Re: The Doors
Morrison is obviously the lightning rod for most people, but here’s what I’ve found about an awful lot of people who hate the Doors: they listened to them in high school and liked them. Not everyone, of course, but a lot of people. There is a definite dynamic in Doors hate of people buying what he did as profound, growing up and realizing that it was maybe not so profound, and being embarrassed that they once found it profound. 
As for the “Morrison’s a tool” angle, well, I guess, maybe, but he’s hardly more of a tool than, say, Johnny Rotten. His personal life was a wreck, but man, that is an awfully slippery measuring stick when you’re judging someone’s music (though it’s not off limits, obviously). Morrison was a voracious reader, and his attempts to cram all of the philosophy he absorbed into his own writing can be ham-fisted, but the price of ambition is often failure to hit your mark and resulting ridicule. The worst ridicule he ever received in his lifetime for his music was from his own father. That had to leave a mark. 

Re: Rush
Yes, the libertarian thing. I alluded to it earlier. It would be one thing if they were politicians, making decisions that affected people’s lives, but really I can’t be that bothered by it. And like you say, it is more complicated than that, and in any event, their philanthropic side outweighs whatever distaste I might have for their fascination with The Fountainhead.

Re: The Doors

Morrison is obviously the lightning rod for most people, but here’s what I’ve found about an awful lot of people who hate the Doors: they listened to them in high school and liked them. Not everyone, of course, but a lot of people. There is a definite dynamic in Doors hate of people buying what he did as profound, growing up and realizing that it was maybe not so profound, and being embarrassed that they once found it profound. 

As for the “Morrison’s a tool” angle, well, I guess, maybe, but he’s hardly more of a tool than, say, Johnny Rotten. His personal life was a wreck, but man, that is an awfully slippery measuring stick when you’re judging someone’s music (though it’s not off limits, obviously). Morrison was a voracious reader, and his attempts to cram all of the philosophy he absorbed into his own writing can be ham-fisted, but the price of ambition is often failure to hit your mark and resulting ridicule. The worst ridicule he ever received in his lifetime for his music was from his own father. That had to leave a mark. 

Re: Rush

Yes, the libertarian thing. I alluded to it earlier. It would be one thing if they were politicians, making decisions that affected people’s lives, but really I can’t be that bothered by it. And like you say, it is more complicated than that, and in any event, their philanthropic side outweighs whatever distaste I might have for their fascination with The Fountainhead.

anythingcouldhappen

anythingcouldhappen:

everygreatsongever:

The Doors: “Waiting For The Sun” (Morrison Hotel, 1970)

Let’s talk about The Doors.

According to Patti Smith (in Just Kids):

I had a strange reaction watching Jim Morrison. Everyone around me seemed transfixed, but I observed his every move in a state of cold hyperawareness. I remember this feeling much more clearly than the concert. I felt, watching Morrison, that I could do that. I can’t say why I thought this. I had nothing in my experience to make me think that would ever be possible, yet I harbored that conceit. I felt both kinship and contempt for him. I could feel his self-consciousness as well as his supreme confidence.

Oh wow. This is such a perfect quotation. It gets right to the heart of what makes The Doors so repulsive and so compelling at the same time.

More on The Doors

For better or worse, what rock was meant to be.

grand cabaret of grotesques - breathtaking at best - came off rails..

overrated/underrated in equal measure

Bad poetry and arty overreach = good trashy melodrama (occasionally).

To some degree, each of these responses describes my own feelings about The Doors.

It makes me wonder at one point I began to think critically about the band, and whether or not my thoughts about them today are informed by the negative opinions of people I know or if they’re entirely my own. I guess that’s the thing about joining communities—a part of you merges with the community, and after a while it becomes difficult to tell which parts are still all you.

This has been fun. Thanks for the responses, everyone.

Playing Bass For The Doors

Dreadfully dull; ponderous; get a bass guitar; lose the singer. [click to visit the Tumblr of the commenter]

My first-ever opinion of the Doors was a negative one. We were in my family’s 1984 Chevrolet Caprice Classic station wagon, driving the central Connecticut Valley, most likely on the way to New Haven from my hometown of Tolland. I was maybe six? My parents had the oldies station on, and “Hello, I Love You” was playing.

As a six-year-old, I did not have a well-developed sense of the tropes of rock and roll lyrics. The idea of instant attraction was completely foreign to me as a pre-sexual being. I couldn’t figure out how this guy could fall in love at hello. I thought that was something that took years. And consequently, I thought the song was totally stupid.

In high school, when I connected with The Doors as The Doors, and not as one song among many on a car trip, I remembered this, and wondered what I’d think of “Hello I Love You” when I heard it again. Now that I understand the stylized sexuality of it, it made a lot more sense. They’re still not great lyrics, but the weird crunch of the song has long since overtaken them to land this song in my good graces.

I didn’t really think about The Doors much from about age 19 to 27, but then a strange thing happened: I mentioned them on a message board, in passing. And then followed five posts by five people, of absolute, stunning hate, directed not at me but at The Doors. Since then, it seems like every time I bring up the band, especially in the music critic circles I tend to run in online, there is always at least one person who flat-out hates this band.

When I asked people to give me their opinions of the Doors yesterday, I wondered how many of those kinds of responses I’d get. The one up top is the closest anyone came. Thing is, I can see everything Jonathan says about the band, except for the bit about the bass player, which we’ll get to in a bit. I mean, if we’re talking about the right piece of music, I even agree with it.

What excited you in your teens is different from what excites you years later—that much is obvious. No one’s personality is static over that span of his or her life. Similarly, what excited people as new and different in the 60s sounds very different today, obviously.

I can see how, if someone loved The Doors as a teen and now sees them as horrible, past love for The Doors could be embarrassing, and consequently, this embarrassment is channeled into hate (not saying this is the case with anyone who responded yesterday, but some of the more vitriolic attacks on the band I’ve seen seem to come from this place). Which brings me to:

Fisher Price: Baby’s first 60’s Rock Band [again, click for the Tumblr]

As someone who once loved The Doors and has since moderated that stance to liking some of their working but not all of it, I think this is actually pretty apt. The Doors are, like them or not, something of a gateway for a lot of kids into venturesome music. I think this befits their place in the history of the music.

The Doors were a progressive band, any way you want to look at them. Their debut came out in January, 1967, before Sgt Pepper, Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, Are You Experienced and every other landmark LP of that year. “The End,” for all its ridiculous Oedipal overkill, was likely the first time many people who bought the LP heard a rock band attempt anything so big. That LP is its own kind of landmark, and it makes sense that successive generations have returned to it when trying to find their way off the beaten path.

Should have stuck to instrumentals.

vs.

Morrison: not actually much goofier than your average ’60s frontman.

Obviously, what drives most people mad about The Doors is Jim Morrison. To some people, he’s the ultimate rock frontman. Obviously, he had flare as a performer. He has a certain magnetism. He also very, very badly wanted to carry on the flame of late-50s beat poetry, and here’s where he becomes problematic for many people. I think a lot of people’s disdain for this band can be summed up in nine words: “I am the lizard king. I can do anything.” Alternately, “When I was back there in seminary school,” followed by something about whipping a horse’s eyes.

But here’s a tricky question: what would this band have been without him? We have perhaps some idea, because of what they did after him, but really, you’d be talking about a different band, and, probably, not talking about them at all. Without Morrison, maybe they would have become an American version of The Nice? I kind of doubt it.

I think Morrison’s earnest quest to be like his heroes is one of the reasons high schoolers get so fervent about this band. These are, after all, the very people who are trying hardest to forge their own identities. There is probably some subconscious empathy there.

Douglas Lubahn

Do you know who that is? He’s the guy who plays bass on the second, third and fourth Doors albums. He was asked to join the band in 1969, but was already playing in a group called Clear Light and declined because he wanted to focus on that band.

Anyway, the band famously had no bassist, but they never made a single LP without a bass player on at least half the songs.

The Doors: “Waiting For The Sun” (Morrison Hotel, 1970)

Let’s talk about The Doors.

I like the Doors. They have music I love and music I think is terrible. In high school, I loved them—they are exactly the kind of band you like in high school. The craziness, the seriousness, the implied gravity of the post-Beatnik poetry spouted by the doomed frontman… all of that feels right when you’re in your teens. The actual substance of that poetry hardly matters at all—the important thing is that he means it.

Hearing the Doors today makes me think of high school and what I was like as a music fan back then. This is the central reason I’ve decided to excavate the cassettes I taped off the radio—to see if I can figure out how I developed as a listener and where certain changes might have taken place.

The Doors bring me back to two specific people. One is my friend Matt, who was my best friend from some time around third grade until we became slowly estranged toward the end of high school (long story—I hope to see him again some day). I have one particularly vivid memory of the two of us, listening to an LP of Strange Days and kind of freaking out over “Horse Latitudes.”

We had gone over to his house directly from a meeting of our high school’s literary magazine, at which we both read some of own poetry. His was better than mine—Matt had a really direct line to something pretty deep inside himself that came out in his writing, whereas I was always more of a stylist. He had the feeling first; I had the idea first. Anyway, if I recall correctly, these LPs had been his uncle’s (I think some were his parents’, too—there was a Carpenters LP that didn’t fit the uncle’s profile), and Matt had gone through a few of them. Strange Days was the one he chose to play for me.

I don’t think I responded much to what Morrison was saying—the poetry of “Horse Latitudes” is pretty impenetrable (what on Earth is “mute nostril agony” anyway?), but the crazily woozy soundscape that shifts around behind him while he yells was definitely my kind of thing.

The other place The Doors take me back to is the passenger seat of my friend Barbra’s Volkswagen. Barbra lived down the street from me (a little over a mile away—“down the street” has a different meaning out in the sticks), and she was two years ahead of me. I liked her a lot, not in the sense of a crush or anything, but more in the sense that I respected her and enjoyed talking to her. She was intelligent and enthusiastic and seemed to completely lack the sullen streak of a lot of the people I hung out with regularly.

There was a community service group that ran out of our school—it may have been related to the National Honor Society? Barbra was, for a year, in charge of getting people together to work at a soup kitchen in Rockville, and I was one of the regular volunteers. None of us knew much about cooking, but it was easy enough to make a few gallons of donated Annie’s Shells And Cheddar and we handled it okay. The kitchen was run by an immigrant with visa problems that were coming to a head right around the time I graduated. I hope things worked out for him.

Anyway, Barbra had three favorite bands: Led Zeppelin, the Doors and Pink Floyd. I wasn’t old enough to drive, so I caught rides to the soup kitchen with her. I remember that the radio stayed on after she turned the car off—you had to turn it off independently. But these three bands were what we listened to. We connected over Pink Floyd on the school bus before she got her license, but my feelings toward the other two bands were much more ambivalent.

I liked a lot of music by both of them but didn’t think of myself as a fan. I remember one time, when the car had been turned off but the radio hadn’t, “Touch Me” was playing, and we somehow got to talking about what we liked and didn’t like about the Doors. For me, Jim Morrison was the only thing that ever gave me problems. It wasn’t the content of his lyrics, though—it was his showmanship, for lack of a better term. I didn’t particularly like the little “yeahs” and “uhns” he threw in. But for Barbra, those were some of the best parts of the music.

I’ll not speculate on our reasons for these preferences (well, mine was simple—Pink Floyd were my point of comparison for everything, and their instrumental breaks tended to be free of vocal dynamite, so I think it turned me off because it wasn’t what I was used to), but I thought it was interesting that we saw the same thing so differently. I think it was also the first time that I ever worried I might have offended someone by disliking something they held dear.

I came around on the Doors and the showmanship issue over the next year or so. I got a bunch of their albums, and outside of The Soft Parade generally liked them. I gravitated toward their weirder tendencies—Waiting For The Sun was my favorite LP of theirs.

Weird thing about Waiting For The Sun: though it was recorded around the same time as that LP, the title track didn’t come out until two years later, when it appeared on Morrison Hotel, the band’s bluesy retreat from the experimentation of The Soft Parade. I think “Waiting For The Sun,” the song, is the Doors at their best and most distinctive—it’s because of songs like this that they get a new chance with each succeeding generation.

I have no idea what kind of keyboard Ray Manzarek is playing on this song, but that weird, distorted tone is something I’ve never heard on another record. I think Robby Kreiger’s guitar playing in 1967 and 1968 was some of the most interesting going in the rock world, and this is an example of that. His psychedelic bottleneck playing has its own kind of personality to counter the outsize persona of Jim Morrison, who here sings more like a part of the band and less like a guy trying to break out of the band.

Last night, I asked for some of your opinions of The Doors. I’ll be sharing some of those and talking about them over the course of the day as I have time.