I’m reading Mick Wall’s “Love Become a Funeral Pyre,” his history of the Doors. The book is wonderful. It pulls together most of what’s been written about Morrison to this point and brings into play Wall’s own relatively recent interviews with the band and various friends and hangers-on. The tone seems right. The music was often brilliant, but from the beginning Jim Morrison had sewn seeds of destruction for himself and the band, and so the clouds just get darker as the book goes on. For my money, the flaws in the book lie in Wall’s giving too much fawning credence to Patricia Kennealy, and in not bringing in one last fact checker (just two or three obvious errors, but one is too many).
I have two Doors moments, both from when I lived in L.A. I’ve mentioned before that I once had a beer with Ray Manzarek at The Troubadour before our mutual friend Adam Holzman went on stage with his wonderful band The Fents in the early 80s. Before I get to the other, I need to backtrack. I was standing with my mother in the kitchen of our house in St. Marys in the summer of 1967. I was 14. She had listened to a lot of British Invasion and American rock since the Beatles hit three years earlier, and there was largesse in her views toward my listening habits. Still, I didn’t know what she thought about the pop music of the day—Beatles, Beach Boys, Stones, Hollies, Byrds—until that particular afternoon, when “Light My Fire” came on the radio. I had heard it before, but she obviously hadn’t. She listened through the first half of the song, until it got to the foreshortened lead break that made it to AM radio. “Finally,” she said. “Someone who sounds like a man.”
The other Doors moment came when I attended the release party for “No One Here Gets Out Alive,” the first real Morrison biography. It was held at the Whisky on the tenth anniversary of Morrison’s death. If I remember correctly, Grace Slick, Timothy Leary and Ric Ocasek were among the celebrity-studded crowd. Ray, Robbie and John, joined by a rotating support group of musicians and singers that included members of The Knack and Blondie, did seven songs, ending with a barn-burning rendition of “Roadhouse Blues,” with vocals by Top Jimmy, then with The Rhythm Pigs. Memorable night.
The Doors had more cache after Jim’s death than before, and it always fell to Manzarek to be the ringmaster, cheerleader, organ grinder. His hagiography got to me, and when his memoir came out (I liked Densmore’s much better), I wrote the following review for The Nashville Scene.
Reading the book made me dig out my Doors Greatest Hits CD, and I enjoy their music now as much as I ever did. There was a point when I first sobered up in ’87 when I had to lay them aside for a couple of years—they were really associated with my drinking—but they came back into regular rotation and stayed there. I realize it’s the 15-year-old me that most appreciates them, but hey, sometimes you have to be 15. They made some of the best rock of the era, and sometimes it makes me happy to put it on and turn it up.