On August 3rd, 1968, The Doors’ “Hello, I Love You” hit number one on the Billboard charts almost exactly a year after “Light My Fire” attained the same watershed status.
“Hello, I Love You” wasn’t supposed to be on the third album. Originally titled “Celebration of the Lizard” the third album was supposed to feature the title track, The Doors’ biggest theatrical piece and epic song, as the whole second side. But when “Celebration” fell through, The Doors scrambled to fill out the record. Realizing they needed more material, they automatically went back to Jim’s Venice journals and wrote songs in the studio, producing pieces like “Summer’s Almost Gone,” “Wintertime Love,” and “Love Street.” No one had remembered “Hello, I Love You” until Adam Holzman, Jac Holzman’s ten year-old son, remembered the song and told his father it would be a hit.
“Hello, I Love You” dated from the earliest days in The Doors’ history. Ray Manzarek said that Jim had written the song as they sat on a wall on the Venice Beach boardwalk watching a cute girl walk past. “Hello” had also been one of the demos they had done when the band was still Rick and the Ravens.
By the time of “Waiting for the Sun” The Doors were a much more polished band — not to mention better-produced — and they gave “Hello” a slicker, more professional feel. Although the lyrics were Morrison’s, the song lacked some of the darker tone and feeling that Doors songs usually had, although Morrison defended the lyrics as being as good as any other lyrics he had written.
Adam Holzman’s intuition proved to be right, as “Hello, I Love You” was a hit song and hit the pop audience right in their flower-power psyche. “Hello, I Love You” was released in early June 1968 with the instant elevator music of “Love Street” as the B-side.
Over the years there has also been a lot of speculation that “Hello, I Love You” ‘borrowed’ a riff from The Kinks’ “All Day and All of the Night.” Another criticism of the song was that it was too ‘pop’ for a Doors song, but that was corrected in 2000 when “Stoned Immaculate” came out and “Hello, I Love You” was covered by Oleander who managed to find the dread in the song that had unusually eluded The Doors.
On the night of August 3rd, The Doors played the Cleveland Public Auditorium (a radio ad for The Door’ appearance references The Doors appearance the night before at the Singer Bowl, as the disc jockey says “watch out for flying chairs”). Jim Morrison gave a very drunken performance (was the band celebrating “Hello, I Love You” hitting number one?) that lurched from Morrison forgetting lyrics in “Five to One” to provoking a near-riot during “Light My Fire” in which fans rushed the stage.
An audience recording of the concert exists, and at times Morrison’s performance rivals and even foreshadows the Miami show in March of 1969. At the time The Doors were shooting their documentary “Feast of Friends” and a portion of the Cleveland performance appears in the film, showing Morrison being escorted offstage and so wound up that he swings at the camera being manned by Paul Ferrara.
Originally published August 3, 2014. An earlier version of this article appears in “The Doors Examined.”