I can’t really compute it, if I’m honest. I feel like I should be utterly bereft, but I’m not. I mean, Jim Morrison is dead. As of today, he’s been dead forty years. That’s a middle-aged person ago. I’ve been a fan long enough that I remember the thirtieth anniversary, and how I felt then. Utterly shite, basically. I probably cried. Hell, I’m almost certain I cried. There were riots in Paris on his twentieth anniversary. The consistently dreadful behaviour of ‘fans’ nearly got him kicked out of Pere-Lachaise, but I can’t imagine today will be all that much of a deal. The rabble-rousers got old and are probably spending their Sundays in garden centres or outlet malls.
As is so often the case, this will be as much about me as Jim. It’s the only way I can connect to him, after all. Forty years… I outlived him a couple of years ago, you know. It tore me apart for a few days (or possibly months, or maybe it still does) but I just about got over it. Maybe he’s the world’s oldest twenty-seven year old and I never quite have to outlive him.
It’s not easy being a Doors fan. I think I know at least a little how ELO fans feel when they’re met with smirks of derision when they announce that they are, in fact, ELO fans. ELO fans don’t even have the advantage of having someone who looks like Jim Morrison out front. Anyway, my point is that a lot of people who have some knowledge of popular culture have a particular view on ‘who’ Doors fans are. Doors fans are, the generalisation goes, whiny-angsty students who sit in darkened rooms burning incense, or they are pitiful people who wear Jim-like clothes and spout pseudo-Rimbaudian crap. Well, I’ve done a lot of angsting in darkened rooms but incense gives me a headache and I’ve never got down with Rimbaud particularly. The worst thing that can be said about Doors fans, or Doorzoids as more than one critic put it, is that they have no sense of perspective: Jim is greatest at everything and nobody else ever did anything nearly as good as he did. Jim is beyond criticism and everyone should live a life like Jim. They are blindly-worshipping followers like those morons in Life of Brian who just repeat everything back to him. Have you heard that girl on the live recording who agrees with everything Jim says, even when he turns on a sixpence and says the opposite of what he’d just said?
In fact, I was at Glastonbury last weekend in the mud-n-sun, and one of the people I was there with told me he spent a portion of his youth trying to be like Jim. I’m paraphrasing, but he said with the weariness of someone who has come out the other side of a troubling obsession: “I acted like a complete twat.”
I myself have spent the last ten or so years battling between using Jim as a Life Lesson and just plain following him down the troubling road to The Mythical Edge (nothing to do with U2). I have never wanted to be Jim, but I have come close to swan-diving off The Mythical Edge to find him. It is no credit to me but I have sat alone, emptying a bottle and calling to the sky for him. He has never come, of course.
He’s just that kind of guy, really. A lot of people have probably died trying to be like Jim, just as a lot of people have died trying to be like Keith Richards. I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing, or maybe it just is. The shame of it is that Jim was always more than just a Hellraising Rock Star. He was incredibly well-read, thoughtful and determined to do more than just basic three-minute love songs. In fact, there’s not a single Doors song you could call a straightforward love song. Seriously, find me one.
The Doors have always been both under- and over-rated. While their advocates will never cease listing their strengths and moments of brilliance, they remain on the outskirts of the Rock Pantheon, outsiders even now. Their work is too arty/pretentious, the great songs too long to get much radio play. They exist in a pre-video world so there’s not much to show on TV. They’re not for the Normal People. I once blogged, a long time ago, how I would not be a Doors fan if I had been beautiful, or popular. The Doors belong to us weirdos and freaks, so they never quite fit into the stereotypical view of the 1960s. Indeed, while everyone in 1967 was all Peace And Love, the Doors were doing The End. See also Love, who like their Elektra stablemates, took psychedelic music and skewed it. This is the dark side of the sun, man, and it doesn’t quite fit. Jim makes it into those endless lists of rock stars and stuff because he is seen as a stereotypical rock star. And don’t you believe for a second that he didn’t encourage it… but it wasn’t all he was.
He was more than just the smirking, shirt-allergic Adonis of legend. Seriously man, he was. I’m not a Doors fan because Jim was ‘cute’ and I’ve never had a crush on him. All-consuming obsession sure, but not a crush. He was, is, and ever will be, more than that. He is my hero, and I won’t ever apologise for it. He was a writer of generally good and occasionally great music. He was more than the punchline to a fucking joke.
I have never wanted to follow him blindly, although maybe sometimes I have. I’ve seen and oftentimes agreed with criticisms of him, and his work. He did skirt the line between arty and pretentious and sometimes he fell right over it to become mired in self-important wankery. I pity the fools who turned up late to some shows and missed the support act (a small time group called Led Zeppelin) and got instead an incoherent drunken ramble from headliner Jim. You don’t have to tell me what a dick he could be: I’ve read pretty much everything there is to read, and I know. He’s still my hero, both because and in spite of his great weaknesses. He’s still the guy who gave us ‘The End’ and ‘The Unknown Soldier’ and ‘Five to One’ and ‘The Soft Parade’. Sure, he’s also the ‘genius’ behind ‘Horse Latitudes’, which I don’t think was intended as a comedy, but “mute nostril agony” is hilarious. The Doors gave us some practically perfect slices of late-60s rock music: ‘Love Me Two Times’, ‘Love Her Madly’, ‘Break on Through’ and freak anthem ‘People Are Strange’. They gave us some extraordinary bits of art-rock too: the seventeen minute, epic ‘Celebration of The Lizard’, aurally bizarre ‘L’America’ and the achingly beautiful ‘The Crystal Ship’.
Have I mentioned Jim’s fantastic, brutal, beautiful voice? Well I should. He could croon like Sinatra but he could also yell and scream with the best of ’em. His voice is like his legend: alternately seductive and violent, alluring and grotesque. Who else could scream at you to WAKE UP and then take you on a journey like that in a Doors concert? For me, Jim’s power is not in his face, but in his voice.
A few weeks back, I listened to LA Woman all the way through. Then I did so twice more. The Doors is a great record and the five that follow all have tremendous moments, but LA Woman is an unquestionably remarkable record. Jim’s voice is already ravaged, but it’s perfect for some dark, terrible blues. ‘Been Down So Long’ has been my own personal theme tune for years. There’s not a duff song anywhere on the record, although ‘Riders on the Storm’ has always veered dangerously towards cocktail lounge music for my liking – I think it’s Ray’s organ sound – but it’s still a good song. If they’d been able to follow that up, the Doors would likely have regained the ground lost by the Jim’s Cock trial.
More woulda-could-shoulda there. I have my dreams of what they and he could’ve achieved if he’d lived. Some of them are barely even cloud cuckoo land, some of them really are as entrenched in reality as possible. None of them will come true, so I should just put them away. He is dead, after all.
In death, we can take Jim as we need him. I needed a hero to cling onto who would not disappoint me. Even in death, he’s managed to do so from time to time, but he’s still the guy who turned down car commercials. It’s likely that had he lived, he would’ve sold out as thoroughly as any of the others, but he didn’t live to do so, and remains more or less unsullied. He didn’t ever make peace with authority and even now remains dangerous, in his way, to society as it currently is. I needed him to be that person, unapologetic for himself. I needed him to be someone I could admire precisely because he never did fit in.
Mind you, seeing Doors CDs being sold in Starbucks took some serious rationalising. It’s pretty good in some ways that Himself is dead – I can just blame it all on Father Ray, Robby & John.
Right now, I’m sat in Starbucks on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I’m drinking an iced latte, I’m dressed in a bright yellow sundress and I would honestly describe myself as ‘cheerful’. Except for the small detail that Jim Morrison is dead. And you know what? He’s been dead for such a long bloody time that it’s simply how it is. Of course I’m sad, but if you think I’m going to let this drag me down for my entire damn life, you’re more delusional than I am. I am, finally, just about resigned to it.
For the rest of my life and beyond it, I will always believe that a world without Jim in it is worse than one with him in it. I will always believe that he would’ve become a mighty figure… but I’m not going to shed any tears over it today. He’s already had enough of them from me. He would’ve been a magnificent sight to behold and his work would’ve been more than just the occasional hint of brilliance, but it didn’t happen and until I get my time machine, that’s how it’s staying.
Today in the sunshine, the shadows are out of sight and it turns out we could survive without him. Jaysus, that should break my heart – but it doesn’t. Into the sunshine, indeed.