What Jim Morrison Saw That Inspired The Doors’ ‘People Are Strange’

One of The Doors’ most famous classic rock songs is “People Are Strange.” The Doors’ Ray Manzarek recalled Jim Morrison saw something one time when he got up early in the morning. Subsequently, he wrote “People Are Strange.”

The Doors standing in a row
The Doors | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Jim Morrison spent time at Andy Warhol’s Factory in New York City

Manzarek was a member of The Doors. During an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock, Manzarek discussed a time Morrison spent a night with Andy Warhol at Warhol’s New York City studio, The Factory. “I don’t know if he even fell asleep or anything,” Manzarek said. “He got up about five o’clock, five-thirty in the morning, looked around, everybody’s passed out.”

Manzarek explained what happened next. “[Morrison] heads outside the Factory,” he added. “We’re staying midtown, he’s downtown at Andy Warhol’s Factory, starts walking back.”

Andy Warhol wearing glasses
Andy Warhol | Jack Mitchell/Getty Images

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A New York City subway inspired Jim Morrison to write The Doors’ ‘People Are Strange’

Manzarek said Morrison had a positive view of New York City. “He said, ‘You know, the sun was just starting to come up … it was New York City and it was nice,'” he recalled. “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.'”

Manzarek discussed what Morrison saw that morning. “Little by little, out of the subways … people started coming up there, coming up and up and up,” he said. “It was like creatures were crawling out from underground. By the time he got to midtown the city was packed.”

Manzarek explained “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.”

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How listeners reacted to The Doors’ ‘People Are Strange’ in the United States and the United Kingdom

In the United States, “People Are Strange” became a modest hit. The song peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100. It stayed on the chart for nine weeks. “People Are Strange” appeared on the album Strange Days. Strange Days hit No. 3 on the Billboard 200, staying on the chart for 63 weeks.

On the other hand, “People Are Strange” was not popular in the United Kingdom. According to The Official Charts Company, the song did not chart there. Strange Days did not chart there either.

Regardless of how “People Are Strange” performed in the U.K., the song had an impact on pop culture. “People Are Strange” appears in trailers for the Marvel Cinematic Universe film Morbius starring Jared Leto. Stina Nordenstam, The Death South, and Echo & the Bunnymen each covered the track. 

“People Are Strange” is a classic track and it wouldn’t be the same without a New York City subway.

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