Caveat: I’m not a huge Doors fan. That first comeback wave that hit East Coast college campuses in the 80s was about all the Doors I needed; their music was simply everywhere. I still like some of their more adventurous stuff on occasion, but like Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” I don’t need to hear “Light My Fire” ever again. However, I find Jim Morrison to be a fascinating character and he’s easily one of the most imitated frontmen in the history of rock. I loved No One Here Gets Out Alive, Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugarman’s definitive portrait of Morrison, and it’s essential reading for anyone interested in The Doors' shaman.
However, rock’n’roll’s appeal has always been, in large part, visual. And, to that end, I am a huge fan of beautifully designed albums and books and this one is a stunner. The cover, featuring Morrison in silver mylar and a die-cut Doors logo that reveals the rest of the band, makes this one of the coolest book covers I’ve seen. Like most illustrated histories, Gillian Gaar offers up a well-written, concise history of the highs — and lows — of The Doors, all wrapped up with the Doors ephemera of the day — tons of cool posters in this case, as well as rare photos, tickets, magazine covers etc. They’re all reproduced in color and help flesh out the year-by-year narrative the book presents. Each of the band’s official albums receives an appreciation by music writers such as Bill Holdship (CREEM), Richie Unterberger and Dominic Priore (each the author of various music bios). And although some of the weaker albums get off easy and even receive a bit of a spit-shine, it was one of my favorite features and sent me to Spotify for several songs that I did not recall. The book wraps up with each of the surviving members' post-Doors output, a glimpse into Oliver Stone’s controversial bio-pic, and a selected discography of live shows, albums and singles.
Great bands never really die nowadays. Ask Elvis Presley. Ask Nirvana. Hell…ask Tupac. But along with Jimi Hendrix, the Doors remain the gold standard of rock star estate-management where longer careers and influence have been carved out many times over the band’s actual existence. The Doors Illustrated History provides a template for excellence in art direction, design and packaging for such “heritage” bands. All in all, it aims to be the single go-to book for Doors fans, both casual and completists. When an e-reader is just not an option, this is the kind of book music fans want. Put it on your or your favorite Doors fan’s holiday list.
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