Saturday, June 19, 2010
"The End" by the Doors (1967)
I don't expect to make many friends with this statement, but I have a hard time stomaching The Doors. Actually, I should qualify that: frequently, the three instrumentalists in the band are capable of pumping out decent music. It's precisely 25% of the membership of the band that I have trouble stomaching.
But before making it personal, let me add this caveat: the Doors did some good stuff. And I even mean with decent vocals. The dichotomy of the Doors, or one of several, is how they tried to be an AM band and an FM band at the same time: a pop band and a rock band. So pretty much every album released during Jim Morrison's life has a song or two that's two and a half minutes long and a song or two that's ten minutes long. The Short ones were the singles for the kids, the long ones were the 'statements' for the musos. "Light My Fire" was both. Give me the choice, though, and I'll take "Break On Through", "Love Me Two Times" and especially "Touch Me" any time. The longer stuff? I must just not be doing the right drugs.
The present song is a good example: this is the sort of song where everything goes wrong for the Doors. While the first minute or two build up a decently spooky musical feel, it quickly degenerates into noodly pretension. The musicians here are just as guilty as the singer: as the song goes on and on and on in an attempt to 'blow minds', it loses all sense of musicality and enjoyment value. It has ultimately become a suitable backdrop for...
Ugh. Jim Morrison. His grave in Paris has constant pilgrims, university kids put his poster on their dorm walls, he's mentioned in the same breath as undisputed 1960s greats. Why, I ask you, why? At his worst, or even at anything less than his best, I find him a fatuous quasi-profound blowhard. Gripping his mic to intone the tackiest of high-school 'poetry' in a heavy-handed baritone, the so-called 'Lizard King' is largely responsible for bringing pretense into popular music - for taking the formalistic advances spearheaded by the likes of Bob Dylan and leading them far outside the boundaries of good taste. For all his rubbish about the 'doors of perception', I've never gotten the impression that Jim Morrison had much in the way of worthwhile insights or vision. At best, he was partially able to crib ideas from minds brighter than his.
This particular song is a good example. At first, it's just some typical death-babbling. Ride the snake to the lake, etc. etc. After the song gets wibblier, Morrison does too, telling an incomprehensible story about a killer, with the famous 'Oedipus' lines tossed in there for no clear reason I can see. And ooh, big deal, swear words (sometimes). Yawn. It doesn't make any sense, which is no crime in and of itself, but like any of Morrison's more belaboured 'poetry' pieces, it is convinced of its own merits. It is quite wrong.
And it's twelve minutes long. Twelve minutes of your life you can never get back. Never.