When did you discover The Doors? Raddled old rock journos from the inkie era might claim they were turned on to the band by their heroin dealer; a wrinkly Strip hipster that he saw them perform at the London Fog way back in ’66. Me? I was introduced to The Doors by my mate Steve Pratt. We worked together as Saturday salesmen at men’s tailors John Collier. Pratt instilled in me a love affair for the band that endures to this day. Therefore it should be a gratifying experience – an honour, no less – to review the 50th anniversary edition of their second studio album, Strange Days. But it turns out to be almost impossible.
For starters, one cannot help but wonder what a 15-year-old music fan’s reaction would be if he or she heard The Doors for the first time today. “You’re playing me something that’s, like, fifty years old?” Think back. Secondly, to these ears Strange Days is so achingly familiar that any departure from the original vinyl listening experience jars alarmingly: there’s no crackle and pop after Love Me Two Times? There isn’t a skip during Moonlight Drive? How can this be?
There’s no doubt that original engineer Bruce Botnick has done a pristine remastering job, chucking in extra mono mixes for good measure. (But why listen to medium wave when you can have DAB radio instead?) Refreshed, revitalised, reborn? Some might say so. But it just doesn’t sound right. Thirdly, shouldn’t anniversary editions be stylish and celebratory in some fashion? There are no bonus tracks here, although one could argue this is just fine, as in Doors terms such things usually consist of Morrison mumbling incoherently while Robby Krieger plays the riff to Roadhouse Blues over and over again.
But the bare-bones nature of this reissue is disconcerting; its cause isn’t helped by sleevenotes that are drier than Jimbo after a month in rehab. Additionally, nitpickers could argue that the original album is past its sell-by. Three examples: the People Are Strange lyric ‘Women seem wicked when you’re unwanted’ sounds simultaneously misogynistic and pathetic; You’re Lost Little Girl is downright creepy; and as for My Eyes Have Seen You… well, duh! Plus, with a demented US president taunting a tubby North Korean nukehead on Twitter, these days are surely the strangest of them all.