Report : Lighting Fires In A Rejuvenated Rock Scene.
Four Doors To The Future: Gothic Rock Is Their Thing
"Which one is Jim Morrison?" one girl said to another. But he was not on stage, and a drummer and an organist and a guitar player looked impatiently toward a curtained door.
They sat in darkness punctuated by the steady red lights of amplifiers as tall as a man and the glow of a hundred cigarettes dancing in the evening breeze. The curtain on the door hung like velvet one inch thick.
Contempt Greets Appearance
Two hands pierced the slit of the curtain and drew it back sharply as a spotlight racked the stage and exposed a man who squinted in the brightness. There was applause that he did not care to
hear, and the spotlight caught the contempt in the faces of the other musicians as Jim Morrison tentatively fingered the microphone.
He screamed and reeled, throttling the microphone and gazing at a sea of blank faces. He shouted a strung out, distorted and violated stream of word-images which twisted the faces into expressions of shock and yet fascination.
Then there were the drums, crashing against the pulsating rush of the organ while the guitar pirouetted around and through the rhythmic contest with a new sort of terrifying insistence. The
Doors were opening as Morrison's words found their way through the cicuitous maze of a thousand
wires in the impassive, deafening amplifiers.
He sang, or rather groaned, or talked to himself out loud as the group raced on through "break on Through" to lead off the set. The men and their instruments work well together in complete interaction, crystallizing the night air into a texture of sound which a person can run his hand over.
But Morrison gets all the attention, with black curls cascading over the upturned collar of a leather jacket worn the way all leather jackets should be: tight, tough, and somehow, menacing. Some people have said that Morrison is beautiful, and others have learned the meaning of the word charisma by watching him.
And then there is "Light my Fire," and Morrison's brass and leather voice strokes the lyrics with all the subtlety in which he handles the microphone. The song deserves to be done the Door's way, with suggestive intonation and instrumentation striving together to produce the incredible erotic pressure of the driving organ-scream climax.
After all, sex is what hard rock is all about. But there is terror in the sexuality of "The End," Morrison's black masterpiece of narrative poetry about a physical and spiritual odyssey which finishes in patricide and incest.
Morrison Finishes Strong
Morrison is at his best, in this song, doing his own thing while the organist bends low and presses hard on the keys and the guitarist walks unconcernedly in and out of the spotlight. The drummer sweats.
Morrison dislodged the microphone and staggered blindly across the stage as the lyrics and screams which are "The End" poured out of his mouth, malevolent, satanic, electric and on fire. He stumbled and fell in front of a towering amplifier and sobbed to himself. The guitarist nudged him with the neck of his guitar, and a mouth in the audience said knowingly, "He's stoned."
But he wasn't. He sat up on his knees and stretched out his arms in an attitude of worship toward the cold amplifier, the impartial mediator between the virtues and absurdity of a music dependent upon circuits and ohms.
The audience did not know whether to applaud or not. The guitarist unplugged the electric cord which makes his instrument play, the organist stepped off left, the drummer threw his sticks to the ground in contempt and disgust, and Morrison had disappeared through the velvet curtain without a wave of a smile.
The Doors do not cater to the nameless faces beyond the foot lights. The group is not kind, and they do not entertain in any traditional sense. They allow other people to witness the manner of their existence and the pain and pleasure inherent in their imaginations.
The audience was scared, and rightly so. The Doors are not pleasant, amusing hippies preferring a grin and a flower; they wield a knife with a gold and terrifying edge. The Doors are closely akin to the national taste for violence, and the power of their music forces each listener to realize what violence is in himself.
"I think the Doors are a representative American group," says Ray Manzarek, group organist. "America is a melting pot and so are we. Our influences spring from a myriad of sources which we have amalgamated, blending divergent styles into our own thing. We're like the country itself."
Manzarek and Morrison both have degrees from UCLA, and the organist in conversation speaks so articulately and precisely that he gives the impression of being an English professor forced out of academia and into a world of long hair, reverb and the fuzz bass.
The Doors met New York for better or for worse at a press conference in the gloomy vaulted wine cellar of the Delmonico hotel, the perfect room to honor the Gothic rock of the Doors.
It was a good scene. Very few press people, and a lot of the city's rock hangers-on, hirsute and free, were there, all sampling a new sort of high: alcohol. Plastic chicks in mischievous miniskirts sipped daiquiris and waited for Morrison to show. No one was sure he would. But Andy Warhol walked in, and everybody breathed a sigh of relief to find that this indeed was the place to be.
There is a story of the meeting of two electric world-historical heroes; that is, Jim Morrison and Nico, underground film star and singer with Warhol's Velvet Underground. It was love at first sight which later grew into lust, according to a friend of Morrison. Anyway, Warhol seems to be interested in Morrison's potential as a movie star.
Morrison Makes Entrance
Suddenly all eyes turned to the door, where Morrison was making another entrance, sweeping into the room and gathering up the adulation to put in the pocket of his leather jacket.
He put his arm around a reporter, spilling his drink, and compelled him toward the bar. A question which Morrison has been asked before came out somehow, "Jim, were you stoned up there on stage?" And the reply came back, "Man, I'm always stoned."
But apparently Morrison is not into drugs but has stuck with the old American stand-by, alcohol. He got his drink, spoke to the reporter in words which sailed over his head and bounced off the walls of the wine cellar like dead tennis balls. Morrison caromed off and hugged a chick. He was in his element. All the eyes were his.
"You could say it's an accident that I was ideally suited for the work I am doing," says Morrison. "It's the feeling of a bow string being pulled back for 22 years and suddenly being let go.
"I am interested in anything about revolt, disorder, chaos, especially activity that seems to have no meaning," he says. "It seems to be the road toward freedom."
Morrison writes nearly all of the Doors' lyrics, and his work does have meaning. There are rock critics in our time, and when they speak of Morrison's lyrics, visions of Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Joyce and Artaud pop out of their critiques.
But hard rock was never meant for academicism. There is truth in the Doors' beat which drives home the meaning of their fascination with symbolism, streams of consciousness, cruelty and the bizarre in whatever form. That's where the Doors are.
The themes, symbols, and imagery of the Doors are stronger in their second album, which manages to transcend the fever-pitch intensity and macabre beauty of their first. The Doors have grown, a good sign.
Significantly titled "Strange Days," the new album's music is just as erotic, just as hard-driving, just as compelling but twice as terrifying as their first effort.
Rock Stasis is Bad
The album contains neither the sophistication and cautious optimism of the Beatles, nor the self-conscious hedonism of the Rolling Stones. The Doors are doing their own thing, and innovation is better than stasis as far as rock is concerned. With the Doors, it's getting better all the time.
Even the name is significant. Morrison once explained why it exists: "We're the Doors because you go into a strange town, you check into a hotel. Then after you have played your gig, you go back to your room, down an endless corridor lined with doors until you get to your own.
"But when you open the door you find there are lots of people inside, and you wonder: Am I in the wrong room? Or is it some kind of party?"
So, not only is it historical, but I think I have to hold this article up as the best example of music journalism I've ever read. Lordy. It's good.
Wikipedia mentioned the article on its Gothic Rock page, but the links they provided were broken. So, if you were curious, it was published in the Williams Record, the Williams College newspaper, on October 24th, 1967. It's nestled among articles about student protests, the Vietnam war, and college life. The author's name is John Stickney. I wonder if he knows the sensation he caused. You can find it on the archive link here (it's a pain to link directly to, so open the folder called 1967 October, then folder 24, then number 3.)
Of course, Wikipedia could be totally wrong here. Have you heard of earlier origins of the term Gothic rock?