You know when someone’s a bit of a dickhead but you don’t want anyone else to say so because he’s like a family member and he also has lots of wonderful qualities that people can’t or choose not to see?
Well, Jim Morrison’s a bit like that.
He – though Robby Krieger denies it – got his lad out and pissed on adoring crowds.
He regularly kept thousands of people waiting and then, upon finally arriving, talked bollocks at frustrating lengths before slurring his way through gigs that people might have spent loads of money and time trying to get to in the hope that they would be rewarded with one of the best days or nights of their lives.
He clambered on stage pissed as a fart in the middle of a relatively intimate Hendrix set and ruined everyone’s good time by stumbling around the place howling barely remembered lines of his own lyrics; and, worse still, someone thought it would be a good idea to save that recording for us all to cringe at decades later.
He, as I learnt from his estranged father’s obituary, snubbed his own mother at a gig she’d turned up to show that she’d overcome her starchy prejudices against – as the wife of a straight-laced military man might understandably have seen it – such outlandishness.
He burnt all his original poetry and writings to save us all a job and then promptly wrote more of the execrable stuff for us to wade and wince through, some of which was to play a part in the posthumous wankathon that was An American Prayer.
And though such fecklessness is not untypical of that hedonistic period in history, he left behind him a whole ream of paternity suits, leaving those children fatherless.
The bloke could be a pillock. A prize pillock.
Bandwagons are there to be attacked with all manner of weapons you can get your hands on for the ultimate purpose of destabilising them and scalping everyone aboard.
That’s the beauty of living in, what is to some fluid extent, a free and open society: no, not that we can go about the place tomahawking people and indulging in mass pyromania; but that we can say whatever we want about whomever we want, provided we stay within the quite sensible boundaries of the laws of defamation (not applicable when they’re dead of course, so you can literally say what you like).
Which is why – should we feel so inclined and can put forward a strong argument that can build momentum of its own – we’re able to counter cloying marketing messages and, in time, undermine mass public opinion.
It’s thanks to this that we’ve finally come to our collective senses and realised that though Coldplay may occasionally create 25 seconds of exhilarating sonic pleasure, Chris Martin – presumably due in part to a vegetarian diet precluding anything approaching stamina – and his cohorts simply can’t keep it up [gratuitous Frankie Howerd ooh-err noise].
Coldplay are, therefore, no longer widely seen as the saviours of popular music that they were once purported to be; rather, they are viewed merely as pedlars of a particularly beige brand of anthemic rock-pop that happens to sell quite well. Bandwagon well and truly upended and set ablaze.
There was probably a Doors bandwagon around about the late-80s or early-90s, when The Best of The Doors came out and your mum or whomever bought it and tried to convince you – and themselves – that they “were there, man: you wouldn’t understand”. That was annoying.
Certainly, my first exposure to The Doors – which set me alight – was in my Mum’s car and then, when I went on from a small provincial boarding school to a public school, I found my burgeoning love for The Doors shared, though rarely equalled. It’s possibly the fact that The Doors are perceived to so appeal to middle and upper-middle (even full-blown upper) class people that a bandwagon has since gathered momentum against The Doors and Jim Morrison in particular.
And it really has, with British radio time for The Doors now minimal and the likes of Marcus Brigstocke making snide little jokes like “Jim Morrison made an album called ‘An American Poet’. He was only one of those things”. That joke is poor on so many levels – e.g. it’s ‘American Prayer’, mate; and he didn’t make it: he’d been brown bread for ages when that album was produced – but it’s indicative of the sort of thing I’m on about.
Twitter is awash with people of a leftist persuasion full-stop, which is fine, and many of the ones I speak to on there are interested in some of the music that I’m into, and some that I’m really, really not. That’s fine, too. That’s the beauty of something as subjective as music or art: we’re allowed to differ in our opinions. Many of these, though, reserve a special kind of venom for my boy Jim and The Doors and generally won’t listen to any argument countering their own. That’s objectionable.
Yeah, deride Jim Morrison all you like, but one undeniable thing remains: that he is the true embodiment of a rock star. Nearly everyone else was playing at it by comparison. He burned so wilfully brightly and quickly that he went up and out like a flare; or, more poetically, perhaps – and in keeping with his passion for the theatrical elements of the Ancient World – like a single manifestation of the Dioskouri, dead and yet immortal, burning brilliantly forever in the night sky of our minds.
And though his poetry in the context of the written word was often poor – believe me, I’ve spent enough time trying to convince myself otherwise – he was nevertheless a startling lyricist, composing some of the most arresting songs in the history of popular music, with his genuine passion for literature, theatre and the esoteric alive in each of them.
We should also remember that The Doors were effectively only around for five years, from 1966 up until his untimely death in 1971, and that in those five years Morrison acted as central figure in one of the stand-out bands of that remarkable period in music history. They produced six studio albums of outstanding quality – some better than others, admittedly – packed full of Jim Morrison’s lyrics in that short period; and it is my own belief that L.A. Woman, the last of them, was as strong as any, with the Mojo Rising motif perhaps Morrison’s crowning glory.
I could go on: abut the Shaman-like, hypnotic stage presence; the stirring of crowds into Bacchanalian frenzy; the idiosyncratic drama of his voice, so unlike any other of the time; the fact that he wrote as many anti-Vietnam songs as any labelled ‘protest singer’, each of them dread-filled and tinged with enigmatic agony; the film director’s sense of what will work on camera, as so apparent in the black-and-white 1968 Copenhagen recordings; the refusal to compromise and genuine don’t-give-a-shit attitude that so irked Ed Sullivan, among others; the teasing cynicism towards the cult of personality that built up around him; the commitment to a perceived destiny that he should go out in a blaze and leave behind a sense of mystery that still surrounds him to this day.
It’s a long list I could add to.
It seems strange writing a defence of sorts for a man and a band whose records still sell millions worldwide every year, and whose image remains such an icon of the 1960s. Yet, whereas the likes of John Lennon – and even Gram Parsons, oddly – appear to be somehow untouchable despite some of his less endearing qualities, Jim appears to be fair game. Maybe he is – I’ve supplied plenty of evidence to suggest so, and there’s much more besides. But he and The Doors have become a target for a rather unnecessary level of unbecoming iconoclastic sneering in recent years, when there are plenty of other figures of the same era that could do with having their overblown reputations diminished somewhat.
Perhaps I’m being a little too defensive about it, but that’s what you do when you feel someone or something you have loved for so long has been slighted.