The Doors have an alluring mysticism that’s easy to differentiate from other bands of the mid- to late-sixties. The terrible 1991 Oliver Stone biopic would like you to think it consisted of three normal guys and a psychopath. No, Jim Morrison did not lock his girlfriend in a closet and set it on fire. Most of what you read about The Doors has succumbed to the myth.
Listening to The Doors is a transformative experience. You have to manage so many facets of the band. Let’s push aside Morrison’s ego and scholar-on-acid lyricism for a second, and admire the guitar of Robby Krieger and the haunting keys of Ray Mantazarek for the instilling punch of psychedelia and blues. The band embodied ’60s counterculture as much as any artist of the era.
Like the Beatles, the history of The Doors is filled with awesome anecdotes, and they all start with Morrison. Morrison and Ray Manzarek’s (then UCLA film students) pleasant stroll on Venice Beach where they talked about philosophy, poetry and forming a band. Morrison tried to start a riot in New Haven, Connecticut, and he got arrested for it.
Morrison was arrested again in Florida, a year after he allegedly exposed himself on stage and simulated masturbation (yesterday marks the 46th anniversary of his arrest). There was Morrison’s LA Woman bearded-phase and his disastrous breakdown at The Doors’ last show in New Orleans. Finally, Morrison’s tragic and strange death in a Paris bathtub.
Jim Morrison’s Jupiter-sized personality and bizarre antics defined the group and ultimately consumed it. The Doors might not be the best band of the ’60s, but they certainly were one of the most influential and interesting.
Write a song about everything you see in a notebook:
“Soul Kitchen” was about how Morrison liked a soul food restaurant. “The Crystal Ship” was about an oil rig off the coast of California. Every other song was about an LSD trip … I’m pretty sure.
If you yell something pretentious, you can still sound smart:
You don’t have to be good at singing:
Keyboardist Ray Manzarek could do a like-for-like impression. Like David Bowie or Paul McCartney, Jim Morrison’s voice was merely distinct, and he was hot — that helps.
You need a enigmatic nickname to really make it:
Try to come up with a better nickname than “The Lizard King.” Do it. Right now.
Don’t trust Val Kilmer:
There’s something off-putting about the third-best Batman. He might be Morrison’s doppelganger but his depiction of Morrison in “The Doors” might have been the most-forced of the decade.
Never change the lyrics, man:
The Ed Sullivan Show was a big deal back when people used to actually watch cable TV. The Doors landing a spot on the show was a huge moment for the band. On Sept. 17, 1967, Sullivan and his producer wanted to change the hook of “Light My Fire” from “Girl we couldn’t much higher” to “Girl we couldn’t get much better.” The Doors agreed, but Jim Morrison said, “We’re not changing a word.”
New Mexico is traumatic place:
My home state is a lovely place. When Jim Morrison was four, he apparently saw Native Americans victims of a car crash on the side of the road, bleeding and crying. This evocative memory sparked a death-drive and dark creativity in him. Thanks New Mexico I guess?
If the FBI has an 80-page file on you, you’re doing something right:
Dude was a threat to the children. Seriously.