Thursday, April 29, 2010

You CanNOT Petition The Lord With Prayer!

There's this video of an interview with a very drunk- and/or stoned-looking Jim Morrison from about 1968 or so in which he claims that the one thing he'd like to do musically, which he hasn't yet done, is write and perform a song that is an expression of pure, unadulterated joy. I spent quite a bit of time looking for this interview on youtube, but couldn't find it. I just wanted to make sure I was remembering it correctly; I'm pretty sure that's what Jim says, but it may have been something even more general that that, something along the lines of "Music is the expression of pure joy"; he may not have been referring to his own music in particular — I can't quite remember which it is.

Regardless, "An Expression of Pure Joy" is far from the first thing that should come to mind when you think of the Doors' music1. In fact, it probably shouldn't even make the top 500 things that come to mind. Jim Morrison's was a consistently dark vision.

Well, that assessment needs to be qualified: darkish is perhaps more accurate. Because even a casual glance at the lyrics of Morrison's songs reveals his celebration of the life force; but it's equally obvious that Jim believes the time we have to enjoy life is short, doomed to end soon, probably sooner than you think, possibly violently, because there are dark forces afoot in our world:
There's a killer on the road
His brain is squirming like a toad
If you give this man a ride
Sweet family will die
("Riders on the Storm")
In Jim's view, we are all, however unknowingly, on the verge of  "giv[ing] this man a ride."

But any life worth living is about taking chances, Jim consistently preaches. Perhaps the best distillation of this view is in the lyric from "Texas Radio and the Big Beat": "I'll tell you this," Jim intones: "No eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn." This — the here and now — is what we have; nothing else.

The rest of it is empty promises.

There is no "better place" awaiting us after we leave this plane of existence: "Cancel my subscription to the Resurrection," Morrison sings in "When The Music's Over"; for the "music is your only friend" and when it's over ... "turn out the lights". In fact, in a little known Doors B-side, "Who Scared You", Jim basically uses his contention that the time we have here on this earth is all we have as a seduction technique: "Who scared you and why were you born/ ... into time's arms with all of your charms?" You, we, are young and beautiful here and now — not in some later, promised paradise that preachers try to scare us into believing in; a place we can enter into only by denying ourselves now —  so let's make the most of our now because we are caught in time's unforgiving arms and our youth and beauty will fade2 ... and if we waste that, no promised eternal reward awaits us3.

There is a word for this: hedonism. Undeniably, there is a distinct hedonistic aspect to the lyrics and poetry of Jim Morrison. But it is a hedonism in the face of a certainty that time will win; death will win; our time is fleeting, our youth temporary and a moment wasted is a moment lost forever. There is a definite Götterdämmerung vibe to Jim's vision. Don't get lost looking toward some promised paradise yet-to-come; this is your paradise, your Valhalla, and you should not let the fact that you are aware that Valhalla is, yes, destined, doomed, ultimately to fall deter you from finding whatever enjoyment you can while there is still time.
Originally, this post was going to be about nothing other than this song (below): "The Soft Parade". Typically, I found myself going off on tangents, into back alleys and snickelways that I had not intended to follow. O, well. Here's "The Soft Parade" for you to enjoy, anyway.

Jim said:
I am interested in anything about revolt, disorder, chaos-especially activity that seems to have no meaning. It seems to me to be the road toward freedom... Rather than starting inside, I start outside and reach the mental through the physical.
I think that sentiment is best reflected in this song. The Apollonian/Dionysian dichotomy is something that Jim Morrison was acutely aware of and he consciously invoked the forces of chaos, individualism, ecstasy and intoxication — the Dionysian sensibility. Apollonian rationalism and order was of no interest to him; he thought it a lie.

"The Soft Parade" always struck me as the Doors' best musical approximation of a Bacchanalian revel, ending in utter chaos and destruction, increasingly "harder to describe" ... then, ultimately, impossible to describe.

Perhaps, to Jim, this was an expression of the only true kind of pure joy, ending in ritualistic death and destruction.

1 Generally speaking, I mean. Because not all of the Doors' music reflects Jim Morrison's decidedly dark aesthetic. Some of the Doors' better songs were written mostly or entirely by the Doors' guitarist, Robbie Krieger — for instance, the music and most of the lyrics to The Doors' first big hit, "Light My Fire". Early on, the Doors were so much in sync with each other and so collaborative, though, that the credits for the songs on the albums would read "Music and lyrics by the Doors", regardless of who had written the song. Individual credits for songs began to appear with The Doors' fourth album, The Soft Parade, because Robbie began writing lyrics like "Follow me across the sea/ Where milky babies seem to be/ Molded, flowing revelry/ With the one that set them free" ("Tell All The People"), which Jim Morrison nearly refused to sing because he felt ridiculous mouthing sentiments so far from his personal vision; not just the hippie-dippie, groovy vibe, but also the admonition to "follow me" — Morrison was adamant in his belief that people should lead themselves, not follow. (In fact, one of JM's refrains during the Miami Concert where he allegedly exposed himself on stage was "You're all a bunch of slaves. Bunch of slaves. Letting everybody push you around." Of course, during the same drunken incident, he also repeated asked, "Isn't anybody gonna love my ass?" which sounds possibly pretty hippie-dippie love-the-one-you're-with-ish.)

But at times, even on the album The Soft Parade, it can be pretty hard to distinguish who wrote what because a lot of the lyrics sound like what Jim would have written. "Touch Me", written by Robbie, sounds to my ear like the kind of love song Morrison might have written; even more so when you realize that the song was inspired by a fight Robbie had had with his girlfriend and the lyrics had originally been , "C'mon C'mon C'mon C'mon now HIT me, babe". It's one of those classic rock songs in which you could easily imagine the word "love" being the radio-friendly stand-in for the real lyric: "fuck". (Robbie's "Love Me Two Times" is an even better example: "Love me two times, I'm going away"? Obviously, the word "fuck" would make far more sense here.)

2 "The time you wait subtracts the joy", Jim sings in "We Could Be So Good Together".

3 Surprisingly, and perhaps even unbelievably, this seduction technique evidently works in the context of the song because in the last verse Jim sings, "Well, I'm glad that we came/ I hope you're feeling the same".


  1. FIRST!!

    Abbreviated to avoid potential comment jumpers)

  2. ok, now this

    His brain is squirming like a toad

    Is my ALL TIME favorite line in a song EVAR!!!

    I even have a dance I do when the line is sung (hubby is HUGE Doors/Morrison fan. Sadly, he not a huge fan of the Squirmin' like a Toad dance. "Mocks the beauty... blah, blah, blah..." Whatever, square.)

  3. Hey, Mr. Happy here. My fave is "Moonlight Drive." Certainly one of the Doors' more upbeat songs, even if it is sort of a nocturne. Then again, maybe it's just that "I am the lizard king" or "Weird scenes inside the gold mine" do not appear.

  4. Off point here, as usual, but I just heard a Beatles song "I'm Just Sleeping" (?) that I swear I've never heard before! I like the backward guitar at the end, especially.

  5. No.s a great guy to talk to,I'm saying that from listening to his interviews.