Strange Days is the second studio album by American rock band the Doors, released on September 25, 1967 by Elektra Records. The album was a commercial success, reaching number 3 on the US Billboard 200, and eventually earning RIAA platinum certification. The album contains the Top 30 hit singles “People Are Strange” and “Love Me Two Times”.
Strange Days was recorded during tour breaks between May and August 1967 at Sunset Sound Recorders in Hollywood (the same studio as their first LP). In contrast to the 1966 sessions, producer Paul A. Rothchild and engineer Bruce Botnick employed a cutting-edge 8-track recording machine. The protracted sessions allowed the band to experiment in the studio and further augment their otherworldly sound with unusual instrumentation and sonic manipulation. According to Botnick, this approach was inspired by the band obtaining an advance copy of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album and “absolutely flipping out” at what they heard. Botnick said that, following the Beatles’ example, the Doors were determined to pursue “new techniques of recording. No holds barred.”
Developed with the assistance of Paul Beaver, the title track constitutes one of the earliest uses of a Moog synthesizer in rock. On the Morrison poem “Horse Latitudes”, Botnick took the white noise of a tape recorder and varied the speed by hand-winding it (resulting in a sound akin to wind) as the four band members played a variety of instruments in unusual ways. Further varispeed was then employed to create different timbres and effects. The band also explored musique concrète techniques on the album.
Session musician Douglass Lubahn played bass during the recording of the album.
Several of the songs on Strange Days had been written around the same time as the ones that appeared on The Doors. Two (“My Eyes Have Seen You” and “Moonlight Drive”) had been demoed in 1965 at Trans World Pacific Studios before Krieger joined the group; indeed, the latter had been conceived by Morrison prior to his fateful reunion with Manzarek in the summer of 1965. Although the song was attempted twice during the sessions for the band’s debut, both versions were deemed unsatisfactory. A conventional blues arrangement, “Moonlight Drive”‘s defining features were its slightly off-beat rhythm and Krieger’s bottleneck guitar, which create an eerie sound.
The LP’s first single, “People Are Strange”, was composed in early 1967 after Krieger, drummer John Densmore, and a depressed Morrison had walked to the top of Laurel Canyon. Densmore recalled the song’s writing process in his book Riders on the Storm. Densmore and Krieger, who had then been roommates, were visited by a dejected Morrison, who was acting “deeply depressed.” At the suggestion of Densmore, they took a walk along Laurel Canyon. Morrison returned from the walk “euphoric” with the early lyrics of “People Are Strange”.
The Doors, live at the Fog, London, 1966
Although Morrison was the Doors’ primary lyricist, Robby Krieger wrote several of the group’s hit singles, with his first composition being “Light My Fire”. According to band members, his bluesy “Love Me Two Times” was about a soldier/sailor on his last day with his girlfriend before shipping out, ostensibly to war. Manzarek described the song as “Robby’s great blues/rock classic about lust and lost, or multiple orgasms, I’m not sure which.” In 1997, Krieger stated to Guitar World’s Alan Paul that the musical idea for “Love Me Two Times” came from a lick from a Danny Kalb album. Manzarek played the final version of this song on a harpsichord, not a clavichord. Manzarek described the instrument as “a most elegant instrument that one does not normally associate with rock and roll.” It was edited to a 2:37 length and released as the second single (after “People Are Strange”) from that album, and reached No. 25 on the charts in the US. “Love Me Two Times” was considered to be somewhat risqué for radio airplay, being banned in New Haven for being “too controversial,” much to the dismay of the band.
The album concludes with the 11 minute-long epic, “When the Music’s Over”.
The album cover of Strange Days, photographed by Joel Brodsky, depicts a group of street performers in New York. The location of the photograph is at Sniffen Court, a residential alley next to East 36th Street between Lexington and Third Avenue in Manhattan. The availability of such performers pictured was low, so Brodsky’s assistant stood in as a juggler while a random cab driver was paid $5 to pose playing the trumpet. Twin dwarfs were hired, with one appearing on the front cover and one appearing on the back cover, which is the other half of the same photo on the front cover. However, a group shot of the band does appear on a poster in the background of both covers, bearing captions of the band and album name. (The same photograph previously appeared on the back cover of the band’s debut album.) Because of the subtlety of the artist and album title, most record stores put stickers across the cover to help customers identify it more clearly.
Strange Days was released on September 25, 1967 by Elektra Records. Although the album was quite successful, reaching No. 3 in the United States during a sixty-three-week chart stay in November 1967, its impact was attenuated by the enduring success of the band’s debut album, which remained in the Top Ten over ten months after its release during a 122-week stay. According to producer Paul Rothchild, “We all thought it was the best album. Significantly, it was also the one with the weakest sales. We were confident it was going to be bigger than anything The Beatles had done. But there was no single. The record died on us.”
John Densmore (drums)
Robby Krieger (guitar)
Ray Manzarek (keyboards, harpsichord background vocals on 07.)
Jim Morrison (vocals, percussion, synthesizer on 07.)
Douglas Lubahn (bass)
background vocals on 07.:
Paul A. Rothchild –Bruce Botnick
01. Strange Days 3.09
02. You’re Lost Little Girl 3.03
03. Love Me Two Times 3.170
04. Unhappy Girl 2.00
05. Horse Latitudes 1.35
06. Moonlight Drive 3.04
07. People Are Strange 2.12
08. My Eyes Have Seen You 2.30
09. I Can’t See Your Face In My Mind 3.27
10. When The Music’s Over 10.59
All songs written – Jim Morrison – Ray Manzarek – Robby Krieger – John Densmore