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The Doors: Strange Days - Album Of The Week Club review

Strange Days was The Doors' second record, spawning the hit singles People Are Strange and Love Me Two Times

The Doors: Strange Days
(Image: © The Doors)
The Doors: Strange Days

(Image credit: The Doors)

1. Strange Days
2. You're Lost Little Girl
3. Love Me Two Times
4. Unhappy Girl
5. Horse Latitudes
6. Moonlight Drive
7. People Are Strange
8. My Eyes Have Seen You
9. I Can't See Your Face In My Mind
10. When The Music's Over
11. People Are Strange
12. Love Me Two Times

When The Doors' second album Strange Days was released at the end of September 1967, it was raved over rapturously by a rock media already primed to receive anything their new favourite group did next. Their audience, however, remained unsure.

With no comparable anthem to Light My Fire to rally the freak flag around, the album tiptoed rather than raced to near the top of the US charts, eventually stopping off at No.3. It would soon be superseded in the public’s imagination by the next album, 1968’s Waiting For The Sun, and that record’s breakout single, Hello, I Love You

In the UK, where the first Doors album had been a minor commercial hit but a major critical success, Strange Days came and went in a flash, without getting anywhere near the charts. Again, it was only Waiting For The Sun that finally introduced The Doors to the UK Top 20, by which time no one could recall anything about Strange Days other than its, well, strange cover.

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Background

Despite giving some of the most powerful performances of The Doors’ short career, Morrison’s offstage life is going to hell. He may look like a decadent angel, but inside he’s fighting just to keep his head above the dark waters he now finds himself in. He’s caught between his own idealised vision of himself as a hedonistic poet and artist and the earthier expectations of a record company, Elektra, who are about to enjoy the biggest success of their existence with Light My Fire, the second single lifted from The Doors’ self-titled debut album that is on its way to becoming the fluke hit of the summer.

Though no one is saying it – at least not to the faces of the band themselves – Elektra and everyone else in the music business know this is The Doors’ big break, and one they would be fools not to capitalise on by coming up with a convincing follow-up as soon as possible. Within a few weeks, The Doors will be flown back to Los Angeles and bundled into Sunset Sound studio, the featureless four-track bunker where they recorded their first album, and where, under pressure, they will start work on their second album.

These sessions will be abandoned, as Light My Fire overtakes The Beatles to become the defining hit of this most intoxicating of summers, but not before The Doors have recorded two tracks that will become their next single and its B-side: People Are Strange and Unhappy Girl. Everybody is excited about the new songs. What nobody knows yet is that this is just the beginning of what will become much more than a rushed follow-up to a band’s debut hit; that this album, Strange Days, will eventually become The Doors’ unsung masterpiece.

Other albums released in September 1967

  • Crusade - John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers
  • Something Else by The Kinks - The Kinks
  • Scott - Scott Walker
  • Smiley Smile - The Beach Boys
  • Alice's Restaurant - Arlo Guthrie
  • Blowin' Your Mind! - Van Morrison
  • Live at Fillmore Auditorium - Chuck Berry
  • Procol Harum - Procol Harum
  • Safe as Milk - Captain Beefheart
  • Winds of Change - Eric Burdon & The Animals

What they said...

"Through very logical development, they have improved their original methods and techniques with more effective instrumentation (a variety of keyboard sounds, a lot of slide guitar, and strongly musical electronic bridges). They have not attempted to make any big changes in direction or music (like so many groups mistakenly feel obligated to), but have refined and enriched their previous efforts." (Rolling Stone)

"It’s hard to find the hits on Strange Days; indeed, there weren’t many and the singles that were released didn’t even crack the Top 10. The album’s most accessible, straightforward rock tune is the racy Love Me Two Times, which features a virtuosic harpsichord solo and one of the band’s grooviest guitar riffs. But while The Doors had more frequent, obvious peaks, the quirky Strange Days is a more ambitious, unified work" (Slant Magazine)

"Both Strange Days and People Are Strange suggest a Jim Morrison who was out of sync with his surroundings. And that may have been more psychological than pharmaceutical although it’s hard to tell. Even songs like Moonlight Drive, which were actually composed before The Doors formed and were demoed for the first album, have an ominous feel as Morrison sings in a darkly hued voice, relating a tale of suicide of at least, oblivion." (Echoes)

What you said...

Philip Qvist: This is the best Doors LP that nobody listens to.

Probably not as great as their debut and LA Woman, but not that far off the mark from those two great albums either - and definitely on par with Morrison Hotel. The title track, When The Music's Over, Love Me Two Times and People Are Strange - what's not to love? All in all, a fabulous album.

Randy Banner: This is possibly my favourite Doors album. Light My Fire and Break On Through notwithstanding, I feel like it is, song-for-song, a better album than the debut and the last stop before Morrison's slide into the excess that would mark (and often mar) future Doors albums. 

Strange Days is haunting yet melodic, and Manzarek's keys really shine. Love Me Two Times is catchy and should have been a much bigger hit than it turned out to be. When The Music's Over is another epic-style exercise in Morrison's poetic grandeur, but with 100% less uncomfortable weirdness than it's debut-album counterpart. And Moonlight Drive is simply three minutes of pop bliss. 

The only questionable track is Horse Latitudes. I don't mind it, but it seems a little out of place here. I personally think it would have fit better on The Soft Parade, but it's a minor quibble to me. This is a solid album and always an enjoyable listen for me. 9/10

Mike Fildes: This and the first are by far the best Doors albums in my humble opinion, I would have them both in my all time top twenty albums, no question. Still sounds fresh, and so influential across so many genres, often imitated never bettered.

Gabriele D'Angiolo: I think that Strange Days is truly one of the best piece of work from the Doors. Less catchy than their first one and less reliant on blues or contemporary rock music than other great material from the band (with the notable exception of Love Me Two Times, which is a great and original take on the classic blues riff), the album is probably their most cohesive and coherent artistic statement; it's music that transcend genre or classification, that expands the band's journey into the dark side of American psychedelia, in a way that is purely unique. 

Even the tunes that are more accessible have an eerie presence and a timeless maturity (think of Moonlight Drive, People Are Strange or the very same title track). The less known tracks are also something special, there's just no song quite similar to I Can't See Your Face In My Mind or You're Lost Little Girl in the band's catalogue, but I would use them to describe the sound of the Doors to anyone. And then there's When The Music's Over. And i don't think i need to say anything on that, the music speaks for itself! A complete masterpiece in my opinion, a record at least 10 years ahead of its time, and part of a great legacy from a great band indeed.

Danny O'Sullivan: I like the dream like sound and vibe of this album. It’s not as deep and dark as their other albums, and is kind of fun in places. Songs like Unhappy Girl and You’re Lost Little Girl could easily be part of a movie soundtrack. This is my favourite Doors album hands down.

Joe Cogan: It's way past time for a reappraisal of The Doors. The most wildly overrated band in rock history (even though they rarely rocked). 

Good points: Robbie Krieger is an excellent guitarist with his own unique sound, and they had the ability to write (largely thanks to Krieger) one or two quality singles per album. Or in the case of their debut, a great album overall. 

Bad points: sorry, but Ray Manzarek belonged playing in a skating rink, a baseball stadium, or a Holiday Inn, not in a rock band, Jim Morrison managed to completely blow out his voice in just three years, and his alleged poetry is a lot less impressive when the drugs wear off. John Densmore isn't exactly a rock drummer (or a steady timekeeper), and aside from their debut, their albums had only a couple of good tracks. 

In this particular case, it's the ones everyone knows: Love Me Two Times, People Are Strange, and When The Music's Over (which would have been a lot more impressive if it wasn't essentially a rewrite of The End from the previous record). The rest are period pieces that sound as dated as love beads worn over a tie-dye shirt.

Jonathan Novajosky: Strange Days has the tough task of following a juggernaut of a debut. It does a solid job though. If there's one thing that holds this album back for me, it's the lack of a standout, killer track. There is no Light My Fire, no Touch Me, or no LA Woman to bring it above the other Doors albums. I still think it's great however. Love Me Two Times has the classic blues sound from the debut, and Strange Days and Moonlight Drive deliver the keyboard sound that could only come from The Doors.

Strange Days: can be forgettable at times with a couple of boring songs like Horse Latitudes or My Eyes Have Seen You; however that does not detract too much from my enjoyment. My favourite song is People Are Strange because of Morrison's vocals and catchy keyboard playing by Ray Manzarek. 

I've always thought that Manzarek was the driving sound behind the band – his sound is immediately recognisable. Maybe there is a slight lacking of that in these songs, and that's why Strange Days is my least favourite of the six Doors albums. Despite that, The Doors are still one of my favourite bands of all time, so this album still gets a strong score from me. 8/10

Mike Knoop: Blame it on Horse Latitudes. This spoken word misery torpedoes the good ship Strange Days, dropping it to the depths of their discography, deeper than the almost total misfire of The Soft Parade, just above the two post-Morrison albums. While I launched a spirited defence of a reviled track last week, now I can only put my hand on this stinker's shoulder and softly but firmly say, "I'm sorry, son. But you have to pay for what you've done."

As a whole, Strange Days is a "meh" album from a band that has at least three great albums. It has a couple of great songs, Love Me Two Times and When the Music's Over, but they seem like echoes from the debut of Break On Through (To the Other Side) and the unsurpassable The End - my vote for one of the best songs written in the past 2019 years. 

You're Lost Little Girl is a nice bit of psychedelic pop but misses the sense of foreboding of their best work. Speaking of foreboding, I would probably like People Are Strange better if it weren't overused in TV/movie soundtracks as shorthand for "things are getting weird." The rest is OK while it's playing, but doesn't stick to the ears like album tracks from Morrison Hotel, L.A. Woman, or the debut.

As with Led Zeppelin, a death in the band has left us with a concise, mostly excellent discography. One album's got to come in last. For me, it's Strange Days.

Iain Macaulay: Four musicians went into a room to make music, and by default created a sound so unique it defined an era and became its own singular genre. That’s some legacy for any musician to live by.

The Doors are not a rock band, at least, not in the conventional sense. They are not a jazz band either, or a blues band. The Doors are just... The Doors. They took random elements from a myriad of genres and created an organism so original it still lives and breathes today.

To me, they have three classic albums. The Doors, Strange Days and LA Woman. The first two were written at the same time, in the innocent rush of their musical youth. With no pressure or the rigours of fame hanging over them to colour the creation of their art. The third was written as a reaction to the notoriety they attained in the intervening years, in trying to regain the joy and fun they had in those early days when they were simply being rather than trying.

This album is different to the first. It’s a subtle difference but it is. It’s their most together album, their most lively, energetic and live sounding album. The sounds are eerier. The arrangements tighter, more concise. I read somewhere it could be considered the start of Goth, which is a plausible hypothesis. 

There is certainly a dark romanticism in those tracks and it has much more of a European feel to it than a sunny Californian one. It’s weirder and more dangerous, deeper and arguably more disturbing than the first, possibly due to the time the band had to gestate the songs as much as the lyrical content. It’s fair to say there is no standout single but every song is perfectly singular yet works so well as a whole album listen. Even horse latitudes has its place. It’s all a fascinating grown-up trip down a very dark and twisted rabbit hole. A trip I like.

A friend once told me you had to be mentally unhinged to like The Doors. Well, I really like the band and this album. There is a song for everyone and lyric for every life situation. Music is your special friend indeed.

Bill Griffin: The Doors sound the most dated of all the "classic rock" bands to me and I've always held them at a distance as a result. It wasn't until Morrison Hotel that they broke that mold and LA Woman followed up in that vein so those two albums I enjoy. This one, however, doesn't move me. These songs are best relegated to the occasional radio listen.

Chris Downie: An album unfairly maligned in some quarters, largely due to being bereft of an immediate "hit" that its timeless predecessor had, Strange Days is undoubtedly an album fully worthy of contemporary reappraisal.

While critics will with some justification point to the above, and the fact its (admittedly epic) closer is a cautious retread of The End, on closer scrutiny this is far from a sophomore slump. There is much to be admired here, not least the captivating title track, or the fantastic People Are Strange and Love Me Two Times.

While few will argue it is a better album than the debut, it could be argued that had it not had such a gargantuan task of following such an iconic release, critics would have been kinder. Indeed, it contains much of their best and most innovative material and, perhaps with the exception of LA Woman, is undoubtedly more coherent than much of what came later.

Carl Black: My knowledge of the Doors is limited to the Val Kilmer film and the greatest hits that got hawked around during the same time. And the tracks from this album that appeared on the greatest hits still hold up. Haunting and mesmerising. It totally confirms my thought that The Doors are total unique and special. 

The songs I was unfamiliar with were great discoveries. Moonlight Drive and Unhappy Girl could and should have been included on the greatest hits. And Horse Latitude. Whats going on there? I've no idea but that doesn't matter. The highlight is the closer. When The Music's Over. A cynic may say that its a carbon copy of The End ( not sure which song came first, either way, it doesn't matter). Not me, I like the Doors best when they go long and really push themselves musically and spiritually. Great album.

John Davidson: This album is 50 years old. Born in the hearts and minds of a group of talented musicians, fronted by a drunken poet. The results are sometimes mesmerising and inspiring, occasionally shambolic.

This is their difficult second album and falls between the 'bursting with crazy ideas' of their debut and the cynical sleazy blues of their later outings.

I've never been a fan of their albums, which are too variable in quality for me. Their highs are absolute classics and there are still a few hidden gems that are worth digging around for- but not so much on this album.

When The Music's Over is the grand finale and certainly one of the standouts and while it is successful in its own right, even if it is too obviously an attempt to recreate The End. 6/10

Gary Claydon: When I joined this group I made a pledge to myself that I would listen to every album, even the ones I don't like. And I've stuck to that but this was the first one that I really had to force myself to revisit. 

I'm afraid I've long thought that The Doors are the most overrated band ever. Their music hasn't aged well and I never bought into the idea of Morrison being this mystical, iconic rock-poet. In fact I always thought he came across as a self-absorbed arsehole, but that's just my opinion. 

Hopefully I'll only have to suffer The Doors in future when listening to Planet Rock or on the soundtrack of every fucking Vietnam war movie ever made.

Roland Bearne: I have always been a bit of a "Greatest Hits" guy when it comes to the Doors. Love their music in films – The End in Apocalypse Now, People Are Strange in The Lost Boys – but I have rarely spun a whole album as such. At the risk of heresy I have discovered I'm not really a fan. 

I know we should go all strokey chin over Morrison's lyrics, but a lot of it comes off to me as navel gazing hippy warblings. Ray Mazarek's organ sound is, after a full album, frankly irritating, all tinkly and thin. My ear was groomed on the bombast of Sir John Lord et al, sorry. So, I'm disappointed to say, I will remain a fan of certain songs but there was no road to Damascus for me here.

Final Score: 7.96 ⁄10 (299 votes cast, with a total score of 2283)

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