COLUMN FIFTY-FIVE, JANUARY 1, 2001
(Copyright © 2001 Al Aronowitz)
MEMORIES OF JIM
We all make our deals with the devil. I suppose Jim Morrison must have realized that he made his. Listen to Jac Holzman, the president of Electra Records, the company that helped create the great fireworks display that Jim became.
is a speed trip," Jac said, paraphrasing something he once read by Michael
Lydon. "The flash is
incredible, but it kills you in the end.”
were talking on the telephone a couple of days after the announcement of Jim's
death and Jac was remembering how quiet Jim really used to be, storing up his
anger only to let it out in quick and unexpected public detonations.
He remembered the first time he saw Jim singing with the Doors in the
Whiskey au Go Go, one of the worst of L.A.'s schlock joints.
It was only a short time after the Doors had gotten their release from
Columbia and Jac could understand why.
were not very good,” he said, "But there was something there that made me
keep coming back."
signed them up and put them in a studio with producer Paul Rothchild.
It was the summer of 1966 and they completed their album in 10 days but
Jac didn't release it until the following January.
By the summer of 1967, the album was selling a quarter of a million
copies a month. It was a success
that came long past the point of anti-climax for Jim.
remember Nico, that tall, blonde legendary goddess of beauty, telling me how Jim
used to bite his hands until they bled in the dressing room after a show.
She and Jim ran together for a while. There were few rock stars who
didn’t get to bed with Nico.
first time I saw Jim perform was in Steve Paul’s scene, the old cellar club on
W. 46th Street. It was back in 1966
and I was with Brian Jones. Jim
went through his gimmick of opening his mouth to the microphone as if he were
about to swallow it and then not singing but closing his mouth again and both
Brian and I got up and walked out.
long, Light My Fire hit the top of the pop charts and Village Voice
columnist Howard Smith was pegging Jim as the nation's new male sex symbol.
Meanwhile, that idiot purveyor of vapid criticism, Albert Goldman, was
writing long pompous treatises about how the Doors were the new rock Messiahs.
I've never known Albert Goldman to be right.
soon afterwards that Jim and the Doors were telling reporters to "think of
us as erotic politicians," I couldn't quite figure out what they were
running for but it was easy to spot their constituency. The teenyboppers kept telling me that while the Beatles had
been optimists, the Doors were pessimists.
Meanwhile, Jim was quickly getting burnt out.
didn’t meet him until after he had outgrown all that baloney.
It was at Michael McClure's house in San Francisco, where Jim used to go to take lessons in what he really
wanted to be, a poet. I remember
playing Nashville Skyline for him. He
said it was Dylan’s most "sensual" album, but then Jim was always
hung up on sensuality. When Mike
talked about writing a science-fiction screenplay, Jim said, "Yeah, let's
make it pornographic science-fiction."
got drunk that night, sitting at Mike’s round, wooden kitchen table with Jim
chomping on a cigar and doing imitations as if he were somebody's Uncle Charlie.
It was the first time I had seen him with a beard and somehow he reminded
me of Charlton Heston. I could
visualize him acting heroic roles in great cinemascopic epics.
went out to Chinatown the next afternoon, to one of those restaurants with
Formica top tables, and we had a rip-roaring meal, with Jim playing Uncle
Charlie again. Jim and Mike talked
about Artaud. Jim was one of the
most veracious readers I've ever met, but that’s the way it is with people who
are as serious about their writing as Jim was.
Jim and Mike did get to finish a film script they were working on
together, an adaptation of Mike’s novel, The Adept. They also were
kicking around an idea for an original movie musical.
addition to his book of poetry, The Lords, and his collection of short
prose fragments, The New Creatures, Jim also printed a private edition of
poetry, American Prayer, for distribution among his friends.
He was working on a partially completed manuscript when he died.
the friends I've talked to now say they knew intuitively that Jim was dead as
soon as they got the final phone call. But
the sadness for me is that I really expected him to go on to greater things.
didn't expect Jim to live very long," Mike now says, "not at the
intensity at which he lived. He was
on a very self-destructive level. But
I don't think of it now as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison.
I think of it as Jack Kerouac, Charles Olson and Jim Morrison.”
Jim had already broken with the Doors when he went to Paris to chase after Pamela
the other members of the band
that he wanted to quit
the one woman he always went back to out of the countless he knew.
He hadn't been getting along with the rest of the Doors for a couple of
years and they had been looking for a new lead singer for some time.
the old days, at the height of the Doors’ success, Jim had constantly kept
telling the others that he wanted to quit and they’d take it out oh him
onstage, sometimes dropping notes and intimidating his phrasing.
most of his friends, he was always a tragic figure. His audience refused to let him mature. When he tried to read his poetry onstage, the crowd would ask
for Light My Fire.
wouldn't let him stop being the Lizard King.
He wanted to be considered a poet and a writer and someone serious and
the audience kept screaming at him, “Whip it out! Whip it out!" Finally
in Miami, he was accused of doing just that.
last time I saw him, at the Isle of Wight festival almost a year ago, he was
still on trial for exposing himself. We
got drunk passing a bottle back and forth backstage and he talked about
listening to the testimony at the defendant's table.
first I thought I was guilty," he said, "but now I'm beginning to
think I wasn't."
We kept making a date
for later to talk to each other but each time we'd be interrupted by the general
conviviality. When he went onstage, he gave the best performance I've ever seen
him give. He screamed only once.
The last I saw him was when I was leaving the festival.
It was late and there was no food around and we were all starving.
I had a package with two cakes in it and I smiled and gave him one.
He took it and smiled back and gorged himself with it.
is buried now in the Pere-Lachaise cemetery in Paris, near the grave, I’m
told, of Moličre. Superstardom is
a speed trip. The flash is
incredible, but that's the deal you make. He
had quit his heavy drinking the last couple of months.
According to his friends, the death certificate says he died of a heart
attack brought on by respiratory complications. He died peacefully.
When Pamela found him dead in the bathtub, there was a smile on his face.
CLICK HERE TO GET TO INDEX OF COLUMN FIFTY-FIVE
CLICK HERE TO GET TO INDEX OF COLUMNS
Blacklisted Journalist can be contacted at P.O.Box 964, Elizabeth, NJ 07208-0964
The Blacklisted Journalist's E-Mail Address:
THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST IS A SERVICE MARK OF AL ARONOWITZ