Jul 062021

I read the news the other day, oh boy, and found out it was 50 years ago that Jim Morrison checked out, either of a heart attack in a nice warm bath at home or overdosed on the throne at some local bar, depending on who you ask. Did anyone ever make a quicker descent from rock God to fat Elvis to dead Elvis? Man, he went for it.

In our household, my parents regularly discussed the news, but the death of a drugged-up hippy primarily known for getting arrested after waving his privates around on stage would have been low on their list of things to discuss with their 8-year-old son. That’s if they knew who he was, which seems as unlikely as me taking note of news about a rapper or singer in a boy band.

Without access to their music, other than “Light My Fire” on the Stardust soundtrack album, I read about them in books and magazines and was keen to find out more. About 4 years later, I was more than ready to pull out and demand to hear their albums when visiting friends whose parents were more liberal than my own. Which was almost everyone.

Before the world got poorly, I went to Paris with Mrs H, where I insisted on visiting Pere Lachaise cemetery. We arrived about an hour before closing time. She was tired and decided to help the sunset along with her knitting while I bounced around in search of what’s left of famous dead people, clutching the little map they handed me on the way in.

I said goodnight to Georges Melies and Edith Piaf, then found Simone Signoret and Yves Montand, who had the good sense to make things easier for death tourists by getting buried together. A brisk dash up the hill and I was soon channeling my inner Morrissey while having out with Oscar Wilde. The custodians grew so weary of cleaning his monument they stuck a huge glass box over it about twenty years ago. Nowadays, visitors chuck roses and whatnot over the walls before heading east to where the hardcore dudes hang out. For there rests Jim Morrison, under a mountain of tributes that photos suggest looks like a week’s worth of trash dumped on the unassuming marker beneath.

If you’ve seen The Prisoner, you might remember the buggies going out to retrieve Patrick McGoohan during his periodic escape attempts. About 20 minutes before closing time, the cemetery fills with similar vehicles, driving around exhorting anyone not 6 feet underground to make their way to the exit, barking at laggards through cracked loud hailers like some deranged Gallic Mark E Smith tribute act.

After losing a lot of weight, I discovered I can now run, better than I could as a teenager, or ever wanted to. I considered dodging the dune buggies and dashing over to see brother Jim, but quickly decided I couldn’t be bothered.

And that was when I realised The Doors, whose music meant so much to me as an angry/miserable, and usually both, teenager meant no longer held that magic for me. In addition, I wonder whether they ever did, or if I was merely dazzled by the legend.

There are about half a dozen songs I like well enough if I hear them on the radio. Two or three are so good that straight after hearing them I want to listen to them again. Mostly, they feel like something I used to do a long time ago and now can’t remember why. I’ve heard rereading Catcher in the Rye as an adult has the same effect on many.

If I heard “The End” coming from one of our children’s rooms, I’d probably walk on down the hall and ask them nicely to shut the door. Father, I want to… That’s very nice son, would you mind doing it more quietly?

So, am I maligning the Lizard King, or was he really wandering around most of the time stark naked, as opposed to simply waving his bits around at those who may or may not have wanted to see them?

And who in your musical life either appeared, or was heralded, as the second coming but turned out just to be a naughty boy?


  29 Responses to “The Lizard King, 50 Years Fine”

  1. That video had a “Lair of the White Worm” vibe.

    I like the Doors. I’ve defended them here before. Yes, Jimbo was an obnoxious, pretentious asshole, but he certainly had front man charisma. I like the way the band hung together. When psychedelia started to sound ridiculous, their sound remained pretty timeless and they hung on as a radio staple ong after most of their class of ’67 contemporaries had faded. I guess I’m thinking early 80’s.

    Lester Bangs shredded Morrison in that piece in “Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung” but, if memory serves, he seems mainly critical of his poetic pretensions and his general asshole demeanor rather than the records.

    All that aside, Soft Parade, is a hilariously hollow incoherent set of songs produced like a Fifth Dimension record. And I love it.

  2. Loved The Doors when I was in 7th grade. Then I hit 8th grade and grew up.

    Slightly more seriously, Jim Morrison was gorgeous—one of the most attractive rock stars of either gender ever. And he had that rich baritone that could be really effective. John Densmore seems to be a great guy. Robby Krieger was an incisive guitarist who was also their best writer. And Ray Manzarek was an indefatigable John the Baptist for JM’s JC. What’s more, Morrison genuinely was a poet.

    The problem is that he was a shitty poet. Just fucking awful. And an asshole to boot. Densmore couldn’t bring the thunder the way a real rock drummer must. Manzarek’s keys sounded like a lame calliope most of the time.

    The Doors are maybe the least good influential rock band ever. And they were influential, as this outstanding defense of Le Roi Lézard persuasively argues:


    At the end of their day, for all their wimpiness, and Morrison’s sophomorically leaden pretentious, the band left behind a legacy of a half-dozen to maybe even a dozen authentic bangers. And for the effectiveness of the opening to Apocalypse Now, if nothing else, we have to keep them at least a modicum of props.

  3. Pro-Doors. When I hear a Doors song, my mind doesn’t wander to whether Jim was an asshole or not, whether Ray has his head fully ensconced in the asshole’s asshole, or if the poetry is juvenile. I love the great guitar playing, keyboard solos, and the jazzy/rock drumming. The records sound great to my ears. I never tire of hearing Roadhouse Blues (“Do it Robbie, do it!”, Garlic Salt) or L.A. Woman, two songs I think totally rock. They have plenty of really good songs, and Morrison Hotel is a very good album on it’s own two legs. Morrison does the Jagger blues voice some of you bitch about too. Don’t care, free pass.

  4. I don’t have anything to add to these tempered pro-Doors comments. I’m totally on board with everything the gents on whose shoulders I am standing have said. You may recall how much I love the Morrison Hotel album, the only full album I love by that band. And Scott (the other one) takes a bold, early lead on Post of the Week with his “And Ray Manzarek was an indefatigable John the Baptist for JM’s JC.”

    As for Second Comings/Naughty Boys in my lifetime, the Sex Pistols are the first to come to mind. I think John Lydon carried over his Second Coming persona with more lasting effect on the first 3 PiL albums, but Never Mind the Bollocks, after all these years, strikes me as the best glam album ever, not much more (“Bodies” excepted, which is killer).

  5. I rated the Doors pretty highly in high school but they wore out their welcome quickly thereafter. Recently, I’ve started to appreciate some of their stuff again. The musicians in the band are killer but the songs themselves are a very mixed bag. As for Morrison, his poetry is laughable, but his voice, while not great, is perfect for the band. But his main contribution is that he has got charisma out the wazoo.

    By the way, in case you’ve ever wondered what it would sound like if Hendrix and Morrison ever got together (NSFW): https://youtu.be/fIFTLnPei2M

    And yes, I have this on vinyl for some reason.

  6. cherguevara

    Doors unlimited… UNLIMITED DOORS!

  7. Hi Happiness! As always, it’s a pleasure to read your posts.

    The Doors first album is a masterpiece. Love it. Still play it at least once a month. Flawless. Everything after that is pretty spotty. That said, the hits are as solid as a rock.

    Unfortunately, my appreciation of the Doors is always downgraded because of numerous interviews and insights served up by Ray Manzarek, rock’s biggest dick, an even a bigger dick than Thurston Moore. Completely insufferable. Nothing is worse than his pompous third person delivery, his grandiose musing on the Lizard King (“I’m sitting on the beach, thinking about the French existentialist poets, and lo and behold who appears in front of me, none other than one James Douglas Morrison.”) as well as his continuous surprise at his creative powers (“The next thing I know, my right hand starts doing this Bach thing on the upper keys, and wahla ladies and gentlemen, say hello to ‘Light My Fire.'”)

    Here’s a near perfect distillation of the worst of Rock’s biggest asshole:


    And it all sucks. Anytime when I hear a Doors song while driving, and I want to sing along and lose myself in a lot of those incredible songs, my mind, against my will, summons up some awful moving image of Ray Manzarek looking a lot like how he presents himself in the YouTube link, reinforcing my belief that being in his company would be even worse than being trapped in a small stuffy room with one of those “thing that won’t leave” types cutting non-stop penicillin farts

  8. Manzarek could certainly be annoying, but I prefer to think of him as overly enthusiastic. Everybody in that band held up their end. Manzarek’s over the top rhetoric about the brilliance of, to some degree, the band, and especially Morrison was probably part of the engine that made things work. I even appreciated his description of the construction of “Light My Fire” in that Fresh Air interview: it was tone deaf but seemed entirely accurate. And remember, the Doors were not the only impressive stint on his resume. He seemed to provide a similar support and aesthetic cheerleading role for X.

    Also, “Alabama Song” was a brilliant cover selection for the early Doors.

  9. I disagree. Manzarek should have followed the examples of Krieger and Densmore. They’re humble, insightful, an absolute pleasure in interviews.

    And I’m more than aware of his resume. Thank God I haven’t heard him in any interview tooting his horn about any of his production work. And if you have, please don’t post any links to verify such a thing exists. I don’t want any further pleasure of his artistic exploits tainted by any of his “Call it divine intervention when I somehow or another,,,” blah, blah, blah bullshit.

  10. I completely understand what you’re saying and I like Densmore and Krieger BUT I still believe that Manzarek’s pretense probably contributed to what works with the band as a whole. And he talked about the X stuff in the very interview which you posted!

  11. Geo, just for the record, I didn’t watch all of the interview. I realize that the entire clip was only around 3 and half minutes, but I had had enough after the first 30 seconds. God almighty is he an asshole!

  12. 2000 Man

    Man, when I was in high school The Doors were my favorite band. When I was a kid, it was Yes, then I graduated to The Doors and got high all the time. Once I came out of that fog and mostly got my shit together, The Doors lost a lot of their appeal. I still like Soft Parade, LA Woman and Morrison Hotel, but I imagine I’d probably be happy trading them all in for Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine. I thought Morrison had a real handle on whatever The Truth was and I guess that’s what I was looking for then.

    I always thought Ray Manzarek and Paul Kantner should have worked together. They could have formed a band called The Obnoxious Smarmy Brothers and just worked on their album forever and never get close to finishing it, but then do interviews with anyone that would ask and discuss absolutely any stupid subject as a two person panel where time has utterly passed them by and they’re the only ones that didn’t get the memo.

    But for a short time in my life, The Doors were the biggest, coolest band ever.

  13. BigSteve

    Why is everyone ignoring the elephant in the room? I’m referring, of course, to Oliver Stone’s film The Doors, and its effect on the band’s Legacy.

  14. Because, Big Steve, we needed to give Mr. Mod the opportunity to reference the lifetime wig and artificial facial hair achievement.

  15. BigSteve and geo: RESPECT!

    EPG, unrelated to this thread, do you have no appreciation for the fist 3 albums by X? Must we check on your animality?

  16. I’m not an X fan. t have no problems with them whatsoever. They’re talented and sincere. What they serve up just isn’t my cup of tea.

  17. Happiness Stan

    Thanks all. I’m not anti-Doors, just reflecting on growing out of a band which used to move every part of my body and soul. Which is kind of sad, but we all do it.

    Until three years ago I felt the same about the Beatles, like I’d heard all I needed to hear. I put them away in a box for about twenty years until our daughter went to look at Liverpool Drama School, which is Paul McCartney’s old school and I downloaded the red and blue albums and Revolver to help us there and back in the car. She didn’t go there in the end, but I’ve now made up with the Fabs.

    So it can go both ways, as CDM describes. Perhaps I’ll try the first album again, though I heard a couple of their songs on the radio at the weekend and wasn’t moved.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ray Manzarek interviewed, I’ve got enough stuff piled up to listen to without going down that road. I’d rather listen to their greatest hits again, or try to find out who the amazing song I heard on the rock and roll show on our local station at the weekend was by. It was brilliant, and completely mad, like Goldfrapp grooving with the Stray Cats.

  18. Happiness Stan

    I just noticed the typo in the title, it should have been gone, not fine, obviously. There’s always one…

  19. Happiness,

    Do yourself a favor. If you want to keep enjoying those Doors records, do not watch any You Tube Doors related interviews with Ray Manzarek. What you see and hear will taint your interest indefinitely.

    And one more thing. Maybe it’s me, but one of the toughest things I’ve ever tried to do is tell a stranger about rock and roll.


  20. Funny, Happiness, I was thinking “Fine” must have been a sarcastic touch. I thought about putting a comma in there: “50 Years, Fine,” as in “big deal!”

    Contrary to what EPG suggests, for good reason, I think you owe it to yourself to watch a few Manzarek interviews. They are what the kids might call “cringeworthy,” but as geo notes, there is an element of truth and information to be gleaned.

    EPG, good to hear that fair take on X. The kinder, gentler people we’ve become is humbling.

  21. Happiness, if you have even a passing interest in the Doors, I implore you to take EPG’s advise and do NOT watch any Manzarek interview videos. I also had to turnoff the video at the 35 second mark, while he was in the middle of declaring that Morrison was actually Dionisius reborn. Just take the music as it is and don’t let these ghosts crowd your fragile eggshell mind.

  22. EPG, this is exactly how I feel about X too. I wish I liked them more because I like the three musicians in the band so much but I think their songs are sorely lacking.

  23. hrrundivbakshi

    Surprised nobody’s posted this yet:


    Also — never liked the Doors.

  24. Happiness Stan

    Me Mod, I spent flipping ages checking the text for typos, then almost as long thinking of a header which didn’t sound sarcastic or disrespectful. I know I often am, but it wasn’t my intention here.

    Bloody bloody autocorrect. That’s what comes of writing on a phone rather than something designed for writing on. Like Jim Morrison’s gravestone, or the back of a plan of a French cemetery.

    Never mind, I’ll consider whether my carelessness merits the punishment of watching that Ray Manzarek video.

  25. CDM, in regards to X, I think the songwriting efforts are solid as well. They just don’t click for me. Sometimes it be’s that way.

  26. I agree with cdm’s sentiment about Jim Morrison’s poetry being laughable, even though back in high school I thought he was the pinnacle of cool. Maybe it was just the charisma, or the fact that I hadn’t expanded my horizons enough musically to realize that there’s singers that, on a bad day, can blow Jim Morrison out of the water. But that doesn’t matter when you’ve got the rest of The Doors to back you up musically, and with a band like that, who cares what you’re singing. The Doors aren’t the greatest of all time by any stretch but they were an important entry-level band for me, I’m guessing for a whole lot of other people as well.

  27. Maxccident, welcome aboard! You’ve got a great handle, and a great opinion to share.

  28. Thanks for the warm welcome, Mr. Moderator, I’m excited to start engaging in some musical discourse with some like (or unlike)-minded individuals.

  29. Are there any greater, scarier, important-er American bands than The Doors? Can’t think of any off the top of my head. Morrison is unsurpassed. So far at least.

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