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by Harvey Perr 1969

Stage Doors

The art of The Doors is, more and more, removed from those standards of art by which rock music is measured. It is, therefore, understandable that The Doors keep getting the worst imaginable reviews from those who put them on some sort of rock pedestal in the first place. It is also understandable that The Doors are still around and are likely to remain forever, despite all that crap, their art surviving all their critics. The trouble is that The Doors have not conformed to fashion and have not, as almost every other major rock group has done, made a fetish of growing, changing, developing, and reverting to form. They have, instead, played out their own fantasies at their own pace in their own way, saying the hell with everyone else. The result was a subtler, deeper growth than that of almost all of their contemporaries. But, as I said, it is not as a rock group that these changes have taken place; it has become increasingly clear that their art is the art of restlessness and rebellion, the art of getting through that restlessness and that rebellion by personal investment, by piling up of obsessive, com- pulsive images; the art, finally, of poetry and drama, where the per- sonal and the obsessive are the shrines at whose feet true artists always worship.Where The Doors have arrived, in terms of maturity, and of making some new statement about themselves and on their restless art, was there for all to see in their two appearances recently at the Aquarius Theater, where they recorded a live album. This album, I'm sure, will convince everyone that The Doors have gotten it together, because the electricity in the air, the magic that was created that evening, was a testament to the fact that whatever it was The Doors had once upon a time, when they and their world were younger, they not only had again in spades but had the added virtue of being as sublime and self-assured as they were once brash and vulgar (not vulgar in the bad sense, since the best rock n roll has always had more than a trace of real vulgarity, which after all is a true American trait, and not necessarily one to be ashamed of or to avoid on artistic terms).
There was Jim Morrison, more the rabbinical student than the Sex God and looking more comfortable in the new guise. Seeming less self- conscious, but singing, if anything, better than even his greatest fans thought he could sing, and projecting truer sex than he ever did when he writhed calculatedly, because the sex was warmer, more secure. Not that he wasn't capable of the old theatrical excitement as he proved in one electrifying moment when he disappeared from the stage for a few min- utes, then showed up suddenly in a blue flame (all right, so it was only a blue light shining on him!) above the audience's head, growling out "The Celebration Of The Lizard."
For me it was the personal pleasure of seeing what Morrison could really do, since the only other live appearance of The Doors that I had seen was the Hollywood Bowl concert, which was a drag. It was the excitement of seeing them live up to an image that had become all but distorted, for surely the bum-rapping The Doors have received in the past year was as out of proportion to the reality of their talent as perhaps the early praise was. That, indeed, may be the real tragedy of their public image, the fact that they were praised too much too soon and were forced almost immediately, before getting a chance to move on in their own direction, to become a commercial commodity, to have to live up to an already overblown success image.
I'm not altogether sure that my own admiration of The Doors has any- thing to do with their music. Some of it is terrible, but I find the degree to which they give themselves to banality is more strikingly impress- ive than the degree to which lesser artists consciously avoid banality. It seems to me that if a group has truly reached the poetic heights, they should enjoy the luxury of making gross mistakes; too few do either one or the other. It's like Morrison's poetry; some of it is the work of a genuine poet, a Whitman of a revolution-ready 60s, and some of it is embarrassingly sophomoric. There is no crime in going from one ar- tistic extreme to another; these are, after all, human flaws, and there is no art if there is no humanity.
But again, it's not their music at all, and maybe not even the poetry or the musicianship or the charisma, neither the albums nor the Aquarius concert, all of it as strange and beautiful and exciting as it is, that really makes me admire The Doors. Instead it's the vibes I get from them because of the thing I feel they're trying to get into and get us into, a world that transcends the limited one of rock, and moves into areas of film and theater and revolution. Seeing Morrison not on stage, but living his life, in those quieter moments; seeing him at a production of Norman Mailer's The Deer Park, at every performance of The Living Theater, at the opening of The Company Theater's James Joyce Memorial Liquid Theater; always at the right place at the right time, involved furiously in the kind of art that is pertinent rather than tangential to living. That kind of person doesn't have to have poetry in him but if he does, when he does, you tend to look at it more closely, take it more seriously. In the case of Jim Morrison and The Doors, it is worth the trouble. They have approached Art, no matter how much they have offended, amused, or even thrilled the rock critics. The standards by which their art must be measured are older and deeper.

The Los Angeles Free Press / August 8, 1969