Apr 062010

I’m excited to see the new documentary on The Doors, When You’re Strange, which is playing for free in Philadelphia this Friday night, April 9. My excitement is for a range of reasons, from the fact that it’s directed by Tom DiCillo, who’s first three movies (Living in Oblivion, Box of Moonlight, Johnny Suede) were indie joys for me in the ’90s, to the fact that I like my share of Doors music as well as get a great deal of laughs out of the band’s pretensions and their even more incredibly pretentious diehard fans. I’m sure this film’s narrator, Johnny Depp, for instance, is going to match Ray Manzarek for jive-ass references to “shamen” and other mystical “native” nonsense that no white man who’s not a professor of anthropology should be caught dead talking about.

I’m suspect this film will only perpetrate the mythology around The Doors and Jim Morrison, but I wish more people could see The Door for what they really were, not for what most of their fans wish they could be. For instance:

  • The Doors were a solid psych-pop group with tight production, not groundbreaking avant-garde visionaries!
  • The Doors were a tough, little blues-rock combo, not the house band for the Weimar Republic.
  • Jim Morrison’s lyrics were usually pretty funny and only worked in the context of his committed approach to desiring transcendence within the confines of his solid, little psych-pop/blues-rock combo. He was no American Poet!
  • Jim Morrison’s not alive; he’s dead.

I’m not trying to degrade the work of The Doors. There’s so much to like over the course of their brief career that reasonable rock ‘n roll fans can’t be bothered to hear for what it is for the risk of letting any of the wacko cult-worshipping leak into their lives. I’m trying to uncover the true and meaningful legacy of The Doors. For those Doors fans who use the band as a means for compensating for their empty spiritual lives, get a practicing shaman to guide you!

Is there an artist you wish people could see for what they are, not for what most of their fans wish they could be?


  40 Responses to “Artists You Wish People Could See for What They Are, Not for What Most of Their Fans Wish They Could Be”

  1. BigSteve


  2. misterioso

    Mod, your guidelines for a reasonable approach to The Doors are spot-on. I like the Doors in spite of and sometimes because of their pretensions, but the band’s own pretensions have nothing on those born of the fragile eggshell minds of their more wacked out fans. But I cannot bear any Doors doc that is not straight performance, because the hyper-mythologizing/over-intellectualizing becomes oppressive.

  3. Mr. Moderator

    The Boss is a PERFECT suggestion for this mission.

  4. mockcarr

    You’re never gonna crack “The Boss” conundrum, it’s as thick as the JFK assassination conspiracy, disinformation abounds. After all, it comes from NJ.

  5. mockcarr

    The mythology of Dylan is pretty heavy too, but there’s already been enough discussion of THAT, and I give him a lot of credit for being an unwilling participant most of the time, if he’s not in a bad mood.

  6. neutral milk hotel

  7. pudman13

    The obvious answer is the Grateful Dead, though I must say I’ve always found Doors fans far more offensive than Deadheads. Zappa would be another one, except that for the most part I think he and his fans deserve each other.

    By the way, I hope you meant that Morrison’s lyrics were *unintentionally* funny. That man is the poster boy for why rock musicians shouldn’t prented to be anything other than rock musicians. He makes Patti Smith’s poetry sound good.

    Here’s one for you—I love the New York Dolls and think they are one of the greatest bands ever. They epitomize everything I love about the non-intellectual side of rock and roll (though they most certainly were not stupid either.) But I hate hate hate hate hate the junkie mythology that has been cultivated around them and the people who think it’s cool. This causes a much greater disconnect to me than anything regarding fans of the Doors or the Dead. The same could be said about Iggy too, except that my own response to his music is much more complex.

    Also, I can’t stand the thought of talking to anyone who thinks Sid Vicious is what punk is really about. Glen Matlock is who made the Sex Pistols great and their decline began the second he left the band. (I say this knowing full well how essential the other three members were to the Pistols and how I wouldn’t jhave had it any other way–it’s just that Matlock was the hidden glue that kept it all together musically.)

  8. pudman13

    I will also, breifly, point out that my all time favorite band is the Modern Lovers, and I think that majority of people completely misunderstand what they were about. All of the proto-punk and VU-influenced commentary is focusing only on the chord progressions and missing the important point, which is that this band, in their initial incarnation only, is still to this day the only great rock and roll band who stood for everything musically that rock ever was while at the same time standing, 100% genuinely, against every single rock lifestyle cliche. This is why they’re the only band who ever spoke to me personally on a level that was more than either intellectual or visceral…the only band who proved what I always believed, that you can love the art form without ever buying into the ethos that somehow sprung up around it.

  9. hrrundivbakshi

    Brian Wilson — a sad victim of poor mental health who wrote increasingly lousy songs after his illness manifested itself… NOT a tortured genius whose vision was so brilliant it could not be contained within a normal human brain.

  10. pudman13

    Oh yes…and Nick Drake and Kurt Cobain every other troubled artist who has the Sylvia Plath syndrome: people like them because people are depressed and think it’s cool to wallow in it. I think tha’s extremely insulting to artists who never wanted to glorify their own depression or who ever wanted anyone to emulate them.

    Also, Daniel Johnston, who has a whole cult of people who, even though most of them would claim otherwise, laugh at him, not with him.

  11. misterioso

    pudman13, now I feel all bad about dumping on Forever Changes because you nailed the Modern Lovers. Well said.

  12. Lady GaGa. Her fans think they are listening to something “new” because she dresses funny.
    the music is modern dance pop. there’s nothing new there.
    she is the ultimate music business product. even more so than Madonna.
    Madonna has decent songs from time to time.

  13. Mr. Mod’s bullet points are “right on!” as Jim might say…

    And pudman13’s comment: “[Zappa] … I think he and his fans deserve each other.” is accurate. Lets see some full posts from pudman13!

  14. Mr. Moderator

    Definitely good points re: Modern Lovers. Well done, pudman13. And yes, the Zappa fans comment was also great.

  15. I think the Grateful Dead and Zappa are similar in that regard. No Deadhead I ever knew ever wanted anything other than what they got. Heck, those guys collect tapes of the bad shows just the same as the good ones.

    And I’ll put a finer point on the New York Dolls: Johnny Thunders. Johansen might have been a third-rate Jim Carroll without the Dolls, but I can’t blame the guy for milking it.

  16. mikeydread

    Mod, you overlooked the French connection in the Doors mythology. You know, all that symbolist poetry. It’s enough to make one steer clear of Pere Lechaise Cemetry for fear of being taken for a Doors fan.

    btw, Go Pudman.

  17. I agree with most of the Mod’s bullet points. The only one I would qualify is the first one. I think the description “solid psych-pop group” understates the case.

    While I’m not particularly a fan of the Doors, I think they were better and more consistent than average and musically ahead of their time (if only by a little bit). They were great players who really created their own unique and identifiable sound. When it worked well (Break On Through), it was pretty cool.

    However, the songwriting is really hit and miss and the “poetry” is laughable.

  18. jeangray

    Please correct me if’n I’m wrong, but didn’t Krieger write a majority of their material?

  19. imagine how good Morrisson’s 80s materiel would have been?

  20. Mr. Moderator

    Imagine if Morrison replaced Morrissey in The Smiths!

  21. I was thinking more that Morrison would’ve wound up singing “It’s in the Way That You Use It” for The Color of Money instead of Clapton.

  22. Imagine if Ofra Haza was the lead singer of Sherrif.

  23. I mean Sheriff. Sorry. They are so misunderstood.

  24. While I agree with the choices of Drake and Cobain, please don’t lump them in with the poetry of Sylvia Plath. She didn’t wallow in depression, instead trying to come to terms with it, under conditions (check her bio if yr interested) that would absolutely shut down most people.

  25. Just ran across an article about MIA where she says a bit of what Shawn says about Lady Gaga, with which I am in agreement:

    “People say we’re similar, that we both mix all these things in the pot and spit them out differently, but she spits it out exactly the same! None of her music’s reflective of how weird she wants to be or thinks she is. She models herself on Grace Jones and Madonna, but the music sounds like 20-year-old Ibiza music, you know?”

  26. hrrundivbakshi

    I do NOT get the whole MIA thing. At all.

  27. KingEd

    You’re right not to, hrrundi. Her hit song, “Paper Planes,” is pretty good because it relies heavily on a sample of the last good song the Clash would ever record. Other than that she’s kind of hot in an Exotic Plain Jane way. She’d probably succeed as an indie harpist if she wanted to go that way.

  28. What’s so great about this Justin Bieber kid, anyway?

  29. KingEd

    He’s kind of hot in an underage…oh, nevermind.

  30. pudman13

    Sorry dr john, I meant to imply that I respected Plath, and Drake too. Drake was similar in that he never once came off as someone looking for pity or playing upon his fans (it’s probably a good thing that he was so obscure during his lifetime.)

    To be honest, though, I really don’t respect Cobain, and I shouldn’t have lumped him in with the other two. He’d be better lumped in with, say, Elliott Smith. I thought Cobain was a big whiner who blamed everyone else for his problems and played the “I’m only popular because I’m so deep that people misunderstand me” game, a disgusting kind of patronizing arrogance that put him in league with the SYNCHRONICTY-era Police. I think the COURTNEY & KURT movie was full of crap, but nonetheless it did give some insight into the guy, and he clearly as not someone who was capable of making good decisions about anything. He may have thought he wasn’t to blame for some many of the kids wallowing in his depression, but he most certainly was. There was a long period of time where every time I went to a concert and some asshole was slam dancing or stage diving in some particularly violent way and ruining my time, the kid was inevitably wearing a Cobain T-shirt (Not a Nirvana T-shirt, a Cobain T-shirt.)

  31. He was the Jim Morrison of his generation: a wasted, self-important, maudlin blow hard. He may have been a hero to some, but Cobain never meant shit to me.

    Actually, to the original question posed in this thread I have to just answer, “All of them.”

  32. I rate Eliott Smith higher than Cobain. Maybe he was a whiner, I don’t feel that way, but fine – but musically, I think he had much more going on. Don’t get me wrong, when Nirvana was good, they were great, but I don’t think he was that great of a songwriter. Is that “rockist” of me?

  33. No, it’s the truth.

  34. I suppose one thing about Nirvana is that they broke way, way bigger than they probably thought they ever would. In that sense, the fault isn’t so much with Cobain or the band, but with the hype and the massive scale of their success. I know it’s said that they broke down doors and changed what was going on in popular music, but as far as I’m concerned, all they did was open the floodgates for bands like Bush and Stone Temple Pilots.

  35. No problem, pm 13. You make a good point: Nirvana’s songs are catchy but rather superficial, just like the Police.

    And by the way, how about a moratorium on cheap shots at Joanna Newsom? If you can’t get into her music, that’s fine. But that, by no means, is evidence of some sort of critical refinement on your part.

  36. KingEd

    dr john,

    How ’bout you take back what you said about Pat Benetar?


    Lighten up, will ya?

  37. jeangray

    Huh? Wha’s up with all the Cobain hate? Dude jus’ about single-handedly killed Hair-Metal. For that alone he deserves our praise!

  38. Classic move, equating Newsom with Benetar, thus assuming that all women performers are the same.

    Keep digging that hole deeper…

  39. sammymaudlin

    I don’t find Nirvana’s songs nearly as superficial as those of The Police. I never felt that The Police even tried for more than superficiality.

    I’m no huge fan of Nirvana and in fact really only listen to Unplugged, but the dude was obviously in a lot of pain physically and emotionally and I hear that in his lyrics and the music.

    I’m not going to stack Cobain’s lyrics up against Dylan’s, but superficial is not a word I’d use to describe Nirvana. I feel they strived for and achieved more than that. Even if it was maudlin and overwrought at times.

    I’d rate Elliot Smith higher as well though. I think.

    And seriously, as far as Newsom is concerned, if I didn’t suspect she had an immaculately trimmed beaver, I wouldn’t give shit. At all.

  40. Speaking of Mr. Cobain, who I think had fame forced upon him more than anything, I note a rather tasty April Fool’s joke that has recently come to my attention as being taken seriously by the unsuspecting:


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