Do we really have to listen to The Doors again? [June 10, 1991]
How we filled the gap until Nirvana
This week’s Number 7: ‘Light My Fire’, The Doors.
Maybe I’m retroactively editing my memories to fit a narrative, but I feel like the world spent most of 1991 waiting for something to happen, and that something eventually turned out to be Nevermind.
Nevermind was certainly the moment that the 90s started to feel like the 90s to me. Up until then, music seemed like a kind of bizarre gumbo, with chunks of dance and Madchester and Kylie and novelty hip-hop. Sometimes it was good, and sometimes little old 13-year old me would roll his eyes and say, “Jesus, is this what people listen to?”
My strongest memory of this feeling was in the summer of 1991, when everyone I knew suddenly became a Doors fan overnight.
I was at a summer camp on an island in June ‘91. The Doors seemed to follow us there like a case of mononucleosis, quickly spreading between each of the kids until everyone was infected. Except me, possibly because I wasn’t kissing enough people.
This craze wasn’t entirely random. Oliver Stone had recently completed his movie about The Doors, starring Val Kilmer as that fat drunk Jim Morrison.
It’s not a good film, but it caught the public imagination and was enough to push a re-released Doors greatest hits into the charts.
On the back of that, The Doors’ most radio-friendly song, ‘Light My Fire’, managed to break into the top ten for the first time in the band’s career.
I guess, in objective terms, ‘Light My Fire’ is a perfectly good song. The organ riff is quite catchy and it’s always fun to yell ‘FIIIIIIII-UUUUUUUUUHHHH’ at the chorus. If I’d heard it in isolation, I’d probably like the song. If I’d kissed a girl that summer, I’d probably like the song. If Oliver Stone wasn’t such a hack, I’d probably like that song.
But things happened as they did. I spent June 1991 on an island with a bunch of kids who were temporarily obsessed with The Doors, and I was an awkward teenager almost chronically allergic to fitting in, and I couldn’t hide the fake that they sounded like a boring pub band to me.
And they still do. I don’t know why a bunch of kids got so obsessed with a band that had such stodgy Boomer energy. I really wish that I could travel back in time and convince Oliver Stone to make a Beach Boys movie. I’d rather have spent that summer listening to Pet Sounds.
Elsewhere in the charts
Beverley Craven’s ‘Promise Me’ is at Number 4. That kind of adult contemporary ballad doesn’t really make the charts anymore, eh? I guess it’s hard to make TikToks with them.
‘Shiny Happy People’ is at Number 6, which is actually one of the highest-charting REM singles ever. ‘E-Bow The Letter’ reached Number 4 in 1996, and ‘The Great Beyond’ reached Number 3 in 2000.
Skid Row are at number 19. I’m not an expert at the genre, but I think they were the last band to ever break onto the hair metal scene in a big way.