Origins and formation
The origins of The Doors lie in a chance meeting between acquaintances and fellow UCLA film
school alumni Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek on Venice Beach California in July 1965. Morrison told
Manzarek he had been writing songs (Morrison said "I was taking notes at a fantastic rock-n-roll concert
going on in my head") and, with Manzarek's encouragement, sang "Moonlight Drive". Impressed by
Morrison's lyrics, Manzarek suggested they form a band.
Keyboardist Manzarek was in a band called Rick & the Ravens with his brothers Rick and Jim Manzarek,
while drummer John Densmore was playing with The Psychedelic Rangers, and knew Manzarek from
meditation classes. In August, Densmore joined the group and, along with members of The Ravens and
bass player Pat Sullivan (later credited using her married name Patricia Hansen in the 1997 box CD
release), recorded a six-song demo in September 1965. This circulated widely as a bootleg recording.
That month the group recruited guitarist Robby Krieger, and the final lineup — Morrison, Manzarek,
Krieger and Densmore — was complete. The band took their name from a line in William Blake's
poem The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, ('If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would
appear to man as it is, infinite'), according to the currently festival-touring documentary on The
Doors, When You're Strange.
Whisky a Go Go
By 1966, the group was playing the London Fog club and soon graduated to the prestigious Whisky a Go
Go, where they were the house band, supporting acts including Van Morrison's group Them. On their last
night together the two bands joined up for "In the Midnight Hour" and a twenty-minute jam session of
Them's "Gloria". On August 10, they were spotted by Elektra Records president Jac Holzman who was
present at the recommendation of Love singer Arthur Lee, whose group was on Elektra. After Holzman
and producer Paul A. Rothchild saw two sets of the band playing at the Whisky a Go Go, they signed
them to the Elektra Records label on August 18—the start of a long and successful partnership with
Rothchild and engineer Bruce Botnick. Later that month, the club fired the band after a profanity-filled
performance of "The End". In an incident that foreshadowed the controversy that later followed the group,
an acid-tripping Morrison raucously recited his own version of the Greek drama Oedipus Rex, in which
Oedipus unknowingly kills his father and has sex with his mother.
'The Doors' self-titled debut LP was released in the first week of January 1967. It featured most of the
major songs from their set, including the nearly 12-minute musical drama "The End". The band recorded
their first album at Sunset Sound Recording Studios from August 24 to 31, 1966, almost entirely live in
In November 1966, Mark Abramson directed a promotional film for the lead single "Break On Through (To
the Other Side)." To promote the single, the Doors made their television debut on a Los Angeles TV show
called Boss City, circa 1966, possibly early 1967 and then on a Los Angeles TV show
called Shebang, miming to "Break On Through," on New Years 1967. This clip has never been officially
released by the Doors.
The band's second single, "Light My Fire", became the first single from Elektra Records to reach number
one on the Billboard singles chart, selling over a million copies.