A Voice Of the Dead

"Could any hell be more horrible than now and real? I pressed her thigh and death smiled." F INALLY, death
By David A. Demilo

"Could any hell be more horrible than now and real? I pressed her thigh and death smiled."

FINALLY, death slept with Jim Morrison. He relished its dangling presence, out there; he wallowed in it. His poems coddled it, his songs evoked it, his interviews sensed it, his mind lived it.

"Let's talk about drinking," he told an interviewer in 1969. "Drinking is interesting," he said, lingering over his beer, "like each sip is a decision. How far do you want to go?"

He's eight years dead now, and his last album with The Doors, "An American Prayer," was released about a month ago. It has been praised as an innovative success, and has been chastized as an exploitative enterprise by a vain recording industry. After all, someone is making money from a dead man's art. But The Doors have answered these charges, saying that they have been in spiritual communication with Jim Morrison from beyond the grave, and Morrison says he likes the album.

"Did you know madmen are running our prison? within a jail, within a gaol, within a white free protestant maelstrom?," "he writes in this weaving ramble of eerie poetry, jazz and brash rock, tightly cut and slickly mixed.

The album took two careful years to produce, and Ray Manzarek, probably Morrison's closest friend, pieced together the fragments of taped conversation, poetry, and concert footage which remained from Morrison's short life.

The live cut of "Roadhouse Blues," performed in Detroit circa 1969, makes the album worthwhile all by itself. It is proof of The Doors' eminence at pure crank, which until 1978 was Jim Morrison's only claim to excellence as a recording artist.

The distinction of this album is Morrison's poetry, never before fully revealed. Here it is, artfully connected and coordinated by The Door's music, and the result is a vinyl package of a man's mind, and the lingering afterthought of his promise and potential. For all his rock'n'roll stardom, Morrison fancied himself a poet. But he chose death over promise, and what remains is "An American Prayer":

"We're perched headlong on the edge of boredom

We're reaching for death on the edge of a candle

We're trying for something that's already found us"

This album is a haunting prophecy in the light of Morrison's alcoholic, drug-shot death, which finally found him at peace in a bathtub in Paris, dead at 27 after a massive heart attack. Jim Morrison could never grow old.

THE LIZARD KING (as he dubbed himself) ended his career much the same way he started it, standing drunk in front of his large cult of admirers at a gig; they were endlessly patient. Each time he appeared on stage. Morrison tried some bizarre theatrics--which became more and more obscene as he aged--to test the limits of his messianic image--just how much could his lovers love him? And here, in 1970, he was at the height of his stagestar image--and of his alcoholism--broken down in the middle of a song, kind of crumpled and fat, and suddenly the chameleon galleries were turning on him.

One can only imagine what Jim Morrison saw on the night of this, his last big concert, immobile, looking emptily at twisted, let-down faces, he unzipped his fly: "You wanna see my cock?" he said and smiled peacefully. The police dragged him off the stage and busted him for indecent exposure.

The Miami incident ended a career which had been hot on the American rock'n'roll scene for three years, with seven albums, the last of which were bubbly stuff compared to the hard rock'n'ramble energetics for which The Doors--particularly Morrison--had earned the worship of their flock.

It all started on Venice Beach, California in 1965-66, where Morrison and keyboard player Ray Manzarek met, and drifted together. Manzarek used to say that he and Morrison would ramble that beach, full of angelheaded hipsters and motorcycles, exchanging organic mescaline for acid; weeping, laughing and drawing strange art in the sand with sticks. They wrote some songs together, and Morrison experimented with the poetry he started writing when he was a film major at UCLA. He read a lot of Whitman, Rimbaud, Sartre, Camus.

The Doors, with Manzarek on his distinctly hip organ, Robbie Krieger on a brash lead and rhythm guitar and John Densmore on drums began playing at dives around Venice and L.A., the city which shaped and twisted Jim Morrison into the deathly, mystical figure he became.

Their favorite spot was the Whiskey-A-Go-Go, which the band immortalized when their first album. "The Doors," sold a million copies. It was their only gold disc, and perhaps fittingly so--it is arguably their best, with "Break on Through," "Light My Fire" (the anthem of a generation until it was precluded by "Gimme Shelter"), "Twentieth Century Fox," and "The End.