“Before You Slip into Unconsciousness…”

I went to bed last night at nine thirty. And I slept like I was on the Olympic Sleep Team until 1:30, at which point I woke up feeling so refreshed and alert. If it hadn’t been the middle of the night, I would have felt like I woke up from the greatest nap ever.

I got back to sleep, but the second part of the night wasn’t as restful. I finally just had to get up at six. But hopefully that’s the end of my bone-tiredness.

So, yeah, I did read Greil Marcus’s book on The Doors yesterday and I liked it, but… (ha, I wonder at what point in that sentence you knew there was going to be a ‘but’?) I kept comparing it to Barry Mazor’s Jimmie Rodgers book. Not that they’re anything alike, except that they’re both about musicians whose music has, whether you realize it or not, kind of become ubiquitous and they’re not biographies of those musicians but books that try to really get at something about how the music itself works (though the “work” Mazor and Marcus are focusing on is different).

Something about how Mazor writes makes you want to search out the songs he’s talking about. I didn’t feel like they were “missing” from the text because, even if he was talking about a particular recasting of a Jimmie Rodgers song done by some band I don’t care for, I felt like Mazor described the song in a way that spurred me to look it up on youtube or to spend my dollar to get it on iTunes.

But lord almighty, Marcus’s writing does NOT make you want to go search out some of these live Doors cuts! I swear, it seems like every time he describes a live version of a song it’s like “there’s silence for three minutes and then Morrison makes some sounds that could be him pooping on stage or some attempt to break free of the limits of language.” (That’s not a direct quote, just a summary of many sentences in the book.) You know what I don’t want to spend a dollar on? Jim Morrison not singing while the other guys don’t play the song they’re all ostensibly performing.

But man, I thought it would have been handy to have clips of those specific performances right in the text!

Anyway, I liked the book. I didn’t love it, but I liked it. I like reading brilliant people write about music that they love in a way that tries to get across the very personal things they’re hearing in the music that makes them love it. Hell, I like to try to write like that.

But one thing I think this book is just indispensable for is really getting at the heart of what went wrong for The Doors. Marcus, I think, has a great grasp on how easily they could have been some kind of “art band” that sat around and sneered at anyone who loved them unironically, if not for the popularity of their hits. And holy shit! I feel like I’ve read a lot about The Doors and I even liked the movie, but I’ve never read anyone who gets across so well the breakdown in the relationship between The Doors and their fans.

I mean, sure, I know the “Jim was a surly asshole drunk who hated everyone” aspect of the myth, but I didn’t realize just how nasty the crowd could be to them. I wish Marcus had speculated a little more on what brought that dynamic about, but I really, really appreciated him spelling it out so clearly.

3 thoughts on ““Before You Slip into Unconsciousness…”

  1. it has been years since I read it and I still have the book – John Densmore’s “Riders on the Storm” — I don’t recall a lot, but memory serves that Densmore was just totally frustrated throughout the entire ordeal as if the band were a train and it were careening down the tracks. Of course, I haven’t read it since my teens & might have to revisit the book. You’re welcome to borrow if you haven’t read it.

  2. I think I read that and Sugarman’s book back in the day. I just didn’t know (or it didn’t sink in) how people would just shout for “Light My Fire” over and over and over again, like they should only play that for an hour.

  3. I read Densmore’s book around the time the Oliver Stone BioPic came out — I think that movie tainted the view of The Doors at the time. I think I should go back and re-read the book – with age I should see things differently. At least I hope so.

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