Listen: Break On Through (To The Other Side) / The Doors
Summer nights in July bring back a handful of records I recall from ’67, when the AM Top 40′s in many major markets were feeling a change in the air and responded to it on the air. Albums were becoming youth culture’s most important statement. I guess the Viet Nam War and the tail end of Britain’s music/fashion invasion created a perfect storm. The 45′s role morphed into a vehicle for edited airplay, and the album became the premier sellable asset for bands.
Nothing could have made me happier. All the drug riddled groups, whose names alone appealed to me greatly, still required a 7″ for radio exposure, often promo only. Miracle.
Let’s be serious, every one of them secretly wanted a hit. Generally, their first few singles became loss leaders, and were therefore scarce even when current. The Doors ‘Break On Through (To The Other Side)’ being a prime example. Originally released on January 1, 1967, the record got zero airplay initially. But by early summer, it was one of several I flew around the AM dial in search of nightly during the very late hours, after TV had basically shut down.
In small town upstate New York, you hardly ever heard a car driving by past midnight. Every hour on the hour, a New York Central freight train would sub woofer shake our village, but otherwise, silence. Sorry, silence and crickets. All in all a romantic contrast to the pulse of far away metropolises spilling from my transistor radio, which lay permanently buried beneath the pillow. Yes, those AM Top 40′s by day leaned very underground by night, spinning the records which had begun to crawl onto BILLBOARD’s Bubbling Under The Hot 100 chart.
It must be why I associate The Doors with the night. That and Hunter Thompson’s FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS. I read that high on acid while The Doors’ WAITING FOR THE SUN played repeatedly, meaning the spindle arm on my automatic changer was left in the upright position, allowing one’s last selection to track endlessly.
To be accurate, WBZ Boston gave me my first exposure to The Doors. When the deejay front sold ‘Break On Through (To The Other Side)’ my heart nearly stopped. I’d waited six months to hear this record, desperately craved the picture sleeve, and just wanted badly to love The Doors. Good instincts as they turned out.
I never did get that sleeve, well not for seventeen more years. Fast forward to ’84, and I’m working at Elektra in New York. Mark Cohn, our resident runner, tips his head into my office one afternoon, announcing a storage closet full of 45′s had been unearthed and needed clearing. Did I want them?
Turns out the cupboard’s contents were a deep library of every Elektra single, both US and UK, starting with the very first release and continuing through to ’74. Praise be the Lord. Jah Live. Etc.