Psychedelic Revolution in Rock 'n' Roll: Confessions of Four Doors Who Made It

In the last few years, hallucinogenic drugs have had a greater affect on popular music than such other noteworthy events as the escalation of That War and the invention of the 100 mm cigarette have had on the American public in general.

Rock will never be the same again, ever since the obvious connection was made between the nirvana of an LSD trip and the inward spiritual traveling that Eastern mystics achieve through meditation. Rock will never be the same again.

The twang of Indian music, formerly known to Americans exclusively through Ravi Shankar and his sitar, has suffused popular music. The product is "raga-rock," a sound that distinguishes the new Los Angeles and San Francisco groups which are setting the pace of current rock 'n' roll.

Quasi-religious LSD lyrics are replacing the generalities about sensual love which formed the core of popular music until after the Beatles' Rubber Soul.

The new lyrics and the new musical mode are the ingredients of that often profaned--by listeners and musicians--"psychedelic music." In the vanguard of this small revolution in sound stands a group called The Doors.

The Door's brief career has paralleled the rising popularity of the New Sound. In less than one year they have become the world's most famous psychedelic musicians. They are the prototypes of the drug, sometimes drugged, group.

Throughout the summer of 1966, the Doors played second group at Whisky-A-Go-Go in Los Angeles. I saw them three or four times behind Love, a group which has a sound somewhere between Ray Charles and the Stones, with a punch of Mothers of Invention. The audience's first reaction to the Doors was that they had never heard anything like this before and, by the way, how could anybody dance to "End of the Night?"

My first impression was that Jim Morrison was a real drug freak and that he must have stolen the idea for "Light my Fire" from the Stones' "Going Home," released earlier that summer. One year later I am still convinced that Morrison is not putting us all on when he sounds like he has just come down from a methadryne high. But I have changed my mind about "Light My Fire." That song and most everything else the Doors have done is all their own.

By fall, 1966, the Doors had released one single and an album, which is still their only one to date. The single, "Break on Through," tottered to number 11 in the City of the Angels, but made it nowhere around the country. In November, several Los Angeles deejays started playing excerpts from the first album and all at once they received many many requests for a song called "Light My Fire." So one such disc jockey asked Elektra, the Doors' recording company, to press a shorter version and release it as a single. Since January it has become a million-seller. The record made history, of some kind.

As Jim Morrison, the Doors' lead singer, guiding light, and song writer, once put it, "I'd say we were like the, uh, people's choice, you know?"

The appointment for the interview was at 1 p.m. in the Doors' Sunset Strip offices. But it seemed a little early for most of the group. "You see," Jim explained later, always polite and anxious to make a good impression, "we played at a late set last night at the Cheetah" (an acid discotheque in Los Angeles, one of the most advanced of its type in the United States).

So for the next quite a while after 1 p.m., I sat in a deep plastic leather chair in the receptionist's office, thinking how this sacred room or rock and roll so closely resembled the 11th floor of William James. Suddenly, in walked three of the Doors followed by two men who obviously were not. They hurried past and entered a room and had a meeting for 30 or 40 seconds. Only one sound came out of the room. That was Jon saying, "Listen, if you're going to put us in a battle of the bands, it'll only be with one group, The Stones. Yeah, the Stones."

Then the two men who were not the Doors left the meeting and they turned out to be the co-managers. They were fresh from Las Vegas and looked a little embarrassed in their shiny suits as they ushered me into a walnut conference room (like the Soc Rel 120 womb room) to meet Robbie, Jon, and Ray.

The organist, Ray, had a freshly showered ascetic appearance, like a preppie who has gone hip with recently acquired metal rimmed glasses and striped pants. Jon is small and mouse-like and, according to Elektra producer Paul Rothchild, one of the most brilliant drummers around. The third Door was Robby, and I will tell you he is very quiet and seemed like he had a lot inside because you will not hear from him again except for two or three phrases.

The four of us made small talk, waiting for Jim. Around 2:30 he arrived. It took him a long time to get going. For most of the interview, Robbie and Jon grinned like guilty schoolboys and Ray played games with his fingers whenever Jim spoke. This was because Jim had difficulty getting his words out and when he succeeded, they came only slowly.

Recommended Articles