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Best The Doors Songs: 20 Red-Hot Classics That Will Light Your Fire
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List & Guides

Best The Doors Songs: 20 Red-Hot Classics That Will Light Your Fire

With an otherworldliness all their own, the best Doors songs are powerful, poetic works that took rock music into uncharted territory.

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Powerful and poetic, The Doors were one of the bands that defined the 60s. In Jim Morrison, they had one of rock’s sexiest and most charismatic frontmen, but while he was also an exceptionally gifted wordsmith, The Doors were the very embodiment of a democracy, with keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore all making significant contributions to the band’s distinctive sound. Though primarily a pop-rock outfit tinged with psychedelia, The Doors’ music was also informed by elements of jazz and blues, and was streaked with an otherworldliness that was all their own. Great tracks jostle for position on all six of their studio albums, and the time to hesitate is through – we’ve finally settled on the 20 best Doors songs…

Listen to the best of The Doors here, and scroll down for our 20 best Doors songs.

20: Shaman’s Blues (from ‘The Soft Parade’, 1969)

Released in the summer of 1969, The Doors’ fourth album, The Soft Parade, is widely regarded as a troubled entry in the iconic Los Angeles outfit’s bounteous discography. Though some of its tracks buckle under the weight of strings, horns and fussy embellishments, it nevertheless has its moments. Notably leaner, hungrier and stripped-back than much of the record, Shaman’s Blues is an outstanding cut, with Jim Morrison’s ominous lyric (“Did you ever stop to consider how it will feel?/Cold grinding grizzly-bear jaws hot on your heels”) perfectly matched by the jazzy yet menacing sweep of the music

19: Hello, I Love You (from ‘Waiting For The Sun’, 1968)

Much of the hubris surrounding The Doors (which usually zones in on Jim Morrison’s poetic lyrics or his legendary excess) tends to obscure the fact the best Doors songs could also take the shape of damn fine pop tunes – with their second US chart-topper, 1968’s Hello, I Love You, being an obvious case in point. Leaving aside its similarity to The Kinks’ All Day And All Of The Night, the song’s Nuggets-esque effervescence is still on the boil and Morrison’s portrayal of watching a beautiful girl saunter along LA’s Venice Beach (“Sidewalk crouches at her feet/Like a dog that begs for something sweet”) remains especially heady.

18: Strange Days (from ‘Strange Days’, 1967)

After The Doors cut their self-titled debut album, their favoured studio, LA’s Sunset Sound, upgraded from four-track to eight-track facilities, offering the band a far wider palette of sounds for their second album, Strange Days. The Doors took full advantage, drafting in session bassist Doug Lubahn, experimenting with backmasking techniques and incorporating the use of a newly acquired Moog synthesiser. The latter (played by Morrison rather than Ray Manzarek) was a notable feature of the album’s otherworldly title track. Engineer Bruce Botnick told Sound On Sound, “We created an envelope where we could feed Jim’s track into the Moog so that he could play any note on the keyboard and it would process his voice. I then added a little delay and fed the whole thing into an infinite tape repeat. That was hand-played.”

17: Five To One (from ‘Waiting For The Sun’, 1968)

Waiting For The Sun’s closing track, Five To One, captured The Doors at their most direct. The title reputedly referred to the ratio of people then smoking pot to the “straights” who weren’t (“Five to one, baby, one in five”), while author/Doors devotee Danny Sugarman famously snaffled the song’s next line (“No one here gets out alive”) for the title of the Morrison biography he co-authored with Rolling Stone’s Jerry Hopkins in 1980. Five To One’s brawny, staccato riff was the ideal starting point for one of the late 60s’ most memorable counterculture anthems, and even if the Utopia it envisaged (“Gonna win, yeah, we’re taking over!”) ultimately failed to materialise, the song itself still grabs the listener by the scruff of the neck.

16: The Soft Parade (from ‘The Soft Parade’, 1969)

The Doors’ third album, Waiting For The Sun, topped the Billboard 200 and significantly raised the band’s profile. However, while this meant they were able to sell out huge shows at venues such as LA’s Hollywood Bowl and New York City’s Madison Square Garden, morale was low when they reconvened to make their follow-up, The Soft Parade. With Jim Morrison keen to pursue film and poetry projects rather than music, the sessions were a struggle, but when the singer engaged with the project, he still delivered, most notably on Shaman’s Blues, the feral Wild Child and album’s title track – a remarkable suite-like workout that proves The Soft Parade had quality moments that held their own among the best Doors songs. Spilling across eight minutes, it veered from Morrison’s fiery mock-sermon intro through delicate folk-rock and pop sections to a truly mesmeric groove which carried the song to its conclusion.

15: The End (from ‘The Doors’, 1967)

The legendary closing track to The Doors’ self-titled debt album, The End had a lengthy gestation. Initially written by Jim Morrison as a simple break-up song about his girlfriend, it evolved significantly during the band’s reputation-building series of shows at Los Angeles’ Whiskey A Go Go which eventually bagged them a deal with Elektra Records in 1966. By the time the group put it down in the studio, it sprawled across 12 minutes and famously included the controversial “‘Father?’ ‘Yes, son?’/‘I want to kill you’/‘Mother? I want to fuck you!’” lyric, in which Morrison explored Sigmund Freud’s Oedipus complex. Though portentous and hypnotic, The End doesn’t have the impact of Strange Days’ equally colossal closing track, When The Music’s Over, but it easily sits among the best Doors songs, and was later used to devastating effect in Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam epic, Apocalypse Now.

14: Love Me Two Times (from ‘Strange Days’, 1967)

Another great example of The Doors at their poppiest, Robby Krieger’s bluesy Love Me Two Times was introduced by one of the guitarist’s catchiest riffs, and benefitted from an earthy Morrison vocal and a dextrous Ray Manzarek harpsichord solo. In his autobiography, the keyboardist suggests Love Me Two Times is about “lust and loss, or multiple orgasms, I’m not sure which”. Wherever the truth lies, the song represented The Doors at their most accessible and dynamic, so it’s no surprise it was chosen as Strange Days’ second single. Why it stalled at a relatively lowly No.25 does, however, remain a mystery.

13: Peace Frog (from ‘Morrison Hotel’, 1970)

Moving away from the strings, horns and lavish production techniques of The Soft Parade, The Doors’ fifth album, Morrison Hotel, was a much grittier affair. It didn’t yield any hit singles, but its standout tracks remain contenders among the best Doors songs. Undoubtedly a highlight on the album, Peace Frog found both band and frontman in fine fettle, with Robby Krieger launching the song with a memorably percussive, wah-wah-enhanced riff and John Densmore getting funky behind the kit. Meanwhile, Morrison’s visceral lyric was at least partly autobiographical. His haunting lines “Indians scattered on dawn’s highway bleeding/Ghosts crowd the young child’s fragile eggshell mind” related to an incident when he was a small child: Morrison was on an early-morning car ride with his family when they encountered some Native Americans bleeding to death after a fatal car crash. “That was the first time I tasted fear,” Morrison said in an interview posthumously published by Louder in 2017.

12: Soul Kitchen (from ‘The Doors’, 1967)

One of many reasons why The Doors’ self-titled record ranks among the best debut albums of all time, Soul Kitchen is a psych-pop classic with a tight arrangement and a wonderfully infectious loping rhythm. Lyrically, it’s also one of Morrison’s best efforts, but then its subject matter is entirely personal, offering an affectionate tribute to Olivia’s, his favoured soul food restaurant in LA’s Venice Beach, and a place the singer often frequented until closing time, when the staff literally had to kick him out. That accounts for the chorus (“Let me sleep all night in your soul kitchen”), but the rich imagery Morrison employed for the verses (“Your fingers weave quick minarets/Speaking secret alphabets”) demonstrated that he was streets ahead of most of his contemporaries when he really applied himself.

11: The Changeling (from ‘LA Woman’, 1971)

The ideal scene-setter for The Doors’ sublime final album, LA Woman, The Changeling rode a tough but supple groove, with the whole band turning in a superb ensemble performance. Morrison’s voice was notably craggier than before, but the world-weariness perfectly suited an autobiographical song which referred to the singer’s often transient existence in Los Angeles and hinted heavily at his imminent departure for Paris. “The lyrics are prophetic,” Ray Manzarek later told LA Weekly. “‘I’ve lived uptown. I’ve lived downtown, but I’ve never been so broke that I couldn’t leave town.’ He’d lived on the beach and in the hills. He’d had money and been broke. He’d had his LA adventure, and he was out.”

10: You’re Lost Little Girl (from ‘Strange Days’, 1967)

One of Strange Days’ strongest tracks, You’re Lost Little Girl has a dreamy otherworldliness which has ensured it’s aged well. Kicked off by a lazy, wandering bassline and augmented by Robby Krieger’s brittle arpeggios, it opens out into one of The Doors’ most dignified and courtly pop songs, and could easily have been a single. In his memoir, Riders On The Storm, John Densmore rightly notes that Morrison’s vocal “had a serene quality” which may or may not have been influenced by producer Paul A Rothchild’s decision to allow Jim’s girlfriend, Pamela Courson, to join him in the vocal booth while he performed.

9: Spanish Caravan (from ‘Waiting For The Sun’, 1968)

Though undoubtedly accentuated by Jim Morrison’s commanding croon and filmic lyrics (“Silver and gold in the mountains of Spain/I have to see you again and again”), Waiting For The Sun’s flamenco-flavoured Spanish Caravan was predominantly a showcase for Robby Krieger’s dextrous guitar skills. Initially framed by his intimate, fragile guitar picking, the song truly delivered when Krieger kicked his fuzz pedal into overdrive during the compelling denouement. Dark, romantic and devastating, Spanish Caravan simply demands inclusion among the best Doors songs.

8: Love Her Madly (from ‘LA Woman’, 1971)

Contrary to the widely-held belief that LA Woman is primarily a “blues” album, the record is actually a powerfully diverse affair, taking in everything from the epic title track to the crestfallen pop of Hyacinth House. Also an unashamed pop song – albeit notably more upbeat – Robby Krieger’s Love Her Madly was the album’s obvious single. Performed with gusto, with Manzarek in especially sublime form and Morrison throwing in an elegantly passionate vocal, the song displayed all the hallmarks of a radio hit and duly returned The Doors to the upper echelons of the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No.11 in the spring of 1971.

7: The Unknown Soldier (from ‘Waiting For The Sun’, 1968)

With the Vietnam War heating up and strong anti-establishment feelings in the air, it’s no great surprise that The Doors wrote their most directly politicised songs during the latter part of 1967 and the first few months of 1968. During this period, they completed both Five To One and the even more explicit The Unknown Soldier, with the latter being released in March 1968 as the lead single for Waiting For The Sun. It grazed the US Top 40 and would probably have gone higher, but its powerful anti-war lyric gave most radio stations cold feet, while its controversial promo film (in which Jim Morrison was mock executed) was banned. The Unknown Soldier was, however, an acclaimed concert favourite, with Densmore’s military snare ramping up the tension and the band reprising Morrison’s theatrical execution during the song’s middle section.

6: Roadhouse Blues (from ‘Morrison Hotel’, 1970)

Having helped defined the lysergic 60s, The Doors wasted no time showing they had muscle enough for the back-to-basics zeitgeist of the early 70s, kicking off Morrison Hotel with Roadhouse Blues: a fantastic slice of earthy blues-rock which rode a down’n’dirty groove and found Robby Krieger trading licks with special guest John Sebastian’s wailing harp. Capturing the band at their most savage, with Morrison’s ominous kiss-off (“The future’s uncertain and the end is always near”) adding a further frisson of danger, Roadhouse Blues is unquestionably one of the best Doors songs.

5: Break On Through (To The Other Side) (from ‘The Doors’, 1967)

Though only a minor hit at the time, The Doors’ evocative first single, Break On Through (To The Other Side), was nonetheless an ideal introduction to the band. Densmore’s bossa nova beat and Manzarek’s João Gilberto-inspired keyboards belied the band’s jazz influences, though Kreiger’s edgy guitar and Morrison’s erudite, LSD-informed lyric (“I found an island in your arms/Country in your eyes/Arms that chain us/Eyes that lie”) revealed that the Doors were coming from somewhere far more dark and enigmatic.

4: LA Woman (from ‘LA Woman’, 1971)

Kicked off by a driving bassline and featuring a sublime ensemble performance, LA Woman’s formidable, seven-minute title track was effectively Jim Morrison’s personal paean to Los Angeles itself. Bearing in mind Morrison was about to depart for Paris, the song is often viewed as his final goodbye to the city, but while his elusive lyric expresses both passion (“Are you a lucky little lady in the City Of Light?”) and disdain (“Or just another lost angel?/ City of night”) it’s ultimately left open-ended, with the listener left to make up their own mind. Whatever your conclusion, there’s no denying LA Woman is a magnificent piece of work.

3: When The Music’s Over (from ‘Strange Days’, 1967)

Rather like The End, Strange Days’ epic closing track pushed past ten minutes, and its content was honed while The Doors slogged through endless shows at LA nightspots The London Fog and the Whiskey A Go Go before signing their deal with Elektra Records. Yet while The End lent itself rather more to free-form experimentation, When The Music’s Over was tight and structured. Famous for bequeathing a host of Morrison’s most-quoted lyrics (“A feast of friends, ‘Alive!’ she cried”, “The scream of the butterfly”) and his famous exhortation “We want the world, and we want it/Now!”, When The Music’s Over was a tour de force whose elemental power shuns the ravages of time.

2: Riders On The Storm (from ‘LA Woman’, 1971)

The final track The Doors recorded in their original four-piece incarnation, Riders On The Storm rewarded the band with a sizeable hit on both sides of the Atlantic. Lush, subtle and cinematic, its music was inspired by Stan Jones’ country standard (Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend, while Jim Morrison’s ominously world-weary lyric (“There’s a killer on the road/His brain is squirming like a toad”) reflected LA’s sombre mood in the wake of the Manson Family murders. Mean, moody and absolutely magnificent, Riders On The Storm is an astounding epitaph by anyone’s standards.

1: Light My Fire (from ‘The Doors’, 1967)

It’s slightly ironic that the song most synonymous with Jim Morrison was primarily written by Robby Krieger, though the rest of the band chipped in significantly, with John Densmore devising Light My Fire’s Latin-tinged beat and Ray Manzarek working up the sumptuous palindromic organ figures. Once the killer chorus fell into place, The Doors were convinced they had a hit on their hands – and, in the late summer of 1967, they were vindicated when the edited single version hit No.1 in the US charts and set the band on the road to superstardom. Topping our list of the best Doors songs, Light My Fire is part of the fabric of pop culture and has been covered by artists as disparate as José Feliciano, Amii Stewart and Will Young, but over-familiarity cannot diminish the timelessness of this dark, rich and persuasively sexy song.

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