Was Jim troubled by the demands of turning out albums and the sometimes mediocre results the pace produced–e.g., “Spanish Caravan”, “Summer’s Almost Gone”…?
Hey, come on, man, I kind of like `Spanish Caravan’! (If you want to talk mediocre Doors songs, I gladly give you `Indian Summer’, `Blue Sunday’, `Tell All The People’, `You’re Lost Little Girl’…)
But, yes, Jim did complain that it was a lot to juggle, and some aspect of the job always had to suffer–that stress I was talking about in the last question.
The creative bar was always set higher for the Doors than for other groups, because right out of the box, with the very first notes of the very first song on the very first album, the Doors had proved for all time that they could make the jump without half trying. So naturally the bar went up several notches every time. Sometimes they cleared it, and when they did they redefined the parameters of public and recorded performance (the walls bled, the earth trembled); sometimes they didn’t, and barely made it out of the gig alive (keep the engine running in that getaway car in the alley!). With them, it was always either one way or the other, they could never have just a nice ordinary show.
Because the Doors were not an ordinary group, and they should not have been judged by ordinary standards. And they weren’t. And nobody knew that better than Jim.
The pressure on them all–on Jim far more than the others, as the perceived leader and public focus, the musical linchpin (they couldn’t make it without him, and how well we all knew it; indeed, we have seen it proved every day, every hour, since July 3 1971…) and also the chief songwriter–was unbelievable: one new album every eight or ten months, with eight or ten new mindblowing songs that were both fabulously FM-artistic AND yet totally top-40 commercial, that also were somehow exactly the same as the sound they were famous for (or else the fans wouldn’t buy it) BUT brilliantly different (or else the hostile critics would bust them for making “the same album” over and over–and believe me, they did anyway), PLUS a heavy touring schedule, where people would be expecting one balls-against-the-walls concert after another, night after night.
It was almost impossible for Jim to write songs on the road, but the Doors had to tour; when they were touring, they couldn’t spend time in the studio making records for which Jim would have had to have written songs, which he couldn’t write because they were on the road. They had to make records to get a tour, and had to tour to support the records… Bottom line, Jim didn’t like the road very much and he didn’t deal with it very well–if the Doors had gigs three nights in a row, you could pretty much count on Jim being drunk for the last one. I think that was partly why he decided, very early on, that he wanted out.
Jim didn’t consider himself a prolific writer, and he was right not to. I used to tease him all the time, telling him that his songs were staggeringly splendid and brilliant and right on, and I loved them madly, but there were never enough darn verses, and the ones there were, he’d just repeat over and over. “People Are Strange”, which I think is one of the greatest rock songs ever–what’s it got, two verses which he sings three times each? NOT GOOD ENOUGH!
As a major Doors fan I wanted more, and a different more; as a practicing rock critic I was not slow to smack him for it–I was rougher on Jim Morrison in print than on anyone else in rock&roll, especially after we started sleeping together; and as his supportive loving mate I was not going to give him anything but absolute honesty, because I knew he could do soooo much better and I knew when he was just being lazy. It was one of the things he said he loved me for…and it made for some extremely interesting domestic moments.
Doors fans and the general rock public didn’t know it, but there was a very real little old war going on between Jim and Robby, as far as songwriting went; intensely territorial, a creative Bosnia. Jim told me that’s why their fourth album, The Soft Parade, had separate writer credits (first time on a Doors album), because he didn’t want people thinking he was responsible for some of the softer, more commercial Krieger oeuvre (which, to give Robby his due, kept the Doors alive on Top-40 when Jim’s songs had started to scare too many people) or that Robby had had anything to do with the songs Jim himself had written alone. Their respective worldviews and creativity were, to say the least, disparate…
Jim realized, too, that not every song could be ” The Soft Parade” or “The End” or “Crystal Ship.” But not every song had to be; and I happen to think that even a “mediocre” Doors song is about a gazillion times better than what passes for “great” these pathetic days.
I also think–and this is the retired rock critic speaking now, who was actually THERE for all this, not the loyal defending spouse, who of course was also there–that Jim Morrison has one of the three greatest rock and roll voices of all time, and speaking as wife and critic both, I think he’s never gotten enough credit for that. The Morrison sideshow grabbed all the attention that Jim should have had–which was, of course, his own stupid fault. But still.
And of course there was all the endless publicity and publicness–very much a two-edged sword for Jim, and by extension for us as a couple (we loved it that we weren’t public…and we never for a minute thought how that privacy would work against me twenty years later).
It will probably sound extremely weird to people who never knew him, who know only the popular image and the distorted macho biocrap lies, but Jim Morrison was a genuinely shy man; in him, that shyness and the need for artistic expression conflicted big-time, because every artist is in some sense an exhibitionist (and no, I don’t mean THAT!!!). You have to be, to get up there wounded and naked in front of the world, and healthily egotistical too, to think the world will be even remotely interested in looking at that nakedness, those wounds–at what you have to say or sing or paint or compose out of your pain and perception. But that’s where the art part comes in…
To get around the problem, my honey created “Jim Morrison” as a sort of psychic stunt double, using the Lizard King persona as self-protection and a creative mask for “Jim”. He never for a minute believed his own publicity; for one thing, he was far too smart and ironic for that, and for another he had created it himself. He believed the reality behind it, because that WAS real–the artistry, the shamanism. But elements of the mask did start adhering perhaps a little too closely, and out of his shyness and insecurity he fed into the mask, and the mask fed into him. And in the end what it created–the uncertainty it bred in him, the distance it put on him–helped to put him in a place where he was smart enough to know he shouldn’t have been but not strong enough to muster the resources to escape, or at least not to escape in time, a place where he was vulnerable to Pamela Courson and her nasty white powder.
Many different sorts of morons have claimed Jim Morrison is a god and a legend. That may be, or will be; but when he was with us Jim Morrison was something a great deal more complex and difficult and splendid: he was a real person.
And I say he was a hero. And before I’ve done–hear me Goddess–all the rest of you will be saying so too…