“Break On Through (To the Other Side)” is a song by The Doors from their debut album, The Doors. It was the first single released by the band and was unsuccessful compared with later hits, reaching only number 126 in the United States. Despite this, it became a concert staple and remains one of the band’s signature and most popular songs.
Twenty-four years after its original US release, “Break On Through” became a minor hit in the UK, peaking at number 64 in the singles chart.
The song appears as track one on the band’s debut album. Elektra Records edited the line “she gets high,” knowing a drug reference would discourage airplay. The original album version and all re-issues until the 1990s have the word “high” deleted, with Morrison singing “she gets” four times before a final wail. Live versions and more recent remastered releases have the full line restored. Regardless, classic rock radio stations, the iTunes release and most compilations continue to use the censored version, as it is the version most familiar to listeners.
The song is in 4/4 time and quite fast-paced.
It begins with a bossa nova drum groove in which a clave pattern is played as a rim click underneath a driving ride cymbal pattern. John Densmore appreciated the new (at the time) bossa nova craze coming from Brazil, so he decided to use it in the song. Robby Krieger has stated that the guitar riff he played was inspired by the one in Paul Butterfield’s version of the song “Shake Your Moneymaker” (originally by blues guitarist Elmore James).
Later, a disjointed quirky organ solo is played quite similar to the introduction of Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say”, which has a few intentional misplaced notes in it. The bassline, similar to a typical bass line used in bossa nova, continues almost unhindered all of the way through the song.
Stone Temple Pilots covered the song for The Doors tribute album Stoned Immaculate. Mexican hard rock band La Cuca has done a cover as a hidden track in their album La Racha. Heavy metal supergroup Adrenaline Mob also covered it on their EP Coverta.
When The Doors were featured on an episode of VH1 Storytellers, various guest singers filled in for Jim Morrison. Stone Temple Pilots lead singer Scott Weiland filled in and sang “Break On Through”, along with the song he said inspired him to rock, “Five to One”.
Serbian rock band Night Shift covered the song in 2002 on their debut album Undercovers.
American new wave band Blondie performed the song several times during their 1997–1999 comeback tours. They used it as opener of their first two comeback shows.
British rock band Bush covered the song as a studio version but was never released officially.
Bono sang the chorus of the song during the bridge of U2’s The Electric Co. while being held by an overweight shirtless man during a concert in Paris in 1987. This version can be heard on the album Live from Paris.
Marc Ribot’s three man jazz punk combo Ceramic Dog covered it on their album Party Intellectuals.
In 2014, Noise-Pop duo The Raveonettes sampled the song on the opening track “Endless Sleeper” from the album Pe’ahi.
Most recently, Alice Cooper covered the song with his supergroup Hollywood Vampires on their debut album, released September 11, 2015.
In the Oliver Stone film, The Doors, the song is performed three times; first in Ray Manzarek’s home, then it’s performed live during the band’s early days at the London Fog, and later in the film at the infamous Miami concert, immediately after Jim exposes himself to the audience and is parading through the crowd to evade the police. The third and final performance is paired with “Dead Cats, Dead Rats”, which was often coupled with the song when the band performed it live.
The song is heard in the 1994 film Forrest Gump (along with “Hello, I Love You” and “People Are Strange”) as Forrest takes up ping pong during his tour in Vietnam. “Love Her Madly” and “Soul Kitchen” are also featured in the movie
The song is used in an episode of Miami Vice called “Back in the World”.
Appears in the video game Tony Hawk’s Underground 2.
Featured on one of the trailers for Disney/Pixar’s film Monsters, Inc.
Featured in the trailer for the 2008 film 21.
A remixed version of the song is featured in the video game Burnout Revenge. It was remixed by BT and it is 7:08 long.
Featured in the 2005 film Jarhead.
Featured on The Simpsons during a 4th Season episode when Krusty sings during a flashback to 1973.
The song is used in the music/rhythm game Rock Band 3, with the song being featured in the opening cinematic.
Performed by artist Travis Meeks in November 2002. He had performed with The Doors on Stoned Immaculate: The Music of the Doors (contributing vocals to “L.A. Woman” and “The End”).
The song was used in a mashup as a runway soundtrack for the 2012 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.
The song is used as part of a possessed woman’s ranting in the 2014 horror film Deliver Us from Evil.
The song is heard in the 2015 film Minions when the minions are coming to Villain-Con.
Jim Morrison – lead vocals
Ray Manzarek – Vox Continental organ, Fender Rhodes piano bass
Robby Krieger – electric guitar
John Densmore – drums