"Strange Days" is the leadoff title track to the Doors' second album. The band was hard-pressed to beat the huge commercial and critical success of its debut record released earlier the same year, but managed to follow with a surprisingly strong group of songs, many of them drawn from the same pool of material written around the same time as The Doors. This song combines sinuous rhythms with Jim Morrison's unique poetic visions and an unconventional arrangement that contains an instrumental chorus.
Ray Manzarek opens the track with a descending organ riff to which session musician Doug Lubhan adds a snaking bass line to John Densmore's tribal, tom-heavy drum beat. Guitarist Robbie Krieger coaxes light shimmering notes from his guitar as Morrison sings his quixotic brew of poetics in somber tones, his voice simultaneously overdubbed with an echoing, telephonic effect giving the song a psychedelic flavor. Morrison seems to be pondering the state of the then emerging hippie youth culture and how they are perceived by mainstream or "straight" society, "Strange days have found us/Strange days have tracked us down/They're going to destroy/Our casual joys/We shall go on playing/Or find a new town." The end of the verse builds to a climax, the chords rising with Morrison's voice before the tension is released, Morrison letting out a "Yeah!" as the band pounds out a straight-ahead rhythm, Densmore's cracking snare drum and Manzarek's pulsing organ rocking out as Lubhan lets fly with a series of quick flowing bass runs during the second chorus break. The forward momentum is maintained for the final verse, Densmore staying with the straight rock groove as Morrison opens up his vocal, reaching for higher notes with increased conviction as he extols, "Bodies confused/Memories misused/As we run from the day/To a strange night of stone."
"Strange Days" still gets an occasional airing on classic rock radio, but has not proved to have the staying power of some of the other Doors hits and album tracks from Strange Days, such as "Love Me Two Times" and "People Are Strange."