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40 Years Ago: The Doors Break Up

The Doors
Express Newspapers, Hulton Archive, Getty Images

On Aug. 30, 1973, after two years and two albums without deceased frontman Jim Morrison, the surviving members of the Doors decided to call it quits.

The move represented a reversal for remaining Doors John Densmore, Robbie Krieger and Ray Manzarek, who’d elected to carry forward as a trio following Morrison’s death on July 3, 1971. In October of that year, the reconfigured band released ‘Other Voices,’ recorded with Krieger and Manzarek sharing lead vocal duties; the following year, they repeated the formula for the group’s eighth studio LP, ‘Full Circle,’ released on July 17, 1972.

While neither post-Morrison record could rightly be considered a flop — ‘Other Voices’ peaked at No. 31 on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart, while ‘Full Circle’ got as high as No. 68 — neither captured the public’s attention the way the band’s music did when Morrison was at the helm. In fact, the band’s profile had decreased so markedly that its breakup was merely mentioned in passing in the pages of Rolling Stone.

The Doors’ legacy proved hard to escape, however. Densmore, Krieger and Manzarek decided to pull the plug only after auditioning a series of vocalists to replace Morrison — and they might have settled on former Audience singer Howard Werth if Manzarek hadn’t opted out, leaving Krieger and Manzarek to regroup and soldier on for a couple of years as the poorly christened Butts Band.

By 1978, all three of them were back in the studio again, lending backing tracks to recordings of Morrison reciting his poetry. The result, ‘An American Prayer,’ went platinum, helping cement the trio’s position as custodians (and occasional opportunists) of Doors history.

The surviving Doors have reunited sporadically in subsequent years, both in the studio (where they reconvened to complete the song ‘Orange County Suite’ for a 1997 box set) and on the stage (at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 and for a 2000 episode of ‘VH1 Storytellers’). In 2002, Manzarek and Krieger drafted Ian Astbury of the Cult to front a Doors tribute called the Doors of the 21st Century — at least until legal action from Densmore prompted a switch to Manzarek–Krieger or Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger of the Doors. This version of the band dissolved on May 20, 2013, following Manzarek’s death from cancer.

Next: Top 10 Doors Songs

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