Doors frontman was a pioneer of 'excess and death'-style rock 'n' roll
By LETTA TAYLER
On July 3, three decades will have passed since Jim Morrison, the lyrical and
spiritual leader of the Doors, was found dead in the bathtub of a Paris hotel,
the apparent victim of a heart attack. Had Morrison somehow survived his
youthful excesses, he'd be pushing 60, and it's easy to imagine him assuming
the stature of William S. Burroughs or, until his recent death, Paul Bowles, a
reclusive cult figure living off the beaten path to whom earnest neophytes on
mind-expanding quests pay periodic homage.
Instead, Morrison died near the height of his rock 'n' roll glory, making him
less a sage from whom fans could learn life's hard lessons than an idol to
Since Morrison's brief but explosive career, rockers from Jane's Addiction
Temple Pilots have borrowed his drug-induced, shamanist persona, seeking,
famous Doors song puts it, to "break on through to the other side."
The allure is powerful. Morrison wasn't the first rocker to obsess over excess
and death, but he was the first superstar who seemed to truly live life the way
he sang it. His penchant for the dark side was all the more striking because of
its collision with the concurrent folk-rock, flower-power movement that
like the Doors, in late '60s California.
In many ways, subsequent rockers have surpassed the Lizard King, as Morrison
called himself, in shock value.
Morrison's 1969 arrest in Miami for allegedly exposing himself and simulating
copulation onstage (charges that were dropped after a grueling and
would seem a bizarre overreaction in this bare-it-all era of Limp Bizkit,
and even R. Kelly.
Kurt Cobain's suicide by gunshot at 27 (the same age that Morrison checked
eclipsed Morrison's untimely death by its gruesomeness and its element of
And the drug-abuse histories of Cobain and Scott Weiland, among others,
diminish the magnitude of Morrison's substance-taking marathons. However,
initially at least, Morrison took drugs not only for escape or recreation
open the gateway to his subconscious and the mystical elements that might be
"Morrison ate acid like other people smoked joints," recounts Danny
Sugarman, a Doors biographer and former manager, in "No One Here Gets
Out Alive," one of three new Doors releases that the three surviving band
are selling on the Internet.
In one of the livelier sequences in the "Alive" box set, Sugarman recalls
Morrison, hours late for a gig, standing in his hotel room holding a handful of
LSD tabs as if they were jelly beans.
That was the same night that Morrison, when he did finally make it to the
stage at Los Angeles' Whiskey-A-Go-Go, committed the ultimate taboo,
singing in one of the Doors' deepest, darkest masterpieces, "The End," that he
wanted to kill his father and have sex with his mother. Morrison screamed that
message 30 times until the manager shut off the PA system with the
anticlimactic admonition, "You're fired."
Even that Oedipal rant has been outdone by Eminem's rhyme about raping his
Morrison was wise to quit performing in 1971 and move to Paris to devote
himself to his writing. While nearly all of Morrison's lyrics are way above
rock's average, and many are brilliant ("I want to hear the scream of the
butterfly," "I kissed her thigh/And death smiled"), others would have earned a
C-plus in college poetry class ("There's a killer on the road/His brain is
like a toad").
Few subsequent rockers have generated the same mythology and none has
projected the same combination of sex appeal, Bacchanalian abandon and
For better or worse, a series of new and upcoming releases from the surviving
Doors members, drummer John Densmore, guitarist Robby Krieger and
keyboardist Ray Manzarek, may go a long way toward satisfying the as-yet
insatiable curiosity about Morrison. The bandmates are releasing, in periodic
installments over the next six years, more than 30 hours of Doors music, most
of it live, previously unreleased concert recordings from 1969-70, when the
was at its peak on stage. The first three are being sold only on the
the band's Web site, www.thedoors.com.
Some other tributes may be easier to get but harder to take. One is "Stoned
The Music of The Doors" on Elektra. It's a misguided album featuring
veteran rock stars dueting on Doors songs with Manzarek, Krieger and Densmore.
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