The combined elements of the Doors’ music has transcended time and place to become more than a relic of American psychedelic sound. A ceremonial tone in John Densmore’s tribal drumming — both earthy and jazzy — evoked the mysticism and carnal pleasure of Sunset Strip’s Sea Witch. This held the rhythm for Ray Manzarek’s jazz/R&B organ (shot direct from Mother Neptune’s Coffeehouse) and the Insomniac brew of Robby Krieger’s nimble flamenco guitar lines, mixed with crunchy garage-band chords. But it was the baritone tremolo and lusty howl of Jim Morrison’s vox that took the music of the Doors to a subconscious level. Long after the shimmering klieg lights of L.A.’s psychedelic era went out, the Doors’ music continued to influence sub-culture on record.
By 1977, New Jersey’s the Misfits debuted their own brand of keyboard-driven psychotronic punk at Greenwich Village’s CBGB’s club. The single “Cough/Cool” b/w “She” featured somber, poetic prancing akin to the Doors’ earliest hits, while infusing an experimental art-rock indicative of the times. The Misfits glamourized sex and violence, as their increasingly guitar-driven sound pointed to a bleak, dystopian world at the dawn of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. As their brooding style began influencing the oncoming swarm of ’80s goth-rock, Misfits singer Glenn Danzig moved away from the B-horror garaginess of their best material, instead preferring the nascent death metal sound popular by the mid-’80s.
Britain’s Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy launched their band, the Cult, in the early ’80s, offering up a new-wave/goth sound that was heavily influenced by Native American mysticism. The Cult’s 1984 singles “Spiritwalker” and “Go West (Crazy Spinning Circles)” hit big enough to launch a revived interest in the type of sex/death/rebirth gravity that had critics talking about the ’60s Doors sound again. Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman’s book No One Get Out of Here Alive (1980) had already launched Morrison and the Doors into popularity with a whole new generation. The book would be adapted for the big screen in 1991 with Oliver Stone’s The Doors, and the Cult’s Ian Astbury would later front a ’90s Doors reunion, but neither were viewed as being inspired on the level of the book or earliest Cult records. The indie-spirit of neo-psychedelic, however, had more authentic offerings on the horizon.
In 1986, Seattle’s Screaming Trees unleashed the DIY garage-psych LP Clairvoyance — a foretelling of the ’90s grunge explosion, iconoclastic and haunting all at once. The Middle-Eastern flair of Gary Conner’s guitar on “Standing on the Edge” laid the perfect backdrop for singer Mark Lanegan’s baritone intensity. It wasn’t until Pearl Jam’s 1993 Vs. album that another Seattle act would equal the raw absorption of Calirvoyance. Eddie Vedder’s passion and self-conscious immediacy on Pearl Jam numbers like “Dissident” and “Indifference” harkened back to the crunch-chord spontaneity of the best of the Doors. That same year, Glenn Danzig’s eponymous band had a surprise MTV hit with a live version of “Mother” (originally on their 1988 debut LP), though at this point, his sound was so far gone into death metal that it would doubtless fail to connect with anyone searching for the everyman blues of the Doors sound. Worse yet was the baritone banality of mainstream alternative bands like Stone Temple Pilots, and later, Creed. But by this time, there was a feeling that the sexual, good-time exploration of the Doors’ initial influence had reached a corporate rock nadir. The Sunset Strip’s mid-’60s inspiration continues to this day, but its purity in music has gone underground, as with most of the best sounds in rock, post-alternative.