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The Day the Doors Recorded Their First Demo Under a Different Name

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No one could have guessed what would come of the combo that wandered into Los Angeles’ World Pacific Studios on Sept. 2, 1965. Less than two years after Rick & the Ravens recorded their first session, the band — which recast itself as the Doors within a few months — would be on its way to captivating the world.

On that first Thursday in September of 1965, singer Jim Morrison, keyboardist Ray Manzarek and drummer John Densmore set up to record a half dozen songs that would lay the first bricks for what would become the Doors. Joining the trio was Manzarek’s brothers, Rick on guitar and Jim on harmonica. Not long after this, they’d recruit guitarist Robby Krieger and cement the quartet.

Rick & the Ravens had recently signed to the rock ‘n’ roll division of World Pacific Records to release a couple of singles. A local agent and booker, Harry Klutzmeyer, helped seal the deal, Manzarek recalled in a radio interview. The keyboardist bonded with label owner Dick Bock over a shared interest in spirituality, as well as LSD, which was still legal at the time. Bock suggested to Manzarek that he take part in a series of lectures given by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who also happened to record for World Pacific. Manzarek eventually met Densmore at these lectures.

Six songs were recorded that day in 1965, all of which, at some point, would find their way into the Doors catalog. A raw and very basic take of “Hello, I Love You” sounds, more or less, like the version everyone knows (though the Kinks-inspired riff was less pronounced and the more elaborate arrangement yet to be realized). “Summer’s Almost Gone” is much more piano-based on the demo and wouldn’t become fully fleshed out until Krieger added guitar. Both tracks appeared on the Doors’ third album, Waiting for the Sun, three years later.

A very basic, and somewhat Bob Dylan-sounding, run-through of “Moonlight Drive” shows Morrison in early full flight. The arrangement would mostly remain intact, though the instrumentation significantly changed before its official release. “My Eyes Have Seen You” is haunting on the demo, but it received a more defined approach on the band’s album, 1967’s Strange Days. The only song recorded that day that would become part of the Doors’ landmark debut was “End of the Night,” though Krieger’s guitar is crucially missing.

“Go Insane” is the most intriguing track from the sessions. The pounding rocker borders on psychotic, and the tension of the piano along with Morrison’s lyrics make for an unhinged romp. Though the song itself would be abandoned, some of its words ended up on the epic “Celebration of the Lizard,” which also was shelved, though parts of it surfaced on other songs over the years.

While the Doors weren’t quite formed at this stage, these demos reveal a fascinating glimpse into their early period. The basic framework is there, but the things they ended up doing with that frame are pretty amazing.

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