Second Part of “The Doors” by Greil Marcus – The Most Important Book of 2011?
In this excerpt from the chapter Take It As It Comes, Marcus comments on the music in his inimitable way and also points out that The Doors were different:
You couldn’t conjure up a more stark example of a song whose music runs away from its words – carries them away, runs them to the edge of a cliff, and throws them off.
As one of the first numbers the Doors recorded, it comes on like a conventional rock ‘n’ roll song, or as close to a conventional rock ‘n’ roll song as anything else the Doors did, which was not all that close….
Like everything else on The Doors, “Take It as It Comes” came out of the box big, full, breathing its own air. Unlike anything else, it seemed to start in the middle of some greater song, opening at top speed, too fast to even turn around to see where the song came from.
Nearing the end – and again, if someone stopped you, pulled you aside, and said, Do you realize all this has been happening in about 110 seconds, Jerry Lee Lewis needed three minutes, the Isley Brothers almost five, you’d say, What, what? – it’s all fury, frenzy, Morrison’s leap in the first seconds of the song now little more than hesitation.
And all this about a fairly minor Doors song that lasts only a little more than two minutes. Read the rest of this entry »
Although Greil Marcus’ new book was omitted from major lists of the Top 10 Books of the Year, one can argue that The Doors: a Lifetime of Listening to Five Mean Years is the most important book of 2011. Assuming that it doesn’t fade away into oblivion (which is what some had predicted and even hoped for in the case of Doors music), I think that history will judge it highly. Competing for attention in a sea of books about Catherine the Great, Hemingway, the current financial crisis, memoirs of one sort or another, and new business fads, The Doors is a landmark work. If little else, the book brings the music back into public consciousness, much like the Oliver Stone movie did twenty years ago. (When The New York Times Book Review gives Camille Paglia’s review an entire page under the headline “Rock Prophet,” you can bet that many readers will give The Doors another look.) Despite its limited ambitions, narrow scope, and periodic digressions into arcane trivia unrelated to the music, Marcus’s The Doors deserves a much wider audience than it will probably receive. As a serious work about a very serious artistic group, it is a cause for celebration. There is no doubt that The Doors will endure; only time will tell whether this book goes along with the ride. Morrison, Marcus, and The Doors. I like the phrase.
There are two main reasons for my enthusiasm for Marcus’s book: the subject matter and the author.
As anyone reading this probably knows, The Doors remain one of the most enduring rock groups of the 1960’s. They have managed to transcend their time like few others and now have a massive worldwide fan base that is the envy of many contemporary artists as well as “moldie oldie” performers seen on PBS specials. Doors fans range from kids who can barely read to pre-boomers who have “been there, done that” as they live out their twilight years. (I once spent an hour at Pere Lachaise simply watching the diverse assortment of people coming to pay homage to Jim Morrison, and I was amazed at the range of ages and nationalities of the visitors. Time Magazine took note of the Morrison gravesite phenomenon a few years back.) Doors music is heard on the radio around the world on a regular basis. Even the group’s detractors (and there are many even to this day) acknowledge that the Doors have lasted far beyond their expectations. (One New York Times critic wrote in August, 1971, that without Jim Morrison, the group would fade away into “vague anonymity.” Not exactly a good call.) Jim Morrison has achieved iconic status and is the envy of many Hollywood publicists, to say nothing of their clients. In a new BBC radio program, Suzi Quatro tells us that The Doors are as popular as they have ever been. The reasons for the longevity and timelessness of The Doors are too numerous and complex to delve into here, but there is no question that they have a lasting appeal and importance that goes far beyond pop music and the trends of the day. For a group that was widely scorned and even temporarily banned from the radio and public performances, they “remain relevant today,” as NPR recently wrote. Read the rest of this entry »
Get here and we’ll do the rest
The End, The Doors
Kurt von Meier had discovered in him rich “suggestions of sex, death, transcendence.”
What transcendence did he have in mind, death through sex or sex through death?
“The first on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, the second on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays.”
Bernard Wolfe, Esquire, 1972
This Commandment is from The End, the most important Doors composition. The song is a priceless prescription for salvation emanating from deep spiritual knowledge, not “nebulousness passing for depth,” as Robert Christgau mistakenly claimed. Prior to the line “Get here and we’ll do the rest,” Morrison has told us to head West. It might seem like the West is California, but Morrison is actually referring to the mythological West.
The hero’s journey consists of three main elements: the hero, the dragon, and the treasure. Each of these elements has numerous variations across time and culture. The most widespread version has the hero venturing West in order to confront and defeat a dangerous obstacle such as a dragon. When the hero is triumphant, he is reborn at midnight in the East, attaining the treasure. “Get here” is Morrison’s command to join him in overcoming the dragons, which he once called the “dark forces.”
Here is an introduction to Jim Morrison’s Top 10 Commandments. Each is a command for breaking through to higher consciousness and self-knowledge that will be examined in a separate post. Morrison was a fearless explorer of the unknown who made an amazingly profound discovery of universal significance. Morrison journeyed to the edge of consciousness and brought back findings of great importance to all of us. He had something of the utmost magnitude to teach EVERYONE. And I mean EVERYONE. If you can fog a mirror, this includes you.
There is unique healing power in the music of The Doors, and Morrison wants you to experience it for yourself. He knows that the music can take you to places you’ve never been, places you want to go. The nourishment Morrison offers in songs like Soul Kitchen goes way, way beyond chicken soup. I think it can be argued that The Doors created the ultimate self-help music. The Doors may well be the most important tool you will ever find to help you on your journey towards self-discovery and actualization. It is certainly one of the easiest and most pleasurable.
Jim Morrison was the embodiment of the artist and shaman that Jospeh Campbell and Bill Moyers sought in The Power of Myth.
CAMPBELL: There’s a certain type of myth which one might call the vision quest, going in quest of a boon, a vision, which has the same form in every mythology. That is the thing that I tried to present in the first book I wrote, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. All these different mythologies give us the same essential quest. You leave the world that you’re in and go into a depth or into a distance or up to a height. There you come to what was missing in your consciousness in the world you formerly inhabited. Then comes the problem either of staying with that, and letting the world drop off, or returning with that boon and trying to hold on to it as you move back into your social world again. That’s not an easy thing to do.
From BBC 2: Mr. Mojo Risin, a special broadcast on Jim Morrison and The Doors narrated by Jerry Hall
To mark the 40th anniversary of the death of Jim Morrison – The Doors’ lead singer and one of rock’s most enigmatic performers – Jerry Hall explores the hedonistic lifestyle of one of counterculture’s most dynamic and influential poets.
The programme takes its title from the anagram of Jim’s name – Mr Mojo Risin’ – which was the refrain Jim sang on the title track of The Doors’ final album LA Woman in 1971. At the time Jim told several friends that he was planning to fake his death and live in isolation in Africa, from where he would eventually contact them using his pseudonym. But 40 years on there is still no word from Mr Mojo Risin’.
The Doors were one of the most successful and influential bands of the late 60s and their lead singer was both hailed as a poet of the counterculture and reviled as a debauched demon. Jim Morrison was worshipped by his fans as a rock god and hated by the establishment as a corruptor of youth. Inspired by the poet William Blake who wrote “if the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is – infinite”, Jim experimented with psychedelics and probed “the bounds of reality to see what would happen”.
Jim Morrison has been dead and gone for forty years, but the legacy of The Doors remains as controversial as ever. Last year’s pardon for Morrison’s conviction stemming from his 1969 drunken performance in Miami brought out hordes of detractors. Many people still view Morrison as the quintessential “bad boy” of rock, a drug-filled alcoholic whose contribution to music was marginal at best. Blender.com ranked The Doors at #37 on its list of The 50 Worst Artists in Music History, describing The End as “overblown screeds of nonsense.” Earlier this year, Alex von Tunzelmann, a reviewer for The Guardian, said this about Oliver Stone’s The Doors: “It’s a bloated, pompous, unbalanced film, which looks great but has nothing going on beneath the surface. This is the biopic Jim Morrison deserved.” On the other hand, Piero Scaruffi said, “Of all creative bands in the history of rock music, the Doors may have been the most creative. They are the closest thing rock music has produced to William Shakespeare.” (The title of a New York Times article on Scaruffi’s music site was called The Greatest Web Site of All Time.)
Don Heckman wrote in The New York Times in August 1971 that “The Doors presumably will fade into the vague anonymity that always drifted just below the surface of their music.” Greil Marcus scornfully said in 1979 that the first Doors album “was as far as they got.” Heckman and Marcus are among many critics who have written off The Doors over the years, yet the music just won’t fade away.
Here are some amazing facts about a group that won’t go gentle into that good night.
• Jim Morrison’s gravesite is the most visited in France and is said to be the most visited in Europe. His resting place ranks as one of the top tourist destinations in Paris (#2, #4 and #5 have all been mentioned, the last by National Public Radio in 2004) and is said to be the third most visited celebrity gravesite in the world.
• Time and The New York Times have sent reporters to Pere Lachaise to delve into the continuing fascination with Morrison.
• In 2011, it was reported that The Doors have sold 90 million albums to date worldwide. Approximately 45 million albums have been sold since 1991, the year that Oliver Stone’s “The Doors” was released. (Figures are not officially confirmed.)