I Just Don’t Get… The Doors

They're virtual musical deities but Morrison's a myth unbacked by truth, whilst every song is peppered by the endless tinkling of unnecessary keys...
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In comedy biopic film The Rutles there’s a scene where the Pre-Fab Four’s attractiveness is put down to one aspect of their clothing: “the trousers.” The same item of clothing crops up whenever another band of the sixties, albeit a non-fictional one, are mentioned. Whenever I hear of The Doors, a vision is conjured up in my mind of their lead singer, Jim Morrison. I admit it is at odds with the countless millions who see a shamanistic poet godking riding the waves of creation hellbent on a hedonistic voyage of self-discovery and utter oneness with the cosmic Universe. All I can think of are the trousers worn by Jimbo. The leather trousers. He reputedly wore one pair for two years solid. Being rock and roll, he usually went commando. If these trews could talk, they’d probably…boak, to use a great Scottish word for vomiting. A pair of Jim’s brown trousers hang in a Los Angeles Hard Rock café – just the thing to get your taste buds reeling.

But of course there’s more to The Doors than a pair of smelly trousers. There’s the name, taken from Aldous Huxley’s book on his experiences of mescaline-taking: The Doors of Perception. If only it referred to the doors of record companies being slammed shut in their loon-panted faces. (I know faces can’t wear loon pants but I struggled to fit those other god-awful Sixties trousers somewhere else).

All I can think of are the trousers worn by Jimbo

Of course the most important thing is the music. Where to start? Back in the mid-1980s I was given a C-90 cassette. (For youngers readers, a primitive music recording system based on magnetic tape).  On one side was Echo and the Bunnymen’s majestic album Ocean Rain. On the other, a compilation of the ‘best’ of The Doors. Bunnymen frontman Ian McCulloch had expressed his admiration for Jim Morrison. Why, Ian, why?  He’d learnt one thing though from the Californian musos: keep the keyboards off the stage. The Bunnymen went with the standard rock combo set up of guitars, bass and drums. If only The Doors had. Every song is peppered with keyboards. Every. Single. One. We all know the rousing intro to ‘Light My Fire’. It’s a good intro. But that’s as good as it gets. Ray Manzarek’s plinking continues all through it and then and then - oh god the horror -  here’s the keyboard solo. Like what Deep Purple do. There’s a video on a well-known popular video site that has a version of ‘Light My Fire’ that runs to one second short of ten minutes. Guess what takes up most of that time? An extended keyboard workout that would bore a stoner to within a cigarette paper of cutting his hair and flying to the Mekong Delta to join the Marines.

Every song is peppered with keyboards. Every. Single. One.

Take ‘Riders on the Storm’. Please, take it. A slow burning tale of life out in that crazy American landscape. It starts well (as do many Doors’ songs I’m happy to admit) with an evocative intro, lightly cascading notes echoing the falling rain. It’s gentle, it’s lightly weighed. Then after a few minutes here we go: the inevitable keyboard wank-out.

It’s a purely personal thing I know, but what is more subjective than musical taste? To my mind keyboards should be a supporting instrument in rock. Think of Billy Preston in The Beatles’ ‘Get Back’.  Judged just right. Then think of Keane. Just wrong. If they’re too near to the front, there’s a risk of the band sounding as if they’re providing the music to cocktail hour in the Tucson Best Western.

Now there is one song that is regarded as The Doors’ masterpiece: their Paranoid Android, their Common People, their Bohemian Rhapsody. It is ‘The End’, ironically named as while listening to it for the first time you wonder if it will have one. The 11-minute-long epic includes an inevitable wig-out section when Jim Morrison declares his Oedipal urges in a way that should have had him sent to his bed without supper.

And he was a very naughty boy was our Lizard King: taking drugs, swigging booze, carousing with women, and getting into trouble with the law. One of the most notorious incidents saw him accused of exposing his genitals on stage in Miami and although he was pulled off by the police, he denied the charges. He did admit to calling the audience “fucking idiots”, so there’s a man who knows how to work a crowd.

To my mind keyboards should be a supporting instrument in rock. Think of Billy Preston in The Beatles’ ‘Get Back’.  Judged just right. Then think of Keane.

Seen as the model for the intense and serious rock frontman, Jim Morrison died a proper rock star’s death, dying young, aged 27. Age couldn’t wither him and he is another in the long line of musicians spared the hair dye, being wheeled out for charity concerts or reunions with the few remaining members of their old bands when the money runs out. Morrison’s tragic death in a bath in Paris only added to the myths and legends surrounding him and his band.

I’m sorry but I just don’t get The Doors.

Is there any big-name acts you just don’t understand the appeal of?  The Beatles? Daft Punk? Public Enemy? Stone Roses? If there are and you’d like to write a feature for Sabotage please e-mail david@sabotagetimes.com

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