by Bill Kerby 1967
Artaud rock: Dark Logic Of The Doors
Ray sat at his electric organ, head bowed, just looking at the keys. John
made a last-minute adjustment on his snare drum, and Robbie, looking like
Robert Mitchum's electric son, twisted dials on his amp and tuned softly.
Finally, after an unbearable wait, Robbie began, then John, and finally
Ray. The introduction over and over, evolving complex, swelling.
Kaleidoscope was sold out. Ciro's was packed and all the people in the
Western Hemisphere were wedged around the stage, waiting, craning
around anxiously, recognizing the introduction.
And there he was; a gaunt, hollow Ariel from hell, stumbling in slow
motion through the drums. Robbie turned to look with mild disgust but
Jim Morrison was oblivious. Drifting, still you could have lit matches
off the look he gave the audience. There was a mild tremor of excited dis-
belief as he dreamed that he went to his microphone. Morrison's clothes
looked like he had slept in them since he was twelve and he just hung there
on the microphone, slack. Just for a flash, his beautiful child's face said
it was all a lie. All the terror, all the drugs, all the evil. Gone!
The unhuman sound he made into the microphone, turned the carping
groupies to stone. And in the tombed silence he began to sing; alternately
caressing, screaming, terraced flights of poetry and music, beyond visceral.
For an hour on that Friday night, a modern American pop group called
The Doors got right out on the edge and stayed there. And because they
are great and because the edge is where artists produce the best, there
occured a major black miracle.
The founder of the Theater-of-Cruelty, Antonin Artaud, poet-actor,
described one of his infrequent scenarios thus: "eroticism, savagery,
bloodlust, a thirst for violence, an obsession with horror, collapse of
moral values, social hypocrisy, lies, sadism, perjury, depravity, etc."
To anyone who has ever listened to The Doors at any length, this will
appear to be a catalog of their material, but that's just a part of the
whole. This context of Artaud is more than their ornamental design,
more than a convenient rubric into which they stuff their music. Among
their contemporaries, The Doors are going somewhere different.
Vaguely (pleased, disappointed: choose one) at his survival, Western
man has begun to look inside to see what went wrong, what went right,
and to see if they were ever the same thing. Order and chaos have new
levels of meaning so that today a flogging can have as much validity
in art as an act of amative love. And The Doors know it. This kind of
irrationality is beyond dreams or madness and their songs shock and do
not tell logical stories. At the end of a good set, the evil magic is
out, and Morrison holds the only match in the Stygian darkness. Help-
lessly, you hope he won't decide to blow it out.
It is possible to go through so many changes when listening to The Doors,
that a beautiful, exhilarating dream and a nightmare can be the same.
"I would not try to excuse obvious incoherence by mitigating it with
dreams. Dreams have something more than their own logic. They have
their own existence, in which nothing but dark and intelligent truths
appear." (Artaud, Morrison: choose one)
The Doors are four men who are together; their vision is realised
by all of them. But it is Morrison whom the audience watches. They are
attracted to him with the same abivalence that drives us to feast on
calamity. Our perverse nature is undeniable when we look upon things
we fear the most. We cringe and die a little inside, unable to take
our eyes away while evil and death dance nearer and nearer to our petty
conception of immortality. But James Douglas Morrison bathes luxuriously
in it. He moves on stage, dancing with an indifferent, expressionless
attitude or seized with paroxysmal anger, his face convulsed with a
splendid fury. He has more natural disdain, more utter contempt for
his surroundings than anyone I have ever known. But when he stands,
throttling his microphone, staggering blindly across the stage, electric,
on fire, screaming, his is all there, waiting, daring, terrified, and alone.
And digging it.
The UCLA Daily Bruin
May 24, 1967