The Doors’ Weirdest Cover Ever
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The Doors’ debut album, came out on January 4, 1967. At its release, it was well received, and its influence has only expanded over time. The album’s tracks propelled the band to instant fame, and their popularity has only increased since then, as the album became the epitome of how to combine catchy pop with eerie psychedelia. In spite of all the poetry and psychedelia, the Doors’ odd circus of a song, “The Alabama Song,” stands out as one of their most bizarre moments.
The origins of the “Alabama Song” may be traced back to Weimar Germany in the 1920s. Germany’s years between the wars were a time of significant political and economic upheaval as well as some of the country’s most groundbreaking and outlandish works of art. As the world flipped upside down during World War I, a new generation of artists sought to make sense of the bizarre new world they had entered. Bertolt Brecht, a young and talented playwright, was one of the most influential figures in the so-called Epic Theater movement; instead of trying to take the audience on an adventure to a made-up world, the avant-garde movement of the epic theater was heavily rooted in socialist politics.
The “Alabama Song” was originally written by Brecht as a spoof of Martin Luther’s sermons for his collection of poetry titled House Postulate. Two years later, in 1929, Kurt Weill set Brecht’s poetry to music; the first musical version of “Alabama Song” was used in a 1927 drama titled the Little Mahagonny, with lyrics translated into English by Elizabeth Hauptmann. During the next three years, Brecht and his co-authors worked to develop the narrative into a full-length play called The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, which is a bizarre satire of capitalism and consumer culture.
So how exactly did Brecht end up a part of the 1960s counterculture on the West Coast? John Densmore and Robbie Krieger have stated that pianist Ray Manzarek introduced the song to the band during the sessions for their self-titled first album.
The Doors were also a band that enthusiastically engaged in the kinds of immorality spoken about in the song, therefore the song was also representative of their behavior. Jim Morrison exemplified this phenomenon by performing drunkenly and under the influence of other substances throughout their concerts.
The Doors, in their own offbeat manner, were the ideal group to give the “Alabama Song” a fresh sound. They were a peculiar and adaptable bunch, constantly up to something behind the scenes.