The Doors Essay, Research Paper
Poet William Blake once said “If The Doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite” (Gilmore 34). From this quote arose a band that even over 20 years after its disbanding still is played and remembered. The Doors started as a little garage band in California back in the early sixties. They were extremely popular due to their lead singer, Jim Morrison. Morrison himself was a real character. Morrison is considered by many critics a modern day poet. Others view him in a different light, George Will wrote “Morrison resembled Byron in one aspect, they both were mad, bad, and dangerous to know” (Will 64). Still others view him as a hero of the ‘counterculture’. He was a sort of ‘Peter Pan’, one of those boys who never grew up. Morrison basically was The Doors. His blatant disregard for law and order made him a very well known figure. He was arrested on a few occasions for charges ranging from inciting riots to indecent exposure. He was also notorious for his drug use and alcohol abuse. His poetry though, justified his lifestyle. There were also three other members of the band: Ray Manzarak (keyboards), John Densmore (drummer), and Robby Krieger (guitarist). They all made up The Doors, but after the death of the lead singer Jim Morrison, the band’s popularity dropped significantly. They did though produce three albums after Morrison’s untimely demise (all of which were not very popular). Jim Morrison died on July 4th, 1971, in Paris, France. He was 27 years old at the time of death (the same age Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin died at also). He was found in his bathtub with a cute smirk on his face. He had finally “broke through to the other side”(Gilmore 35).
The Doors were known for their style of rebellious, psychedelic rock. Their music is poetry (written by Jim Morrison) set to music. Morrison also had many books published just of his poetry. Although not all of The Doors music was written by Morrison, ninety percent of it was. The band was considered a guru by the youngsters of the sixties, and a scourge by the public. The band seemed to fuse music, drugs, and idealism as a way to reform and even redeem a troubled society (Gilmore 34). They were much like the other bands that were emerging in the sixties, but different in one major way. They looked at prospects of hedonism and violence, revolt and chaos, and seemed to embrace these feelings without shame (Gilmore 35). The band confronted the truth about the troubled youth of the day, and knew that they were living in dangerous times. The Doors used their music to convey a sense of peacefulness while at the same time would bring about a chaotic feeling against the norm of society. The music itself it astounding. Morrison uses symbolism and abstract lyrics to create mental pictures in the listener’s imagination. Jim Morrison led The Doors to break all established boundaries of music in that era, boundaries that society of that day had set. He used his lyrics to talk about death, drugs, homicide, suicide, and even incest, subjects that went against everything that era stood for. While other singers of the time were preparing the people for a world of hope and peace, The Doors were making music for a ravenous and murderous time through exilirating sound (Gilmore 33). Morrison quite often opened his shows with the line “I don’t know about you, but I intend to get my kicks before this whole fucking shithouse explodes” (Gilmore 35). This total disregard for authority and psychedelic structure led The Doors to be known as what they are today.
Morrison had a way of conveying mental pictures to the listener even if the pictures had nothing to do with each other. Unlike most songs, Morrison didn’t need a major theme or some type of main idea to center his lyrics around. This way each listener gets a different picture of the same song in his or her head. This idea to many is confusing but if you have ever heard the song The Soft Parade by The Doors you will understand the concept completely. The Soft Parade has as much to do with parades as it does with doing your taxes. In one sense though, it is like a ‘parade’ of images through your mind. The song starts out with the line “When I was back in seminary school, there was a man there who put forth the proposition that you could petition the Lord with prayer, petition the Lord with prayer”. From there Morrison works his magical lyrics in to a slow, acoustical guitar background. He then asks the listener if “you could give him sanctuary…a place to hide”. Then after a few more questions the beat totally changes and so does the tone of Morrison’s voice. He is no longer worried for his safety but is singing about “…peppermint mini skirts…and a girl named Sandy…”. Then, just as before the beat totally changes and Morrison’s attitude does just as before. This time though he really goes into some heavy lyrics. I personally like this part of the song best, due to his abstractness of reality and his vague lyrics with great resolution. “Catacombs, Nursery bones, Winter women- growing stones, carrying babies to the river, streets and shoes, avenues, letter writers selling news, the monk bought lunch”. As you can see here these are astounding lyrics. They have nothing in common but they do sound great together. After this verse is when the real heavy keyboards, drums and guitars kick in. “This is the best part of the trip…this is the trip, the best part…yeah…” Morrison says in such a way you have to believe him. “…Welcome to the Soft Parade…all are lives we sweat and save, buildin’ for a shallow grave, must be somthin’ else we say, somehow to defend this pace, everything must be this way…”. This is an actual theme that just kind of ‘pops’ out of nowhere. Even though it has nothing to do with anything else Morrison has been sing, it goes with the song perfectly. After this line he goes back to his original style of abstract lyrics. “The Soft Parade has now begun, listen to the engines hum, people out to have some fun, cobra on my left- leopard on my right…”. This is another great line by Morrison. It gives us great mental imagery while the lyrics seem to flow together. “…The lights are getting brighter, the radio is moaning, calling to the dogs, there are still a few animals- left out in the yard, and its getting HARDER, to describe…”. This is where you get an idea of where the origins of this song are. This clearly depicts a really hard LSD hallucination. It gives the listener at this point an incite into where Morrison is coming from. The next few lines Morrison does in a way that adds to this feeling as well. Morrison sings them in three different ways, with very little difference, and records them track over track. This way it sounds like three Morrisons are singing and all sound different. He also lets his voice change from the center channel stereo to the right, then the left, then back into center channel again. Those who don’t have ‘quad’ on their stereo or ’surround sound’ really miss out on this feature. Then, while there is still three Morrisons singing, they all take on their own paths. One continues with the song, one just is way out there going off about something you cannot really understand (but to him it must be important judging by his tone), and then over top of all this comes Morrisons classic ‘poet’ voice booming and echoing throughout the listeners head. “When all else fails, we can whip the horses eyes, and make them sleep, and cry”. Then the song (voices still going) fades out to nothing. Without hearing this song you cannot really understand or comprehend it. As for the name of it (The Soft Parade), I think it has more than one meaning. One meaning is the ‘parade’ of images Morrison puts out to the listener. Another is the ‘parade’ of different types of songs within a song. Or maybe it refers to life itself, a sort of ‘parade’ of all ‘parades’. I guess well never truly know, since the writer has gone on. Even though if he was here I don’t think he could give us a true definition of this song. He would probably give us some line that would just make it even more confusing.
Stoned Immaculate is a poem set to music. The lyrics don’t go with the music as does a regular song. They are just a kind of ‘background’ for Morrisons poetry. “I’ll tell you this, no eternal reward but, forgive us now for wasting the dawn”. This is a sort of opening of this track. The music slows and the poetry part starts:
Back in those days everything was more simpler and more confused
One summer night, going to the pier I ran into two young girls.
The blonde was called freedom, the dark one enterprise.
We talked and they told me the story.
Now listen to this, I’ll tell you of Texas radio and the big beat,
soft driven slow and mad like some new language,
reaching you head with the cold sudden fury of a divine messenger
Let me tell you about heart ache and the loss of God,
Wandering, wandering, in hopeless night.
Out here in the perimeter there are no stars,
out here we is stoned immaculate…This song has many symbolic lines within it. When Morrison refers to freedom and enterprise, he refers to his way of life (freedom) and societys (the ‘dark one’ enterprise). “Let me tell you about heart ache and the loss of God”. Another line which depicts Morrisons lifestyle. He was obsessed with death and “The End”. He also seems to think his life is a dead end with no meaning in a cold world that doesn’t even care. In the line “Out here in the perimeter, there are no stars…” shows his view of himself as a lesser than man being, hopeless, without anything, even stars. But the one thing he has that society can’t take away, the only thing he has to show for himself, his own form of rebellion, is his ‘high’ – “Out here we is STONED IMMACULATE…”
The End is a topic Morrison loved to write about. The song itself confronts many diverse feelings and subjects, even including incest. “This is my friend, beautiful friend, the end”. This is the idea which is conveyed by all of Morrisons music. “Can you picture what will be, so picturesque and free…”. Morrison spent his life looking for death. I guess you could say he was born to die. “Lost in a romance, wilderness of pain…”. Morrison describes his life as painful and empty, all he has is death. This is a very lifelike representation of his life. After a few more lyrics comes some more poetry. This time though it tells a story:
The killer awoke before dawn
he put his boots on
he took a face from the ancient gallery
then he walked on down the hall
He went into the room where his sister lived,
then, then he…paid a visit to his brother then he,
he WALKED ON DOWN THE HALL,
And he came to a door, and he looked inside.
Father, Yes son?
I want to kill you.
Mother, yes son?
I want to fuck you. The end of the song was edited from all the albums ever written due to the standards of the day would not let them record the word ‘fuck’ on an album. In his poetry books and biography, though, lets us know the end of the song. This is also a very symbolic song. When he speaks of his father and mother he really is talking about other groups as a whole. Father is his representation of society as a whole. A place of law, order, and punishment. Just like the father of a household. Mother though is the more comforting things in life. She represents sympathy and compassion. His brother and sister represent us, as members in society. So actually this song doesn’t really deal with incest, just on a symbolic level. This song is a statement against society, but not one that society (well at least society in Morrisons time) would understand, or try to comprehend. It was his way of getting revenge in “The End”.
The Doors represent the modern day leaders in anti social music. They were the first ‘rebels’ long before James Dean. They made their mark in a society they didn’t want to be known in. All of Jim Morrisons music is astounding. Well, all except his last few years. They had more songs that were written by band members other than him. Not to say the songs written by other band members are bad, just less like poetry and more like pop-rock. This is why I personally find The Doors music so excellent to listen to, and why it has stood the test of time for over twenty years.