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Other Voices: How The Doors Remained Open After Jim Morrison’s Death
In Depth

Other Voices: How The Doors Remained Open After Jim Morrison’s Death

Though they’d lost their frontman, ‘Other Voices’ showed that The Doors’ post-Morrison music still had moments of magic.

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Aside from the personal tragedy involved, Jim Morrison’s death, in July 1971, threw his bandmates’ immediate futures up into the air. Many questioned whether Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore could even continue as The Doors, but the surviving trio believed they could, and they issued the first of their two post-Morrison albums, Other Voices, as quickly as possible in the autumn of 1971.

Listen to ‘Other Voices’ here.

“Finding a replacement would be impossible”

It wasn’t a decision they took lightly. After all, the group hadn’t just lost one of the most charismatic frontmen of their generation, they’d also lost a dear friend. However, with their final Morrison-fronted album, LA Woman, having slayed the critics and still riding high on the US charts, The Doors also remained in demand. Indeed, during their singer’s fateful sojourn in Paris, Manzarek, Krieger and Densmore had been working up new songs for when he returned. Even when he failed to do so, the trio felt the music wasn’t quite over.

“I did feel it was compromising our integrity and loyalty to keep the original band name,” Densmore reflected in his memoir, Riders On The Storm. “But when I kept prodding Ray and Robby about what to call ourselves during rehearsals, Ray said, ‘We are The Doors, with or without Jim,’ so we went with it. However, the three of us figured finding a replacement would be impossible, so Ray and Robby sang on Other Voices.”

“It was an enormously ballsy move”

The Doors briefly considered recruiting a new vocalist (Iggy Pop was reportedly among the contenders) but, as Densmore says, they eventually recorded Other Voices as a trio in the months immediately following Morrison’s death. The group did, however, further broaden their palette by bringing in several additional studio musicians – most notably bassist Jerry Scheff and rhythm guitarist Marc Benno, both of whom had already made significant contributions to the LA Woman sessions.

With such a skilled team in place, it’s no surprise that most of the sonics remained top notch. Tightrope Ride, Down On The Farm and Other Voices’ hypnotic opening cut, In The Eye Of The Sun, settled into imperious blues-rock grooves akin to the best of LA Woman, while the band stretched out admirably on more complex workouts such as the Latin-tinged Ships W/ Sails and the jazzy Hang On To Your Life, which featured some neat trading of licks between Krieger and Manzarek.

Inevitably, vocal duties proved more challenging, but, in the main, Krieger and Manzarek did a commendable job. Manzarek more than held his own on the tougher rockers such as I’m Horny, I’m Stoned and the fierce, garagey Tightrope Ride, while Krieger’s wry, Dylan-ish burr was well-suited to the Rolling Stones-esque stomper Variety Is The Spice Of Life. The duo even came up trumps when they pooled their resources and added harmonies to Down On The Farm.

Even allowing for Morrison’s absence, Other Voices fared respectably on the charts when it was first released by Elektra on 18 October 1971. Its lead single, Tightrope Ride, picked up widespread airplay which propelled the album up the Billboard 200, where it reached its peak position of No.31. The Doors also supported the record with a well-received US tour which touched down in prestigious venues such as New York’s Carnegie Hall and LA’s Hollywood Palladium. Not bad for an album made by a band forced to regroup after a major tragedy had shaken their world to its core.

“We didn’t really grieve”

It’s nigh-on impossible not to wonder what The Doors’ seventh album might have sounded like had Jim Morrison made it back from Paris. Yet, even without his iconic presence and poetic magic, Other Voices deserves to be heard with fresh ears. Its material may not hit the heights of the best Doors songs, but the album still stands on its own two feet and, with hindsight, it’s hard not to disagree with Classic Rock’s 2016 retrospective, which declared, “You’ve got to give them credit – it was an enormously ballsy move just making the record in the first place.”

“Other Voices wasn’t bad and it was certainly hard to give up the musical synchronicity we had developed over six years,” John Densmore wrote in Riders On The Storm.

“Looking back on that time now, Robby says we should have let there be a space, a mourning period before we continued, and I guess he’s right. But we were so fired up to go on before Jim checked out that we didn’t really acknowledge his death and grieve.”

Buy Doors vinyl, box sets and more at the Dig! store.

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