A Jim Morrison skeptics' top 10 Doors picks

Posted by Al Barger on September 05, 2005 12:03 AM (See all posts by Al Barger)

That damned Jim Morrison just won't seem to stay dead, not around Blogcritics, leastways. Our Dear Leader Eric Olsen is known as a big Doors fan, and his birthday tribute from a couple years ago continues to draw in the supporters. Dude managed to get himself dead 30 odd years ago, but he's still the talk of the town.

For my part, I've always felt pretty much utter contempt for Jim Morrison as a person. I don't mean he was a little misguided, but that he was a complete fool, deceiving himself with his artistic and particularly poetic delusions. On top of which, he was pretty abusive of people around him. He really made people pay for the great gift of being in the company of Genius.

Even as a cheesy true believing high school fanboy, the Lizard King schtick didn't impress me. At 16, I was way too mature for Jimbo's dumb daddy problems and romanticized slow suicide. The only thing he was ever going to "break on through to the other side" of was the lawn, and absolutely everyone automatically ends up doing that. Part of the trick is trying to avoid that achievement for as long as possible. At this, Jimbo was definitely a failure.

Dear Leader's comparisons of Jimbo to "soulmates" like Baudelaire and Rimbaud is really pushing it. Leaving aside the obviously ridiculous "poetry," even his song lyrics were largely not especially interesting, at least not on the page.

However, even an obvious non-believer such as me has to say that the dude did some worthwhile work that can't be denied. How much of the Doors' achievement was Jimbo's vs the rest of the band, particularly keyboardist and songwriter Ray Manzarek is certainly open to debate. For my money, Manzarek's keyboards were a more unique element setting their sound apart from the crowd than Morrison's vocals. Still, you have to recognize that if you're going with the Doors, Jimbo was the soul. They obviously couldn't have just replaced him and moved on with a credible new Doors.

Songwriting was the principal core of their valid achievements, and Morrison wasn't the only or necessarily the best composer. Note that their top centerpiece hit "Light My Fire" was written primarily by Krieger the guitar player, for example, which is more significant than the vocal performance of his song by Morrison.

Probably their coolest record was "Riders on the Storm." This was a real nice ambience, a quiet storm of sorts, with a lot of live electricity flowing in the dampness of the mix. I'll credit this much more to Manzarek's keyboards than specifically to Morrison's vocal performance.

They definitely had some just plain outstanding basic pop songs. "Love Her Madly" and "Love Me Two Times" are simple and straightforward, but really outstanding.

In fairness, even "Break on Through" was pretty outstanding as a song. It's a perfectly valid pop song. Morrison should have know not to kill himself to fulfill the meaning of a pop song lyric, but still it works for the three minutes of a song.

Finally and significantly, you do have to give props to "The End." As lyrics on a piece of paper, this would just look dumb. But by the time they put a tune to it, and added the foreboding arrangement, the damn thing works as a piece of music. Leave aside the silly Freudian schtick, and listen to Morrison chasing the muse.

This was the most Doors-y song of Doors songs. It's the litmus test for a real Doors fan. Despite myself, I pass that test; I'll have to admit that it's an outstanding piece of music. It's not just catchy, but it has a real unique voice and style that can't be denied.

Even as a pretty strong non-believer, then, I say you'd still have to give Jim Morrison and the Doors full credit for at least these ten songs, for starters:

The End
Light My Fire
Love Me Two Times
LA Woman
Hello, I Love You
People Are Strange
Break On Through
Love Her Madly
Touch Me
Riders on the Storm

Questions, comments?

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