FOUR DOORS TO
THE FUTURE: GOTHIC ROCK IS THEIR THING
by John Stickney 1967
"Which one is Jim Morrison?" one girl said to another. But he
was not on stage, and a drummer and an organist and a guitar player looked
impatiently toward a curtained door.
They sat in darkness punctuated by the steady red lights of amplifiers as tall
as a man and the glow of a hundred cigarettes dancing in the evening breeze. The
curtain on the door hung like velvet one inch thick.
Two hands pierced the slit of the curtain and drew it back sharply as a
spotlight racked the stage and exposed a man who squinted
in the brightness.
There was applause that he did not care to hear, and the spotlight caught the
contempt in the faces of the other musicians as Jim Morrison tentatively
fingered the microphone.
He screamed and reeled, throttling the microphone and gazing at a sea of faces.
He shouted a strung-out, distorted, and violated stream of word-images which
twisted the faces into expressions of shock and yet fascination. He sang, or
rather groaned, or talked to himself out loud as the group raced through
"Break On Through" to lead off the set. The band and their instruments
work together in complete interaction crystallizing the night air with a texture
of sound which a person can run his hand over.
But Morrison gets all the attention, with black curls cascading over the
upturned collar of a leather jacket worn the way all leather jackets should be:
tight, tough, and somehow menacing. Some people have said that Morrison is
beautiful, and others have learned the meaning of the word charisma by watching
And then there is "Light My Fire", and Morrison's brass and leather
voice strokes the lyrics with all the subtlety in which he handles the
microphone. The song deserves to be done The Doors' way, with with suggestive
intonation and instrumentation striving together to produce the incredible erotic
pressure of the driving organ-scream climax.
After all, sex is what hard rock is all about. but there is terror in the
sexuality of "The End", Morrison's black masterpiece of narrative
poetry about a physical and spiritual odyssey which finishes in patricide and
incest. Morrison is at his best in this song, doing his own thing while the
organist bends low and presses hard on the keys and the guitarist walks
unconcernedly in and out of the spotlight. The drummer sweats.
Morrison dislodged the microphone and staggered blindly across the stage as the
lyrics and screams which are "The End" poured out of his mouth,
malevolent, satanic, electric, and on fire. He stumbled and fell in front of a
towering amplifier and sobbed to himself. The guitarist nudged him with the neck
of his guitar, and a mouth in the audience said knowingly, "He's
stoned." But he wasn't. He sat up on his knees and stretched out his arms
in an attitude of worship toward the cold amplifier, the impartial mediator
between the virtues and absurdity of a music dependent upon circuits and ohms.
The audience did not know whether to applaud or not. The guitarist unplugged the
electric cord which makes his instrument play, the organist stepped off left,
the drummer threw his sticks to the ground in contempt and disgust, and Morrison
had disappeared through the velvet curtain without a wave or a smile.
The Doors do not cater to the nameless faces beyond the footlights. The group is
not kind, and they do not entertain in any traditional sense. They allow other
people to witness the manner of their existence and the pain and pleasure
inherent in their imaginations.
The audience was scared, and rightly so. The Doors are not pleasant, amusing
hippies proffering a grin and a flower; they wield a knife with a cold and
terrifying edge. The Doors are closely akin to the national taste for violence,
and the power of their music forces each listener to realize what violence is in
Morrison writes nearly all of the Doors' lyrics, and his work does have meaning.
There are rock critics in our time, and when they speak of Morrison's lyrics,
visions of Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Joyce, and Artaud pop out of their critiques.
But hard rock was never meant for academicism. There is truth in The Doors' beat
which drives home the meaning of their fascination with symbolism, streams of
consciousness, cruelty, and the bizarre in whatever form. That's where The Doors