Monday, September 19, 2011


"This is the end, beautiful friend.
It hurts to set you free,
But you'll never follow me.
The end of laughter and soft lies.
The end of nights we tried to die.
This is the... end."
-From The End by The Doors
Jim Morrison shares his final resting place with the likes of Chopin, Oscar Wilde and hundreds of poets, aristocrats and geniuses. However, only his grave in Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris is watched over by a round the clock cop as it is not only the busiest site of this extra ordinary place but generates a different type of hysteria that would have amused Oscar Wilde into one of his most caustic witticisms. Morrison wanted to be known as a poet and had a flair for words. He saw himself as a poet trapped in a Rock Stars body. His band, mythical ‘The Doors’ faced the classical paradox of the day - gains from the allure of a dangerous persona and downfall brought by the same. A ravaged Morrison died in Paris on July 3, 1971 at the age of 27 like other two ‘Js’ Jimi Hendrix and Janice Joplin. Whatever nostalgic fans (most of them from the generation after his death) may say, it was a diminished icon who suffered the heart attack (as per official version) in his bath tub. However, death is integral to his enduring legend- a cacophony of mysticism, sexuality, poetry and psychedelic haze. "He's hot, he's sexy and he's dead" shouted the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine ten years after Morrison’s death, It was correct then it is true now.
Later half of sixties was a good time for Morrison to be alive. The raging counter-culture with its angst ridden yearnings, primal sexuality, unhinged drunkenness and a wildly seductive notion of enlightenment- was ready for him. He came and lent a veneer of sheer sexiness to the excesses of his era. Continued popularity of the music of the period owes a great deal to the hankering for the nostalgia for a richly complex experience imbued with rage, lust, spirituality, freedom and an unapologetic flirtation with death and destruction. It was youth’s way of gaining access to unimagined possibilities- a vision of hope and deadly charms of anarchy.
Morrison remains a key figure on the cultural landscape of the century gone by and still looms large. James Douglas "Jim" Morrison was born in the family of a ranking navy officer on December 8, 1943. He met Ray Menzarek a classically trained pianist, while doing a Film course at UCLA Graduate School of Film. Morrison’s poetic potential were evident to Menzarek and they decided to collaborate. Manzarek met John Densmore, who brought in Robby Krieger. The band’s christening was done by Morrison. ‘The Doors’ came from William Blake through Aldous Huxley’s book on mescaline, The Doors of Perception. Blake had written and Huxley had quoted "If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite." That was 1965 and in 1966 they were fired from Whisky-a-Go-Go club where they were the house band, for oedipal explicitness of ‘The End’. Thus began the firming up of ‘Lizard King’ persona of Morrison. In a poem that appeared on the sleeves of their album "Waiting For The Sun" Morrison pronounced "I am the Lizard King, I can do anything." The moniker stuck. The band is credited with hot albums like The Doors, Strange Days, Waiting for the Sun, The Soft Parade, Morrison Hotel and L A Woman.
Morrison’s aura of unpredictability and dark potential gained in strength very quickly. His ‘inspired exhibitionism’ made sure that ‘whatever he did was seen as brilliant or brilliantly calculated’. In December 1967 he was arrested for public obscenity at a concert in New Haven, and in August 1968 he was arrested for disorderly conduct aboard an airplane en route to Phoenix. All that added to the dangerous appeal of his poisonous charms. But he was riding a tiger and he was slipping. His March 1969 arrest in Miami for exhibiting “lewd and lascivious behavior by exposing his private parts” finally managed to dent Morrison’s sense of invincibility. The singer was restricted to Miami for the good part of the year for the court proceedings. The charges were never proved but the tension brought home the realization of harsh realities. It affected concert schedules and many performances were cancelled.
Soon after L.A. Woman was recorded in 1971, Morrison informed the group that he was leaving. A depleted Morrison both physically and emotionally moved to Paris. He was accompanied by his long time companion Pamela Courson. In his estate controversy later, Courson was legally treated as his wife. Jim also had a Celtic wedding with Patricia Kennealy which was never recognized by law. Morrison led a quite life in Paris and tried to write poems. Days of raunchy taboo-bending were over. As per official version He died of heart failure in his bathtub in 1971 at age 27. His death gained a mysterious aura partly because news of his death was not made public until days after his burial in Paris’ Père-Lachaise cemetery. Many conspiracy theories were floating. Many fans still refuse to believe Morrison is dead. Sam Bernett, former manager of the Rock 'n' Roll Circus nightclub of Paris, claimed in his book that instead of dying of a heart attack in a bathtub Morrison overdosed on heroin on a toilet seat in the club. He claimed that he was dissuaded by Morrison's drug dealers from calling the police. He and some other people brought the body to the apartment Morrison had rented, and staged his body in the bathtub. Whatever the circumstances, the death was in accordance with the tradition of high-profile demises- contentious, mysterious and above all sudden. Courson, one of the few people who saw Morrison’s corpse, died in Hollywood of a heroin overdose on April 25, 1974, she too was 27.
If Jimi Hendrix was raw talent, Jim was structured for fame with that elusive characteristic that lures without any obvious reason. His appeal was much more natural or, more accurately, animal. Hendrix was a master of improvisational panache, Morrison’s voice has been referred to as a “beautiful pond for anything to drown in.” While Hendrix was ‘vodoo child’ Jim was ‘Satan’s Seraph’ who epitomized sexual nirvana with his hint of spirituality, moody burst of creativity and difficult to contain rebellious streak. Creator of memorable lines, Hendrix was pathologically inarticulate while Jim was able to give intellectual crust to his views with great communicability. Though, he was main poetic force of the doors, all the songs are attributed to the band. His interviews and one-liners stand testimony to his deliciously absurd poetic sensibilities. His poems, did not find many takers among critics but they have a charm of their own. His devastating antics and relentless chase of chaos could not obscure his avant-garde sensibilities. Unlike many of his lyrics, Morrison was capable of unexpected tenderness in his poetry.
She looked so sad in sleep
Like a friendly hand
just out of reach
A candle stranded on
a beach
Contrast it with the absurd beauty of these lines from ‘Rider on the Storm’
There's a killer on the road
His brain is squirmin' like a toad
Take a long holiday
Let your children play
If ya give this man a ride
Sweet memory will die
Killer on the road, yeah
One is captivated by hints of other realms of consciousness when The Doors sings ‘Swim to the moon’ and ‘penetrate the evening that the city sleeps to hide’. They are at their at their drunken best with ‘L A Women’, sex drips through ‘Come on Baby Light My Fire’ ‘Roadhouse Blues’ can set the tone for any rock party. ‘The End’ is a poetry of oedipal jolts, an odyssey that seeks to shock with casual profanity. ‘Break on Through (to the Other Side)’ is one of the anthems of rock. An absolute favourite is ‘Riders on the Storm’. In the song silken barbarism of that sexy beast Morrison’s voice gains its full grandeur along with the searing poetry of the absurd. Metallic texture of the shivery tones, throbbing keyboards of Ray Menzarek, the fluid lyrical guitar of Robby Krieger and the supple drums of John Dansmore make the sultry, languid and soothing experience of the song which is also full of violence and alienation. Sublime music masks the edginess which encapsulates the tortured zeitgeist of an epoch. Remove the hoopla created by wild antics of Morrison’s flirtations with chaos, you get some really solid music. Howsoever romantic this flirtation may sound but lingering regret remains- a regret of losing out on many more such gems as mentioned above.
When Oliver Stone’s eponymous movie on The Doors came in 1991, it was not subject to normal cinematic scrutiny deploying usual parameters of reviewing a movie. The movie was viewed and castigated through lens of the nostalgia. Learned critics were ‘wincing at infidelities like absence of hope and light’. They saw in its failure a ‘grim reminder of that we (Americans) have lost our pioneering cultural influence’. The New Yorker lamented the ‘mean spiritedness that kept breaking through’ the movie- the ‘bad faith’ and tabloid like sensibility’. Time Magazine was no less caustic, Richard Corliss wrote “Kilmer (Val Kilmer played Morrison) is just conventionally good-looking; he can't prowl like Blake's Tyger or pose with the sultry arrogance of a Beat poet. Nor does he have the intellectual seductiveness that made Morrison a toy of the hip literati. In short, Kilmer is not Jim, and his casting denies The Doors the chance to be a meditation on the lure of sexual power.” Yes you get the idea, sixties counter culture evokes extreme responses and rock was a religion with those who lived through the period and icons like Morrison, Hendrix and Joplin were its presiding deities.

Dhiraj Singh


  1. Great post! Thanks for the leaving the link at

  2. Dhiraj,

    Thank you so much for your link to your blog! It’s good to know there are others out there who understand the importance of perspective in reviewing or evaluating the environment and times of the artists of our day and not just looking at the surface behavior or chronological events. In the West, we tend to overlook the important sociocultural aspects of the times in which the artist lives when reviewing their work, but you have taken into consideration a wide range of factors and attempted to interpret Morrison’s importance through the lens of the culture and chaos of the late sixties.

    There are many important aspects of those times which clearly presented Jim Morrison with both opportunities and liabilities in expressing his art, but in spite of your elaborate analysis of those times, and as skillfully as you enumerate the challenges and describe the cultural zeitgeist of that era, I think you missed the most essential impetus of Morrison’s life almost entirely. He was completely and utterly irreverent, boorish, vulgar, and ignominious as a person, the quintessential iconoclast who, by coincidence, also happened to be an enormously talented performer and gifted artist.

    While there is much to admire about him as a musician and artist, Jim was so out of control and despicable as a person, that his true value as an artist will forever be overshadowed by his glaring deficits and his unfathomable madness. It is his infamy that propelled him to the celebrity status he holds even today.

    Thanks for stopping by….John H.

  3. Dhiraj, thanks for sharing the link. May I repost on --Joanne

  4. Thanks John. I have left my reply at your blog.
    @Joanne: By all means Madam. In fact that was the purpose. Thanks.