When You’re Strange

I love the guys in Laser. They’ve often recommended movies to me that I would have otherwise passed by. I didn’t hear about When You’re Strange as it got a limited theatre release and then went straight to DVD, so I was glad I asked for a recommendation last Wednesday as otherwise I may not have seen it.

I have a soft spot for The Doors: an important part of the soundtrack to my teens. My first boyfriend wanted to be Jim Morrison and inevitably he thought I was his Pam. In his defence we were fifteen and The Doors directed by Oliver Stone had just been released. The band was enjoying a resurgence and a new generation of fans eagerly soaked up the legend.

When You’re Strange is directed by Tom DiCillo and narrated by Johnny Depp (adding to his cooler than thou voiceover credentials, having already been involved with the HST documentary Gonzo). The film’s main selling point is the never before seen footage of the band which dates from their first album onwards. It shows the band in studio, on stage, with lots of candid scenes. The movie is otherwise a straightforward biography with little new insight. Even the most superficial fan won’t find much in it that’s revelatory. However the footage is interesting and gives a real taste of the late 60s in LA and what stardom was like for the band.

One thing that stands out is Jim’s remarkable live tenor voice. Always in tune, in time and perfectly true, with huge emotion behind it. I think Morrison came into his own on Morrison Hotel and LA Woman. He was a blues singer, a Backdoor Man, and the blues was where his voice belonged.

The Doors were together for only four-and-a-half years, but have sold over 80 million albums worldwide and still sell a million albums a year. Without a doubt they are still an influence on rock music today. This documentary is definitely one for diehard Doors fans and for everyone else it’s an interesting look at a legendary act.

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One thought on “When You’re Strange

  1. Rob

    LA Woman is my favourite Doors album, the playing is superb, and even though Jim had essentially lost his voice by this stage, his growl certainly suits the bluesy vein of certain songs (although how much phlegm you want to hear rattling around his throat is a matter of taste).

    If the Doors had continued they’d have certainly followed the blues route; Jim was influenced by Canned Heat and other rootsy bands; then again he was a fan of newer folk stars like Joni Mitchell so who knows what they would’ve done.

    What’s as frightening as the 54 months thing is realising Jim was 27 when he died – I used to think that was old but now its just like being a kid!!

    Oh yeah, do a YouTube search for the Doors performing “Build Me A Woman” on some TV show – big bearded Jim and a great blues track.

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