Dear 17-year-old Doors discoverers,
Well, this was probably unavoidable. You are about to think some very dumb stuff about poetry, women, and dead Native Americans. This is a tradition, or affliction, that has been passed down to at least three generations of 17-year-old white boys and then foisted upon 15-year-old-white girls for just as many decades— girls your own age are way past this shit, stick with the sophomores. You are going to abuse the word “shaman” in ways that will violate international torture conventions. You’re going to think that something important and meaningful is happening to you, even though you haven’t left your room for three days. You are going to sit at the feet of the master of total self-regard, one James Douglass Morrison, the “Lizard King,” and think yourself the Prince of Salamanders and heir to a throne carved from your own bullshit.
This will all end in merciful disillusionment.
I would like to think that you saw Apocalypse Now and encountered “The End” during the opening scene, and that this is just an unfortunate side effect of an otherwise positive event in your cultural development. It is much more likely that TBS is just playing that fucking Oliver Stone Doors movie over and over because they picked up the broadcast rights super cheap at some kind of film studio equivalent of the unintentionally humiliating garage sale. It was in a cardboard box next to Harvey Weinstein’s old spandex bicycle pants. But, however it came about, you now think an affected demeanor of slack-jawed ponderousness is the same thing as depth and that depth is the same thing as being sexually desirable and the only way out of this thickening forest of misconception is through. There’s no going around.
And it’s going to be a dark time. Not dark in the way you are thinking of dark. Not romantic, gothy, leather-trousers dark. More your own asshole dark.
Still, I want this piece to be about constructive lessons and positive advice and I think I have found a way to spin this.
The Doors have one legitimate musical accomplishment. One song that rises above the self-indulgent noodling they laid down so that Morrison’s endless elaborations on how interesting he found himself could be put into a form suckers like you would pay for. They have one good song. And even that song is only seventy percent good. That song is “LA Woman” and the fact that it is thirty percent bad may be the most important thing about it. Let’s just get it out of that way that, compared to all its kin, it is a better written and produced song, moreover it has an actually coherent instrumentation. The opening bars feel lean but dense, like a flexing muscle. That’s all great. But it’s not what elevates the song above the masturbatory self-aggrandizement that is the rest of The Doors’ catalog.
What makes this song so good is that it is actually about something besides Jim Morrison. The song is about the city of Los Angeles and Morrison wrote it when he knew he was getting ready to leave. In the song, he sings to his home, this place that is outside of himself and bigger than he, or any one person, could ever be. The song is about what it’s like to truly see something you love in the last moments before you lose it. Also, it’s specific. The way you love a place is distinct from every other kind of love you will experience in your lifetime. It is the most real Morrison ever got with his writing. Then he can’t take it and starts spouting off a ridiculous nonsense anagram of his own name. (Hey, by the way, Mr. Mojo Risin’ is an anagram of Jim Morrison. That’s today’s trivia. Unfortunately, you probably can use that knowledge to get at least as far as second base. Ugh, sophomores.) Morrison’s like a toddler unconsciously clutching his genitals in public. Sixty-five percent of the song has passed and it has been great, transcendent by the standards of The Doors, then he does that crap. And then, thankfully, the song ends with a return to our real subject — a city that is going to be missed and how, like a woman well beyond the reach of her suitor, the city will never notice. But that thirty percent where the song suddenly becomes the usual Morrison bullshit just drives home the point — and here is where we get to the thing you should actually keep after you emerge from this most embarrassing moment of your musical life — and that is, whatever you do going forward, whether you are a doctor or a painter or a guy who spouts off unfounded opinions on the internet, try to make it about something bigger than yourself. Try to do things in the service of loving something more than you love your own ego. If your life is a story, well a story needs to be about something and, frankly, you aren’t that interesting, so make it about something you can truly love enough that your passion will inspire others. (I’m currently writing a whole book about late night cable soft porn from the 80’s.) It may take you a long time to find the right thing (Like I did) but never stop searching. Maybe you won’t stick with the same thing your whole life, but choose carefully and deliberately.
Right now, you are a 17-year-old white boy who has discovered The Doors and you are thinking that I am full of shit and true meaning comes from thinking you look good in leather pants and writing five albums about thinking that you look good in leather pants. That’s fine. But bookmark this page. Come back to it after your first post high-school girlfriend has dumped you and you think life is over and you feel anything but cool and lizard-kingy. It isn’t much guidance, but it’s the closest you’re going to get to a dead Native American shaman.