Paris#6 – The Tomb of the Lizard King

We all go through periods of fixations… perhaps ‘fads’ is the right word.  Whether it be karate, surfing or playing the drums – a parent has got to be ready for the 5 minute attention span that these ‘hobbies’ nearly always entail.

Then we have our musical fads.  Periods of time in our lives where we are consumed by a band that seems so monstrously ahead of its time, or game changing that all others fall by the wayside.  After the passing of the fad these bands will often slip from view, occasionally pulsing like a beacon on the mini screen of that motion-detection gadget from Aliens.  Punk, Zeppelin, Brit-Pop… I’ve been totally absorbed and then I’ve ended up slowly backing away… right up to the wall.  I now admire from a distance… and some of the fads actually mature, in this way, over time.  I can certainly appreciate Zeppelin now more than ever for the great blues rock band they were.  I no longer need to hold aloft Jimmy Page as some kind of guru.  In fact he’s quite a messy guitar player.  And Robert Plant screeched too much… and used too many cliched lyrics.  There… I’ve said it.  Ha ha!  For you see… the fad consumes you to the point of not quite seeing the horizon.  But with your back against the wall you can survey the scene of the crime for what it really is.

I really loved the Doors as a teenager.  I bit hard on the hook of the Oliver Stone film and was drawn into the story of Jim Morrison.  Now… Morrison is one of those historical musical personalities that really divides opinion.  If you google him you’ll find a whole army of people ready to tell you that he was a good for nothing, alcoholic, drug-addled, narcissistic lay-about with no talent and a modicum of luck.  Then you get the fervently Morrison-religious faction who declare ol’ Jim as the second coming of Christ.  And never the twain of opinions shall meet.

I think the reality is somewhere in the middle.  For me, Jim Morrison was an important rock and roll character.  Even now, he epitomises the archetypal rock frontman.  In ‘that’ series of photos he was the very definition of the ‘lead singer’.  Naked torso, beads and straggly hair.  The man every girl wants to screw and every guy wants to be.  A triumph of image over content?  That’s what I hear all the time.  Hmmm.

Listening to the Doors brings back youthful memories.  Like the way a smell takes you immediately back somewhere in your past.  These songs take me back to being a teenager.  And so I listen, aware that for many, the Doors‘ music is considered a joke.  Let me just make my stance clear… I think the negative viewpoint of the band’s output is wrong.  This is a band that has  in its repertoire songs such as Break on Through (To the Other Side), Light My Fire, The End, Love Street, Touch Me… the list goes on.  I suggest you dig out the final album, LA Woman, now…  stick it on and listen to some authentic rock and roll.  The majesty of the title track… and the serenity of perhaps the defining Doors‘ song, Riders on the Storm.  Truly epic, beautiful music.

Morrison’s lyrics have faced accusations of being no more than adolescent, naive claptrap.  Well… for me… I feel there is definitely some justification for calling Morrison’s lyrics poetry.  Morrison certainly believed he was a poet.    And when you tie the words to the music they assume a new level.  It’s easy to criticise the naked word on the page.  Banal… meaningless… nursery rhyme-esque.  Yet in the context of the music I believe Jim Morrison was indeed a poet.  Hell… shoot me.  There are lines in those songs that any lyricist would kill to have written.  They may not admit as much… but I guarantee that there are a lot of envious  eyes and ears out there.

Jim Morrison, a man who seemed to have accomplished so much and caused such ‘incident’ in such a short amount of time.  His antics rivaled Axl Rose and yet Morrison was dead at 27.  Did he die a boy or a man?  Spoilt, molly-coddled rock star or boozy, extravagant genius?  Again… the truth is somewhere in the middle.  I don’t think I would have liked Jim Morrison as a person.  I would probably have crossed the road to avoid him.  A drunk, nasty, self-absorbed egotist.  And yet I’ve heard tapes of some of his drunken rambling and he actually sounded pretty coherent.  Probably just a product of the flower power generation – even if he was trying to be the antidote to peace and love!  A young man, given a lot of money and thrust into the lime light.  Having viewed many documentaries on Morrison I feel that he is not quite the character as portrayed in the Oliver Stone film.  In reality Jim Morrison seemed a little less charismatic, quieter… hard to reconcile with the footage of the ‘incidents’.  I think the mix of alcohol and fame brought Morrison to his knees… and many others to their knees around him. 😉

So… where do the Doors, and Jim Morrison feature in the pantheon of great rock bands?  Well… I think they reckon a lot higher than many a list you’ll see.  And for a ‘fad’ of many an alienated youth this is a rock icon who deserves to live forever.  I visited his grave… and if I have absorbed a fragment of his balls, of his attitude, of his artistry then I will be a happy man!