Summer’s almost gone, for us. You can imagine Jim Morrison writing “Summer’s Almost Gone” as he came down from his vision quest on Dennis Jakob’s roof, a bittersweet elegy to the passage of time and possibly love.
The song, at first, sounds simple. It could almost be a classic California ballad about sun, sand, and surf. But nothing in Jim Morrison’s lyrics or The Doors’ music is so literal, and “Summer’s Almost Gone” sounds almost funereal in mourning the end of a season. When it asks “Where will we be when the summer’s gone?” the simple answer would be, well, autumn.
But then Morrison throws us a literary curve with the lines “Morning found us calmly unaware / Noon burned gold into our hair.” At this moment, the question “Where will we be when summer’s gone?” becomes a plea addressed to a lover, and the mood shifts toward uncertainty, even fear. The song becomes a double entendre with a more wistful tone, as carefree days seem to be ending, and the question is left hanging — where will our love be when the summer’s gone? Or is the answer to Jim’s question that we move on to “Wintertime Love?”
“Summer’s Almost Gone” was in The Doors’ repertoire quite early, as it was one of the demos they cut at World Pacific Studios in September 1965. But when The Doors began recording for Elektra they didn’t include the song on either of the first two albums. Instead, “Summer” was resurrected for their third album, “Waiting for the Sun,” after Jim’s poetic opus “Celebration of the Lizard” was abandoned and they found themselves short of new material.
The band revised and polished “Summer’s Almost Gone,” but not dramatically, as it still had the lilting melody and plaintive lyrics of the demo. Ironically, the struggle to fill out “Waiting for the Sun” may have made the album the single best snapshot of The Doors’ sprawling musical background. Alongside the menacing acid rock of “Five to One,” the marching cadences of “The Unknown Soldier,” the baroque touches of “Love Street,” and Robby Krieger’s flamenco workout in “Spanish Caravan,” “Summer” let The Doors display their jazz chops, with John Densmore using the brushes and Ray Manzarek adding cocktail lounge piano. They’d push their jazz stylings much further on “The Soft Parade.”
Originally published September 1, 2011.