In the ’60s, the Doors had the greatest impact on the youth after the Beatles. The dominant figure of the band was the eccentric Jim Morrison. James Douglas Morrison was from a wealthy family.
His behaviour already excelled in his youth: he rebelled at school. This rage did not change until his death. After high school he studied literature. Later, the band chose their name from the title of an Aldous Huxley book, “The Doors of Perception”. In addition to learning he also tried to write poems. After graduation, he moved to Los Angeles where he met Ray Manzarek. In 1965, they established a blues band under the name of Rick & The Ravens. Robbie Krieger and John Densmore joined the band later.
Who is this oedipusian dead hero called Jim Morrison? An outstanding icon of a whole generation, the king of lizards? Was he a shaman, a mystic, a poet, a musician? Why do we always feel the urge to tag and systematize everything, everybody? One thing is clear: he turned upside down the music industry. He sang about dionysian myths, strange games with strange women on strange days, storms of liberation with a burning voice, with gestures mirroring the impressions of the dignified, dreadful realms of the soul.
The whole story began with a meeting on the beach. Jim Morrison was a shy young student. Ray asked him to read out his poems: he discovers his talent and encourages him to continue. They set up a band. This story is the perfect proof for the importance of encouragement and positive feedback: if Ray Manzarek does not discover him and tell him his opinion, probably I would not write this article. At least definitely not about the Doors. But presumably neither about Jim Morrison.
Jim’s lofty spirit digged deep into the dark ocean of the psyche. He evokes one after the other the deepest mysteries of philosophy and psychology -served up in a mercurial and entertaining way, without any sign of prosaism- as the Oedipus complex, the deepest fears of the human soul, the mechanism of sexuality and desire, the dark, killer instincts of the masculine soul and many more.
The cohesive force of The Doors were undoubtedly the mighty duo of Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek. But the cohesive force can be a great source of tension at the same time: they were as different as the sky and the earth. Ray’s gentle, low-keyed personality is reflected truly by his subtle playing style on the Hammond organ, which is in perfect contrast with the exuberant, robust ferocity of Jim’s character. This irreconcilable pressure gives the gripping playfulness of their music.
The Doors was a burning chariot: Jim Morrison was the rampant, fiery chief horse of the four-in-hand, while Ray Manzarek played the role of the forbearing, wise cavalier, who pulled the strings diplomatically in the background. John Densmore and Robby Krieger were the wings of the chariot.
If Jim and Ray were the rich and matterful core, then John and Robby were the delicate and subtle shell. “Well, I was the oldest member of the Doors. It was always my job to hold things together. I was the Apollonian instinct to balance out Jim Morrison’s Dionysian madness. But I took LSD. I opened the doors of perception, learned that life is infinite, that creation is the energy of a divine creator”, declared Manzarek.
Jim Morrison’s early death undoubtedly contributed to the rising of the band’s legend. But is it worth it at such a price? Or things had to be this way? A lot of conspiracy theories emerged in connection with his death: some claim that he was killed by the CIA; others think that he is still alive, he just became disillusioned of the music industry and wanted to get out, so he faked his death.
“Live fast, die young”, that was the popular slogan of their era. Jim undoubtedly remained true to this principle. Almost everyone of us asked this question in life: which is better: to live a short but exciting life, or a long and boring one? Jim’s life was certainly adventurous.
But many people miss him. I consider the following six songs as the best ones by The Doors:
6. The End
This legendary song is an anthem to death, which is said to be a “beautiful friend”. After all, our whole life is a preparation for the enjambment to another level or form of existence, to which death is the door. Human life is like a chrysalid stage, in the moment of death we cast off this larva to become butterflies.
The song also appeared in the movie “Apocalypse now”, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, which is about the Vietnam war. Not by hazard: the ambiance of this piece is full with rage, and bloody madness.
Jim speaks about a profound Freudian mystery, the Oedipus complex, which is a child’s desire to have sexual relations with the parent of the opposite sex. Oedipus is a mythological figure, who inspired Sophocles, the ancient greek writer also.
Oedipus the King tells the story of Oedipus, a man who becomes the king of Thebes, while unwittingly fulfilling a prophecy that he would kill his father, Laius, and marry his mother, Jocasta. This dark, visionary but somehow still uplifting opus was presumably written under the influence of LSD. The continuous succession of feverish images sweeps us off our feet.
5. Queen of the Highway
Queen of the Highway is about a woman’s sudden change of heart. She was once a brave, enthralling wildcat who later became a good bourgeois who willingly meets the expectations of society.
The lyrics suggest that the narrator had a relation with her, and is disillusioned of the woman who refused her old self and her principles.
4. The Spy
This song is a deep psychological journey in to the realm of our deepest fears. “I know your deepest secret fear”, claims Jim. He means, “I got you”, I have a trump in my hand, you are mine.
I know you so well, that you cannot escape from me. The closeness depicted by the lyrics may even seem to be suffocating for some. It undoubtedly oversteps boundaries, breaks down walls, proclaiming a wonderful state of attachment, togetherness and unity.
I am a spy, I know everything, you do not have to even throw your cards on the table. I am a psychological super genius. Ironically, one of our biggest elementary fear is the loss of autonomy, besides the fear of ego-death, extinction (Jim also sang about this subject in the song “Ship of fools”) and others. But true love needs sacrifices.
3. Twentieth Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox gives a picture about an ideal woman. She is fashionable, she never complains, she does not cry. And she never makes small talk and never hesitates. Of course this is unimaginable in the real life.
But it is definitely important to have paragons, even though the world of the ideas may not be reached; we can only strive to achieve it. Otherwise we would be in heaven, not on earth. Things will always have a shadow here.
2. Adolph Hitler Is Still Alive
This is the shortest song of The Doors, if it may be called a song at all. This is the projection of Jim’s inner struggle with the shadow of his mind… He recalls his Daimon and triumphantly reckons with it through a symbolic sexual act.
It is about overcoming evil, while recognizing the fact that darkness is an inseparable part of us which awaits to be tamed as the wild horses wait for supplying…
1. Universal Mind
Referring to Nietzsche (“Then you came along with a suitcase and a song turned my head around”), this song is about the ultimate liberation of the soul from all of it’s boundaries.
“Now I am so alone” say Jim. What does he mean? That a free man, who has opened his eyes does not find his place among the ones who are still sleeping with closed eyes. “That’s how lucky I am” is said also, which means Jim do not care, he faces the consequences. Freedom is worth the sacrifice.
We say goodbye with a quote from Jim Morrison:
“I like any reaction, which I trigger with the music. Anything that makes people start to think. I mean, if you can fill an entire room with drunk, drugged people it is time to wake up and think that you achieved something.”
The Doors will be open forever. The legend never dies.
This is our third article about legendary rock bands. If you enjoyed it, we have some other great ones for you. You can read more about The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and The Beatles. Stay tuned!