The Doors And What Thay Did To Me  (A Thirty Year Perspective)

By Tom Robbins


A few writers seem to be born with a singular, personal voice. The majority never develop a distinctive, original style and don't care: they're too busy riding to the hounds of commerce or favor. Then, there are those like myself who wait - with varying degrees of frustration and patience - for that day when the cerebral curtains might part and they find themselves at last able to say exactly what they want exactly how they want, find a voice, in short, of their own. For me, that day came in 1967, only instead of curtains parting, it was doors opening; doors, in fact, being blown off their hinges, doors, as in The Doors.

At the time, Seattle's "house" bands were The Youngbloods and Country Joe & The Fish, groups whose electrical bananas may have shocked straight society, but who, to their fans, were as folksy and affectionate as psychedelic puppies. Accustomed to having its face licked, Seattle was unprepared for a band that, while it might sniff a crotch or two, definitely did not wag its tail. The Doors embodied the Zeitgeist, with all of its political optimism, spiritual awareness and liberating transcendence of obsolete cultural values, but embodied it with a potency, concentration and theatrical vehemence that was totally unexpected. They flaunted rather than soft-pedaled the threat that the new culture presented to the old culture, and both cultures were left rather reeling by the experience.

I was one of many young Seattlites who staggered, dazed but fomented, from Eagles Auditorium at the end of The Doors' first appearance here. Back in my attic room, still partially stoned, I'm sure, from sources other than the music, I sat down around 2 a.m. to review the concert for the Helix, a local underground newspaper, and riding the wave of uncompromising, primal, poetic energy that The Doors had dashed against the reef of my brain, I broke on through to the other side. Which is to say, I finally found my voice. True, the resulting piece of impressionistic prose was a less than nature foreshadowing of my eventual literary style, and I cannot say with certainty that some of its phrases were not blatantly stolen from whatever I was reading that summer, but I wrote with a vigor, a freedom, a precision-within-aban-don that I'd heretofore never attained. My fire had been lit. Several weeks later, I began my first novel. Another Roadside Attraction, and never looked back.

As for The Doors, I feel about them today much as I did when I composed the following review that wild July night thirty years ago: riff for riff, image for image, little red rooster for little red rooster, they were the most exciting rock and roll band America ever produced.

Seattle July 1997


On July 23, Eagles Auditorium was raped and pillaged, anointed and sanctified, by four musicians calling themselves after a utilitarian device for opening and closing architectural entryways and medicine cabinets; The Doors. Yes, The Doors. Jeweled glass panels, knobs that resemble spitting phalluses, mail slots that glow like jack-o'lantern lips - and not a welcome mat in sight. Enter if you dare, my children, exit if you can.

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 Alien Poe drowning in his birdbath, Massacre of the Innocents, tarantella of the satyrs, L.A. pagans drawing down the moon The Doors. The musical equivalent of a ritual sacrifice, an amplified sex throb, a wounded yet somehow elegant yowl for the lost soul of America, histrionic tricksters making hard cider of the apples of Eden and petting the head of the Snake.

The Doors. The intensity begins the moment they stalk on stage and it doesn't let up until the purge is over, the catharsis is complete. Even between numbers, there is no relaxation - no chit-chat, no horsing around- Like the great actors of Japan, The Doors project all the more intensity when they are silent. They even tuned up with an involvement so fierce it would have scared Don and The Goodtimes out of their pants.

The Doors- Their voice is dark and bloody, a voice from the bowels. Satanic in intensity, devouring in energy, awesome in spirit. The voice of Nietzche, stopped short in terror, succumbing to madness, lusting for the salvation of flesh. The Brechtian voice of the Berlin Music Hall, warning a new generation of the rising tide of fascism. A voice soaked with a rabid rage of destruction - but neither wanton nor negative.

Like Shiva, the Divine Destroyer of the Hindu, The Doors kill only to clear the way for rebirth; they hint at the eternal rhythmic balance of life and death. Four Doors:

John Densmore, drums. Perhaps the best drummer in all rock. While most non-drummers seldom stray from the beat, Densmore crosses the beat - in and out, back and forth, creating counter-beats and accentuating the off-beats. He not only provides The Doors with a fantastic complexity of percussion, he goads them into new time signatures and actually leads them along their epic melodic line.

Ray Manzarek, organ. As audacious as Pigpen, but far more authoritative, he obviously cut his teeth on Bach. Manzarek flows through a field of variations and figurations as grandiose as the richest Baroque. One moment he is pliant and searching, the next he is tearing at the keyboard like a starving man ripping a chicken apart. Robby Krieger, guitar. With the drums and organ taking the lead, Krieger supplies a hard, unyielding rhythm that occasionally explodes into startling new disclosures of chord and modulation.

Jim Morrison, vocals. Morrison begins where Mick Jagger and Eric Burden stop. An electrifying combination of an angel in grace and a dog in heat. he becomes intoxicated by the danger of his poetry, and, swept by impious laughter, he humps the microphone, beats it and sucks it off. Sexual in an almost psychopathic way, Morrison's richly textured voice taunts and teases and threatens and throbs. With incredible vocal control and the theatrical projection of i Shakespearean star, he plays with the audience's emotion; like a child with its doll: now I kiss you, now I wring you neck. The Doors are carnivores in a land of musical vegetarian; Their craftsmanship is all the more astonishing in the light of their savagery. They have the ensemble tightness of the Juilliard String Quartet - but their grandeur is not of the intellect but of warm red blood. Their talons, fangs and folded wings are seldom out of view, but if they leave us crotchraw and exhausted, at least they leave us aware of our aliveness. And of our destiny. 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 an we want it................................................................... NOW!

Seattle, July 1967


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