Jim Morrison

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Sandy Pearlman

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Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 739

The Doors are spectral. Maybe more than anybody. What counts is the impression for which no significant referent detail can or should be found. The music ends and there is no detail which you can refer to actually justify your impression. But you have that impression. And it's not even ambiguous. "The little girls they understand." Understand? Most importantly, there is a statement being made. But how? Take the words of a Doors song. Lots of people think the songs make them "swim in mystery." And if they think so, then they do. But usually the words aren't really bizarre or neat enough to do that. Everybody I know thought that Strange Days wasn't half as much fun as the first album [The Doors]. They figured Morrison would be a better old time type poet by now. Give the boy time, you know, he'll grow. But in an old timesy poetry sense his songs weren't any better. The words were good enough to be unambiguously assertive, to literally make a statement. Not good enough to automatically give you the creeps. Since the company men printed all the words (even some that weren't there) on the inner record sleeve, there was disappointment in homes all over America. At last everything could be understood all at once. The context of mystery, a hangover from what the first album did to us all, and reinforced by the resemblance of so much of the music on the second to that of the first album, seemed threatened by clarity….

So here are the points. The Doors' words aren't bizarre enough. But even the words of really conventionally neat stuff (The Bible; Baudelaire; miscellaneous batwinged English poets, i.e. [William] Blake/[Samuel Taylor] Coleridge; R. Meltzer, etc.) stop being bizarre when you set eyes upon them. Familiarity nibbles away surprise, and suppose then somebody sets out not to surprise you, but just to tell you what's gotta be. Et bien, God only knows that this is what the Doors had in mind. Probably not…. (p. 25)

The Doors' music functions as an absolute context. Certainly inordinancy (or even simple overstatement) had much to do with this. They put together a strikingly dense combination of assertive words, quintessential pulp sounds, Morrison's tone of voice, his clothing, animal noises and athletics, making a statement which works for everybody. And that generated an unmistakably explicit mystery field. They really stated this and that: "Strange days have tracked us down," "You're lost little girl," "Unhappy girl, fly fast away, don't miss your chance to swim in mystery," "People are strange when you're a stranger," etc. Who ever could have believed that the mysterious could come out of such unambiguous overstatement? They did it by dropping the traditional provocative appeals to the imagination and replacing them with instructions. At last mystery and imagination have been divorced. By the Doors. This is a surprise. This is ironic. This is ingenious.

And now for the Doors' specter. It first appears full grown, hovering like St. Elmo's famous fire, around "Back Door Man."… Absolute contextualization has fully directed our attention so that household phrases finally become inordinantly expansive. Imagine "When the music's over, turn out the lights," winding up with the long awaited resurrection. Imagine that. But we shouldn't be too shocked. Word expansion (via an explicit or implicit field) is an old trick of both Yeats and the Beatles. The specter itself is also overly familiar. Its spirit has a plenitude of arrogant and assertive disorder. Disorder has been rationalized by the Doors into something both comprehensive and modular. The spirit is comprehensive...

(This entire section contains 739 words.)

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so as to taint anything they turn to. And modular so as to be applicable anywhere. That's how the Doors taint the world. But understand there are kinds of purity. And the world can be purified by tainting it. Morrison has said: "It is a search, an opening of doors. We're trying to break through to a clearer, purer realm." (And along these lines don't you forget that the melody for "My Eyes Have Seen You" starts off like the Ajax ad, "Stronger Than Dirt.") Now if things have been absolutely tainted, they have also attained a certain absolute purity. An arrangement according to a perfect order. Purity is after all only a neutral, modular term. (p. 36)

Sandy Pearlman, "Doors & Kinks," in Crawdaddy (copyright © 1968 by Crawdaddy Publishing Co., Inc.; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), January, 1968, pp. 21-5, 36-9.∗




Karl Dallas