Celebration of Jim Morrison and The Doors
July 3rd is a very sad day in music history because forty years ago in 1971 on that day Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Door died at the young age of 27. Morrison was found dead in his bathtub in his Paris apartment in the middle of the night by his long-term girlfriend, Pamela Courson. The cause of death was heart failure, but many believe it was also due to a drug overdose. In this article I do not want to discuss his death, but Morrison’s life and how I became a fan of his and The Doors.
I first started becoming a fan of The Doors in January of 1991 a few months before the film, The Doors, by Oliver Stone was released. I knew of The Doors for long time and just knew a few of their songs like Light My Fire, Break on Through (To the Other Side), and Hello, I Love You and just knew the band as one of the biggest rock groups during the 1960’s along with The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, and The Beach Boys. As the release of the film was approaching, a local radio station in Utica, New York that I listened to, 96.9 WOUR started to play a lot of Doors songs in early January. Another radio station, Classic 94.9 followed suite and played many of their songs. Since I listened to those stations a lot I would catch a lot of The Doors songs and started to like them. Soon I became an instant fan of The Doors.
I remember listening to the radio waiting to hear a song from them. The two stations would play L.A. Woman, Roadhouse Blues, and Riders of the Storm a lot. Those three songs became some of my favorites from The Doors’ collection of music. At the time my music of choice was classic rock from the 70’s and hard rock from the 80’s. My favorites were Genesis, KISS, Van Halen, Def Leppard, Bad Company, and Led Zeppelin. The Doors fit my musical tastes because of their psychedelic bluesy rock sound. The band had their two to three minute radio friendly Top 40 songs, but they also had long epic pieces of music like When the Music’s Over and The End. Their music spoke to me and now I had to seek out every album they ever made and find out all about this band.
As March was approaching I was planning on see the film about The Doors. If the radio stations have not played them a lot during those few months, I would not have cared to see the film. Now that I was a fan of the band I could not wait to see the movie. I remember going to the mall with my friend Craig to see the film. At that point I still did not own any of their music. Before the movie, I stopped in one of the record stores in the mall and bought a cassette tape of their Greatest Hits (this is before I owned a CD player and cassette tapes were my format of music at the time). I decided to start out with a variety of their music. The tape had most of their hits like Light My Fire, Break on Through, L.A. Woman, Riders on the Storm, and many others.
After I saw the Oliver Stone movie about The Doors I got to see the life story of Morrison and the band. Val Kilmer portrayed Morrison and did a good job I thought at the time. I did enjoy the film and thought the way the film was put together and the use of The Doors’ music throughout the movie was done real well. After watching the film a few more times years later I still enjoyed the film, but liked it less. I thought they could have done much more with the film with portraying the band and Morrison. I also thought Kilmer’s performance was a little over the top at times.
A month after I saw The Doors film I was an even bigger fan. I played my greatest hits tape over and over again, but wanted to get more music from the band. Around April and May of ’91 I got L.A. Woman (The Doors last album with Morrison, released in 1971), The Doors and Strange Days (their first two albums, both released in 1967). These three albums remain my favorite of the band to this day. You can tell the growth of the band when you listen to the first album and then you listen to the last one. They still had the same sound and vibe, but their last album, L.A. Woman had so much more depth to it.
When I become a fan of a music group, film, actor, or director, I want to know everything about them and with The Doors it became an obsession with getting everything Doors. I have not been as a big a fan to a music group since Genesis. With getting some of their albums, I also bought a number of books on The Doors and Jim Morrison. One of them was Riders on the Storm the book by Doors drummer John Densmore. I even checked out a bio on Morrison at my school library. I learned all about this powerful band that came on to the 60’s scene and exploded.
For a band that was only around for four years, they made a huge impact in the music and pop culture scene. The Doors formed in Los Angles in 1965 with Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, John Densmore. They played a number of clubs until they were finally signed to Elektra Records in 1966. Their debut album came out in January of 1967 and became an instant hit. Songs on that album included Light My Fire, Break on Through, The End, Backdoor Man, and many others. Their second album, Strange Days came out later in that year, which included People are Strange, When the Music’s Over, Moonlight Drive, Strange Days, and others.
Other than being a musician, Morrison was also an inspiring filmmaker and a poet. He went to the film school at UCLA, where he met Manzarek, but he never graduated. He often wrote many poems, which eventually turned into songs. He also wrote a few books of poetry that I believed he published himself at the time. Morrison was also very controversial and did things to defy the system. Back when The Doors were playing clubs, they were fired at the Whiskey a Go Go when Morrison sang The End, which included a line “Father I want to kill you. Mother I want to fuck you.” When they went on The Ed Sullivan Show in the fall of ’67, they sang Light My Fire, but were told not to say the line “Girl we couldn’t get much higher.”, but instead say “Girl we can’t get much better.” Morrison ended up saying higher and they were banned from Sullivan. Later that year Morrison was arrested in New Haven, Connecticut at one of The Doors’ concerts when he stopped the show and was pissed off at the cops who maced him back stage, because they thought he was just a hippie and not part of the band. Morrison told the story to crowd and kept badgering the police and finally the cops arrested him on stage.
Morrison’s controversy continued in the years to come. On March 1, 1969 The Doors did a concert in Miami and Morrison was late getting to the show. When Morrison finally got there he was high and drunk. He also did not look like the Morrison that fans grew to know. He had a beer gut and a full beard and he did not look like the young rock star he did a year ago, even though he was only twenty-five at the time he all ready looked like a washed up rock star. When the concert got started Morrison would stop and start the songs over and yell at the audience calling them a bunch of fucking slaves. As the legend goes on to what else happened that night, Morrison apparently exposed himself onstage, which lead to Morrison getting arrested and later going to trial. Almost two years after the incident Morrison was found guilty and would have served some time in a Florida prison, but he was released on bond as they were waiting on an appeal and Morrison fled to Paris and later died. In December 2010, then Governor, Charlie Crist pardons Morrison of his crimes that happened on that Miami night over forty years ago.
That night in 1969 was the beginning for the end for The Doors and ultimately Morrsion’s life. For a band that was only part of the scene for two years at the time they were all ready veterans in music with three studio albums out and one on the way. Nowadays, when a band comes out with their debut album they live off it for two years, where in the 60’s, bands would pump out two albums a year sometimes. Even though the band was falling apart they were album to put out a few more albums before Morrison’s death in 1971 that had great impact on the music scene. The Doors continued on with two more albums after Morrison’s death, Other Voices released in late 1971 and Full Circle released in 1972, with Krieger and Manzarek on lead vocal. The band decided to call it quits in 1973.
I continued to learn more about The Doors and throughout the summer of 1991 I set out to collect more Morrison and Doors stuff. I got a few T-shirts and posters and some more books on the band. I picked up a book of his poetry called The American Night: The Writings of Jim Morrison. It was a great book of poetry that also included some of his songs in there. Later that year at Christmas I got his other poetry book, Wilderness: The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison, which was released before American Night. That summer MTV (when they use to play music) broadcasted a 1968 concert of The Doors called Live at the Hollywood Bowl. Once I knew it was coming on I grab a blank VHS tape and recorded it. It was great seeing them play live even though it was from my TV screen. Since the film was released on The Doors, MTV would play a few documentaries on the band or on the making of the movie and even play some of their performances on variety shows from the 60’s. Also that summer I bought a live album that was just released that spring called The Doors in Concert. It was a combination of previous live albums such as Absolutely Live, Alive, She Cried, and Live at the Hollywood Bowl. It also included never before released live tracks. This was an awesome compilation of all their live albums and just like it was great seeing the live performance at the Hollywood Bowl, it was great hearing them live.
Between the fall of ’91 and Christmas that year I was able to get the rest of The Doors collection on tape, well the albums with Morrison that is. I was glad to finally get the rest, which included Waiting from the Sun from 1968, The Soft Parade from 1969, and Morrison Hotel from 1970. I also got An American Prayer, which was a spoken word recording of Morrison reading his poetry, which he recorded on his 27th birthday on December 8, 1970. The remaining members of the Doors put music to it and released it as an album in 1978. It is a great album with the words of wisdom from Morrison and the excellent music of The Doors. It even includes a live track of Roadhouse Blues, their 1970 song from Morrison Hotel. Around that time I found a Doors comic book released by Revolutionary Comics and part of their Rock ‘N’ Roll comic series. I picked up part two of the two part series on The Doors and it was an excellent comic that told a better version of The Doors’ life than the Stone film. Part two started in late 1969 during the aftermath of the Miami concert. I was able to find part one of the series a few years later.
Morrison also inspired me creatively when I was writing for my school literary magazine. At the time I was writing short horror stories and put a few in the magazine, but most students would write poetry rather than stories. Poetry was not really my thing, until I started reading Morrison’s. I then was inspired to write some poetry for the magazine that had a Morrison style to it. Most of my poems were very dark and I was kind of trying to keep the same vibe as some of The Doors’ songs and Morrison’s poetry.
To this day, The Doors is one of my favorite bands and I was very glad I discovered their music twenty years ago. It is very sad that the world lost a great writer and artist at such an early age. Who knows if Morrison had lived what other music would he had made or would he finally get back into making films or write more poetry. Like a lot of great musicians that died too young, you never know what would have been if they were still around. To The Doors and Jim Morrison, I would like to thank you for all the contributions you gave to the music scene. For the short time The Doors were around they made a huge impact with their music and Jim Morrison will live on through the many songs and the many poems that he has written and performed.