|"The Green Door"|
|Single by Jim Lowe with the High Fives|
|from the album Songs They Sing Behind the Green Door|
|B-side||"(The Story of) the Little Man in Chinatown"|
|Songwriter(s)||Bob Davie, Marvin J. Moore|
|Jim Lowe singles chronology|
Jim Lowe version
The song was first recorded by Jim Lowe, whose version reached number one on the US pop chart. 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. "Green Door" was backed by the orchestra of songwriter Davie, with Davie also playing piano, and by the vocal group the High Fives. The track was arranged by Davie, who added thumbtacks to the hammers of his piano and sped up the tape to give a honky-tonk sound. Released by Dot Records, the single reached #1 on the Billboard charts for one week on November 17, 1956, replacing "Love Me Tender" by Elvis Presley. Outside the US, Lowe's version reached #8 on the charts, in the United Kingdom.
|UK Singles (OCC)||8|
|US Best Sellers in Stores (Billboard)||1|
|US Rhythm & Blues Records (Billboard)||5|
|US Cash Box Best Selling Singles||2|
|US Cash Box Rhythm & Blues Top 20||12|
The singer cannot get any sleep each evening, due to the sound of the music coming from a private club, or possibly the singer is a G-man attempting to infiltrate the club. He tries to gain entry by knocking once on the green door, telling the person behind the door that he has been there before, only to have the door slammed immediately ("hospitality's thin there"). Then, through the keyhole, he says the possible secret password, "Joe sent me" (the password for Hernando's Hideaway), which only results in laughter as he is again denied admission to the club.
After the Great Chicago Fire, the Green Door Tavern opened in the city. During the Prohibition era in the United States, it was a popular place to get illicit libations. Because the door of the tavern was green, the color became a symbol for a speakeasy. During Prohibition, many restaurants painted their doors green to indicate the presence of a speakeasy.
Another suggestion about the song's origins is that it was inspired by an afterhours club in Dallas, Texas, to which lyricist Moore had been refused entry because he did not know the correct password.
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 university. However long-time Shack owner Joe Franke doubts that theory.
An oft-repeated urban legend has developed, claiming that the song refers to London's first lesbian club, Gateways (1930–1985), which was in Bramerton Street, Chelsea. It had a green door and was featured in the film The Killing of Sister George. But aside from that there is no substantive connection between the 1950s American song and the British club.
In "The Green Door", a short story by O. Henry, from his 1906 book The Four Million, 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.
Behind the Green Door (1940) 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 the book, which is aimed at adolescent girls. It was reprinted in 1951, a few years before the song appeared.
Shakin' Stevens version
|Single by Shakin' Stevens|
|from the album Shaky|
|B-side||"Don't Turn Your Back"|
|Released||17 July 1981|
|Studio||Eden Studios, London|
|Genre||Rock and roll|
|Shakin' Stevens singles chronology|
Certifications and sales
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Gold||500,000^|
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
This section needs additional citations for verification. (November 2020)
- In the UK, a version by Frankie Vaughan was even more popular than the original, reaching No. 2. Vaughan donated his share of the record's proceeds to charity.
- Another UK recording, by Glen Mason, reached No. 24 on the UK chart.
- Gene McDaniels released a version of it as a single in 1960, but it failed to chart.
- Esquerita, as Eskew Reeder, released a mostly-wordless organ-led cover version in 1962. (Minit Records #648).
- In 1964, Bill Haley & 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, Country Dick Montana, Esquerita, Jumpin' Gene Simmons, Skip & Flip (1961), The Jerms, The Go-Katz and Skitzo.
This section needs additional citations for verification. (November 2020)
"The Green Door" is the name of a letter written by David Berg, the former leader of the cult once called the Children of God, later renamed "The Family. He used it as a metaphorical door to hell.
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". 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.
The song was featured in Quentin Tarantino's 2019 film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, sung by Leonardo DiCaprio (playing the character of fictional actor Rick Dalton), during a segment on Hullabaloo.
The lyrics "Green door, what's that secret you're keepin'" get a full-page quote (with a smaller attribution text: "Marvin Moore - Lyrics to 'The Green Door'") in the first internal page of The Immortal Hulk #10, a comic book published by Marvel Comics. In that issue (and other issues of the same comic), a particular green door is an integral part of the story.
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