ignored until the Summer release of Light My Fire. The music industry at first didn’t know what to do with them, as they didn’t seem radio friendly. I remember seeing the album in the record racks for months, wondering what the Doors were about. The British didn’t take to the Doors at all. Even the Summer of Love smash Light My Fire only reached # 49 in 1967. It wasn’t until 1991, with the release of Oliver Stone’s film The Doors, that the Brits finally got them, leading to higher sales in England of both their first album and the singles released from it.

Elektra Records' censors objected to the drug use implied by the line "she gets high", which is repeated in the middle section of the song. The original album version and all reissues until the 1990s had the word "high" deleted, with Morrison singing "she gets" four times before a final wail. Live versions and more recent, remastered releases have the full line portion restored. (I used to hear “She get” as “Shit”, which is probably worse than “She gets high”.)

George Starostin in at his website Only Solitaire wrote: "I absolutely insist that Jim [Morrison—lead singer of the Doors] was a crucially important personality in his own right. He has at least one thing to redeem himself, which many sneering critics seem to forget about: he was actually sincere in all his 'wrong-doing'. The endless scandals with the police, the infamous 'self-exposure' scene in 1969, the self-destructive sex & drugs lifestyle - all of this wasn't just made in order to attract press attention; Jim actually lived these things. Which is, mainly, what distinguishes Sixties' heroes from Seventies' and later period heroes: since the glam movement, sincerity has lost its value and never really regained it since. Jim was a real, living human being, not an eerie goofball like Alice Cooper or Ozzy Osbourne. And this brings a certain depth and feel to his lyrics and his vocal deliveries of his lyrics: this is darkness, but it's the kind of darkness that lives and feels and really exists, and this is what makes his horrific visions a hundred percent more convincing, actual and blood-curdling than those of the endless stream of his far less subtle and talented followers."

I would like to note here that the Doors were an extremely egalitarian group. The Beatles were certainly one of the first groups in which the members were initially felt to be of equal importance because the didn’t have a front man. Further, Lennon & McCartney both shared in the royalties of each others’ songs even when they ceased to write songs together. Over time though, and especially after the White Album in 1968, the public began to clearly discern which songs were Paul’s and which were John’s. Many groups of the psychedelic movement tried to subsume their individualities to the group’s collectivity with varying, but usually with lesser, success than the Beatles. Only the Doors took the group idea further. Even though the Doors had a front man in Jim Morrison, they continued throughout their short career to assign all of their compositions to all four members, so that each member shared in songwriting royalties. In this manner they avoided some of the internal conflicts which eventually developed within the Beatles, particularly between George Harrison and Lennon / McCartney. All the Doors compositions were always presented to the public as a group effort, undermining the rivalries of individual songwriting talents and thus avoiding the internal competition that tore apart such groups as the Buffalo Springfield and the Byrds.

The DoorsBreak on Through (To the Other Side) is the opening song on the album The Doors, and is the first song in pop music successfully conceived as an opener. (Pledging My Time by Bob Dylan would have been a good start for Blonde on Blonde, but the first place was given to a hit single.) The initial impression of Break on Through is of its rough sound similar to many a sloppy garage (proto-punk) group. There's no musical distortion or sound manipulation on this song, and the lead guitar is not improvising blues like the psychedelic Jeff Beck. The song carries an odd suggestion of a bossa nova beat. The "psychedelic" tone of the music comes from the jazz organ keyboard playing of Ray Manzarek, who shifts quickly through several different phrases in the course of the break so as to contribute to the song's increasing intensity and momentum. His keyboard improvisation sounded light, quick, subtle in rhythm, and contemporary, whereas earlier psychedelic keyboard was derived from either church hymns or baroque music. And then there was Jim Morrison's vocal delivery in a unique, strong baritone, that was masculine in a "natural" or "animal" way without reference to "working class" tough stereotypes such as Eric Burdon had employed. Morrison's conceptualization of his role was as a shaman; steeped in American Indian mythology, Morrison saw himself as performing a magical act, an act to change the world through ritual theater.

In 1965 Fred Neil wrote a song called Other Side of This Life about an escape from present reality which both the Animals and early Jefferson Airplane recorded. In Break on Through, Morrison implies that he has taken LSD, been to the "other side", and has come back not only to tell about it but to encourage his audience to do the same. He has had a vision. The other side is a necessary part of reality, Morrison sings in his lyric, as day and night are part of each other, despite the violent perception that day destroys night or that night divides day. There is no escaping one for the other; from the other side the opposites of day and night resolve. There follows in the lyric an orgiastic verse followed by a quatrain where arms and eyes offer both the freedom of love and entrapment. And then another orgiastic command "Make the scene!" is followed by diminished measures of time (connoting increasing frequency? or dwindling time through an hour glass?). The verse closes with the admonition to cross the threshold; it's easy, the gate is straight, deep and best of all, wide. But don't forget the deep. The song rushes to its conclusion like a dam has burst and it is Morrison's voice that rides a torrent without fade to the last of nine fervent bellowing affirmations.

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