Sunday, 1 May 2011

The time to hesitate is through No time to wallow in the mire Try now we can only lose And our love become a funeral pyre

Shaman or Fool?  I am the Lizard King I can Do Anything: The Doors  Part I.

Do people need to understand us for us to be free?
Is there freedom without self sacrifice? How about with self distruction?
Is there freedom only in death? Are we truly free only when we fully express who we are?
Is it freedom if it hurts others around us? Is it freedom if it sets everyone free around us?

 I think these are some of the questions Jim Morrison struggled with in his rather brief but irreverent life.  He was said to be a genius; but was he a Shaman or a fool?

The Doors gave birth to a strange and unique sound. It came of jazz and blues and flamenco guitar. It came of beach sounds, hallucinogens and deserts. It came of smoky bars, beat poets and French novelists. It burned the brightest when the creativity was turned up and left to go where it wanted. It waned and crashed when it was out of control and too self-aware.

Ray Manzurik was an art student. That sounds pretty cliché because it seems like art school produced a bumper crop of rock stars in the ‘60s. Jim Morrison met him at art school. Jim could not sing or read music but they thought they would start a band. Ray had been in a few already and was a classically trained keyboard player. Digging the West Coast bands of the Los Angeles ‘60’s they felt that that was what they had to do.

Robbie Kreiger was a classically trained flamenco guitarist who had just recently picked up an electric guitar. He never played it with a pick – always his fingers. John Dumsmore was a jazz drummer who had some unique time signatures to his individualistic style. 

The Doors formed with no funfair and no glitz or glamour – just a lot of sheer determination and a crazy singer with big ideas that somehow pulled you in and pushed you away at the same time.; kind of a caustic magnet.  

After practicing for a few months and developing their sound and first material they somehow got a very lucky break to be the house band for the Whisky-a-Go-Go on the Sunset strip in 1966. Bands like the Turtles, the Buffalo Springfield (with Neil Young) and Them (with Van Morrison) played there in the ‘60s – its heyday. Arguably the ‘Go-Go- dancer’ was born at the 'Whiskey'.

At first a young, shy Jim Morrison refused to face the stage, as he sang out their new Kreiger-written “Light My Fire”. 

1967 was the height of the hippy and the youth movement in the U.S.  Anyone under 30 was pretty much not cool - kind of like the science fiction ‘Logan’s Run’ where they were all terminated on their 30th birthdays. The lyrics of bands was influenced by the beat poets, Bob Dylan and the early folk movement as well as a resurgence of interest in blues music, and the growing ‘California sound’ out of Laurel Canyon. with its suggestions of country rock and the older surf music. 

The name the “Doors” is from Aldus Huxley’s “The Doors of Perception”, and from which came the William Blake quotation ‘If the doors of  perceptions were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is: infinite.”. I once read this bizarre account of Huxley’s, experimentation with mescaline, claiming it gave him a religious experience. I remain unconvinced. The Doors themselves were known to experiment frequently with the use of hallucinogens like peyote and LSD - experimentation was practically a Morrison creed.

There have been many accounts of Jim Morrison, but some of them seem like a bit of meander into fantasy, some of them purposely I think.  In my opinion, the best book ever written about the Doors is still “No One Here Gets Out Alive” by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugarman. 1980. 

Stay tuned for Part II of Shaman or Fool?  I am the Lizard King I can Do Anything: The Doors

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