RECAP 2017: The AM Radio Side of the Doors

Icon Fetch is revisiting some of the best releases of 2017

The Doors – The Singles Collection (Rhino)

What set the Doors apart from many of their contemporaries of the Sixties was that, despite their penchant for recording lengthy pieces, like “Light My Fire” (7 mins), “The End” (12 mins) and “LA Woman” (8 mins), they were also able to have success on AM Radio with their edited, 45 RPM singles. For the first time, those tracks have been assembled in The Singles Collection, a two-disc set covering all their single releases, in their original form, plus a bonus Blu Ray featuring even more music.

Much of the Doors’ albums featured wide stereo mixes – meaning the drums might be panned all the way in the left channel, while the keyboard might be in the right. What you notice from these mono, single versions is that everything comes at you with more punch. “Break on Through (To the Other Side)” and the highly-truncated “Light My Fire” really jump out of the speakers. “Moonlight Drive” had a really goofy stereo mix, where things jump from speaker to speaker, so it’s definitely improved in the mono mix as well (although, there’s a strange edit in the middle of the guitar solo that shortens it by a mere :10 seconds).

There are some outright differences in sound too – the spooky b-side to “Break on Through,” “End of the Night,” features a slide guitar solo that borders on madness from Robby Krieger, and is awash in echo in the mono version, while “The Crystal Ship” starts with a dry vocal from Jim Morrison.

“People Are Strange” seems muffled on the single mix, maybe it was taken from vinyl? There’s also a surprisingly-truncated version of “Love Me Two Times” – the album version was only 3:15, but they cut it down to 2:41 for the single (why?).

Just an observation: the stereo mixes seem to run slower in many cases – making the songs drag a little. The mono mix of “We Could Be So Good Together” runs 10 seconds shorter because of the speed difference, and it’s the better version, while the a-side, “The Unknown Soldier,” is missing the ringing bells and crowd noises at the end of the stereo mix.

Surprisingly, in 1968, the band’s singles started coming out in stereo. “Hello, I Love You” has no audible difference to the album version, but “Touch Me” is an alternate stereo mix, which omits the reference to Ajax at the end (the “stronger than dirt” line).

The set also contains a trio of non-LP b-sides, including “Who Scared You,” the original b-side to “Wishful Sinful,” which didn’t make an appearance on any Doors’ album until the Weird Scenes Inside the Goldmine compilation. The others are largely forgettable: “(You Need Meat) Don’t Go No Further” is a by-the-numbers blues number, featuring Ray Manzarek on vocals.

By the Morrison Hotel album, the singles were back to being mixed into mono. Surprising that “You Make Me Real” was chosen as the a-side instead of “Roadhouse Blues,” which has one of the most striking mono mixes – Krieger’s guitar is drenched with a different effect, and there’s an additional harmonica overdub that’s more apparent in this mix. The track is also about 20 seconds shorter, cutting out some of the Morrison banter in the middle.

All of the tracks with Jim Morrison fit on the first disc, making disc two quite a curiosity. Beginning with tracks from Other Voices, the first album without their leader – “Tightrope Ride” is standard blues, but “Ships W/ Sails” is much shorter, making the jazzy track more palatable. “Treetrunk” is the third non-LP b-side, originally appearing on the flip to “Get Up and Dance.”

This set gives a fair amount of space for the non-Morrison years. Although the tracks are pleasant, most are unspectacular. The one exception is the crazy, Krieger-penned “The Mosquito” – the Doors roar to life here and sound inspired like when Jim was in the band. The edited version cuts some of the jam parts out, and repeats beginning part at the end. It’s one of those lost tracks that doesn’t get the respect it deserves.

Also included is the great live version of “Roadhouse Blues” from An American Prayer, and the “video version” of “Gloria,” which was a bonafide MTV hit when the channel put it in heavy rotation in 1983.

For those who are put off by all their favorite Doors’ songs in highly edited versions, they’ve also included a bonus Blu Ray which features the long-out-of-print original, The Best of the Doors, which came out in 1973 – here presented in the remastered Quadrophonic mix. All the songs here are their full, album length.

This certainly isn’t the place to start for someone trying to learn about the Doors. By only focusing on their singles, you miss out on their extended pieces, like “The End,” or “When the Music’s Over.” But, for fans looking for the rare single mixes of their hits, The Singles is for you. —Tony Peters