The Doors, along with The Velvet Underground and The Stooges formed the Unholy Trinity of classic rite of passage bands for any self-respecting young punter who was even vaguely enthralled by what was once optimistically called the “counter culture”.
Any teenager who ticked the boxes marked Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll on their extra curricular sixth form options form couldn’t fail to be intrigued by The Doors. Jim Morrison especially seemed to represent a particularly adolescent mind set, a brooding surly glamour puss, all tortured pose and dodgy poetry. When you clumsily rolled your first exotic jazz fag, chances are the LP cover on which you gummed together the Rizla’s featured the beaded and bare-chested Morrison striking his Native American Jesus Christ pose. More perhaps than any other lead singer, Morrison came to symbolise the archetypal rock star, the turned on, freaked out sexually charged pseudo savant that provided the future career template for every groin thrusting leather kegged poser from Michael Hutchence to Ian Astbury.
More importantly, he was willing to make a complete twat of himself in the name of his art. You want live rock n roll outrage? At his knob-flashing peak, Morrison’s live performances landed him with more charge sheets than Charlie Manson. He was even banned from Hawaii for shitting on stage. Pretentious verse dressed up as profundity? Jim carried an entire library of it around in his whisky-frazzled noggin. This is the man who firmly believed the souls of a bus load of dying Native American’s had leapt from their bodies to his, thus equipping him with visionary powers borne of an ancient wisdom. What the modern reader has to bear in mind is that the LSD in the sixties was much more powerful than the candy pop gear being punted around today.
While the rest of the West Coast were putting flowers in their hair, The Doors were singing about killing their Dads and shagging their Mams.
But look behind the Noble Savage posing of the self styled Lizard King and you found a group of musicians who cooked up some genuinely thrilling rock music. As you’d probably expect from UCLA film school students, The Doors sound was a cinematic wide screen sound-scape that took the blues as its bedrock and then launched itself into the stratosphere, guitarist and co-songwriter Robbie Krieger pouring acid blues rain over John Densmore’s jazz inflected tick-tock drumming while Ray Manzarek’s swirling Fender Rhodes pushed the entire groove along like a gut churning fairground ride. Bass players? Who needed one of those?
The Doors were a strange band. They didn’t make tunes for the dance floor although you could dance to them. They didn’t write songs for the pop charts, although they had massive commercial success. Essentially The Doors made head music of the deepest darkest order, a psycho-cerebral journey to the dark side of the Californian sun. Like the Velvets over on the other side of America, The Doors portrayed the seedier side of the sixties dream. But if the Velvets white hot drone rock was fuelled by the euphoric rush of smack, Morrison, Manzarek, Densmoor and Krieger’s panoramic meanderings were drenched with the flesh crawling creepiness of an acid trip that teetered on the edge of ecstatic epiphany, but could also go badly tits up at any given moment. This was not hippy dippy happy clappy Summer Of Love stuff. While the rest of the West Coast were putting flowers in their hair, The Doors were singing about killing their Dads and shagging their Mams.
Of course The Doors place in Rock and Roll mythology was firmly cemented when Jim lowered his bloated backside into his Parisian bathtub, never to emerge. Exact reason for his demise is still unclear but whether it was booze or smack or a dodgy ticker over-burdened by both is largely beside the point. Jim Morrison was a disciple of excess and while his road to the palace of wisdom may ultimately have been littered with empty whiskey bottles and even emptier pages of verse, the band he fronted lit a fierce flame under the arse-end of the sixties. And when The Doors were on fire they produced some genuinely thrilling rock 'n' roll.
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