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by Eric Van Lustbader 1971



Jim Morrison: Riding out the final storm

London lay flickering like a tiny jewel in the soft summer fog. The humid twilight rushed in, blotting out the death of the sun. A violent squall was forming over the Channel. Sheets of water, lividly lit by blue and white lightning, brushed and then drenched the Dover cliffs.
And across the Channel lay Paris. A man on the run all his life, Morrison now fled L.A. at the completion of the last album, L.A. Woman, and entered Paris alone, tired, and afraid.
Flashback: Madison Suare Garden's Felt Forum. The house lights dimmed, The Doors were announced, and a peculiar tension built in the air; an excitement pulsed and moved from the shadowed corners, lacing the room with an emotional current. "Hello," said Jim. And they began to play.
He was a reviled figure: hated by the press; never taken seriously by critics who felt themselves lost amid his cinematic imagery. He had dressed himself in funereal leather, dropped his pants, shouted obscenities, and was guilty only of believing a myth he had created. And after all, that's something almost all rock stars are guilty of.
"Five to one, baby, one in five," he sang. Grabbing the mike in a whiplike motion, he began to stamp around the stage, approaching the audience, "No one here gets out alive/You get yours baby/I'll get mine/Gonna make it baby, if we try." He exhorted them, clawing with fingers and voice: "The old get old and the young get stronger/ May take all week and it may take longer/They got the guns but we got the numbers/Gonna win, yeah, we're takin' over!"
Yet of all the self-created myths in the rock world, Morrison could be forgiven for believing his, precisely because his image, and with it, the success and power of the Doors, depended on his being a myth. For as long as he lived, Morrison was less the rock star and more the Lizard King, intoning: "Is everybody in? The ceremony is about to begin." He was the misunderstood poet living within the constrictive confines of the rock medium. Critics judged the Doors solely on their (the critics') limited musical terms (they were an American band who neither played the blues nor accepted the West Coast Sound that the Rolling Stones revered); friends listened to what the Doors were saying, because to deny them that courtesy was to negate the purpose of the band entirely.
When Morrison sang "No one here gets out alive," he wasn't talking about the theatre, he meant life itself. That was his rationale for the revolution, one of the topics that obsessed him and that runs throughout most of his songs: no one's getting out alive, so we might as well do what we can to change it and ourselves: "I'll tell you this, no eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn!"
Morrison was a man who knew people. He wrote about what they were really like, and much of it wasn't pretty or pleasant; "people are strange." Yet he wrote with an impossible kind of romanticism that was supremely gentle: "You're lost little girl/ you're lost little girl/You're lost, tell me who are you?"
Listening to Strange Days is like watching Fellini's Satyricon. Morrison's words are so cinematic that each song begins to form pictures in the mind. More than any other American songwriter he had this quality. Like the film, Strange Days builds it's story line through the images and characters in a series of vignettes. And the whole becomes more and more visible the deeper one gets int the film and/or the album. Because Strange Days has been set up that way.
"Love Me Two Times" follows "You're Lost Little Girl" as if sex were the only solution the personna of the song could think of to help the girl, but of course that isn't the answer: "Love me two times, girl/one for tomorrow, one just for today/Love me two times/I'm going away."
"Unhappy Girl" serves as a prelude to the second part of the album, which deals with the effects of drugs on people. The beginning physical nightmare of the drug in "Horse Latitudes" gives way to the euphoric feeling of "Moonlight Drive."
Especially fascinating is Morrison's "Celebration Of The Lizard." It first made its appearance in print on the inside cover of "Waiting For The Sun" album and there is described as "lyrics to a theatre composition by the Doors." It seemed then, in that form, to be rather pompous and a little much, even for Morrison. Yet when heard on stage it became an incredibly moving statement. Up there, in the glaring spotlight that breathed life into Morrison, he imbued the presentation with such powerful vitality that it be- came impossible to ignore the seriousness of what was hap- pening: "He fled the town/He went down South and crossed the border/Left the chaos and disorder/Back there over his shoulder." Again that imagery of violent movement and de- struction that obsessed Morrison.
Yet, it's the imagery itself, and not necessarily the words, that's central to Morrison's lyrics. Long before the story line of Easy Rider was born in the minds of Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, Morrison and the Doors were taking us on nightmarishly real trips through America. Forever restless, obsessed by motion, change, death, and highways, Morrison moved from town to rural village to jumbling city, always following the snake high- ways, describing the old and new guard American.
This is never more apparent than on the Morrison Hotel album. It's the least interesting Doors set in a melodic sense, but then traveling down the highways crammed into car or cycle for those endless dustladen miles cannot be described in soft flowing notes. The music that accompanies the lyrics must, of necessity, be hard-bitten and sparing; grabbing onto a riff and repeating it, to achieve the effect of motion: "Keep your eyes on the road/Your hands upon the wheel/...Roll all night long." And right off the group begins that chunky, rolling backing, peculiar to this album, that creates the traveling effect.
Night turns into early morning and the racing car, continually chasing the dawn over the lengthening hills, slows and sits by the side of the snake highway. Only the crickets and the frogs are heard over the sighing of the wind. Dawn arrives: "At first flash of Eden/ We race down to the sea/Standing there on Freedom's shore/ Waiting for the sun......This is the strangest life I've ever known." Again it's that special sort of lyric that Morrison uses over and over that seems, on the outside, to deal with one person- usually a girl- while he's actually speaking to his audience en masse. I've told you what's wrong with this country and with us, Morrison is saying, now I'm waitng for you to realize that I want you to tell me what's wrong so that we can change together. That, more than anything else, is what Morrison wanted. He wanted change desperately, but he wanted all of us to join to- gether to do it. He felt (and probably quite rightly so) that it was the only way to achieve change.

~~~

Paris sits wet and steaming under a summer downpour. Deep, gray clouds laced with violet roll the skies, and despite the heat, it's a time for shivering; a time to shut the windows; a time to close the doors. The rain hurls itself with hysterical strength at the dripping trees and the unyielding pavement. Planes taxi out onto the tarmac at Orly, trucks lumber slowly along the snake highways, lovers huddle in semi-sheltered doorways to escape the full fury of the storm as thunder crashes seconds after the lightning flickers.
And somewhere, in a hospital, a bloody orderly pulls a sheet over the face of Jim Morrison, Caucasian, ages 27, American- the Lizard King, the Changeling, the poet, the man- deceased.

~~~

Statement of Bill Siddons July 9, 1971
"I have just returned from Paris, where I attended the funeral of Jim Morrison. Jim was buried in a simple ceremony, with only a few friends present.
The initial news of his death and funeral was kept quiet be- cause those of us who knew him intimately and loved him as a person wanted to avoid all the circus-like atmosphere that surrounded the deaths of such other rock personalities as Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.
I can say that Jim died peacefully of natural causes. He had been in Paris since March with his wife, Pam. He had seen a doctor in Paris about a respiratory problem and had complained of this problem on Saturday, the day of his death.
I hope that Jim is remembered not only as a rock singer and poet, but as a warm human being. He was the most warm, most human, most understanding person I've ever known. That wasn't always the Jim Morrison people read about, but it was the Jim Morrison I knew and his close friends will remember."


Circus Magazine September 1971
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