On July 3, 1971, one of the most important events in rock history happened that had an enormous impact on me: Jim Morrison was found dead in a Paris bathtub. I understand that I’m one of many who’ve had the obligatory infatuation with the circa ’67 pinup pose only to discover immediately before the carefully constructed imagery burst.
My internal rise happened in quick succession: the discovery of “The End” via an unauthorized HBO viewing of Apocalypse Now followed by a first edition paperback of “No One Here Gets Out Alive.” The sounds of that epic closer along with the deadsexy storyline of the book suddenly turned Morrison into an iconic posterboy for my burgeoning angst, teenage rebellion, and unsupervised substance consumption.
I cringe about how high of a pedestal I put Jim every time I hear the shit that is The Soft Parade or hear the voice of Ray Manzarek attempting to levitate the myth of Morrison even further.
Seriously: fuck that money loving hippie cocksucker and the Robby Krieger horse he rode in on.
But for a time, scratch that, for a phase, I immersed myself completely in the mythology of James Douglas Morrison. From the poetry books to the spoken word ("featuring music by The Doors") An American Prayer, I believed that Jim somehow transcended the abilities of an average rock star.
These opinions started to change during college, a time in which fresh music overtook the stale, dinosaurian classic rock of my youth.
It started with a Doors tribute band, The Back Doors, who found their way to a sold out crowd in Iowa City. Heavily promoted as “You’ll think Jim is him,” they did indeed feature a Morrison impersonator who’s well rehearsed shaman dance and convincing baritone did a good job of hiding the fact that he towered over the real Lizard King. The rest of the band, it should be noted, looked nothing like the other members of the line-up.
They did a good job of recreating that classic Doors sound, to the point where a fairly fried member of the audience stood directly below the Lizard King doppelganger and screamed “Jim! Jim! Jim!” throughout the entire set, trying to get his attention.
Almost immediately after, I heard the Dead Milkmen’s “Bitchin’ Camaro” song, with the infamous line about the Doors’ cover band “Crystal Shit” singing “Love Me Two Times (“Cuz I’ve got AIDS!”). In less than three minutes, The Doors were reduced to a parody.
But nothing was as damaging as Oliver Stone’s The Doors, a misguided attempt seemingly sanctioned by the surviving members at building the band’s legacy. With its hippie spirituality, blatant misogyny, and hypocritical decadence, there was little in Stone’s vision that aided in the band’s mystique.
For me, it completely dismantled it.
Morrison suddenly turned from a misunderstood poet into a tiring drunk with little creative clout to warrant his bibliography.
I began to overly criticize the band, something that I continue to do to this day; their catalog is littered with pompous, derivative and lackluster tunes.
At the same time, their debut remains one of the most stunning debuts in rock history and there are several tracks, placed inconsistently around their brief history, that hint at the greatness they’re usually blessed with.