The first two Doors albums, The Doors and Strange Days, were both written at about the same time, and each one is studded with classic songs. In fact, many if not most of the songs for which the Doors are remembered appear on those two records: “Light My Fire,” “Break on Through,” “The Crystal Ship,” “The End,” “Love Me Two Times,” “People Are Strange.” The 1968 album Waiting for the Sun was recognized by critics at the time as not quite so strong as the two that had come before. It contained only one major hit single, the #1 hit “Hello I Love You,” but that, and the Doors’ ever-growing reputation, propelled Waiting for the Sun to the top of the Billboard 200 album chart beginning September 7, 1968, for a total of four weeks in two different runs at the top.
So there you have the dry facts and figures. All these years later, however, the album is more famous in Doors lore for what surrounded it than for the album itself, or the fact that it’s the only #1 album the Doors ever had.
If the band’s original plan for the album had been realized, it might have been much different. A musical suite based on a Jim Morrison poem, “Celebration of the Lizard,” would have taken up a whole side of the record. When it failed to come together, only “Not to Touch the Earth” survived. (Some other fragments of the suite were released on the 40th anniversary edition of Waiting for the Sun.)
The album closer, “Five to One,” is Morrison at his most poetic. The lyrics either refer to Vietnam, or they don’t, and they either steal from Dylan Thomas, or they don’t. What’s clear is that “Five to One” was the song Morrison was performing during the famous 1969 Miami meltdown that resulted in an indecent exposure charge against him (and for which he was finally pardoned in 2010).
One of the album’s most memorable tracks is “The Unknown Soldier,” which is not so much a song as an antiwar poem and playlet set to music. In this vintage video, Morrison as the soldier is shot down, not in battle, but as if by firing squad, as if he had deserted, or refused to fight at all.
Waiting for the Sun was the band’s third album in 18 months, but it would be a year before they released another, The Soft Parade. By then, Morrison’s life would be spinning out of control; two years after that, his life would be over. So Waiting for the Sun is the last of the albums from the Doors on the rise. From there, after a relatively brief pause at the top, the band was destined to live out an afterlife that will last until the end of time.