MYSTERIOUS DOORS OPENING TO INFINITY
By Nevin Ulusoy
“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite.” These words that belong to the famous nineteenth century British poet Blake was going to be the name and the philosophy of a rock band in 1965: The Doors. Aldoux Huxley‘s book “The Doors of Perception”, which was published in 1954 was about this topic and one of the sources of inspiration of the band. Oliver Stone was inspired to make a film with the same name in 1991 as well. Philosophy, Indian culture, nineteenth century poets, mythology, blues and rock: Here is The Doors.
The group was formed in Venice Beach, Los Angeles in 1965 by Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek. They had both graduated from UCLA, University of California, Cinema Department, Manzarek had completed his mastership as well. Morrison did not sleep at night on the rooftop he stayed at but took drugs and wrote poems as he was watching the sea and the moon. When he sang one of his poems as a song with the insistance of Manzarek, Manzarek was fascinated. It was “Moonlight Drive.” Jim was using the melody not to forget his poems. Manzarek was playing the keyboards, Robby Krieger was playing the guitar and John Densmore was on the drums, so the group was ready. They started to work at Venice Beach, they had rehearsals there. Venice Beach was a place where interesting people from different cultures came together. One of the band’s, actually the legendary singer Jim Morrison’s nourishment sources Beat poets and writers were coming together there before them. It was going to be the place of Hippies later. He wrote “The End”, their unforgettable song that fascinated Paul Rothchild, the producer of Electra Records who discovered them, under a bridge there, a terrifying place that makes you feel far away from everything. Then the fame that starts very fast, the albums produced one after the other, the concerts, wonderful at the beginning but later under the shadow of Jim’s extreme behaviours and Jim, following his friends Jimmy Hedrix and Janis Joplin. He was 27 years old, just like them, a very young man tired of living.
We breath the atmosphere of the turbulent days that made up the 1968 generation. Young people who thought it nonsensical to follow their parents’ ways of living, who believed a different kind of life was possible, who did not want to wait for the following days to live their own lives.
Oliver Stone’s film “The Doors”, takes us to the discovery of both the group and the singer Jim Morrison. Stone says that he listened to the group in Vietnam and was mesmerized. Val Kilmer acts Jim Morrison with an unbelievable performance. It is as if we watch Morrison himself, the songs that are sung alive have been sung by Kilmer as well and their voices are very similar. Kilmer lived like Morrison for a long time and he had to have psychological treatment because he could not get rid of the character. The film starts with Morrison’s speech which was recorded on his last birthday and takes us to an unbelievable journey. We breath the atmosphere of the turbulent days that made up the 1968 generation. Young people who thought it nonsensical to follow their parents’ ways of living, who believed a different kind of life was possible, who did not want to wait for the following days to live their own lives. The new generation who did not want to live just to earn money, but to live their lives as they wanted. People searching, struggling to go beyond the solid truths that imprison us. Those who spurn the prohibitions, try to break the chains with drugs and alcohol. The group tries to take the young people to inner journeys just in this environment, Jim, saying he wants to be a shaman, directs the people as if he is a shaman on stage, makes a brand new perception with the images of nature and animals he learned from Indian culture. He is not only a singer, he has always wanted to be a poet actually. The lyrics mostly he, sometimes the guitarist Robby writes, create unique pieces of work with the working of the members of the group. They have a mesmerizing sound and it influences the rock bands after them. Manzarek uses the elements of boogie woogie, blues, jazz, rythm and blues, cabaret and ragtime. There is no bass guitar, Manzarek produces this sound with his keyboard. When asked questions about their music, “listen, just listen” says Manzarek. Jim is unbelievable on stage, but he never shows off, he passes out with the music and lyrics, his behaviour, his dance is not planned before and this makes the other members of the group uneasy. But it is this unpredictability that makes them famous; this young man who sings and dances with his whole being, with his black leather trousers, special belts, long hair and his face, not smiling much. It is as if Dionysos is on stage, the god of wine in Greek mythology, a god that shows the way to the real inspiration, meets people with a wisdom which has the secrets of nature by reaching the supraliminal and subconcious, that is always drunk. Wine is the source of inspiration for poets, for Jim, too, there is also Pam, Pamela Susan Courson, who he says she is her cosmic mate, who she met with before he is famous. Jim is almost always drunk by time, he wants to go to the end of everything and one of Blake’s sentences is his motto: “The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” His wish for proceeding freely reminds nineteenth century Romantic poets, too. They wanted to fly as high as possible on Pegasus without reins, they were bound for unknown, new horizons destroying the conventions. Flying like Icarus who had wings his father made, stuck to his shoulders with wax. Their aim was being one with nature, opening secrets doors, reaching the secret of life. The poet was a leader of society, trying to make people wake up from the slumber of rules and traditions. They were active politically as well, fighting for democracy. Jim wanted to open our closed eyes in a deep sleep with the melodies of rock, shake us, make us feel the beauty of nature. However, it was an unknown road, a road full of secrets, dangerous. After feeling the pleasure of flying, Icarus did not listen to his father’s advice of not approaching the sun much. When the wax melted, the Aegean Sea swallowed him. They had the young death myth, too. English Romantic poet Shelley died when he was 30, Keats was 26 when he died of tuberculosis.
However, for some people Jim is worth nothing, he has no talent, he is just a drunk tramp. Stone tried to catch this Jim behind fame more or less, find out him as a poet. He had a book of poetry published by himself when he was alive, “The Lords and the New Creatures” and it had some of his prose as well. Jim’s inner world is open for us a little, who was a voracious reader. He dedicated the book to Pam, she was his editor in a way. Although he had a lot of women in his life, she was the one and only, he shared his poems and prose with her only. He never left her even after he became famous, however much they fought, they came together again. It is said that Pam was envied a lot at that time, because whoever he was with, whatever crazy things he did, he went back to her in the end. Three years later, Pam followed him, at the age of Jim when he died. Patti Smith, who inspired punk rock, says that Morrison was a very important artist and he combined rock and poetry. She has a song for him, too, “Break it Up.”
Photographs are part of the system of consuming people, the wheels of fame mechanism will use them as much as they can and then throw away the remaining parts. When fame is here with death, the wheels will devour the flesh and drink the blood, like some tribes in the ancient times and Africans in the past ate the flesh of the dead, thinking they would get benefit.
A documentary on The Doors, “When You’re Strange” was directed by Tom DiCillo in 2009. The film tries to go deep inside the group and Morrison with scenes from concerts, backstage and interviews. It is dubbed by Johnny Depp and it has a detailed narrative. It tells us the band’s story with images never shown before. The film won the Grammy for the Best Long Music Video in 2011, but unfortunately it lacks some magic, there is only information on the surface. His problems with his family, his father’s ideas and the band’s musical background is given in detail, but Jim that we look for, that never leaves us alone after we know him, after we hear his voice is not there much. He wanted to find the kind of peace that nobody could find and show the way to find it to everybody, but he could not find it or maybe it was with him but he did not notice it, he could not completely understand what it was. He asks Pam in the film “The Doors” where the feast they were promised was. But what they were promised was money, fame, material things. Isn’t it all about the American dream as well, wealth, being rich, “having a Cadillac”, in Salinger’s words? Was he trying to escape from fame by growing a beard, putting on weight, wasn’t he satisfied with himself and was he drinking so much to put up with himself? Milan Kundera talks about the fame before the invention of photography and the fame after the invention of photography. He mentions the Czech king of fourteenth century who was able to go to the tavern and drink and Prince Charles who could not get rid of people even if he went underground for metres. “A Very Private Affair”, Brigitte Bardot’s film she acted in 1962, explains her problems, the fans suffocating her, even the fans who hate her and shows us fame might lead to death in the end, even though it happens by accident. Bardot had an international fame at the time and it was as if she acted herself. She wants to watch a show without being seen by anybody, but her feet slip on the roof, the camera shows us the fall of an artist as to make us never forget it. There were Bardot’s photographs everywhere at that time, everything she did was an event. Some time later she escapes from everyone, maybe not to have such an end, she did not want to be beautiful, did not see the reporters. Photographs are part of the system of consuming people, the wheels of fame mechanism will use them as much as they can and then throw away the remaining parts. When fame is here with death, the wheels will devour the flesh and drink the blood, like some tribes in the ancient times and Africans in the past ate the flesh of the dead, thinking they would get benefit.
These poet singers call us to find ourselves from the sixties and seventies to our days, the days having fun is thought to be the most important thing above all. Jim Morrison, the source of inspiration for the long-haired rock stars who jump on stage with leather pants, who influence us with their deep-meaning lyrics, wanted to go as far as he could, to force the limits. The places he lived and his tomb are popular tourist destinations now. Jim was seen in an instant and vanished, just as he wanted, with his cosmic mate Pam. From the band, Robby and John are alive today. New books are written about Morrison all the time, new things are claimed about his life and especially about his death. He was very interested in death and he thought it was an important experience of once in a life time. Jim is with us with his penetrating songs, poems and prose, he scatters winds of love without fears, freedom. Happy to know you!