September 11th, 2001

The Doors

Back in the Seventies, some music writer attempted to draw crude parallels between the punk scene and classic Sixties rock. The Sex Pistols were equivalent to The Beatles, he said, The Clash The Stones and The Stranglers (important they seemed in ’78) The Doors. Some 20-odd years on, that analogy seems like an insult – to The Stranglers.

The Doors took their name from William Blake and in particular, his line about the cleansing of the doors of perception which would lead to the “infinite”. They have been lauded as a band who attempted to meld rock, poetry and theatre, to offer an intense and spiritual re-awakening to American audiences, cretinized by a bland nourishment of TV dinner. Anthems like “Break On Through (To The Other Side)” and dirges like the quasi-Oedipal “The End” were an attempt to galvanise youth out of their false consciousness. Jim Morrison’s somewhat squalid death in 1971 has been taken as one of rock’s grandest Romantic gestures, leading to the crass disfiguration of the Pere LaChaise cemetery by pale-skinned, overmascara’d and cauliflower brained devotees. Oliver Stone’s biopic of The Doors was as unfortunately effective a piece of hagiography as was JFK. Jim Morrison would have loved his own iconic status. “I’m a shooting star,” he used to boast. Yet once you break on through to the other side of the flimsy poster that is Morrison the Icon, you hit a blank wall.

The Doors got the tribute they deserved in an album entitled Darken My Fire featuring covers by, among others, The Mission, Alien Sex Field, Spahn Ranch, Nosferatu and Eating Crow. The Doors were, after all, a Goth band. They gave us Billy Idol. They gave obnoxious men in leather trousers a licence to Feel Cool. They gave us swaggering sub-Cramps crap like “Crawling King Snake” (“Crawlin’ King snake/And I rule my den/Better give me what I want/Gonna crawl no more”) They gave us a bunch of mazy, Byzantine keyboard solos courtesy of Ray Manzarek that made Rick Wakeman seem like Mrs Mills.

The essential in-essence of The Doors, however, was encapsulated in Jim Morrison. With his portentous sunken-chin vocals, his unsmiling demeanour and general Byronic posture, he was every inch the self-important young UCLA student’s notion of what it was to be a poetic-type figure. He was congratulated for shedding a beam of black light on the sunshine Sixties scene. However, his doggerel visions of what might lie beyond if we were to be really intense enough to break through and find out, was just as drivel-addled as any Aquarian age nonsense, a lyrical world of crystal ships and snakes and reptile kingdoms and snakes and ancient lakes and girls of low morals and snakes – basically, the banal lexicon of the tattoo parlour brought to life.

The longer he went on, the more verbose he became, culminating in the likes of “The Celebration Of The Lizard”; “For seven years I dwelt/In the loose palace of exile/Playing strange games/With the girls of the island/Now I have come again/To the land of the fair, the strong and the wise.” Yea, Lord Jim, thou art a veritable tosser.

Morrison was no seer, no Shaman but a sleazebag who looked for “transcendence” from the mundane through the easy routes of booze, alcohol and roving promiscuity. His leering regard for “little” girls was a recurring lyrical motif, from the “Lucky little lady” in “LA Woman”, to the understanding “little girls” in “Backdoor Man” to the “next little girl” in Brecht/Weill’s “Alabama Song”. His one-time partner recalled his nastily reducing a female store clerk to tears with his gratuitously pornographic explanation to her of why he liked “little women . . petites, midgets, munchkins.” Big man.

Barely out of his mid-twenties, as bloated, bearded and past-it as George Best thanks to his efforts to booze on through to the other side, Morrison decamped to Paris, imagining that the city was a haven of poets, such was his chocolate box comprehension of the European literary scene. Er – yeah, about 50 years earlier, mate. In 1971, he’d have found as many poets in Bruges. The only surprise was his finding a French hotel room with a bathtub. And how, infamously, did Morrison, with The Doors, achieve the fusion of poetry, theatre and music desired by the band? He was charged for taking his dick out onstage in Miami. His little trouser snake. Pissed and pathetic, this was the culmination of his infamy and the incident for which, like Parkinson and Emu he and The Doors are laughably best remembered. I hope the arresting officer was promoted.

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