I turned twenty-six the other day. A friend bought me a purple lily which I hope I won’t kill as quickly as I tend to kill most plants. Otherwise it was an ordinary day – I went home after work and watched Saved!, stayed up too late watching TV and woke up the next morning more exhausted than I was when I went to sleep.
Anyway, I started thinking about something today when the shuffle on my iPod hit some particular tracks. It was very simple: I think I was supposed to have outgrown some stuff by now.
When I say some stuff I mean, as I almost always do, that Morrison bloke. Yes, you know the one. I’ve often heard it said, seen it written that one is supposed to find the Doors, listen to them and then put them behind you. Like writing one’s own poems, like wanting to be in a band, like all those other markers of adolescence. Sixth form poetry, his stuff has been called, with the clear implication that we are meant to leave it behind when we leave behind our youth.
Well now, I figure that if I haven’t cut him away yet, I never will.
I walked a good portion of the way home today in the rain. Everything was grey. The sky was grey, the rain was grey, the pavement and roads, the buildings and the light were all grey. The rain was wicked cold and I was tired. Still, I was listening to An American Prayer so I noted the greyness and decided I didn’t care much.
I even started composing this post, but it was the usual stuff. You know, "Oh woe!" and "I hate him, I love him, I hate him!" and "He’s a twat, he’s a genius, he’s a cunt, he’s fabulous!"
Fact is, I was supposed to have outgrown him and his music by now. I think I was supposed to be a grown up, but I didn’t bother with that either.
Then again, I don’t think you could call me a typical Doors fan. You know the ones, those muppets who give Doors fans such a bad fucking name. The people who cannot, will not, accept any kind of criticism towards the band no matter how deserved. The people who make themselves look like the Doors. The people who drop acid and smoke dope just to be like Jim. The people who blindly, unquestioningly worship at the candle-strewn altar of His Holiness The Jim. These are the people who scrawl shit over all those graves in Paris who nearly got the man exhumed seven years ago. These are the people who get me funny looks from other people when I say "yeah, I’m a Doors fan." I almost always have to clarify it and I hate having to do that. It’s not the band’s fault really – I know they despised the blind acolytes even at the time.
There’s a great and revealing moment in a live recording:
Jim: I don’t know how many of you believe in astrology… I am a sagittarius, the most philosophical of all the signs.
Girl In Audience In Almost Agonised Tones: I know, so am I!
Jim: … but anyway I don’t believe in it.
Girl In Audience In Almost Agonised Tones: I don’t either!
Jim: I think it’s a bunch of bullshit myself.
Girl In Audience And Everyone Else Who Believed In Astrology Ten Seconds Ago: YEAH!
Now, I don’t believe in astrology although I find it interesting occasionally… but nothing could induce me to pretend just so someone would like me, then switch round immediately he said "actually, no."
The funny thing is, though, the Doors don’t really belong to the sheep and the lemmings. They don’t belong to the people who fit in, or are popular. The Doors are a band of outsiders for outsiders – let’s just remember that our boy was considered a freak by many people at school. Most teenagers reading sixteenth century books about witchcraft would probably be thrown into therapy the second they checked the book out of the library these days. Perhaps in another life that twisted slightly differently, Jim would’ve been the kind of teenager that walked into his school one day and shot a bunch of his classmates…
I’ve been an outsider for my entire life, from one perspective or another, to one degree or another. When I was sixteen I really wouldn’t have minded if I’d died. I felt absolutely alone, absolutely without hope or chance of happiness. Honestly, I occasionally think that I dreamed it, or that my fevered imagination has exaggerated it – but then I come to my senses and know that I was truly, desperately sad. The Beatles did their part – I maintain that John Lennon has, in some important ways, saved my life. But, and this is important, the Doors helped me find the courage to say: "FUCK YOU, WORLD!" and "I AM WHAT I AM AND FUCK YOU I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU THINK!"
Or, as he put it: Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.
Before the Doors, I wanted people to think I didn’t care. After the Doors, I really didn’t care. Jim helped me find that – he didn’t give it to me, but he helped me find it. It takes a great deal of courage to tell the world to fuck off, and I can’t claim that I always feel that way… but it’s also hugely emancipating to know that you are your own creation, that you cannot be made to feel bad.
Eleanor Roosevelt was the one who said "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." and it’s true. I knew that it was true when I was younger, so much younger than today. It was Morrison who pushed me towards withdrawing that consent from most of the world.
It should also be said that the man influenced my own writing. There’s a notebook or so full of stuff involving souls and darkness, death and dancing, time and sadness. I can’t tell you if any of it’s any good… perhaps it’s just as sixth form as he was accused of being. Maybe one day I’ll find that notebook and share it with you.
It’s at this point I should maybe talk about the music. So much mention is made these days of the legend and the myth and the tales of dark deeds done that the music is forgotten. NEWS FLASH: It’s really quite good. Some of it’s some of the best music you’ll ever hear.
Recently I was listening to the very excellent mash-up by a guy called CCC called Cracked Pepper (google for it) which is the entirety of the Sgt Pepper record mashed up with stuff. I got as far as the Within You Without You track and was listening… and I had no idea which songs had been mashed in, but this particular one felt terrifically familiar. I couldn’t work it out at first (I’d be rubbish at Intros on Buzzcocks) but it felt like something hardcoded in my head… First, I recognised the bass-line from Fire by Hendrix, but the drums were… I remember I was walking down Goodge Street at about quarter to nine in the morning. As I crossed the street the little Doors switch in my head flipped. I knew it but couldn’t think what it was, couldn’t get to the bit that would definitely identify it, there was no organ track yet. I had the band, the album but not the track. Silly, right? Bear in mind I didn’t know the name of the mash-up track, which would’ve told me.
Then all of a sudden, from George’s dear but slightly reedy voice, it switched: "AND WE’RE ON OUR WAY! NO, WE CAN’T TURN BACK!"
Dear God, the lurch in my stomach when Jim suddenly turned up out of nowhere. The contrast between George (who I love dearly also) and his higher, thinner voice and Jim’s big, deep, round voice was so… it would be stupid and cliche to say "oh, it was like coming home", but there was such a sense of absolute familiarity, as if the voice was in fact coming from deep inside my own psyche.
Perhaps at this point it is.
What I really like about listening to music on an iPod or other such personal device, is the way it feels like the music is directly inside your head. There’s no air, no space between you and the sound. Now, it might send me deaf before I’m thirty, and I don’t listen too loudly all that much… but sometimes all I can do is turn it up so there’s nothing but me and them. Might be the Doors, might be Dean or even the aforementioned George, maybe Dylan (buzzsaw with hair, but I love him)… I remember finally being able to really hear the low chanting of "get together one more time" in Five To One by the Doors in this manner.
I really like how it makes Jim’s voice so close to me, like it really is all in my head. Perhaps it is, maybe he’s a construct from my crazed consciousness like Gene Hunt… I’m getting off the point. The music is really good. It doesn’t really belong in any genre from the period in which it was made – it’s not hippy-dippy love-and-peace psychedelia, nor is it protest-folk, pop, or even the Velvets. The music doesn’t belong anywhere, which renders it somewhat timeless, and therefore perfect for the outsider types. The music doesn’t belong, neither do we and so we belong to each other.
The Doors were a big band. They were successful and made a lot of money. They still do, thanks to their avaricious plundering and constant repackaging of their back catalogue… but they never belonged to the happy, contented citizens of the world. The people who really fell in love with them were the ones like me, who were looking for something and found it in Los Angeles, 1967.
Actually, I found it in Never Mind The Buzzcocks. Riders on the Storm was in the intros round as performed by Tony Hadley & Bobby Davro (of all the unlikely combos, right?). Wikipedia, being the giant of information it is, informs me that this episode was first shown on 9th April 1999. I bought a Doors greatest hits on the back of it, as I recall, and it was all downhill from there.
That’s not entirely true. I don’t remember the first time i heard of the Doors or of their singer. I grew up with rock music so I assume I just picked it up somewhere along the line. When I started reading MOJO magazine, it had pull out photographs in the middle. The first or second issue I got in 1997 (either Lennon or psychedelia, I don’t remember which) had that famous photo of Morrison, cruciform. It got put up immediately – I was so keen to pull the thing out that I tore it slightly in the margin. I still have the picture, which still has the chunk torn out.
The odd thing is, 1997 doesn’t feel that long ago. 1999 certainly doesn’t, yet it feels like I have had that voice in my head for longer than I remember. Maybe I have. Still, I didn’t own every single record until I was in California – I went all the way to Fashion Island to the music store there and dropped some mad amount like ninety dollars in one go to complete the set.
I wanted to avoid saying the same old things as before. Since this blog started rather unevenly in late 2002, Mr. Morrison has been a frequent visitor, the same old "I love I hate" stuff as has been going on since whenever. Ask my poor, long suffering friends who had to suffer through the rants, the waxing lyrical and back again in person, on the phone, etc etc.There is one ray of hope for my potential for maturity though, and it’s to do with him. For some time now, there has been no "I love I hate". I have truly despised him sometimes. I have truly loved him. I have yearned and sobbed, yelled and screamed. Then for Christmas 2006 I got up on stage at the Borderline in London and sang a version of Light My Fire that was part Julie London and part Doors. That night I’d also bought The Doors by the Doors book.
I have not hated him since. Something about that day had me make my peace with the demon lurking in the back of my brain. Conceivably I learned to empathise with him for the first time. I don’t know. Now I can approach him with… serenity. At last, I made my peace with him. I’m sure I’ll have days where I hate him again, whether for dying or being an arsehole or being a bit rubbish sometimes, or for lying or dying… but it will have no teeth. I am past the point of wanting to resurrect him so I can smash him in the face. I can think of him and smile now, and I think that’s a real accomplishment. Look Ma, all half-growed up – Next, reality! Now I can just listen to the music and feel warmth… and I am so glad for it.
Maybe it’s the first step to outgrowing them. Jimself also said: "Hatred is a very underestimated emotion". When the hate is gone, perhaps the fire is gone. I hope I don’t leave them behind, because thinking of Morrison with a smile is a new and truly stupendous feeling to have.
I wonder, did I make peace with Morrison or with myself? I shall finish with a line from Marilyn Manson’s Rolling Stone piece about Jim for the Legends thing a few years ago. I nodded and agreed with everything he said – as an intelligent and thoughtful man loved by outsiders painted by the rest of the world as a terrible freak who’d bring down the Establishment and corrupt the Youth I suppose he was uniquely placed to comment upon an intelligent and thoughtful man loved by outsiders painted by the rest of the world as a terrible freak who’d bring down the Establishment and corrupt the Youth.
I wish every single mindless Doorzoid would be hit over the head with this until it sunk in:
But it’s all just ideas pasted on ideas, faded copies of copies. If you want to be like Jim Morrison, you can’t be anything like Jim Morrison. It’s about finding your own place in the world.
In other news, I believe that, unless Season Nine turns out to be better than Season Eight, I have declared ‘Radar Leaving’ as the moment MASH jumped the shark. I have also decided that I really love the phrase ‘jumped the shark’, possibly because I have seen the scene in Happy Days it refers to.
Also: I recommend not putting Creme Eggs in the fridge – the soft centre goes all solid and bizarre.