January 4, 1967: “The Doors” Released

The Doors Released Today
The Doors in an Elektra Promotional Photo, 1966

Jac Holzman had lived up to his promise to The Doors. He waited until after Christmas 1966, and in January 1967 Elektra didn’t release any other albums to concentrate on giving “The Doors” Elektra’s full marketing and promotional attention. To The Doors, the release of their eponymously named first album must have been a “sound and a fury” with the buildup to the event.

The Doors and Billboard, 1967

The Doors and Billboard, 1967

The Doors and Billboard, 1967

The Billboard on Sunset Strip

“The Doors” was released on January 4, 1967, but Jac Holzman’s marketing of the band started three days earlier. January 1, 1967 saw The Doors’ billboard go up on the Sunset Strip, and it’s credited with being the first time a rock band was promoted on a billboard. Also on January 1, The Doors appeared on the Shebang TV show on KTLA in Los Angeles, with Jim and the band lip-syncing.

Recorded in a week in August 1966, shortly after the band was fired from the Whisky a Go-Go, “The Doors” captures a group that is forceful and focused. The record has sold over 20 million copies and been included in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry. It’s now available in a 50th anniversary deluxe edition including remastered material and the Matrix tapes.

But when “The Doors” was released, despite Elektra’s commitment to it, it didn’t jump to the top of the charts and it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that the album would achieve the critical and popular success we associate with it today. The first single released was “Break on Through,” with the B-side of “End of the Night,” which stalled out at 126 on Billboard’s “Hot 100” chart.

As winter gave way to spring, Elektra kept getting requests for a shortened version of “Light My Fire” to be released as a single. The radio stations were getting requests for the song, but they couldn’t play it because it was too long for their AM format.

So Holzman approached the band with the idea for a shortened version and was met with reluctance. The Doors rightly felt the solos in the middle section were the heart of the song. Holzman convinced them to let Doors producer Paul Rothchild take a crack at shortening it and if they didn’t like the result they wouldn’t release it. Rothchild came back with the radio-friendly cut of the song and the band liked it!

In later interviews Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek claimed he could never tell which version of “Light My Fire” he was hearing until it got to the edit! Even with an edited version of “Light My Fire” released in April of ‘67 it wasn’t until June of 1967 that the song hit number 1 and brought The Doors to national attention and a place in the popular culture mythos of today.

Originally published January 4, 2014.

Release dates: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Doors_discography

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