This article originally appeared in Issue 16/17 of
on June/July 1968.
Oh Caroline. I want to go back.
Debbie, Robin, and I were close enough to see faces. Beautiful faces.
First there was a group called the Crome Syrcus from Oregon or Washington—some Pacific Northwest place. I was prepared for them to be terrible, but they were great. They had some interesting lyrics and incredibly complicated arrangements that involved everybody switching instruments back and forth and split-second timing. They were all pretty ugly but they made up for it. Except for the lead singer, who was too fat and not lovable like Howard Kaylan (of the Turtles). He could sing OK and he seemed nice enough, but when the other guys had solos he stayed in front and distracted everyone. That’s a bad trip.
Next was Ars Nova from New York City. They were practically an orchestra. Not in number—but what instruments! Three guitars, a trumpet, a trombone, and this unbelievable percussion section that included every trap drum you ever heard of, plus a kettle drum, a gigantic gong, and a set of triangles! They were good, too, but a little too loud.
The Joshua Light Show did a groovy job when they caught it. They weren’t on top of the music all the time, but when they were it was beautiful. While the stage was being set up for the Doors they showed an old Bugs Bunny cartoon, which was a big hit, and injected some of their own color effects into it. Very cool when it came as a surprise. It wore out quickly but the first time was worth it.
Finally Ray came wandering across the purple-lit stage. He must be over six feet tall, very blond and very thin. He was wearing a beautiful cream-colored suit with a long jacket (double vents to the waist in back). It was perfect for him. He sat at his organ on the left facing center.
John came out—loped out—he’s very long-legged—and sat at his drums. He has this really great face. It’s very intense, but you know all the time that he’s smiling inside. He was dressed in red velvet and the front of the pullover top was like a striped woven bib with tassels on the bottom. Very interesting. He looked comfortable.
Robby materialized out of nowhere. I looked and there he was, standing there in a black denim street cowboy suit. You know the kind. It looked like he’s been wearing it for seven or eight years, and it’s all stretched out to fit his bumps. His hair is incredible. It has no arrangement. How do you describe it? Avant-garde Garfunkel? A haystack in a high wind? So what.
Robby and Ray threw notes back and forth across the stage tuning up, and John bashed around a little so we wouldn’t forget he was there. This went on until everyone was crazy from excitement—then they started the introduction to “When the Music’s Over.” I couldn’t believe they’d start with that. How do you follow it?
But they did. They went on playing this endless introduction until everyone was leaning out of their seats in anticipation. Debbie kept saying, “I bet he isn’t here,” until I was ready to hit her.
Then a shadow came out of the wings. A beautiful phantom in a sloppy pea jacket, floppy light brown leather cowboy hat, hair down to here, and these impossible tight leather pants…There was instant applause and cheering.
He stepped to the microphone, grabbed the top with his right hand and the stand with his left fingertips, and looked up so the light hit his face.
The world began at that moment.
I felt like it was all a dream before that. Nothing was real except his incredible presence. Jim Morrison was there in that room and, baby, you better believe it.
There isn’t another face like that in the world. It’s so beautiful, and not even handsome in the ordinary way. I think it’s because you can tell by looking at him that he IS God. When he offers to die on the cross for us, it’s OK because he IS Christ. He’s everything that ever was and all that ever can be, and he KNOWS it. He just wants to let us know that so are we.
That’s why we love him. (His soul has been around for a long time. It’s seen things he only hints at, but I remember things from a million years ago when he sings. He has one of the really old souls.)
He starts out shrieking, eating the microphone, pressing his thin leather leg against the stand. (The teenyboppers are coming all over the place. There are incredible sexual groans from the girls down the aisle at his every whisper.)
They moved straight into “Back Door Man.” I think. I don’t remember too clearly. Maybe it was “Break on Through.” I was too busy wondering what his attitude toward us was. Why did he have to keep the hat and coat on? Was it too cold?
But at the end of whatever it was, he turned his back to us—tossed down the hat gently in front of the drums—laid his jacket over it and ran his hands back through his hair. (I don’t think he plans to ever cut it again. It’s past his shoulders now—all wavy and thick. Debbie didn’t like it at first, and ended up saying, “It’s OK for him, though.” It IS him.)
When he turned around, he was our friend.
He’s definitely toned down his act from his falling-off-the-stage period. He only jumped four times while they were onstage, and they were beautiful leaps. Any cheerleader would be proud…He only tried to rape the microphone stand twice.
There were a few times when he scared me to death. He grabbed the mike in both hands and screamed and shook until everyone was sure he was being electrocuted. Purely for effect.
And even though he tries to hold it back, once in a while he breaks into a smile that is so beautiful you want to hug him.
People were throwing daffodils onto the stage, and he picked them all up and passed them around to the other guys—Iaying some on the organ and Robby’s amp and stuffing them between the wires on John’s mike stand. He took one personally from some brave (and lucky) girl who will never forgive herself for sitting down so fast. I think he wanted to thank her….
They moved from one song to another effortlessly. Robby—very cool—walking around his side of the stage, checking his amps, goofing across the stage with Ray in a very quiet way, wandering down front to watch the show (just as if he weren’t part of it). Ray bobs over his keyboards, an extension of the music inside of him, smiling because it all fits together so perfectly—just being beautiful. (Sometimes I love him more than Jim. Just sometimes.) He’s playing two instruments at once (regular organ plus a piano bass) and he sounds like two organs and a regular electric bass. He amazes me. And John is bashing away happily—still looking intense—now very soft…now machine gun loud. Always just right, and tying it all together.
During the break in “Light My Fire,” Jim did something that earned him instant respect (at least from me and Debbie and Robin). He went off into the shadows and left the spotlight to Ray and John and Robby. You could see him if you wanted to, but you didn’t have to. He was in the darkness behind Ray dancing with a daffodil. (Yes, that’s what l said.) Actually, he was just dancing and he happened to have it in his hand. (He’s a great dancer. Not awkward like most guys.) After a while he went over by John. In back of the drums there was a lower area where their road managers were hiding in case they needed any help. (John’s cymbal kept collapsing, for instance, and HE couldn’t stop to set it up again.) There also was a ladder that some crazy bald guy kept climbing on to take pictures of the audience and Jim’s back. Jim picked up the camera and took a picture of us. When he was tired of that, he went around to the side of the drums and decided to play bug-the-drummer. He waved the daffodil under John’s flying sticks—threatening to toss it on the snare—until John cracked his first smile (YUM!) and pretended to pound Jim…without ever missing a beat. About then, it was time to stroll back and finish the song.
At one point he said, “We’re gonna show a movie a little later, and I want you all to watch it real close—’cause you have to give a report on it.”
It was the film I told you about for “The Unknown Soldier. “You’ll never see that one on TV. It’s the bravest thing any group has done, and I’m glad they did it—even though no one else could have. It’s Jim’s place. That’s his purpose in life.
We demanded an encore. They sang “The Unknown Soldier” for us because the soundtrack on the film is scratchy.
Just before he collapsed to “die,” Jim smiled his most beautiful smile.
Lots of groups don’t look too happy onstage. They act as though they’re doing you a favor and they have lots of places they’d rather be.
Jim looked that way until he took his coat off. After that, they all looked incredibly happy. They kept smiling, and looked like they were really digging it all. That made me feel good. Ray and Jim especially looked like it was getting them high. That’s nice.
When Jim is in a playful mood and doesn’t feel like singing angry lyrics, he lapses into gibberish or illiterate slang. It keeps the impact because everyone knows what the real words are—but it takes the edge off and lets us know where his head is, at that moment.
Debbie and Robin and I were trying to sum him up. I knew what l thought, but I held back to see if it was just me. Debbie said it. I never opened my mouth. “He’s like a little boy sometimes—but not childish.” Childlike.
Jim has the kind of innocence about him that only comes from knowing everything. Do you understand that?
He doesn’t have to be afraid of the dark because he already knows what’s there. He can spend his time grooving and teaching instead of cowering and running.
He loves us and wants to show us that all we have to do is open up to ourselves and be honest with what is inherently US. That by putting him on a pedestal we can only elevate ourselves, because he is determined to pull us up with him. He wants us to KNOW that, and we sense it—at least subconsciously.
He’s really an artist. I kept feeling that he was creating right in front of me. The sound waves are his canvas, the group is his brush, and their talents are his colors. Right there he has more than enough to create a masterpiece. Then he puts himself into the center of it and becomes part of his art. It frames him and he IS and CREATES at the same time. Wow.
But there’s more.
Ever since I got so deeply involved with their albums, I’ve realized that Jim has said or will say everything that needs to be said. Everything that can be said. “Weird scenes inside the gold mine” is already a classic line. There can only be more.
His poetry isn’t personal like Dylan’s. Anyone can understand it, and realize that it’s there to make it a better world. To make us better people.
Jim and his old soul are deeply tied in with the collective unconscious, and he is great because he makes us remember ourselves or whoever we were in the past.
He unlocks something in the cells. That’s very important.
Go see them if you ever have the chance.