Around 1969 I was working as a set designer and Jim Morrison of the Doors came to see the show. He invited half a dozen of us to come to the San Francisco Film Festival where a short film he had made, about his life as a rock star, was going to be screened. When we arrived, there was a crowd buying tickets and lining up to go in. I assumed he would announce his presence and there would be some kind of comp list, but it was OMG! it’s Jim Morrison!!! and we just walked right past the ticket takers and went in. From that I learned more about what it would be like to be a rock star than from the film, which was mostly shots of him getting in and out of limos and being mobbed by screaming fans. It was a lot of unedited choppy footage, without any narration or interview, and was even booed by the crowd. He was sad. I told him not to take it too seriously. What I was thinking was that he shouldn’t take himself so seriously, fancying himself a poet and a film maker. A couple of years later he joined the large company of dead rock stars. I’m surprised that his music and legend have survived for so long.
The Doors did have a great keyboard player, but I thought the songs sophomoric and crotch-grabbing singers in tight leather pants did nothing for me. He did it long before Michael Jackson, I will give him that. This was an era when the major labels heavily promoted mediocre white rock bands. It was a shame, because great black performers like Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and James Brown were being left in the shade. And British Invasion was sending over one great band after another with memorable tunes, intelligent lyrics, and musicians who could actually play and sing well. The black rock and rollers could do all these things and dance too. And there were still plenty of wonderful blues musicians like B.B. King, Howling Wolf and Muddy Waters who were languishing on minor labels. The Doors were a very druggy band in their sound and lyrics, as were many other bands of that time, of all colors, and on both sides of the Atlantic. Easy to think of a long list of musicians who died so young, living out their own legends by putting death in their veins. I saw Janis Joplin several times and I have never seen a performer so out of control. She would start every song nicely and then end up just shouting hoarsely. I thought, this cannot go on for very long, and it didn't. Deafened by Jimi Hendrix at Winterland, I had the same impression -- his guitar was like someone screaming for help. Hendrix was like a Roman Candle shooting sparks, but only lasts for half a minute and then it goes out.
Causes Michael Lipsey Supports
Marin Agricultural Land Trust, Nature Conservancy