WEIRDLAND: January 2020

Friday, January 31, 2020

Greil Marcus analyzes The Doors & Jim Morrison

“We really didn’t see it coming, the new world of rabid individualism and the sanctity of profit,” the British novelist Jenny Diski wrote in 2009. “But perhaps that is only to be expected. Perhaps the Sixties are an idea that has had its day and lingers long after its time. There were, of course, those, the great majority, doubtless, who, having finished with their wild youth, put on proper suits come the mid-Seventies and went off to work and a regular life, having just gone through a phase, as the more liberal of the grown-ups suggested. But some—these days called, derogatorily, idealists—maintained their former sense that “society” exists, and believe it persists, beyond the approved decades of self-interest and greed that have followed. We are the disappointed remnant, the rump of the Sixties.” 


In 1968, when Elvis sang “Tryin’ to Get to You,” going back again to Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You Want Me to Do” as if it were a talisman of a treasure he couldn’t name, each time deepening it, dropping words in search of a rhythm the song didn’t even know it wanted and now couldn’t live without—what returned was the sense of awe, of disbelief, that greeted him when he first made himself known. In the years before that, his “Mystery Train,” recorded in 1955 for Sun Records in Memphis—before, so the story went, the money machines in Hollywood and New York turned him into a sausage—had over time acquired a patina of purity. There was an elegance in the recording that couldn’t be denied. The coolest DJs, the most sophisticated connoisseurs, chose “Mystery Train” as their one transcendent Elvis—to show that even the dumbest rube could stumble on the sublime.

Unlike any rock ’n’roll singer since “Heartbreak Hotel” devoured the world’s airwaves, Jim Morrison had Elvis’s Greek-god looks, his seductive hooded eyes. But he faced “Mystery Train” as if it were an object of disdain: something that had to be wrecked. Morrison was facing legal charges for indecent exposure. Well before that, Morrison had come on stage drunk, sometimes babbling, lashing out, sometimes at the crowd, sometimes at phantoms only he could see; he appeared on stage in a fog of self-loathing, and he could hate the songs he had to sing as deeply and expansively as he could hate his bandmates, his audience, and himself. l remembered Oliver Stone's The Doors' reviews were terrible: “What a shame to have to take your clothes off for a movie like this,” one critic wrote at the time of Meg Ryan’s nude scene. The media had a sense that ever since the 1960s, life had been empty. That nothing had happened since: nothing worth memorializing, anyway. The anniversaries were attempted funerals. They were attempts to bury something. But the funeral never seemed to end, and the burial never seemed complete. The Doors film is a denial that Stone had missed the 60s craziness, a denial so loud it says one thing: I did miss it. “What does this movie have to say to a ’90s audience?” Stone asked himself and he answered himself: “Freedom. It once existed . . . But there’s a religious fundamentalism returning to this country.” It was a heroic act to make this movie, he wanted you to understand. Six dollars and you could watch. The movie should have been crazy. Instead it was terrifying. 

All I remembered of the Doors was the complex and twisting thrill of being taken out of myself. It was a sensation captured by Ian McEwan in The Innocent, a novel that ends with the fall of the Berlin Wall, about what a young man felt when he first heard “Heartbreak Hotel,” when the song “spoke only of loneliness and despair. Its melody was all stealth, its gloom comically overstated. The song’s self-pity should have been hilarious. Instead it made Leonard feel worldly, tragic, bigger somehow.” In Oliver Stone’s movie, and in real life, The Doors made the myths and were instantly their victims. Already in 1968 the Doors were performing not freedom but its disappearance. This is what is terrifying: the notion that the Sixties was no grand, romantic time or a nice place to visit, but a place, even as it is being created, people know they can never really inhabit, and never escape. In The Factory scene, the mood changes as the band (The Velvet Underground) refuses to let their songc (Heroin) build in any conventional manner, refuses to even hint at a change, a break, a release. Everywhere in the room there is a sense of anticipation and dread. People know what roles they are expected to play but those roles are beginning to break down. The camera fixes on single faces in the crowd, isolating them, and there’s a coldness in the faces, as if they’re watching a snuff movie: as if they know they aren’t going to like what comes next, but can’t turn away. In this long sequence, nothing is stressed, nothing is glamorized. 

The Sixties come forth as a time and place where people live by breaking rules they know are right, mainly to see what might happen. What I remember most about the Dinner Key Auditorium concert in Miami was the feeling that anything could have happened that night, that Jim Morrison could have died, that the people in the cheap seats could have trampled those in the more expensive ones. If Morrison had passed out, we might have cheered as spectators in the Roman colosseum Morrison imagined himself in. People cheered and laughed when Morrison exhorted: "You’re all a bunch of fucking idiots! Letting people push you around! How long do you think it’s going to last? How long are you going to let it go on? How long are you going to let them push you around?” They thought it was part of the act, part of the show. The show goes on, the band plays, the crowd leaps and screams, but there is nothing to hear. It’s a moment of complete suspension; Jim Morrison’s first, public death. This moment hit not like some defining event in one person’s insignificant life, but as a moment in history. It’s a good metaphor for an era that in 1991 had no part in the media’s life-support system. It’s this silence, this almost physical sense of an absence, that as culture the Sixties bequeathed to the next decades: the sense of a different world. It’s a silence that ultimately silences all the endlessly programmed Sixties hits, that mocks their flash.

“Morrison was one of the few if not the only performer I knew who really believed what he was saying,” Robby Krieger said in 2006. "He wasn’t just up there doing his trip and then he’d go home and have a beer and laugh at it all, laugh all the way to the bank. He was a guy that, when he went home it was just some cheap motel somewhere until the next show. He lived his whole life right on the edge, and people could sense that when he was onstage." Unlike Rolling Stones songs about women who needed to be put in their place—“Under My Thumb,” which you can almost see the singer rehearsing in a mirror, or the dizzying “Miss Amanda Jones”—the Doors’ portrait of the perfect L.A. woman was all bright colors, and full of affection. Listening to Roadhouse live 1969, Morrison dives for a monologue—“Money beats soul,” he states, drunk but forming his words carefully in the belief there’s someone interested. He croons: “I-got-something-to-tell-you-about-your-soul.” He stops crooning. “You know how much your soul’s worth? Your soul’s worth about as much as you can get on Wall Street, my dear. Now, you may think I’m cynical or dangerous, to tell you that. You may think that I’m a little hard to take—hey—listen, doll, I’ll tell you the goddamn truth. Money beats soul, every time.” In Pittsburgh, on May 2, 1970, for the fourth number of the set, the band hammers into Roadhouse, and the drama unfolds when Morrison, his voice already desperate, preternaturally expanding with each line, descends into the bubbling swamp of the tune, the place without words. He disappears into the maw of the music and keeps going, you gotta cronk cronk sh bomp bomp cronk cronk cronk eh hey cron cronk cronk ado ah hey che doo bop dag a chee be cronk cronk well rah hey hey tay cronk cronk see lay, hey—he sustains it all for a solid minute. 

With each measure of vocal sounds the pressure is increased, the pleasure is deeper, the abandon more complete, the freedom from words, meaning, song, band, hits, audience, police, prison, and self more real, precious, and sure to disappear around the next turn if you don’t keep your eyes on the road. In that long minute, Morrison sings the whole song in another language, one only he could speak, but that anyone could understand. All of that was in “Roadhouse Blues”: not as autobiography, not as confession, not as a cry for help or a fuck you to whoever asked, but, as Louise Brooks liked to quote, she said, from an old dictionary, “a subjective epic composition in which the author begs leave to treat the world according to his own point of view.” Morrison was not able to cope with the apathy of his audience—it seems as if his attempts to “wake” them up from their collective submission did indeed fail. Around December 1969 Morrison told friends he was having a “nervous breakdown.” Morrison began to taunt the crowd with the same lines that would crack open the show at the Dinner Key in Miami three months later: “You want music?” Everybody screamed. “Well, man,” he said, “we can play music all night, but that’s not what you really want—you want something more, something greater than you’ve ever seen, right?” Someone shouted “We want Mick Jagger!”

With the show breaking down, Morrison went to the edge of the stage and began to declaim “The Celebration of the Lizard.” People laugh. “One morning he awoke in a green hotel. With a strange creature growing beside him.” “Is everybody in?” he asks, with each time people shouting: “NOOOO!” “The ceremony is about to begin,” he says and people laugh out loud or giggle in embarrassment. Then Morrison stood silently. “Stupid,” someone mutters. “Asshole!” There’s more yelling. “SSSHH,” Morrison whispers. “Fuck you!” someone shouts. People are screaming parodies of the lyrics that Morrison isn’t singing. In the murk he has more presence than ever—but his voice is nothing compared to the far more powerful, mocking crowd. Morrison is again making up words to throw the crowd off, to summon the song from the dead: “A creature is nursing its child, soft arms around the head and the neck, a mouth to connect, leave this child alone, this one is mine, I’m taking her home, back to the rain”—he sounds like a poet cowboy. Then the crowd is screaming at him in a way that hasn’t happened before: in the face of the screeching, crows flying out of people’s mouths, and you can see Morrison as the people in the crowd are seeing him, a freak, the Elephant Man, the crowd thrilled at how grotesque he is, how crazy, everybody pointing, and though the band is playing, now the real music is coming from the crowd, a tangled skein of sound moving through the hall without a brain.

“You give people what they want or what they think they want,” Morrison would say to a reporter. “But if you go too fast for them and pull an unexpected move, you confuse them. When they go to a musical event, a concert, a play or whatever, they want to be turned on, to feel like they’ve been on a trip. But instead of making them feel like they’re on a trip, that they’re all together, if instead you hold a mirror up and show them what they’re really like, what they really want, and show them that they’re alone instead of all together, they’re revolted and confused.” —"The Doors: A Lifetime of Listening to Five Mean Years" (2013) by Greil Marcus

-Jim Cherry (DCM): Little is known about Pamela Courson. What do you remember of her and her relationship with Jim? To your knowledge were there other women who affected Jim as much as Pamela? -Jac Holzman: Well, the thing that I think the movie The Doors missed that was a shame was that Pamela was a pretty good foil for Jim. She could give as good as she got. She would stand up to him. In the movie she is a cartoon of a girlfriend with very little depth. What they actually did was dare and double-dare each other constantly. It was interesting to watch, but it was not fun to be around. I'm sure there were great moments of intimacy and closeness which I was never a part of but it was a prickly relationship for sure. I know that Jim had other women in his life. I think they were as much to taunt Pamela as they were for Jim to get off. -The Doors Collectors Magazine.

"I think Pam was pretty in a sort of refreshing, Irish Spring kind of way, like you might see in an ad on TV. When we were having lunch together- the last time we were together- Jim began talking about changing his artistic identity and the fact that he was maturing at the age of twenty-seven and that he viewed things differently. He felt that he couldn't live without Pamela, that she was the one that he always returned to and she was the complement to his existence." -Leon Barnard (The Doors European Press Agent). The Doors' manager Bill Siddons said: “Pamela was the only one. I knew there were other ones, but ultimately Pamela was always the only real one.”

“Always smile, even if it's a sad one, for sadder that a sad smile is only the sadness of not knowing how to smile. People are afraid of themselves, of their own reality; their feelings most of all. People talk about how great love is, but love hurts. Feelings are disturbing. People are taught that pain is evil and dangerous. How can they deal with love if they’re afraid to feel? Pain is meant to wake us up. People try to hide their pain. But they’re wrong. Pain is something to carry, like a radio. You feel your strength in the experience of pain. Your feelings are a part of you. Your own reality. If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you’re letting society destroy your reality.” —Jim Morrison   


February 1971 Interview. Location: Diane Gardiner's Apartment - Los Angeles. Publication: Rolling Stone # 77 - March 4th - 1971. Info: Jim Morrison's last known recorded interview is conducted by Rolling Stone journalist Ben Fong-Torres and also features Pamela Courson. This tape was made unintentionally after a chance meeting at Diane Gardiner's apartment in Los Angeles. The interview is later used in the March 4th, 1971 issue of Rolling Stone. Ben Fong-Torres: "I used to pop into Hollywood on a regular basis. Sometimes I stayed at the apartment of a rock publicist friend, Diane. One of her neighbors was Pamela Courson - Jim Morrison's old lady. One February afternoon in 1971, Jim came around, looking for Pamela. She wasn't there, so he decided to wait for her. When Diane introduced us, I asked for an interview. He and I hit it off right away, and got into doing this kind of parody of a TV talk show. I played Dick Cavett; he was a rock star. With my cheap cassette recorder running, we settled into a pretty serious chat about the future of rock and his own future. Despite his reputation as a wild man, Morrison struck me as a very smart, thoughtful guy."

Monday, January 27, 2020

Unravelling Jim Morrison's Poetic Wilderness

Rock star iconicity aside, Jim Morrison wanted to be remembered for the written word, favouring morality prose by the likes of Charles Baudelaire, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean Cocteau and William Blake. He actually plucked The Doors’ name from a William Blake text: “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.” One of his poems is ‘Power’: Jim Morrison openly strove for empowerment, using his voice to promote the power of possibility and the power of the individual. The guarantee of a golden outcome isn't really the point; it's about realising the merit that comes with your simple act of striving. Another interesting poem is ‘The Opening Of The Trunk’: The “trunk” in this title is a lot heavier than you think. Morrison lifts the lid on life here and its contents spill out all over the floor. The mind opens, the soul starts to wander in search of freedom, it brands America with a dystopian stamp, it ascends upon a stage in front of society, claims that he's an unordinary human and then suggests that he can guide a girl with dreams towards the Labyrinth. Morrison may have written this piece in a very metaphorical sense but, by the end, we're naturally picturing him in the middle of a maze. Will anyone ever get to the centre? Source: www.gq-magazine.co.uk

Jac Holzman said that Danny Sugerman was not friends with Jim as he had people believe. Sugerman was a close friend of Ray Manzarek but fell out with him before his death. Ray fired Danny as his manager since Danny was going to go public with the darker side of Ray Manzarek before he died which caused the rift. Luckily for Ray, Danny died. Most acquaintances of Morrison used their lucky break as a meal ticket. Andy Morrison has disavowed Patricia Kennealy. As for Sugerman, nothing could be screaming out louder "daddy issues" than his worship for Morrison but Sugerman actually needed a psychiatrist spelling it out for him. When Jim Morrison is the voice of reason and moderation in your life, oh boy! Throughout the mayhem of many years, Sugerman's interest in music always seemed superficial, even if he acted as Ray Manzarek's manager for a while. Actually, it is hard to believe that Manzarek trusted such an irresponsible dopehead to manage his career, but these are facts. And the narcissism is over the top with Sugerman. The problem with Jim Morrison was that he was thrown under the bus in the worst possible way by his own camp. Danny Sugerman's book offended those who knew Morrison best, according to Frank Lisciandro: "Many of Jim's closest friends find that book very objectionable. I call it 'Nothing Here But Lots Of Lies,' because it's full of bullshit. You have to realize that despite what he says, Danny Sugerman did not know Jim Morrison. If you think that a fourteen-year-old can go in a bar and drink with someone, you're crazy. That never happened. I know for a fact that Jim did not like Danny. Jim told me on numerous occasions that Danny was a nuisance. But because Jim was a nice guy, he was kind enough to give Danny a few minutes of his time. Danny was always pestering Jim. So those stories of Danny having dinner or doing his homework at Jim and Pamela's apartment are hilariously ridiculous. That never happened." Source: newdoorstalk.proboards.com

Judy Huddleston on Jim Morrison: "I was in love with Jim as if he was God, whether that is personified as Adonis, Dionysius, or Jesus… I believed his love could save me but I didn’t believe I could save him. Jim definitely wasn’t as one dimensionally dark as the Stone characterization. But he was an alcoholic and probably borderline. Like everyone, he had moments of happiness or joy, but clearly he was not happy. On balance, he was more tortured than most--genetics, karma, childhood, alcoholism--whatever the reason. It was like a switch got flipped, far beyond a regular mood swing." A new peer-reviewed paper (published in the January 2018 issue of Science Direct) has shown that possessing a high intellect could be directly linked to several psychological disorders including Depression, Anxiety, ADHD and Autism. The highly intelligent individual has a remarkable capacity for seeing and internalizing vast uncertainties, possibilities, and problems. This gift can either be a catalyst for empowerment and self-actualization or it can be a predictor of dysregulation and debilitation. The study found that high intelligence could also potentially be linked to almost double the risk associated with autoimmune disease. The study also suggests that an above average IQ could also have a large impact on physical health. *Mood Disorders - National average 9.5% High Intelligence 26.8% *Depressive disorders - National average 6.7% High Intelligence 25.8% Source: www.sciencedirect.com

"I was born to sail away to touch the land of my dreams but evil winds filled my sails and finally I lost my way. The ship run aground of my life and now, I lie here broken, helpless... The Lords have secret entrances, and they know disguises. But they give themselves away in minor ways. Too much glint of light in the eye. A wrong gesture. Too long and curious a glance. The Lords appease us with images. They give us books, concerts, galleries, shows, cinemas. Especially the cinemas. Through art they confuse us and blind us to our enslavement. Art adorns our prison walls, keeps us silent and diverted and indifferent." —The Lords of The City poem by Jim Morrison

Up to this day, Jim Morrison's poetry remains a subject generally unappreciated within academic circles, which often consider it to be vain and trivial due to the combination of Morrison's image as a rock star and the often obscure nature of his poetry—many of his poems fail to coherently put the images and ideas present into comprehensive meaning. The notion of the Lords is a philosophical construct and a poetic device used to distinguish society as hierarchical, invented by Morrison to unveil and demystify the mechanism of mass deception through art and idolatry. These mechanisms are unerringly present in every sliver of society and they go, more often than not, unnoticed by those outside of the centre of the circle of our society, which Morrison often compares to a "labyrinth," to which these Lords "have secret entrances." The Lords are in control of society's "events," meaning its entire structure and organization, which all take place "beyond our knowledge." In other words, they transformed democratic society into a mediacracy, where a state of ignorance is installed and maintained through mass media, used to "keep us silent and diverted and indifferent."  In that line of thought, the Lords are also those who have, whether consciously or not, accepted their masks as their faces out of "sloth & cowardice" and who now prod others in line. Morrison argues that all the social institutions create doctrines and systems that force people to live in a specific manner. The minute people accept those structures that others have imposed upon them, the perception of their proper identity and reality are inevitably controlled by those structures. This line of thought is a direct development of Nietzsche's acrid critique of the "herd mentality," which he defines as "the lower species, the sum of zeroes (herd, mass, society)." Due to the herd instinct, Nietzsche claims, "the whole of existence is vulgarized: in so far as the mass is dominant it bullies the exceptions."

In an interview with Lizzie James (published by Creem magazine in 1981), Jim Morrison clarifies about how the gradual repression and ultimate enslavement specifically takes place: "When others demand that we become the people they want us to be, they force us to destroy the person we really are. They demand that we show only the feelings they want and expect from us. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your senses for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. It's true, we're locked in an image, an act – and the sad thing is, people get so used to their image – they grow attached to their masks." When Tony Thomas (in May 1970) inquired Morrison about the role of women in art, Morrison replied: "Well, it's that masculine desire to dominate life, rather than just accepting it and flowing with it. And I think that is responsible for the creation of films and a lot of other things." After which Thomas asked the following question: "Men are dominant in the arts, as writers, composers. You think women are wise to keep out of it?" To which Morrison responded: "It's a contradiction, cause I'm totally hung up on the art game. But women have less need to re-establish a connection with life because they are life."

Morrison's philosophy is predominantly influenced by the ideas and writings of that other infamous European Idealist and great role model for Morrison: William Blake. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is often referred to as a prophetic work which provides a guide or 'manifesto' for the individual to forge a path to freedom from the constraints of the world “through the progression of contraries.” William Blake, just like Morrison after him, believed people didn't live up to the full potential of their reality, but lived a life dictated to them by oppressive powers. For Blake, these would be the power of the institutions from the dogmatic empirical ideology prevalent in 18th century Britain. These powers deceived and condemned people to live in a narrowed, limited reality, resulting in Blake's observation that "man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern." The impact of a narrowed perception on mankind is, according to Blake, more alarming than it initially seems. Leading Blake scholar Saree Makdisi connects the limited reality to the biblical concept of the fall. Blake diagnoses the people around him as fallen, as "stripped of their capacity for imagination," as bound down, but immediately provides a cure for said disease, with that one most famous line: "If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is: infinite."

Compare this to Morrison's line: "When this disintegration into pure existence is at last achieved, the object is free to become endlessly anything." With both writers, the idea of purity and limitlessness is present after this particular "disintegration." Blake never proposed to reverse the religious morals (and certainly not for cheap upheaval, which certain slovenly readers dared to state); he suggests that "the real Good is not abandonment of all restraints but a marriage, or union of the contraries, of desire and restraint, energy and reason, the promptings of Hell and the denials of Heaven." So, the visionary act is a matter of attaining altered states of consciousness, which to Morrison means "to engage all the senses, the total organism, and achieve total response." Importantly, right at the core of his philosophy, Blake shapes his concept of God, connecting it to Man's imagination and transcendence. Blake believes Man is "evolving towards the eternal, a state in which thought and life, body and mind are unified, strengthening and reaffirming each other" and that at a given point in time, everyone will be infinite and it will be that, in Blake's words, "Man is all Imagination and God exists in us and we in him. The eternal body of Man is the Imagination and that is God Himself."

"Do you know how pale & wanton thrillful comes death on a strange hour unannounced, unplanned for like a scaring over-friendly guest you've brought to bed. Death makes angels of us all & gives us wings where we had shoulders smooth as raven's claws." —The American Night poem by Jim Morrison. Throughout Morrison's poetry, the city symbolizes and embraces all of civilized society, where "we all live" concentrated in a large, insectoid circle, "a ring of death with sex at its center." Additionally, Morrison often describes large crowds of people as "swarming streets," slaving and toiling away for a purpose unknown or unbenefited by them. The other element, the camera or cinema, provides people with the illusion that they are the ones spying on others from a great distance, satisfying "our longing for omniscience," yet in reality, cinema moulds its spectators into the same swarm of "aquatic insects" they are observing from a great height. Exactly this mechanism of replacing real life with an artificial reality, projected on a mass scale, is the key element to the Lords' control over the city. Through the palliating, appeasing effect of cinema, citizens aren't even concerned about the control over their own lives anymore, and freely grant it to whoever is there waiting to pick it up.

Morrison compares the Lords to the most notorious and vicious despots of history, as their system of mass media saturation could very well be seen as a weapon of mass destruction: Cinema is the most totalitarian of the arts. All energy and sensation is sucked up into the skull, a cerebral erection, skull bloated with blood. Caligula wished a single neck for all his subjects that he could behead a kingdom with one blow. The Emperor, the father-god could ensure his permanent rule while the dangerous lure of the life impulse, threatening "the fragile order of power," would be perpetually disregarded. The cinema, Morrison argues, has done what Caligula could not do. Infinite perception, according to Blake, unbridled creativity, is only possible through a marriage, a union of opposites and contraries. Only then can a person break out of a narrowed and externally imposed reality towards a reality of boundless and eternal possibilities and thus participating in the concept of infinite Paradise. Evidently, the idea of uniting dualities for purifying ends is also very present in Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy. —"Unravelling Jim Morrison's Poetic Wilderness" by Koben Sprengers (2017)

Monday, January 13, 2020

The Sacrifice of Jim Morrison

Burning The May Tree: The Sacrifice of Jim Morrison (2019) by Chris M. Balz: The first edition of this thesis (under its original title: The Mass Sacrificial Spectacle: The Doors in Poetry and History), received Stanford University's Golden Award for Excellence in the Humanities. The prize was awarded upon the author's graduation from Stanford University with a B.A. in Humanities, Honors, Modern Thought and Literature. Published on Amazon: March 30th 2019. Credits: "Thanks to all of those who helped with this book. James Winchell and Barry Katz served to guide the development of the core thesis of the first edition of this book, and Frank Lisciandro provided invaluable perspectives on the real-world history, leading to its receipt of the Robert W. Golden Award for Excellence in Humanities from Stanford University in the year 1990. The Doors Collectors Magazine provided greatly appreciated business support and feedback. Frank Lisciandro continued over the years with the assistance described above. Independent cultural activists, speaking from their own experience, provided some key insights. And there are the numerous individuals who have dedicated themselves to the possible historical transformations alluded to in the book.

The School of Humanities and Sciences honors the Golden Medal to Christopher Balz for his thesis “The Mass Sacrificial Spectacle: The Doors in Poetry and History”: "Christopher Balz has produced a superb essay under the direction of Professor James Winchell. As a textually oriented researcher, Mr. Balz sets about an explication of the heretofore inexplicable sense-making systems in the poetry of Jim Morrison. He brilliantly ties together the Frankfurt School, the Situationism of Guy Debord, and the post-structuralist anthropology of Rene Girard in order to demonstrate, in light of the public reception and manipulating of the poet/shaman as commodity, the passage from labor to spectacle, from an industrial to a communication-oriented society. This essay is outstanding for its intellectually adventurous thrust, its commitment to l’imaginaire social, and its profound sense of responsibility." -Ewart Thomas, Dean of Humanities and Sciences, June 16, 1990, Stanford University 

"Congratulations on winning the Robert Golden Award for your wonderful thesis. I was delighted with the paper." -Frank Lisciandro, Editor of Wilderness and The American Night (Jim Morrison's posthumously published poetry), on the original academic thesis submitted for Stanford University, that forms the core of the present book. Source: www.nottotouchthesun.net

Burning The May Tree: The Sacrifice of Jim Morrison - Introduction: The rapid turn of events since the Global Financial Crisis inverts the relation presented in this book: the demographic of the protagonists and their descendants, across the "political spectrum," now finds itself on the defensive, since the ominous process that we saw kick into gear in 2008. Why does the project for a healthy republic meet with so little success when plain sanity, concern for humanity's and the Earth's very survival, demands that at least the project's concrete minimal demands be met? Aside from defeatist observations, the question is one of strategy. Jim Morrison makes an interesting case study for such strategic questions. His downfall as actor for radical change in mass culture may be related to the mission of "activist causes," specific political outfits taking on aspects of the power structure. The strategy pursued by activist causes is flawed fundamentally. Broadly put, they attempt to make use of "ad power" in order to spread their message, yet forget that this is precisely the ground upon which they may be defeated most easily.

Partially obscuring the essence of Jim Morrison’s role is “that movie” by Oliver Stone and the books published about The Doors, their flagship being No One Here Gets Out Alive - Frank Lisciandro warning: “There is an inaccurate and depressing biography published by Warner Books. I strongly suggest you avoid it. It is the National Enquirer version of Jim’s life, and will not tell you anything about the man’s true nature or his creative spirit.” Amidst all the backlog of trivia we now have about The Doors, Jim emerges to the persistent eye as a threat out in the open, flourishing. Call it a political, or social, or cultural threat - one would be counseled to save one’s categorizing breath and admit Jim’s legacy into its fullness. Jim was, simply put, and regardless of whether he thusly intended or not, something of a threat to the established public order at the time. But specifically, a threat to what or whom? Amidst the raging injustice of the nonsensical “evil war,” as Martin Luther King Jr. characterized the Vietnam War shortly before his assassination (a war memorialized by Coppola’s film “Apocalypse Now” to the sounds of The Doors); amidst the stifling conformity of a phenomenally rich and successful post-WWII North America; amidst all of this Jim lived his young life. Jim was not simply a threat, but an agent of cultural change because he expressed his oppositional standpoint and suggestions for transformation through his writings.

Even a cursory study of Jim Morrison’s literary influences reveals that this most overlooked aspect of Jim’s being, that of an agent of cultural change, is actually the central and salient one. This is not surprising, given our society’s mechanisms of co-optation which work with forces that would change it fundamentally in order to neutralize them. Sex appeal and glamorous trivia are universally salable, whereas defense of the gains in freedom won by humanity and the creation of healthy alternatives to practices that have become mainstream has not been widely popular in the past half century. Perhaps Michael McClure, the Pulitzer Prize winning Beat poet who spent a good deal of time with Jim and encouraged his writing, would be qualified to say exactly which writings in particular influenced Jim the most. Beginning our discussion at the outset of its historical concern, Nietzsche stood at the very threshold of unbridled modernity, as it was made possible in his day by the development of industrial processes. It has been well noted in the literature that Jim read quite a bit of Nietzsche.

Nietzsche’s primary concerns were twofold. The first was the “loss” of God, an evolution of consciousness made possible by the liberation of the populace from the direct control of political and financial elites that was exerted through the structure of the churches of the time. The second was the development of a new philosophy which would produce the most human response to this new condition in society. Nietzsche considered himself to be a psychologist, and focused on the psychology of the individual with respect to the new loss of God. Immediately we recall Jim’s concert scream in “The Soft Parade,” “You cannot petition the Lord with prayer!” Nietzsche’s approach to the crisis caused by the loss of God was to re-educate individuals to the Greek tradition of the pre-Christian, critically-thinking and independent individual, the cornerstone of Western culture. While the Greeks may seem distant in time to our contemporary culture, they are in the sense that the soil of a tree’s roots are distant from its branches. Preserved within the Roman Empire and the medieval Islamic world, Greek traditions and knowledge gradually filtered into tribal pagan Europe as it was civilized over time. Like Nietzsche, Jim believed that the problems of life were best resolved by the individual, not by arbitrary morality handed down in the form of laws by the larger society.

Jim’s appreciation of Nietzsche’s work, together with the news that was breaking in the 1960s of communism’s failings and travesties (starting with Herbert Marcuse’s Soviet Marxism in 1958), precluded any affinity on his part with communism, socialism, or any party line (except, perhaps, what could be termed the partying line of Norman Mailer’s political candidacy in New York City, which Jim spoke in support of in a Rolling Stone magazine interview.) But far more importantly, Jim shared with many of his own generation an abhorrence of alienation and a belief that revolution would be the only path to bring about meaningful change. Jim’s lyrics and writings are rife with images of riots, burning, assassination, and revulsion at the contemporary political establishment. This poem from Wilderness, a collection of Jim’s work that appeared posthumously in 1988, encapsulates Jim’s approach to his concerts, and gives a key to another dimension of his songs: What do you want? Is it music? We can play music. But you want more. You want something. Am I right? Of course I am. I know what you want. You want ecstasy. Desire and dreams. Things are not exactly what they seem. You don’t need to be told. You want to see things as they are. I lead you this way, he pulls that way. I’m not singing to an imaginary girl. I’m talking to you, myself. Let’s recreate the world. The palace of conception is burning. The world that his audience was literally born into, “the palace of conception,” “is burning.”

The tumult of the 1960s in the affluent Western society is raging like the flames of a palace set afire. Concurrently in the poem, Jim notes that “I’m not singing to an imaginary girl.” In the recorded songs that Jim sang with the band The Doors, the girl is a metaphor for what was then termed “the Movement.” Actually, the tone of all the songs involving a “girl” mirror the contemporaneous state of the movement in a fashion analogous to that of a floundering relationship. Chronologically, the tone of The Doors albums progresses from mid-60s brand new exuberance, to disappointment, confusion, and disillusionment by 1970. However, the technology spawned seems to have been used in the same mediating manner as the old social codes were. With such technologies as the offset-type printing press, TV, telephone, film, radio, and now the Internet, the society has found a substitute for the old social codes for the job of mediating and representing feeling, thought, and social interaction. The net effect is such that it makes the society appear to have an internal dynamic which militates against the possibility that such areas might become more human and directly person-to-person.


Similarly, The Doors song, “Not To Touch the Earth” (whose opening lines come from “The Golden Bough”) deals with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (“dead President’s corpse in the driver’s car,” as Kennedy was killed while in a motorcade). The “czar” mentioned in the song lives in the east (Washington, in this interpretation): “going east, to meet the czar,” “the mansion is warm at the top of the hill/rich are the rooms and the comforts there/and you won’t know a thing until you get inside.” The song froths with Jim’s curiosity to know more of the social mechanism of the archetypal sacrificed king he had studied in George Frazer's work.

It is the thesis of The Road to Eleusis that Demeter’s potion, the kykeon, was entheogenic. According to the theory, ergot growing on the barley added to the kykeon accounted for the potion’s visionary properties. Hofmann [creator of LSD at Sandoz Laboratories in Switzerland] argued that, by making an aqueous extract of ergot-infested barley, the ancient Greeks could have separated the water-soluble entheogenic ergot alkaloids (ergine, ergonovine, etc.) from any non-water-soluble toxic alkaloids of the ergotamine/ergotoxine group. Hofmann pointed out that the psychotropic properties of ergot were known in antiquity, and that such folk knowledge of these properties lingers on in Europe, as evidenced by the names for ergot: Tolkorn (“mad grain”) and siegle ivre (“inebriating rye”). Eminent Greek scholar Ruck meticulously showed how the ergot theory fit the available evidence. One of the more telling pieces of evidence is the fact that Demeter was often called Erysibe, “ergot,” and that purple, the color of ergot, was her color.

Perhaps the greatest influence on Jim, even greater than Arthur Rimbaud’s, was the nineteenth century poet William Blake. Blake spanned the dimensions of human existence in his writing more thoroughly than Rimbaud could, who stopped writing after age 19. An Englishman during the American Revolution, he decried England’s “evil war” against its colony. Quite a parallel to Jim in the United States during the Korean war and Vietnam “police action”! An extremely historical poet, Blake taught Jim how to put his observations of worldly matters into poetical language. Blake witnessed the second of the great political revolutions to sweep the modern Western world, the prototypical French Revolution. His trenchant support of and then partial disillusionment with the Revolution, as reflected in his poetry, doubtless helped Jim find his own stance during the 1960’s. Perhaps inspired by Blake’s poem “The Crystal Cabinet,” Jim sang the song “The Crystal Ship.” In “The Crystal Cabinet,” Blake finds himself, or more generally the protagonist of the poem, pleasantly locked into a cabinet made of gold, pearl, and “Crystal shining bright”. His world in there is filled with moonlight, lighting up in its alternate world (alternate to the world of real sunlit daytime) the England he would dream that England could be (third stanza), instead of the evil land warring against the independent American colonists. In “The Crystal Ship,” a song from The Doors’ first album, Jim tells how the Crystal Ship is “being filled” with “a thousand thrills, a million ways to spend your time.” Filled with the exuberance of a brand-new counterculture, the ship’s passengers parallel Blake’s protagonist in their vision of a fundamentally better world. Jim’s song ends with “When we get back, I’ll drop a line.” Unlike events in Blake’s story of the cabinet, Jim leaves the tale of the ship unfinished, except to tell that it will return, sometime. Jim utilizes Blake’s image of a crystal enclosure to tell an allegory of his own generation’s journey.

James Douglas Morrison, the poet, applied literary influences from both the political-historical and dramatic-psychological realms to his poetry, lyric poetry, and songs in a successful, coherent synthesis. This is the mark of a great poet. As Western culture has become more vulgar, Jim’s work has been widely misunderstood because of sensationalism in a prurient climate, a sensationalism which grows wildly well on the fertile soil of a society which accommodates threats by co-opting them into sideshows of one brand or another through disinformation campaigns in the news media or the profit motive of the entertainment industry. In Morrison's poetic, once one crawls inside the repeated symbols, superficially "the same" on the outside like the variations of surf music, one finds a consistent, alternate universe. This method in literature has antecedents in the mantra or religious chant. In a Symbolist poem, one is invited to impress the word "wave" into one's mind. By an incantatory combination of several of these elements, an alternate sensory world is created. In this sense, Morrison combined the best of the surf tradition of his "native" L.A. with the tradition represented by the Symbolist and Beatnik poets.

The discussion of Morrison's poetry is only a conjuring of a "universe" which is "intolerable" to its present, the present reality which it critiques. The poetry's truth, its value as a “discontinuum,” seems like mere lexical folly given the entrenched untruth of everyday life. The real purpose of this work, as critical theory, is to show why this truth has been and still is such folly: to show where its historical mission of transformation has failed. Herbert Marcuse has aptly situated critical theory's responsibilities, in a way which still holds true after over a quarter of a century. He writes, "The critical theory of society possesses no concepts which could bridge the gap between the present and its future; holding no promise and showing no success, it remains negative. Thus it wants to remain loyal to those who, without hope, have given and give their life to the Great Refusal." Jim Morrison would let the life slip out of him, like his final rejection of this world.

I have a vision of America. Seen from the air 28,000 ft. & going fast. A one-armed man in a Texas parking labyrinth. A burnt tree like a giant primeval bird in an empty lot in Fresno. —The Hidden poem

Morrison's Poetry – Themes:

1) Wilderness, anomie, riot, endless corridors; alliteration and underlying meaning
2) L.A
2a. LA, and cities in general, as ant-hill-like breeding grounds for what are seen, overall, as unhealthy and morally degenerate elements
2b."LAMERICA," L.A. seen as a paradigm for the United States and its dominion over the Americas
3) Apocalypse
4) Spectacle, and external control in general
5) Rock 'n Roll, seen as a subterranean, incredibly powerful, perhaps even revolutionary force, a force reaching down into the reptilian under-section of the brain/psyche
6) Historical Change

The city is full of diseased specimens, hotel and motel corridors in which money, murder, and madness, the viral nucleic acid injected by the viri of "the LA / Plague" (lines 10-11), come together in line 21 as an alliterated package of disease for the "citizens" (line 20). The physical environment sheltering this, the virus packing its venomous alliterated nucleic acid, is the "Motel." The only natural element in the poem, a tree, is burnt and primeval, outdated by the searing new universe of parking structures and hotel corridors. And the citizens are as empty within as their barren environment without. As line 23 suggests, they are ghosts, not healthy, living beings, but mere frameworks of the same. The skeletal "burnt tree" stands leafless and empty in its outward environment of an "empty lot," a sad parody of a vibrant, full tree, together with the parking lot a literal "empty forest." Likewise, the ghost-citizens populate their impersonal hotel-motel environment. They "fill" it with "Motel Money Murder Madness," a giddy emptiness liable to change mood arbitrarily, as by a command out of thin air, such as "Change the mood from glad to sadness". Emotional motion in this world only collapses from relatively surface emotion, represented by "glad," into the deep sadness of emptiness, the crooned "ghost song". The motion is comparable to falling through thin ice on a frozen pond. The internal rhyme between "glad" and "sadness" only tightens and reinforces this depressed syndrome.

"Motel Money Murder Madness" synergistically suggesting degenerate sexuality, crass wealth, evil violence, and, finally, a deranged mental state. Similarly, the actual description of the LA Plague, the diseased cityscape of the second section, takes place wholly within the scope of a "vision of America". It conjures up the spectre of the grasping eye, external control, the "eye" of an Orwellian force, as in these two lines from Wilderness: "The girls return from summer balls / Let's steal the eye that sees us all". Like the evil eye, the "eye that sees us all" which almost beckons to be dethroned-stolen-plucked out, the symbol "L.A." or "LAmerica" in part represents an evil or doom-bearing force.

As Anthony Magistrale argues in Wild Child: Jim Morrison's Poetic Journeys (1992), "The 'sleeping city' is a general metaphor for passive acceptance of the status quo. Morrison uses the metaphors of disease and dying to describe the afflicted society he was living in, in much the same way T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land (1922) was an indictment of the societal death happening all around him." The image offered by vomition is one of total revulsion and simultaneous battle with this revulsion, the process of ejection of noxious material from deep within. We may view this revulsion-ejection as a hyperextension of the "downward slide" which we have traced thus far, from the grand highway to the lost Highland to the desperate struggle with the "atomic world," with the flipside of the transient world, to the vile but "real" "crowd life of our mound," and then finally to the petrified deathly stillness of the card-world. The struggle for meaning against the atomic world involved in addition struggle with one's inner self, how to "hate or love or judge," how to "put one foot before us". Here, however, the crisis is so unnamable and intense that we lose all distinction between foe and friend. At this point, all will toward externalization is overtaken by inner revulsion. The vomiting comes from within. No longer a battle with social-scientifically describable "anomie in social life," nor a wild Highland to be probed, here we cannot escape, cannot "return to/Mother of man" from "Drugs sex drunkenness battle". Rather, it engulfs us. There is no even meager, elusive or illusory hope in the outside "gentle swarming/ atomic world" to escape to. All, in the first and second stanzas, is egesta comprised of various elements which in concert form a map, an archeological landfill garbage-ology of our society. The engulfment, the vomition, is societal in its totality. Moving through the three stanzas, we have first a broad description of the vomiting, next an immersion in the egesta, and then a purgation.

Nauseated by the corpse of fandom, eight months after the Hollywood Bowl, Morrison would find himself forced to shout at the crowd of the Miami concert, "I'm not talking about revolution! Morrison's refusal to continue to gratify mindless fans (whom he likened to "an army of / vacuum cleaners") and subsequent hyper-marginalization make an interesting parallel to the Cassandra legend. After he had gained acceptance as a "rock god," Morrison became aware of the limits of the situation and rejected it for an Artaudian dissolution of the boundary between spectator and actor. Refusing to fulfill his role as one of "The Lords" he wrote about in The Lords, to set up spectacles only to be watched, to control his fans by pacifying them with "A mild possession, devoid of risk, at bottom sterile."

National disparagement and discrediting of him was forthcoming. He got busted for indecent exposure and public profanity at the infamous Miami concert on 1st March 1969 The Doors showcased at the Dinner Key Auditorium. So Jim was found guilty on two counts, facing a year and a half stint in Raiford penitentiary. The Doors had been in rehearsals trying to get a new album, what was to become the L.A. Woman album. At The Doors workshop on the corner of La Cienega and Santa Monica the producer questioned ”Anybody got any songs?" And sure enough, Jim and Robby came through with a bunch of great songs again. L.A. Woman, in some respects, is rock and roll film noir. In "The Anatomy of Rock", one of the first poems in Wilderness, Morrison himself realizes perhaps better than anyone the terrible limits placed by the commercial apparatus on the revolutionizing potential of rock and roll. "Noon schoolyard screamed / A record noise shot out / & stunned the earth." The poem explains: "The music / had been bolted w/new sound / Run, run the end of repose / the bad guys are winning." The mass, as a euphemism for lack of community, made the crowd's barings at Morrison's zenith concert in Miami as superficial as the alleged nudity that he was only mockingly proposing to them.

I have drunk the drug of forgetfulness/Leave the informed sense in our wake/You'll be Christ on this package tour/Money beats soul/Last words, last words, out" -Jim Morrison's last poem, Paris

The audience went to see the Lizard King, a persona that Morrison had created for himself but that not was fundamentally him. René Girard describes "the Dionysiac state of mind, a hallucinatory state that is not a synthesis of elements, but a formless and grotesque mixture of things that are normally separate," allows for the apparition of the monstrous double. The monstrous double, a perceived evil other that is yet simultaneously perceived as inextricably wedded to the self, is the cathartic crux of a group scapegoating dynamic. The delicate maneuver that is the crux of all art whereby the audience is moved to the zone of the stage had been forcibly substituted for an out-of-control, hallucinatory crowd, the artist ejected from the stage. A renversement of the actor-spectator boundary took place. It was the actual, social fear of this uncontrol, this renversement, which made possible punishing Jim Morrison. The very enforcement of the image of transgression made the crowd so hungry for transgression that, in the absence of sufficient performance by those on the stage, it took over. Unfortunately, this was to have dire consequences for the band.

After the confusion of the monstrous double, the hallucinatory Dionysiac state of the concert, had passed,  Jim became the monster. The effect of this hallucinatory "doubling," whereby the members of the audience perceive the other in themselves and themselves become the monsters, the transgressors faded. Blame shifted to the convenient other, the "freak" Jim Morrison. In an interview close in time to the Miami incident, Jim offered close-up detail on it: “I think I was just fed up with the image that had been created around me, which I sometimes consciously, most of the time unconsciously cooperated with.  It just got too much for me to really stomach and so I just put an end to it in one glorious evening.” Girard places the monstrous double at the foundation of sacrificial crisis, whereby social structures of meaning (the sacred) are eviscerated to the point of social chaos and then reinstituted through the scapegoating process. By blurring the boundary between self and monster, the monstrous double simultaneously enables transgression and blaming of the other. There has not yet been a "revolution" on the order of Horkheimer and Adorno's Enlightment project.

And so, superficially at least, Morrison's project failed. Yet we are left with a legacy which suggests to us that something very valuable was left behind. Robby Krieger, The Doors guitarist, commented on the relation between Morrison and his audience: "I think a big superstar who’s always in the public eye and is always sort of on the edge is really living for us all, you know, he’s not living for himself anymore, he’s living for us all, and we can all vicariously get off on that persona. But in the process he loses his own self." Those who step too far outside the "context," figures such as Morrison who themselves were attempting to change the social context, reveal its true nature in their downfall. Today, we may effectively characterize this context as a highly selective mental gas chamber reserved for those who are (or threaten to become) real threats, herding the wayward back into the mass, by using unjust guilt as a coercive measure. In place of imposing, unified structures of domination, such as the Church, the scapegoating dynamic serves admirably the guilt-generating function in these modern times of sacrificial crisis. This brings the spectacle society closer to its stated goal of perfection, the encrustation of Debord's "image of happy unification," to "make everybody happy."

And of course, it is out of this final happiness, the "phony Fascist mythology" which Adorno and Horkheimer expose, that final solutions, destruction on a massive scale, are made.  In his book Art, Messianism and Crime: A Study of Antinomianism in Modern Literature and Lives, Stoddard Martin "diagnoses" the principle of antinomianism in several (opposite) key figures of modernity: Hitler, Charles Manson, the Marquis de Sade on the one hand, and Herbert Marcuse, Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde on the other one. Ron Clooney defines Jim Morrison's splitting personality in a fragment of Mr. Mojo Risin' (2011): "Onstage Jim Morrison was a Dean Moriarty lookalike, Jimbo, Mr. Mojo Risin. He was hip and wild. At home with Pam, he wanted to be like Sal Paradise a.k.a. James Douglas Morrison-the poet. He wanted to write the next great American novel about the sixties; the novel which would define a generation. There was, however, the personality split–The outsider, estranged from society who couldn't experience himself as ‘real’. The disintegration of his real self kept pace with the growing unreality of his false self until, in the extremes of a schizophrenic breakdown, the whole personality disintegrated.

Maybe Morrison was an outsider who concocted a story in which to live his reality; spinning unreality like a classic storyteller, he lived a schizophrenic existence. His girlfriend Pamela was described once as 'an Alice in Wonderland character.' Another song dedicated to Pam, Orange County (1970): "She had orange ribbons in her hair/She was such a trip, she was hardly there/But I loved her just the same/All we did was break and freak it/We had all that lovers ever had/Now her world was bright orange/And the fire glowed." Jim loved Pam for her love of freedom. But he played with the rest of people's minds, reflecting back at them precisely what they wanted to see. Like Mary Shelley, Jim Morrison created his own monster, alone in the dark. Morrison had cut up the pieces of other people, philosophers, poets, subculture idealists, novelists, artists and dramatists, then stitched them together to create a new god. But suddenly he’s alone in the dark with all those demons."

Dedicated "To Pamela Susan," The Lords and The New Creatures resounds with imaginative verses centering mostly on romantic conflict and interwoven with images of pain and death. The appeal of cinema lies in the fear of death. The Lords appease us with images. Through art they confuse us and blind us to our enslavement. Art adorns our prison walls, keeps us silent and diverted and indifferent. Morrison recognizes "self-deception may be necessary to the poet‘s survival." The terror celebrated in Morrison‘s work goes beyond the Nietzschean acceptance of life‘s suffering. Morrison‘s familiarity with the poetry of Blake, as well as Rimbaud and Baudelaire, encouraged his attraction to darker themes. Although many of the nihilistic thoughts echo those of Nietzsche, Morrison‘s fondness for absurdist texts instills in him a preference for nonsense rather than rationality, telling a generation starved for love that 'music is your only friend.' Both Nietzsche and Morrison believed in the destructive condition of the creative process. As example, his obscure poem The Anatomy of Rock: "Running, I saw a Satan/ or Satyr, moving beside/ me, a fleshy shadow/ of my secret mind. Running, Knowing. As the body is ravaged/ The spirit grows stronger/ Forgive me Father for I know/ I want to hear the last Poem/ of the last Poet."

Morrison‘s lonely trip takes him to places that even he cannot endure: "I had a splitting headache/ from which the future‘s made." Following the Nietzschean tradition, Morrison develops a philosophy of willful absurdity and eventually madness. "If only I could feel, The sound of the sparrows and feel childhood pulling me back again, If only I could feel me pulling back again & feel embraced by reality again I would die, gladly die." If Only I poem (1967)

Humanity's current attempt to hold violence in check is a neo-myth, a denial of violence just as it is a denial of humanity, the ground of enforced ignorance of human nature. Violence on a scale never seen before by humankind looms and threatens under the righteous, even happy protection of neo-myth. Yet no one realizes this because violence remains hidden. The overwhelming authority built through overwhelming effort on the part of the human has already crushed this century and even now brandishes a new counterpart to world war: the collapse of the natural environment's life support systems showing, in Girard's rather generous academic terms, violence's sway has "increased in proportion to man's effort to master it". Today this denial stands as a spectacle of what was formerly world capitalism now evolved into a weird hybrid of socialism and fascism. Perhaps the most precariously imbalanced society ever to exist, it is nuclear tipped, alienated in nearly every possible aspect from within and without. It is common knowledge that this system threatens to kill the earth slowly in order only to fuel its own empty dynamic.

Thank you, oh lord, for the white blind light. A city rises from the sea. Let me tell you about heartache in the loss of god. Wandering, wandering in hopeless nights. Let me show you the maiden with rot iron soul. Out here in perimeter there are no stars. Out there we are stoned... Immaculate. —The White Blind Light (1969)

Thursday, January 09, 2020

John Densmore "forgives" Jim Morrison

It took the Doors’ drummer, John Densmore, three years to visit the grave of his bandmate Jim Morrison after he was found dead in a Paris bathtub in 1971. He didn’t even go to the funeral. “Did I hate Jim?” Densmore pauses, although he is not obviously alarmed by the question. “No. I hated his self-destruction. He was a kamikaze who went out at 27 – what can I say?” Densmore had lobbied to get Morrison off the road before his death, and even quit the band at one point. “Some people wanted to keep shovelling coal in the engine and I was like: ‘Wait a minute. So what if we have one less album? Maybe he’ll live?’” Why did he carry on? “Because I wasn’t mature enough to say that at the time. I wasn’t trying to enable him. It was another era. I used to answer the question: ‘If Jim was around today, would he be clean and sober?’ with a ‘no’. Kamikaze drunk. Now I’ve changed my mind. Of course he would be sober. Why wouldn’t he be? He was smart.” “It took me years to forgive Jim,” he says. “And now I miss him so much for his artistry.”

Next month, a documentary about another of his bandmates, the keyboardist Ray Manzarek, who died in 2013, will be released. Manzarek’s relationship with Densmore was not smooth either. “When we took LSD, it was legal. We were street scientists exploring the mind. I experimented with cocaine during the 70s and 80s. But it wasn’t my drug of choice. Ugh… drug. I hate that word. I was shocked when heroin became popular. Even Jim knew heroin was a serious drug. Heroin tried to make you forget everything. It scared me. So I stayed away.” Compared with his bandmates, Densmore was a square. He wasn’t the film-school/literary type. He couldn’t understand Morrison’s obsession with Nietzsche (“Why would anyone want to read a whole book of such double talk?” he wrote).

At times, Densmore was envious of the attention Morrison got – particularly from women. “Sure, I was jealous. I’d been a teenage drummer with acne. I remember thinking: ‘Why is Jim’s face so big?’ on the cover of our first album, The Doors. Probably because it wouldn’t have sold a lot of copies if it were my face!” Densmore’s family life became more unsteady. His brother had several stints in a psychiatric hospital. He describes going to visit him, finding him heavily sedated, and wondering how sleeping for 17 hours a day could possibly help his schizophrenia – a point that will be familiar even now to anyone who has had to endure acute mental illness. His brother killed himself in 1978. He was also called Jim; he also died at the age of 27. Densmore later wrote that he struggled handling sharp objects after his brother’s suicide. “I thought that if I did it, too, it would somehow make it better – atone for not saving him.”

There is also an anecdote in Densmore's memoir, one that makes it into the Stone film, too, in which Morrison’s partner Pamela Courson is brought into the vocal booth and asked to perform oral sex on the singer while he is recording the track Lost Little Girl. “Urgh,” he groans, when I bring it up. How does it make him feel? “Not so good. I mean, I don’t think Jim would have done that. I’m at a loss for words: SEXIST, what can I say?” How did it feel at the time, when the whole band was there, seeing it happen from afar? “Well, you know, it didn’t really happen. They were just sort of kissing, and then she left.” So it didn’t happen? “No.” That’s odd, I say, because Oliver Stone creates a scene out of it in his film. “Oh, my goodness. Well, you know, Hollywood movies are an impressionistic painting of the truth,” he says. Source: www.theguardian.com

"Yup, the least important member of the band has spoken. At least Densmore finally confessed that his tale of Pamela Courson going down on Jim during the recording of You're Lost Little Girl was a product of his own imagination. And, as other fans pointed out, part of a lucrative smear job. John never understood Jim and was critical of Jim's voice from the start, openly announcing many times. From what I understand, he is nothing more than a knobhead. An angry, hypercritical, whiny moderately talented drummer who should be grateful for any level of success he was lucky to be a part of and for every penny he has gotten out of The Doors. John, you could easily forgive that guy from the Allman Brothers who knocked up your wife but it took you years to forgive Jim. Jim was unforgivable but you accepted a check to appear in Oliver Stone's smear job on him and you used Jim's image to sell your personal smear job under the guise of writing a "memoir", calling Jim a "lunatic" and "psychopath". Hope all the owies Jim gave you have healed by now. If not, go cry on a big pile of money Jim made for you. I find Robby Krieger to be the most consistent/trustworthy when it comes to speaking about The Doors, but there seems to be instances with all of them where they contradict themselves." -by RidderontheStorm1969

Lynn Veres Krieger, the subject of Love Her Madly, was a go-go dancer from New Jersey who met The Doors in New York in 1967 at the Ondine discotheque – a place frequented by The Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol’s Factory crowd. She caught first Jim Morrison’s eye when her falsies slipped out of her bra, and they had a brief fling, before she gravitated to Robby Krieger. Lynn and Robby would marry in 1972. -Classic Rock magazine, issue 161.

Robert Christgau - Dean of American Rock Critics (Reviews of The Doors records for The Consumer Guide):

The Very Best of the Doors [Elektra, 2001]: Shaman, poet, lizard king, schlockmeister--that's where Jim Morrison's originality lies, and he's never been better represented. Right beneath the back-door macho resides a weak-willed whine, and the struggle between the two would have landed him in Vegas if he hadn't achieved oblivion in Paris first. Compelling in part because he's revolting, Jimbo reminds us that some assholes actually do live with demons. If kids today feel cheated by history because they never experienced the fabled Jimbo charisma first hand, that's one more reason to be glad there are no new rock heroes. His three sidemen rocked almost as good as the Stones. Without Jim Morrison they were nothing. -A

The Consumer Guide database has graded 17271 albums from 7553 artists on 3347 labels, with 15212 reviews.
Source: www.robertchristgau.com