Jim Morrison Mike Jahn - Essay

Mike Jahn

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[The Doors'] music was a melodic hard rock which did not detract from Morrison's lyrics. Morrison, when he was good, was very good, using broad, emotional and exotic images to create poetry that urged "breaking free" of traditional restraint, always a hot topic but particularly so in hippie circles in 1967.

Morrison managed to take "breaking free"—the perennial plea of the hip—and turn it into an ambiguous semi-nightmare. In his songs, the characters wanted freedom but feared it, and played out their torment in the company of an assortment of familiar, but at times foreboding images: the sun, the sea, running, falling, sleeping, and snakes—there seemed no end of reptiles in Morrison's songs.

At times, the Doors proposed rock music as a tool to use in breaking free—a notion that was popular in 1967—an extension of the rock 'n' roll song that views rock as a kind of cure-all…. At other times they would engage in a piece of lyric that was relatively unfettered by contemporary social concerns, such as "Horse Latitudes," a violent statement about old merchant ships which would, when caught in the doldrums, toss their cargo of horses into the sea to lighten load. The Doors were erratic and tended to slip farther and farther from the mark as the years wore on. (pp. 204-05)

Mike Jahn, "1967: A Bull Market in the Hippie Trade," in his Rock: From Elvis Presley to the Rolling Stones (copyright © 1973 by Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Co.; reprinted by permission of Times Books, a Division of Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Co.), Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Co., 1973, pp. 200-15.∗