Green Door

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the tavern in Illinois, USA, see Green Door Tavern.
"The Green Door"
Single by Jim Lowe
B-side "(The Story of) the Little Man in Chinatown"
Released 1956
Genre Rock and roll, pop
Label Dot Records
Writer(s) Bob Davie, Marvin Moore
Certification Gold (RIAA)
"Green Door"
Single by Shakin' Stevens
from the album Shaky
B-side "Don't Turn Your Back"
Released July 17, 1981 (1981-07-17)
Label Epic
Producer(s) Stuart Colman

"(The) Green Door" is a 1956 popular song with music composed by Bob Davie and lyrics written by Marvin Moore. The lyrics describe the allure of a mysterious private club with a green door, behind which "a happy crowd" play piano, smoke and "laugh a lot", and inside which the singer is not allowed.

Possible inspirations[edit]

At the time of the song's initial popularity in the 1950s, many believed it was inspired by a green-doored restaurant and bar called "The Shack" in Columbia, Missouri, where singer Jim Lowe had attended the University of Missouri. However long-time Shack owner Joe Franke doubts this theory.[1]

An oft-repeated urban legend has developed saying the song refers to London's first lesbian club, Gateways (1930–1985), which was in Bramerton Street in Chelsea. It had a green door and was featured in the film The Killing of Sister George.[2][3] But aside from that there is no substantive connection between the 1950s American song and the British club.[4]

Possible literary origins[edit]

In "The Green Door", a short story by O. Henry from his 1906 book The Four Million,[5] a man named Rudolf Steiner is handed a mysterious card reading, "The Green Door." On entering the door he meets a starving young woman. He quickly rushes out and returns laden with food, and they become friends over supper; finally Steiner promises to visit her again the next day and there is romance in the offing. Eventually it turns out that the card was an advertisement for an entirely different "Green Door", a theatre play. O. Henry uses the eponymous green door as a symbol for everyday adventures which he encourages us to seek out.

It is also possible that the song is a reference to an H. G. Wells short story, "The Door in the Wall."[6][7]

Behind the Green Door (1940)[8] is a Penny Parker mystery novel by Mildred Wirt Benson. In the novel, the secret door hides some illegal activity at a ski-resort hotel; no music or vice is involved in this book aimed at adolescent girls. It was reprinted in 1951, a few years before the song appeared.

Fitz-James O'Brien's short story, "The Lost Room", details a man being locked out of his own room by a group of demons and bears some similarity to the themes of the song.[9]


The hit version of the song in the United States was recorded by Jim Lowe (backed by the orchestra of songwriter Davie, with Davie also playing piano), and it reached #1 on the Billboard charts for one week on November 17 1956 squeezing out Love Me Tender by Elvis Presley.

In the United Kingdom, Lowe's version reached #8 on the charts, but a version by Frankie Vaughan was even more popular, reaching #2. Another UK recording, by Glen Mason, reached #24 on the UK chart.

Gene McDaniels released a version of it as a single in 1960, but it failed to chart.

The most popular British version was by rock and roll revivalist Shakin' Stevens which spent four weeks at number one in August 1981.[10]

In 1964, Bill Haley and his Comets recorded a version for a single release on Decca Records during an unsuccessful attempt to make a comeback with the label that had made them famous with "Rock Around the Clock" (this version was produced by Milt Gabler); Haley and the Comets also recorded an instrumental version in 1962 for the Mexican Orfeon Records label. Country humorist Mayf Nutter re-charted the song in 1973. Crystal Gayle recorded the song in 1977, and it has since become a fan favorite at her concerts.

Psychobilly band the Cramps covered the song on their 1981 album, Psychedelic Jungle.

The Spanish pop-punk group Los Nikis made a Spanish version in 1986.

Other versions have been recorded by Roland Alphonso, Wynder K. Frog, Houston and Dorsey, Ray Hamilton, The Promenade Orchestra and Chorus featuring vocals by Joe Seneca, Danny Colfax Mallon, Gene McDaniels, Country Dick Montana, Eskew Reeder, Jumpin' Gene Simmons, Skip & Flip (1961), The Jerms, and Skitzo.

Other cultural impact[edit]

It is also the name of a letter written by David Berg, the former leader of the cult once called the Children of God and later renamed "The Family"-—he used it as a metaphorical door to hell.[11]

"The Green Door" is the name of a saloon in Cheyenne, Wyoming, as well as Park Hall, Maryland

Within the American intelligence community, "green door" is a slang verb and adjective, relating to the restriction of an individual's or organization's access to information and/or locations: "We green doored them," or "The situation has been highlighted by the 'Green Door' compartmentation and exclusion".[12] This meaning was alluded to in episode 4 of Ashes to Ashes, set in 1981, when Shakin' Stevens' cover played whilst the protagonist police detectives sneaked out of a top-secret MOD research centre.

Preceded by
"Don't Be Cruel" by Elvis Presley
Billboard Top 100 number one single
(Jim Lowe version)

November 3, 1956 (three weeks)
Succeeded by
"Love Me Tender" by Elvis Presley
Preceded by
"Ghost Town" by The Specials
UK number one single
(Shakin' Stevens version)

1 August 1981 (four weeks)[13]
Succeeded by
"Japanese Boy" by Aneka


  1. ^ Adam Daniels, "The Shack comes back", The Columbia Missourian, 9 August 2007."
  2. ^ "Great lesbian songs? Here's our top five". The Guardian. 6 March 2007. 
  3. ^ "The truth behind The Green Door". The Guardian. 8 September 2006. 
  4. ^ Mitch Mitchell (29 September 2006). "Doors of Perception" Film & Music letters: September 2006". The Guardian. 
  5. ^ "The Green Door by O. Henry". Retrieved 2014-03-29. 
  6. ^ H.G. Wells (1911) The Door in the Wall and Other Stories
  7. ^ "The Door in the Wall by H.G. Wells". Retrieved 2014-03-29. 
  8. ^ "The Mildred A. Wirt Benson Website". Retrieved 2014-03-29. 
  9. ^ "The Lost Room by Fitz-James O'Brien". 2008-01-14. Retrieved 2014-03-29. 
  10. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 396–7. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  11. ^ David Berg, "The Green Door", The Family, August 1973. Accessed 18 July 2008.
  12. ^ Faurer, Lincoln D. (16-17. September 1999), Intelligence Support to the Warfighter, in Guideposts for the United States Military in the Twenty-first Century (PDF), Air Force History and Museums Program  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  13. ^ "1981 The Number One Albums". Official Charts. Retrieved 2014-03-29.