The Doors were an American rock band formed in 1965 in Los Angeles, California, with vocalist Jim Morrison, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, drummer John Densmore, and guitarist Robby Krieger. The band took its name from Aldous Huxley's book The Doors of Perception, the title of which was a reference to a William Blake quotation: "When the doors of perception are cleansed, things will appear to man as they truly are...infinite." They were among the most controversial rock acts of the 1960s, due mostly to Morrison's wild, poetic lyrics and charismatic but unpredictable stage persona. After Morrison's death in 1971, the remaining members continued as a trio until finally disbanding in 1973.
Although The Doors' active career ended in 1973, their popularity has persisted. According to the RIAA, they have sold over 32.5 million albums in the US alone. The band has sold 80 million albums worldwide. Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger continue to tour as Manzarek-Krieger, performing Doors songs exclusively.
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 in Los Angeles, 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 has since then 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.
By 1966, the group was playing the LA club London Fog 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". Prior to graduating to Whisky a Go Go Morrison went to many record labels trying to land a deal. He did score one but it did not pan out. 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 band recorded their first album from August 24 to 31, 1966 at Sunset Sound Recording Studios. '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".
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 Year's Day 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 Hot 100 singles chart, selling over a million copies. "Light My Fire" was the first song ever written by Robbie Krieger and was the beginning of the band's success.
From March 7 to March 11, 1967, The Doors performed at The Matrix Club in San Francisco, California. The March 7 and 10 shows were recorded by a co-owner of The Matrix, Peter Abram. These recordings are notable as they are among the earliest live recordings of the band to circulate. On November 18, 2008, The Doors published a compilation of these recordings, Live at the Matrix 1967, on the band's boutique Bright Midnight Archives label.