Reader reviews for Jim Morrison: LIfe, Death, Legend

This is without a doubt the most researched and most informative one of the 6 books I have read about Jim Morrison. Although it does not solve all the mysteries about his life and death, it presents a very detailed and believable description of a young man, who really just wanted be a poet, but simply could not deal with the stress and pressures caused by his revolutionary rock star image. It includes details of extreme and self-destructive behaviors and suggests that Morrison may have had serious mental/emotional disorders and possibly medical conditions. It also reveals the many destructive relationships with “friends” and sycophants who failed to help him, even though they had to know he desperately need help. This book also provided information about most Doors concerts which helped me determine that the Doors concert I attended at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh took place on the weekend of September 19-21, 1969. The description of that concert states: “In Pittsburgh, the kids got so excited by “Light My Fire” that the cops stopped the show. Bill Siddons came onstage and said that the band would do another song if everyone got back into their seats (p350)” The police actually lined up across the front of the stage to prevent fans from reaching it. My recollection of the concert was that the police and others, presumably including Siddons, tried to restore order, but the crowd did not settle down until Morrison himself told us that the cops would not let the concert continue unless the crowd got under control. He asked us to let the band continue playing, and it was amazing that the crowd did as he asked. It was truly and amazing experience, although Morrison certainly did not give one of his best performances. Other books about Jim Morrison that I have read: 1.No One Here Gets Out Alive, by Jerry Hopkins and Daniel Sugerman (1980). – some refer to this book as “Nothing Here but Lots of Lies” 2.Riders on the Storm, by John Densmore (1990). 3.Break on Through, by James Riordan & Jerry Prochnicky (1991). 4.Rimbaud and Jim Morrison, by Wallace Fowlie (1994). – partially read 5.Light My Fire: My Life With The Doors, by Ray Manzarek (1998).
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This is an exhaustive account of the life of James Douglas Morrison. It is like someone, for the first time heard a Doors song, and asked, who is this singer? And Stephen Davis said, okay, let me tell you. It begins with his childhood, moving around the country frequently because of his stern military father. It proceeds through his years at UCLA film school where he meets Ray Manzarek and Francis Ford Coppola (who would later use the song The End in his movie Apocalypse Now), then the formation of the band, their days playing on the Sunset Strip (where Jim met Pamela while playing as the house band at the London Fog), through their skyrocket rise to superstardom, the disastrous infamous concert in Miami, to his ultimate fate in Paris. The details are startling. Many of which I have never heard of before, and I have read a lot on Morrison. The last chapter about Paris is riviting and "un-put-downable". I have only two minor complaints: 1) Stephen Davis repeats himself a couple of times. 2) When he first mentions Michael McClure, he parenthetically says that he is the least talented of the beat poets. Why throw in this opinion in a biography? It doesn’t make sense and I disagree with him anyway.This book speaks for itself, so I will let quotations from the book represent my review. I won’t include many of the surprising details, so as not to include spoilers.“San Francisco was the third corner of the Beat international, a city where poets, not athletes, were local heroes.”“’Friedrich Nietzsche killed Jim Morrison,’ said Doors cofounder Ray Manzarek, who claimed to have watched it happen.”Rimbaud quote that obviously influenced Jim: “The first study for a man who wants to be a poet is the knowledge of his entire self. He searches his soul, he inspects it, he tests it, he learns it. As soon as he knows it, he cultivates it… But the soul has to be made monstrous. Imagine a man planting and cultivating warts on his face. One must, I say, be a visionary; make oneself a visionary. The poet makes himself a visionary through a long, a prodigious, and rational disordering of all the senses. Every form of love, suffering, of madness; he searches himself, he consumes all the poisons in him, keeping only their quintessences… He arrives at the unknown: and even if, half crazed at the end, he loses the understanding of his visions, he has seen them! Let him be destroyed in his leap by those unnamable, unutterable, and innumerable things: there will come other horrible workers: they will begin at the horizons where he has succumbed.” “One of the most murderous ironies of the whole era would be that while Jim Morrison was becoming rock music’s antiwar spokesman – ‘Make a grave for the unknown soldier’ – his father was fighting a futile war against communism on the other side of the world.”Jim: “I offer images. I conjure memories of… freedom. But we can only open doors; we can’t drag people through.” A then unknown Tom Robbins, reporting for the underground weekly Helix attended a July 1967 concert in Seattle. He outdid himself with this brilliant review: “The Doors. Their style is early cunnilingual, late patricidal, lunchtime in the Everglades, Black Forest blood sausage on electrified bread, Jean Genet up a totem pole, artists at the barricades, Edgar Allen Poe drowning in his birdbath, Massacre of the Innocents, tarantella of the satyrs, L.A. pagans drawing down the moon… Jim Morrison is an electrifying combination of angel in grace and dog in heat… The Doors are musical carnivores in a land of musical vegetarians… The Doors scream into the darkened auditorium what all of us in the underground are whispering more softly in our hearts: We want the world and we want it … NOW!”“The band’s film crew captured some prophetic (and unconsciously metaphoric) dialogue as Jim, Ray, and Robby were drinking Michelob beer and playing poker in the motel before the show. Jim wanted to fold rather than throw in another quarter into the pot.Ray: ‘We need you to stay in the game.’Robby: ‘We all want to suck you dry.’Jim: ‘Well, the thing is… I don’t like the game.’”There is even many details about the equipment they used: “Onstage were sixteen metal-gray Acoustic amps in four stacks of four, red eyed and buzzing; a bent and battered chrome mike stand; a black-and-red Vox organ with a silver-colored Fender bass keyboard on top; and a burgundy Gibson SG guitar.”“Strange Days was released that fall, more surreal than fashionably psychedelic, but its tense, experimental ambience and downbeat messages of loss and elusive human connections failed to capture the huge audience of the Doors’ first record. The album would only reach a respectable number four on the charts. Nevertheless, Strange Days still stands as the Doors’ singular masterpiece, their only truly great album, and an accurate depiction of warped 1967, when the generations ground against each other, the social progress of the “Great Society” dissolved in rancor and hatred, and America seemed on the brink of civil conflict.”Joan Didion arrived at TTG Recording studios to interview Jim for the Saturday Evening Post. But Jim was not there yet, late as usual. “She noted the ‘uneasy symbiosis’ of the studio ambience, as the other three Doors and bassist Doug Lubahn worked on Robby’s flamenco track ‘Spanish Caravan’. She noted the cold tile floor, the harsh lights, the ennui of waiting, the boring dialogue. ‘The Doors interest me’, she later wrote. ‘They have nothing in common with the gentle Beatles… Their music insists that love is sex and sex is death and therein lives salvation. The Doors are the Norman Mailers of the Top 40, missionaries of apocalyptic sex.’”Jim told Digby Diehl, the Los Angeles Times’ film critic: “I think there’s a whole region of images and feelings inside us that rarely are given outlet in daily life. And when they do come out, they can take perverse forms. It’s the dark side. The more civilized we get on the surface, the more the other forces make their plea.”This is an interesting conversion to note, especially because how well known Mick Jagger is for his (seemingly) confident dancing on stage now. Mick Jagger first met Jim at his cheap hotel room. “They talked about dancing onstage. Mick said he was embarrassed about his dancing. He said the one thing he couldn’t do was dance. And he and Jim [commiserated] that it was increasingly difficult to feel comfortable and to feel smooth dancing onstage. The larger the audiences got, the larger the working area was, and the less you could relate to it. Everything had to be more exaggerated. Jim told Mick, ‘If you fall, man, you really gotta fall.’”“New Doors crew member Harrison Ford was an aspiring actor; his chores included some carpentry and (according to unsubstantiated Hollywood lore) finding herbs for the band.”“Asked about the future (of music), with intriguing prescience Jim in 1969 predicted the techno music that emerged twenty-five years later: ‘I can envision one person with a lot of machines – tapes, electronic setups – singing and speaking, and using a lot of machines.’”“On July 24, 1968, he completed and dated a handwritten manuscript of two sets of poems. These were The Lords, subtitled “Notes on Vision”, which contained imagery on film and media that Jim had been compiling for at least three years. The second set, The New Creatures, compiled more recent poetic interpretations of his adventures and persona as a rock star, charting the psychic territory of national legend and celebrity that no poet since Lord Byron had been able to investigate firsthand. Sometimes stabbingly acute, sometimes banal and derivative, these poems hung together as the inner workings of a rebel and outlaw self-exiled to a spiritual landscape of exaltation and despair. Especially interesting was his notion of the Lords as the hyperreal controllers of human culture and behavior, the invisible high lamas who intercede on humanity’s behalf with destiny and the gods. …Jim was determined to become a published poet.”The secret enemy, whose sleepless eyeStands sentinel, accuser, judge, and spy,The foe, the fool, the jealous, and the vain,The envious who but breathe in others’ pain,Behold the host! delighting to depraveWho track the steps of Glory to the grave,Watch every fault that daring Genius owesHalf to the ardor which its birth bestows,Distort the truth, accumulate the lie,And pile the pyramid of Calumny…-Lord Byron“They shifted into their Latin tinge, and Jim sang a beautiful, extremely moving declaration of his existential despair:All our lives we sweat and saveBuilding for a shallow grave."
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