by John Stickney 1967
Four Doors To The Future: Gothic Rock Is Their Thing
"Which one is Jim Morrison?" one girl said to another. But he was not
on stage, and a drummer and an organist and a guitar player looked
impatiently toward a curtained door.
They sat in darkness punctuated by the steady red lights of amplifiers
as tall as a man and the glow of a hundred cigarettes dancing in the
evening breeze. The curtain on the door hung like velvet one inch thick.
Two hands pierced the slit of the curtain and drew it back sharply
as a spotlight racked the stage and exposed a man who sqinted in the
brightness. There was applause that he did not care to hear, and the
spotlight caught the contempt in the faces of the other musicians as Jim
Morrison tentatively fingered the microphone.
He screamed and reeled, throttling the microphone and gazing at a sea
of faces. He shouted a strung-out, distorted, and violated stream of
word-images which twisted the faces into expressions of shock and yet
fascination. He sang, or rather groaned, or talked to himself out loud
as the group raced through "Break On Through" to lead off the set. The
band and their instruments work together in complete interaction
crystallizing the night air with a texture of sound which a person
can run his hand over.
But Morrison gets all the attention, with black curls cascading over
the upturned collar of a leather jacket worn the way all leather jackets
should be: tight, tough, and somehow menacing. Some people have said
that Morrison is beautiful, and others have learned the meaning of the
word charisma by watching him.
And then there is "Light My Fire", and Morrison's brass and leather
voice strokes the lyrics with all the subtlety in which he handles
the microphone. The song deserves to be done The Doors' way, with
with suggestive intonation and instumentation striving together to
produce the incredible erotic pressure of the driving organ-scream
After all, sex is what hard rock is all about. but there is terror
in the sexuality of "The End", Morrison's black masterpiece of narrative
poetry about a physical and spiritual odyssey which finishes in patricide
and incest. Morrison is at his best in this song, doing his own thing
while the organist bends low and presses hard on the keys and the guitarist
walks unconcernedly in and out of the spotlight. The drummer sweats.
Morrison dislodged the microphone and staggered blindly across the
stage as the lyrics and screams which are "The End" poured out of his
mouth, malevolent, satanic, electric, and on fire. He stumbled and
fell in front of a towering amplifier and sobbed to himself. The guitarist
nudged him with the neck of his guitar, and a mouth in the audience
said knowingly, "He's stoned." But he wasn't. He sat up on his knees
and stretched out his arms in an attitude of worship toward the cold
amplifier, the impartial mediator between the virtues and absurdity
of a music dependent upon circuits and ohms.
The audience did not know whether to applaud or not. The guitarist
unplugged the electric cord which makes his instrument play, the organist
stepped off left, the drummer threw his sticks to the ground in contempt
and disgust, and Morrison had disappeared through the velvet curtain
without a wave or a smile.
The Doors do not cater to the nameless faces beyond the footlights.
The group is not kind, and they do not entertain in any traditional
sense. They allow other people to witness the manner of their existence
and the pain and pleasure inherent in their imaginations.
The audience was scared, and rightly so. The Doors are not pleasant,
amusing hippies proffering a grin and a flower; they wield a knife
with a cold and terrifying edge. The Doors are closely akin to the
national taste for violence, and the power of their music forces
each listener to realize what violence is in himself.
Morrison writes nearly all of the Doors' lyrics, and his work does
have meaning. There are rock critics in our time, and when they speak
of Morrison's lyrics, visions of Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Joyce, and Artaud
pop out of their critiques. But hard rock was never meant for academicism.
There is truth in The Doors' beat which drives home the meaning of their
fascination with symbolism, streams of consciousness, cruelty, and the
bizarre in whatever form. That's where The Doors are.
The Williams College News 1967