In this urgent song, Jim Morrison looks to shake things up, a common theme in his songwriting. In 1966, he said: "I like ideas about the breaking away or overthrowing of established order. I am interested in anything about revolt, disorder, chaos, especially activity that seems to have no meaning."
This was the first song on The Doors first album, and also their first single. It got some airplay on Los Angeles radio stations after their friends and fans kept requesting it.
The original line in the chorus was "She gets high," but their producer Paul Rothchild thought that would limit the song's airplay potential, and convinced the group to leave it out. Instead, "high" was edited out, making it sound like, "she get uuggh," but the "high" line can be heard in live versions. You can also hear the song as intended in the 1999 reissue of the album, which was overseen by their original engineer Bruce Botnick. He also replaced Jim Morrison's "f--k"s on "The End
." These edits went over about as well as the digital revisions to Star Wars
Jim Morrison got some of the lyrics from John Rechy's 1963 book City of Night. In that book, Rechy writes about "the other side" in reference to Hollywood. There's also a passage where he writes, "place to place, week to week, night to night," which Morrison appropriated in the lyrics:
Made the scene
Week to week
Day to day
Hour to hour
Robby Krieger's guitar melody was inspired by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band of "Shake Your Money Maker," which was released on the group's debut album in 1965. Krieger was a huge fan of Butterfield, and found himself emulating the riff when they were working on "Break On Through."
The Doors didn't have a bass player, so their keyboard player Ray Manzarek created most of the low-end sounds. On this track, he borrowed the bass notes from the Ray Charles song "What'd I Say
In 1967, Jim Morrison did an interview with Hit Parader magazine where he said that he wrote this song while crossing canals in Venice. "I was walking over a bridge," he said. "I guess it's one girl, a girl I knew at the time.
John Densmore added the knocking drum sound by hitting his drum stick sideways across the snare.
The vocals are a mix of two of Morrison's takes.
Elektra Records promoted the album with a billboard on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood with a photo of the band and the headline, "The Doors Break On Through With An Electrifying Album." It was likely the first billboard advertising a rock band ever displayed in that area, and it got lots of attention for the band.
This was one of six songs The Doors recorded for a demo on Aura Records while they were trying to get signed in 1965. Robby Krieger was not yet with the group.
In year 2000, the surviving members of The Doors taped a VH1 Storytellers
episode with guest vocalists filling in for Morrison. Scott Weiland
from The Stone Temple Pilots sang on this track.
This was included on the Doors tribute album Stoned Immaculate
, with Scott Weiland on vocals.
As John Densmore states in The Doors Box Set
, the beat of this song was inspired by Brazilian Bossa Nova like Joao Gilberto and Tom Jobim.
In The Doors box set, Ray Manzarek said this was the last song they played live. It was during the Isle of the Wight Festival in the summer of 1970. The festival occurred while Morrison was on trial in Miami faced with charges of indecent exposure, and the band got a special five days of recess to be in England and get back to US. "This was to be the first gig of an European tour just as Miami was to be the first gig of a 20-city US tour. We never got beyond the first date of either one," said Ray.
In an episode of The Simpsons
, Krusty the Klown sings this when he shows the crowd a tape of him when he was younger.