Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “West Coast Bands,” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!
One of the top rock bands ever to emerge from Los Angeles in the 1960s, The Doors first album came out during the iconic Summer of Love in 1967. On a disk full of great songs, the best of the best was “Light My Fire,” certainly one of the most incendiary rock singles of all time. After that, The Door kept churning out the hits, relying on the superior talent of Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Robby Krieger and, of course, singer Jim Morrison, who impressed with his wild, poetic, charismatic, profane stage persona, which got him and the band in trouble at least a few times.
Few performers have been so consistently controversial as James Douglas Morrison, the vocalist and songwriter of the Doors. And none has caused so many writers to construct so much gothic imagery in an effort to describe the mystique.
In the Village Voice, for instance, one chronicler said Morrison was the “first major male sex symbol since James Dean died and Marlon Brando got a paunch” and another called him at (different times) a “leather tiger,” a “shaman-serpent king,” “The Lizard King,” and “America’s Oedipal nightingale.” In Eye, he was described as a “demonic vision out of a medieval Hellmouth” and the author of a book about the Doors called him “the Sex-death, Acid-Evangelist of Rock, a sort of Hell’s Angel of the groin.” While the Miami Herald tagged him “The King of Orgasmic Rock,” Joyce Haber dubbed him “the swinging Door” and prose-poet Liza Williams said he was a “baby bullfighter” and “the ultimate Barbie doll.”
If writers have been engaged in an inordinate amount of word-weaving, Morrison’s public has gone farther, spinning and spreading outrageous tales as regularly as the Doors have churned out hits. If you believed them all, Morrison was always drunk and/or stoned; both an angelic choirboy in an unfortunate setting and a satyr seeking a continuing debauch; boorish and inarticulate as well as polite, considered and shy; all the above and none of these. New stories — each wilder than the last — were told each week and over a period of two years Jim Morrison came to represent the perfect Super Star — someone far larger than his work or his life. In truth, many of the extremes were based on more than fairytale.
Morrison finished writing a screenplay with poet Michael McClure and signed a contract with Simon and Schuster for his own first book of poetry.
Unlike the mythology, the music of the Doors remains a constant — a force which has not been so much an “influence” in rock, but a monument. “The music is your special friend,” Morrison sang in “The Music’s Over,” and for millions, the music of the Doors is just that; just as the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper renders a generation weak with nostalgia, so does the Doors’ “Light My Fire.” At the group’s peak, in 1967-68, there was also a strident urgency about Morrison’s music. “We want the world and we want it now.”
The band remained a potent rock force into the early 1970s, when Morrison died of mysterious circumstances in Paris, France. (Since there was no autopsy, nobody knows for sure what killed him!) Now Jim Morrison remains forever in the Rockers Dead at 27 Club. Anyway, soldiering on as a trio, The Doors survived until 1973.