September 1967: The Doors Release PEOPLE ARE STRANGE

Friday, September 23, 2022

As one of the most quintessential Los Angeles rock bands of all-time, the Doors used a big dose of inspiration from New York City for the hit single, "People Are Strange." According to Ray Manzarek, anyway.

“(Jim) got up about five o’clock, five-thirty in the morning, looked around, everybody’s passed out," Manzarek explained to Uncle Joe Benson on the Ultimate Classic Rock Nights radio show about an evening in New York City.

"[He] heads outside the Factory. We’re staying midtown, he’s downtown at Andy Warhol’s Factory, starts walking back. He said, ‘You know, the sun was just starting to come up … it was New York City and it was nice.’ It was late spring or something, maybe early fall. He said, ‘New York is great – it’s like empty, it’s deserted; there’s nobody around.’ Little by little, out of the subways … people started coming up there, coming up and up and up," Manzarek remembered.

"It was like creatures were crawling out from underground. … By the time he got to midtown the city was packed... 'People Are Strange' is about the people coming out of the New York subway as Jim Morrison was walking back from Andy Warhol’s Factory to our hotel in midtown Manhattan.”

That recollection seems to counter the story told by Doors drummer John Densmore, who says in his book, Riders on the Storm: My Life with Jim Morrison and the Doors, that "People Are Strange" was borne from Morrison being in a depression, and taking a walk along Laurel Canyon with Densmore and Doors guitarist, Robby Krieger. By the end of that walk, according to Densmore, Morrison was "euphoric," having thought up the basic lyrics for the song.

"[Morrison said] 'Yeah, I feel really good about this one. It just came to me all of a sudden ... in a flash – as I was sitting up there on the ridge looking out over the city.' His eyes were wild with excitement. 'I scribbled it down as fast as I could. It felt great to be writing again.' He looked down at the crumpled paper in his hand and sang the chorus in his haunting blues voice."

Regardless of the song's inspiration, "People Are Strange" was released as the lead single from the Doors' second album, Strange Days, in September 1967. The brooding track warmed up the autumn radio airwaves, helping propel the song to #12 on the Hot 100 for the week of October 28, 1967. The #1 song in America that week: Lulu, with "To Sir With Love."