40 years gone, the legend of Jim Morrison has long since superseded the man himself to the point where clueless music journalists feel free to refer to his death as his “breaking on through to the other side,” a lyrical nod to the Doors’ 1967 classic single.
Such dimwitted tributes are, sadly, common currency. The image of the rebellious rocker valiantly passing over to the “other side” is a far more romantic notion than what occurred in reality (or at least in probability, as no autopsy was ever performed): Morrison and his junkie girlfriend took a suicidal cocktail of drugs overnight, leading the singer to vomit up his internal organs before slowly, and painfully, meeting his end in a Parisian bathtub.
The romantic image of Morrison is made even cuter due to the fact that he, by all accounts, was a misogynistic dog who’d fuck anything that walked on two legs, or maybe even three. Yet that’s what made him such a compelling figure: as a man, he was stirringly, disarmingly handsome and as a songwriter he was deceptively accomplished. He was the rock n’ roll ideal: irresistible and prodigiously talented.
While the abiding sonic image of the Doors as a group might be their longer, more psyched-up pieces, ‘Light my Fire’ was Robby Krieger’s baby and was driven by Ray Manzarek’s iconic keyboard melody. What Morrison brought to the party was a manic, almost primal energy, best exemplified by that distinctive guttural roar – he was in many ways the first singer to popularise shouting as an art among purveyors of white people music.
Where Morrison really excelled, and where he really helped the art form of the rock n’ roll frontman, was the way he could inject short, sharp bursts of unrestrained energy into a song; it’s no small feat that tracks like ‘Break on Through’ and ‘Five to One’ have barely aged in 40+ years. By the same token, he was equally adept composing twee, off-kilter poems to be spun into songs by his bandmates, best exemplified by ‘Moonlight Drive.’ Then there’s ‘The End,’ the still chilling first-person account of a young man struggling (and ultimately failing) to overcome an Oedipus Complex.
‘Break on Through (To the Other Side)’: