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Lord Jim

Mythos of a Rock Icon

Table of Contents

Prologue: So What?
pp. 4-6

1) Lord Jim: Prelude

pp. 7-8

2) Some Preliminary Definitions

pp. 9-10

3) Lord Jim/The Beginning of the Morrison Myth

pp. 11-16

4) Morrison as Media Manipulator/Mythmaker

pp. 17-21

5) The Morrison Story pp. 18-24

6) The Morrison Mythos

pp. 25-26

7) The Mythic Concert

pp. 27-29

8) Jim Morrison’s Oedipal Complex

pp. 30-36

9) The Rock Star as World Savior

pp. 37-39

10) Morrison and Elvis: Rock ‘n’ Roll Mythology

pp. 40-44

11) Trickster, Clown (Bozo), and Holy Fool

pp. 45-50

12) The Lords of Rock and Euhemerism

pp. 51-53

13) The Function of Myth in a Desacralized World: Eliade and Campbell pp. 54-

14) This is the End, Beautiful Friend

pp. 56-60

15) Appendix A: The Gospel According to James D. Morrison pp.


15) Appendix B: Remember When We Were in Africa?/

pp. 65-71
The L.A. Woman Phenomenon

16) Appendix C: Paper Proposal

pp. 72-73
Prologue: So What?

Unfortunately, though I knew this would happen, it seems to me necessary to

begin with a few words on why you should take the following seriously at all. An
academic paper on rock and roll mythology? Aren’t rock stars all young
delinquents, little more evolved than cavemen, who damage many an ear drum as they
get paid buckets of money, dying after a few years of this from drug overdoses?
What could a serious scholar ever possibly find useful or interesting here?
Well, to some extent the stereotype holds true, just as most if not all
stereotypes have a grain of truth to them; yet it is my studied belief that
usually the rock artists who make the big time are sincere, intelligent, talented,
and have a social conscience. In fact, I would go so far as to say that they are
some of society’s most fascinating and creative individuals, so much so that
their apotheosis – during their life or after it – seems justified, or at the very
least understandable. I believe that Jim Morrison is one such artist. And I am
not alone. The wealth of books and articles alone on Morrison and the Doors in
the last three decades – more than what has been written even about other dead
rock stars – is indicative of a collective fascination (in Otto’s sense of
I hate to have to do this but here we go: Intellectually, Jim Morrison was a
genius, with an IQ of 149 and apparently almost an obsession with the written
word. As he was growing up, though he certainly had friends and did many of the
things that kids do, he was very much a loner who would spend a great deal of time
reading, writing, and thinking. He is perhaps one of the few rock superstars who
earned a college degree (from the UCLA film school; Mick Jagger is another, from
the London School of Business), and in addition to film, he was also somewhat of
an accomplished painter and actor. Though it has been claimed he lived an overly
self-indulgent, even hedonistic and nihilistic life after he became famous, the
truth is that he had spent the first 22 years of his life preparing and
disciplining himself to become who he became. Even during his wild rock star
period, he was sober and self-disciplined enough to produce some brilliant music
and poetry. And as you will see, there was method to his madness. As he wrote,
playing a Clown Jesus, “Forgive me Father for I know what I do.”
As far as a justification for this project from a mythological standpoint,
Morrison was variously identified with Dionysus, Adonis, Alexander the Great,
Shiva, Enyalios, Narcissus, Eros, kouros, Christ, a shaman, an avatar, a king, a
trickster, a holy fool, etc. – not just by fans, but even by mainstream
journalists (Albert Goldman called him “a surf-born Dionysus, a hippie Adonis”),
not to mention some of his fellow musicians. And Morrison, at first at least,
gave them every reason to make such identifications. He was a great mythographer
of his own soul, singing his and the Doors personal mythology nightly on stage.
As David Dalton wrote of the Doors’ original (and very understated and unoriginal)
marquee heading “Doors – Band From Venice”:

It might just as honestly have said:


See the Fisher King draw rain out of an industrial sky! Oedipus, Theseus
and the Minotaur, Alexander the Great, the Unknown Soldier, the Ancient Snake,
Endless Night, ladies and gentlemen, see them all right here. Cabellero
existencialista, Jeem!

Morrison himself had intended as much. In his poem, “An American Prayer, he
Let’s reinvent the gods, all the myths
of the ages
Celebrate symbols from deep elder forests

Nietzsche had put in the mouth of Zarathustra the proclamation: “Dead are all the
gods.” Morrison resurrected them all and made them live once again in his on-
staging conjuring and in his words, though they were different now -- old wine in
a new skin.
Jim Morrison was a legend in his own time, nay even a god for some, and his
deification continues posthumously. Some don’t even think he ever really died,
just as disciples of divine and semi-divine religious figures like Moses, Jesus,
Apollonius of Tyana, etc., refuse to believe that such great souls could ever
really die and must have ascended transfigured or in some chariot of fire. The
abiding images and phantoms of Morrison continue to chide us with Twain’s famous
quip: “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
In a word, then, Morrison’s life and legend is an excellent example of a
modern myth in the making that not only warrants careful examination, but which
indeed should be studied by all those who would get at what myth is, where it
comes from, and what is its ultimate value.
Lord Jim:Prelude

[Note: I present here the following quotes, however tongue-in-cheek they may be,
because I think they will prepare you for the analysis that follows.]

1) Danny Sugerman, co-author of the first biography of Jim Morrison’s, No One Here
Gets Out Alive, writes in the foreword: “I just wanted to say I think Jim Morrison
was a modern-day god. Oh hell, at least a lord.”

2) Jerry Hopkins, co-author with Sugerman, later wrote: “We heard incredible
stories about his catching dragon flies on the wing in his mouth and eating them,
and sticking pins into the pupils of his eyes. ‘I am the Lizard King,’ he said.
‘I can do anything!’
We believed it and he came to believe it, too, for a while.” (Lizard King,

3) Robby Krieger, the Doors guitarist speaking after Morrison’s death of why the
rest of the band succeeded with Morrison at its helm, but not without: “[when we
were together] it was like the band with the voice of God up front.” (Sundling,
17; in Oliver Stone’s movie, Krieger says it was like playing with Dionysus.)

4) Ray Manzarek, the Doors keyboardist and greatest promoter/mythmeister: “Jim was
able to dive into himself and find the fauve, the wild beast, and actually become
the free-spirited animal. That Dionysian wild man. He had the courage to embrace
that ancient god and enter into a partnership with the bearer of the grapes, the
passionate one. Jim had the courage, and very few do. And that embrace was not
evil, was not harmful to others, and was certainly not the devil. It was joy!”
(Manzarek, 130)

5) Someone has designed a t-shirt showing Morrison as the six-armed Shiva, who
some consider the Hindu Dionysus.

6) Dalton (p. 92): “…Jim already knew what he wanted to be. It was an image he
had meditated on since adolescence. Before his first photo sessions with Joel
Brodsky for Vogue, Jim went to see Hollywood hair wizard Jay Sebring and told him
to “make me look like Alexander the Great” (what a line) showing a page torn from
a history book.
Alexander, another usurper, also needed an image that would connect him with
the occult power of the cosmos; and though it’s not known what he said to his
hairdresser, all portrayals of him are based on images of Helios, the sun god…”

7) Yasue Kuwahara, analyzing Morrison’s “apocalyptic vision of America,” writes:

“Wrapping himself in black leather suits, designing his hair after the statue of
Alexander the Great and hanging a cross around his neck, Morrison looked like the
reincarnation of an ancient demigod in the early days of his career…Later in his
career, however, he stopped wearing the black suits, grew hair and a beard, and,
using a lighting device, projected a cross on the back wall of the stage.
Morrison thus began to assume the image of Christ, as the picture taken during a
concert in Miami clearly shows. Holding a lamb, Morrison made clear in this
picture his identification with Christ, while his black glasses indicated the
sharp line Morrison drew between them. The change in his appearance also shows
that Morrison had begun to see himself as a king who was to replace God in a new
society.” (Rocco, 101)

8) Kuwahara again: “…Morrison raises himself to the equal of God with one phrase,
“Mr. Mojo Rising” [sic], which refers to his resurrection…By singing about his own
resurrection, Morrison identifies himself with Christ and thus assumes God’s
power. In “Hyacinth House,” a song about his desire for a new life, Morrison
again implies his resurrection since Hyacinth is a young male deity in Greek
mythology who was slain and resurrected as a flower.” (Rocco, 102)

9) “He stepped up to the microphone, grabbed the top with his right hand and the
stem with his fingertips, and looked up so the light hit his face. The world
began at that moment. There isn’t another face like that in the world so
beautiful, not even handsome in the ordinary way. I think it’s because you can
tell by looking at him that he is god when he offers to die on the cross for us,
it’s okay because he is Christ.” (From one mainstream journalist’s review of a
Door’s concert; in Dalton, p. 78.)

10) “And isn’t it just possible that now, in the Age of Aquarius, an avatar has
been sent to us and concealed (how divinely appropriate) as a rock star from L.A.?
(Dalton, p. 79)

11) This week (give or take) in Elektra history, July 3, 1971:

It was thirty years ago today, in Paris, that Jim Morrison’s spirit, much
too big to be confined to so insignificant a vessel as the human body, took leave
of this earth. In a career that already would have earned him a place in the
pantheon of rock and roll legends, Morrison’s death guaranteed that he would be
forever young and dangerous, a star of mythical proportions…Morrison, of course,
is still revered by millions of rock fans around the world. They showed up in
droves at his Paris gravesite last week to mark the tragic passing of the
superstar. (From an Elektra Records email letter, dated July 7, 2001.)

12) Morrison on himself: “Camera, as all-seeing god, satisfies our longing for
omniscience. To spy on others from this height and angle: pedestrians pass in and
out of our lens like rare aquatic insects.” (Rocco, 105; see also there for Yoga
----- “I am the Lizard King/I can do anything.” (from “Celebration of the
Lizard”/”Not to Touch the Earth”)
----- “I’m the Changeling, see me change….I’m the air you breathe/food you
eat/friends you greet/on the swarming street.” (from the song, “The Changeling”)
----- “Mr. Mojo Risin’, Mr. Mojo Risin’ – Got to keep on risin’ – Risin’, Risin’!”
(from the song, L.A. Woman)
Some Preliminary Definitions
[The following are some terms that are used throughout the text below which I
thought should be discussed briefly here.]

1) Mythos: “This is a Greek word meaning ‘fable,’ ‘tale,’ ‘talk,’ or simply

‘speech,’ but it came to be used in contrast with logos and historia, thus coming
to denote ‘that which cannot really exist.’ Even the earliest Greek philosophers
criticized and rejected the Homeric myths as fictions.” This view of the
situation has recently been contested as overly simplistic by Bruce Lincoln:
“[O]ur view of the lexemes ‘mythos’ and ‘logos’ must become more dynamic. These
are not words with fixed meanings (indeed, no such words exist), nor did their
meanings change glacially over time, as the result of impersonal processes.
Rather, these words, along with many others, were the sites of pointed and highly
consequential semantic skirmishes fought between rival regimes of truth.” Lincoln
says that in Homer and Hesiod, mythos refers to “an assertive discourse of power
and authority that represents itself as something to be believed and obeyed.”
When I speak below of “the Doors mythos” or “The Morrison
mythos,” I mean something like this latter definition of Lincoln’s.
Although I will also argue that there is a great deal of irony in the Doors
Mythos, it is also at least implicitly suggested that we take it seriously.

2) Myth -- This is a word that we all know has various meanings, some of which
are more applicable than others here. It has become common, for instance, to
speak especially of dead celebrities (most notably of the rock star variety) as
“the man and the myth.” For example, “Elvis: The Man and the Myth.” The “man”
refers to the private Elvis, the real Elvis that we all never knew or cared to
know about; while “the myth” was the private persona who we all know and love (or
hate as the case may be). Here myth actually is synonymous with all that is
false, showy, and superficial, and that is in keeping with what we moderns and
postmoderns think of when someone says “myth”; it’s basically a story or
misconception that needs to be deconstructed or de-mythologized.
We will also see another important usage of myth as it is used in
such phrases as “the myth of the pilgrims/founding fathers” or “the myth of the
American Dream.” Again it is usually a false conception or projection about what
something is or is hoped to be, something that in retrospect can be deflated,
though perhaps not wholly. And again, it is a collective or societal way of
understanding reality.
Finally, myth can also broadly refer to all versions or interpretations of a
particular story, as opposed to “just the facts, Ma’am.” The late great rock
critic Lester Bangs once wrote that
“I have always believed that rock ‘n’ roll comes down to myth. There are no
‘facts.’” Fine, but Nietzsche had already said, “There are no facts, only
interpretations.” Yet Bangs is correct in implying that rock
‘n’ roll is particularly unfriendly to any objective historical enterprise.
My presentation below begins with but one example of this.

3) Personal Mythology -- This phrase “personal mythology” seems to be gaining

currency, though I am not quite sure of its provenance. Interestingly, the first
time I heard of it (literally) was in a song called “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow” by
another Sixties legend, Frank Zappa, though my sense from its use in the song was
that Zappa hadn’t coined it. A personal mythology is the stories one tells
oneself to explain one’s origin, purpose and destiny. Perhaps we all have a
personal mythology, but my sense is that only someone like Jim Morrison can
develop it and draw others into it. As I will discuss below other notable rock
artists, such as Bob Dylan, have expressed a kind of personal mythology in song.

4) Living Legend – My somewhat idiosyncratic definition of this

one which we all know the standard meaning of, is that it refers
to an
artist referred to (usually in adulation) in the
medium of another artist,
while the former is still alive. An example is Phil Ochs’ 1968
praise of
Elvis in his song “Ticket Home”: “Elvis Presley is the King, I
was at
his crowning…” While to the best of my knowledge, Morrison was
never given such tribute by one of his contemporaries, he was a living
legend due to the mythic proportions that his life took on.

5) Cult of Personality – In the late 80s a band called Living Colour

out with a song called “The Cult of Personality” in which they attempt
to define this somewhat elusive coinage. This may be a bit picayune, but really
the phrase ought to be something more like “persona” than “personality” as it is
around the public image of a star or celebrity or leader that the “cult” grows.
As Living Colour sang, “The mirror speaks, the reflection lies.” It is the
reflection, the image that is marketed, which is consumed, while the mirror itself
remains ever unfathomed by the consumers of the reflection. The song ends, “You
gave me fortune/you gave me fame/You gave me power in your God’s name.” Or, more
accurately for the personality cults we will be talking about: You made me into a

"The mask[s] that you wore, my fingers would explore…"

Lord Jim

Indians scattered on dawn’s highway bleeding

Ghosts crowd a young child’s fragile, eggshell mind

The Beginning of the Morrison Myth

Dawn’s Highway

Me and my, uh, mother and father and my grandmother and grandfather, were driving
through the desert at dawn, and a truckload of Indian workers had either hit
another car -- or I don’t know what happened. But there were Indians scattered
all over the highway, bleeding to death. So the car pulls up and stops. That was
the first time I tasted fear. I must have been about four. Like a child is like
a flower -- it’s head is just floating in the breeze, man. The reaction I get
now, thinking about it, looking back, is that the souls of the ghosts of those
dead Indians, maybe one or two of them, were just running around, freaking out,
and just leaped into my soul…and they’re still there.

This is where the Morrison (and the Doors) mythos begins. Oliver Stone
correctly put this event (“Dawn’s Highway”), retold by Morrison above, at the
beginning of his movie, the Doors. The movie was a less than stoned immaculate
conception. Indeed, the general consensus seems to be that Stone’s movie tells
more about Oliver Stone than it does about Jim Morrison, who was largely lost in
the shuffle of artistic licentiousness. While Stone claimed that he was “telling
small lies to reveal larger truths,” most who knew Morrison couldn’t identify the
human being amidst the myth Stone constructed. Oliver Stone created one version
of the Morrison/Doors myth, but it was a skewed version, a Hollywood (Olliewood)
version. It may be true as Nietzsche said that there are no facts, only
interpretations, but not all interpretations are created equal, and Stone’s
interpretation certainly can be equaled and bettered (as has been done and as I
hope to do here). That said, I must admit that I was inspired by the flick when I
saw it my senior year of college, but that was before I had begun my own personal
and academic exploration of the Doors myth. (Watching it again as I prepared this
essay, I was struck by how much Val Kilmer looked and acted the part of Jim
Morrison while failing to convey the latter’s psyche and spirit, at least as I
understand it.)
Morrison’s grandmother, Caroline, gave a slightly but yet significantly different
version of the “Dawn’s Highway” incident to Jerry Hopkins, Morrison’s first
At the age of five, Jim was in a car traveling along a highway between
Albuquerque and Santa Fe with his father and his grandmother Caroline. She told
me, ‘We came upon an accident. Indians were wailing and crying. Later, we
thought that was very unusual, because we thought Indians didn’t cry. We thought
they were more stoic than that. Jimmy was very much affected. He wanted to do
something. We stopped and then we went on to call the highway police and an
ambulance. Jimmy wanted to do more. He was so upset, his father finally had to
say, “Jimmy, you dreamed it. It didn’t happen. It’s not true, you just had a bad

One difference between this and the printed version of Morrison’s words
above is that here only Morrison’s father and grandmother were present at the
scene, and not both parents and both grandparents as he remembered. But more
significantly, Morrison’s reaction to the dead and wailing Indians was far greater
than he let on, saying only “that was the first time I tasted fear.” Clearly this
event had a great impact on him and at the very least, left a big imprint on his
Hopkins has elsewhere retold the story thus:
There is a story that Morrison told: He was four, in a car on a highway in New
Mexico with his parents, when they encountered an overturned truck. Indians were
lying all over the road. As they passed, Morrison’s eyes opened wide at the
chaotic scene, and the soul of one or two of the Indians leaped into the young
boy’s soul.

Again, the retelling contains small but not insignificant differences that
require some explanation. How could Hopkins have forgotten grandmother Caroline’s
presence in the Morrison car after he had earlier interviewed her? Why is Hopkins
here so certain that this is what happened when Morrison’s own printed account
above is far less precise about the details? And why no real emphasis placed on
Jim’s apparently extreme reaction to the Indian’s plight? (I do think the
implication that the Indian(s) leaped into the little boy’s soul via his eyes is a
nice touch, perhaps based on a variant retelling by Morrison.) I think the main
reason for the discrepancies between the accounts is simply human error, but it is
also probable that the story has been told so many different ways (both by
Morrison and others) that it is hard to keep the “facts” straight.
Here is yet another version of the story given by the Doors producer, Paul

Jim Morrison’s belief that he was a modern-day shaman extends back to the incident
that happened to him when was only four years old. Morrison often recounted the
accident story and many of his friends believed it. Producer Paul Rothchild was
one: “As a child he was driving with his parents, and there was truck full of
Indians that had crashed and overturned. There was a medicine man dying at the
side of the road, and Jim, this four-or five-year-old child vividly remembered a
mystical experience when, as the shaman died his spirit entered Jim’s body. That
was the pivotal event of his entire life. He always viewed himself as the shaman,
having mystical powers and the ability to see through many facades to the truth.
It was this power that drove him. This was the great force that pushed his life
and took him out of the rigid, military environment of his youth and turned him
into a seer.”

This version is the most categorical and calcified of those we have seen as here
Morrison “vividly remembered” that the soul of one of the dying Indians – not just
any Indian, but a certified shaman/medicine man -- entered the young boy’s body
and he was conscious of his influence for the rest of his life. My guess is that
Rothchild probably heard this or something similar from Morrison, but it was a
later, more worked out version. The first version above is no doubt closer to the
truth of how Morrison really felt as it shows him less certain about what
happened, and it is likely that this particular aspect of his personal mythology
was only formulated after he had become a rock star.
Here is one final version of the story, which David Dalton here refers to as “the
cosmogonic instant” in Morrison’s life (a kind of temporal axis mundi in the
Eliadean sense of that term), quoting the Shaman himself for support of this
view(!) Dalton seriously suggests that both he and Morrison fully believe that
this is no mere myth (in the sense of being a pious fiction of sorts), but an
actual event, a fact. Dalton’s overwhelmingly mythic-sounding and perhaps even
hagiographical interpretation (characteristic of his entire book), coming two
decades after Morrison’s death, is but one example of the trend toward
apotheosizing Morrison:
Four years old, age of magic events. Jim has a mystical experience on the highway
leading toward Santa Fe. Outside Albuquerque, the Morrisons come upon an
overturned truck. Injured and dying Pueblo Indians are strewn in the middle of
the road. Phantom massacre. Custer.
As the family car pulls away from the scene of the accident, Jim feels the soul of
a dead Indian enter his body and possess him. This is the cosmogonic instant,
that point around which everything afterward would revolve. “The most important
moment of my life,” says Morrison. Demon Jim is there too, you can bet on it.
Morrison’s previous biographers, being reasonable men, are ill at ease with this
incident. Believers in progress, science and secular humanism, they are people
who, despite five millennia of human history, still believe in…accidents!
Jim’s father, too, has a hard time with the incident at Albuquerque. Finally
exasperated by his son’s tenacious vision, he declares that Jim has imagined the
whole thing.
We, however, can believe whatever we wish, including what Jim believed: that the
soul of a dying Pueblo Indian did at that instant enter his body. Is it really
any more unlikely than that figment of the imagination passed on to us by a
Viennese neurologist on a coke binge (the Unconscious)?

Again, you will note the factual discrepancies between Dalton’s account and the
others mentioned above. Morrison’s relation to the “Viennese neurologist on a
coke binge” is whole other story and will be duly considered in a later section of
this essay.
Morrison as Media Manipulator, Mythmaker

Whoever controls the media, controls the mind.

One of the main questions I want to pose in this paper is to what extent did
Morrison take the somewhat elaborate, self-styled myth of his life and death
seriously, and how much was he being ironic, as he often later claimed? (And in a
broader sense, to what extent, if at all, is there irony in myth? How seriously
were myths to be taken by their original authors and/or audience?) Did Morrison,
for instance, really believe that the ghosts of some dead Indians leapt into his
soul, or did he just think it was a cool story which he knew would help to
propagate a certain image of himself that he wanted to project (the Electric Blue
Shaman)? Jerry Hopkins, Morrison’s first biographer, seems to think so:

Years later, Jim would claim that the souls of those dying Indians leaped into
his head when the Morrison car stopped. It was a good thing to say in the
sixties. Hippies had made native Americans a part of their ‘thing’. After all,
after breaking camp, didn’t Indians leave the earth as they’d found it? And, like
so much Jim said to the press, it was so eminently quotable. Souls from dying
Indians leaping into a future rock star’s head? What an image.

But perhaps Morrison half-believed his story? He clearly had been very much
affected by this event, as his grandmother attested. In an interview only several
months before his death, Morrison provides some clue as to what he may have
thought of the Dawn’s Highway story:
I think the Doors were very timely. The music and ideas were very timely. They
seem naïve now, but a couple of years ago people were into some very weird things.
There was a high energy level and you could say things like we did and almost
half-ass believe them. Whereas now it seems very naïve…

Again the question: Did Morrison no longer “half-ass believe” the “weird things”
(“weird scenes”) he had earlier been promoting, or was he here still trying to
rehabilitate his image?
One thing I think is clear: For some time prior to the formation of the Doors, Jim
Morrison felt himself chosen for a higher calling, and perhaps as early as his
teens he began to construct his own personal mythology of his origins and purpose;
thus his life was worthy of a myth even if the myth itself was not true in the
historical sense (Yogi Berra: “Just because it never happened doesn’t mean it
ain’t true.) My own view on this is similar to Hopkins’:

I believe that from an early age, at least from adolescence, Jim thought of
himself in larger-than-life proportions. Most people in high school struggle to
find their identity. Jim wanted something more; he wanted to create it.

Morrison may not have truly believed that the ghosts of those dead Indians had
jumped into his soul, but something had gotten in there, was possessing him to be
the wild, apocalyptic poet he was. He could have said that the spirit of Rimbaud
had somehow gotten into him or he was Rimbaud reincarnate, but as he had no
historical event to hang it on it didn’t ring as true as the Indian ghost myth.
That said, I have no illusions that we can really get to what Jim Morrison
really thought about anything, and I’m not sure whether he could have or would
have wanted to express what he really thought, even if he knew himself. Not only
were his ideas apparently in constant revolution (“It just seems that you have to
be in a constant state of revolution, or you’re dead,” he once said in an
interview), or at least subject to change, he was apparently very adept at media
manipulation (“Whoever controls the media controls the mind,” he said), at first
to promote a certain image of himself, and later, to deflate that very image. He
was the mythographer of his own mythic persona, and when it failed or when he no
longer had use for it, he was also its demolisher:

He sought exposure and lived the horror of trying to assemble a myth before a
billion dull dry ruthless eyes.

One of the ways in which he assembled and then destroyed his own myth was by
claiming that he had been ironic, that his passionate paeans to freedom and revolt
were not to be taken so seriously. His drunken call to the youth to revolt in
“Five to One” (see lyrics on following page) was to be taken firmly in cheek, as
were other early songs that Morrison later described as “naive.” One such early
song, and in fact the most epic and mythic of all the Doors songs, Morrison called
“The Celebration of the Lizard” (see lyrics on following pages), which was really
the celebration of his own myth. It is interesting to see how he later downplayed
its seriousness, or at least the “dark” aspect of it:
‘That piece ‘Celebration of the Lizard’ was kind of an invitation to the dark
forces. It’s all done tongue-in-cheek. I don’t think people realize that. It’s
not to be taken seriously. It’s like if you play the villain in a western it
doesn’t mean that that’s you. That’s just as aspect that you keep for show. I
don’t really take that seriously. That’s supposed to be ironic.

There is much to suggest that indeed, Morrison was always kind of kidding in the
promulgation of his myth – after all, his sense of humor did not suddenly develop
overnight (it could have, but in his case he was clearly a funny guy from an early
age). Patricia Kenneally-Morrison, Morrison’s consort by a Celtic handfasting
ceremony, feels that Morrison “became increasingly trapped by the iconic persona
he had so ironically invented, and who was destroyed by it in the end.”
Kenneally-Morrison thus implies that the iconic and ironic were firmly set in her
husband’s mind from the start.
Yet if you listen to the early Doors, there is an earnestness and sincerity about
them and especially their intense lead singer that belies Morrison’s later claims
(which was around the time when Keneally met him). “Myth” was not just another
four-letter word for Morrison – he lived and breathed myth (his own myth, but his
own myth was inextricably linked with “all the myths of the ages”). Partly the
change was due to the critical response from the press to his mythological
pretentiousness. Danny Sugerman, just fourteen when he first met Morrison, wrote
in the foreword to the latter’s biography:

Morrison was the first rock star I know of to speak of the mythic implications and
archetypal powers of rock ‘n’ roll, about the ritualistic powers of the rock
concert. For doing so, the press called him a pretentious asshole: “Don’t take
yourself so seriously, Morrison, it’s just rock ‘n’ roll and you’re just a rock

I do think that by the time “Five to One” was put on record, there was a deep
irony in it, yet I think there was far less irony in the earlier Doors music.
Later in his career, Morrison was clearly trying to erase, or at least
rehabilitate the image that he helped to create of himself as the mad, bad,
unrepentant Lizard King, oozing eroticism and contempt for societal norms. And he
did succeed in changing his image to a certain extent because, as he himself said,
he was good at manipulating the media (and it him – some say tragically), and thus
his mythology:

“I think that more than writing and music, my greatest talent is that I have an
instinctive knack of self-image propagation…”

Morrison wasn’t the only one adept at image propagation – the rest of the
Doors crew, particularly Ray Manzarek and Danny Sugerman, have continued to foster
the Morrison mythos. Manzarek has perhaps done more than other to keep the memory
of his friend and fellow bandmate alive, and one principal way he has done this is
to suggest that Morrison may have faked his own death and be living in Africa –
something that he himself doesn’t believe, as his memoir makes clear. No matter.
On the most recent release from the Doors, Stoned Immaculate, which contains
several songs which ingeniously patch together Morrison’s poems, words and lyrics,
the idea that Morrison never died but is somewhere in Africa is heavily suggested.
Of course, the continued release and demand for Doors music and information about
their famous/infamous bandleader assures Morrison a certain kind of immortality.
But aside from all of the hype and the promulgation of the mythos, there is what
to be interested in here, even intrigued by. Why should this be?
The Morrison Story

Here is how one writer, John Rocco, has rendered the Morrison story, which I
include (with slight editing) mainly to provide the reader with the necessary
background, but also because it is a fair retelling. You should note that
everything below more or less is factual (though it is still another “take,”
however accurate). This is the story of Morrison’s life – a myth in a sense, as
Rocco rightly notes -- but the Morrison mythos, which I will discuss in the
following section, is how Morrison himself explained that story.
The story has become a myth. As with all myths, this story is retold over
and over again. We hear the story in the books (there are at least two a year),
on the screen, and in places like Manhattan’s Wetlands where the Doors tribute
band The Soft Parade takes a clubful of kids back in time every other weekend.
The myth gains its power and its influence with each retelling and each retelling
tells us something else. Here it is again.
A precocious high school student in Florida reads everything he can get his
hands on – Kerouac, Blake, Rimbaud, Joyce, Nietzsche – and stuns his teachers with
his grasp of literature and arcane subjects. Instead of excelling academically,
he becomes rebellious and always seems to be looking for something else. His
father is a high-ranking navy officer who will later become the navy’s youngest
rear admiral. This turns out to be the greatest irony in rock and roll history:
Jim Morrison, the first rock singer to be arrested on stage, the symbol of
personal rebellion for an entire culture, was the son of a man who had a prominent
role in the Tonkin Gulf incident that officially began U.S. military involvement
in Vietnam. One of the things Morrison did when he was first faced with media
attention was to declare himself an orphan.
But before Morrison symbolically kills off his family, he attends Florida
State and then quickly transfers to the film school at UCLA. He learns about film
and drugs. He drinks. He keeps a notebook of poems on film aesthetics that will
later turn into his first book, The Lords: Notes on Vision. He spends the summer
after graduating on a rooftop overlooking the beach; he fasts and drops acid. He
writes constantly (“I slept on a roof./At night the moon became/a woman’s face”).
After this experience on the roof…he will form a band with three musicians and
they will call themselves the Doors after Huxley’s investigations into
transforming reality with mescaline in The Doors of Perception.
But before he met what he called “the Spirit of Music” on the roof,
Morrison met Ray Manzarek, a fellow film student and keyboard player for a band
called Rick and the Ravens…Manzarek gave Morrison his first music job: he was paid
$25 to stand with the band and pretend to play guitar. It was with Manzarek that
Morrison would have the famous conversation on the beach. Morrison was down from
the roof and he accidentally bumped into Manzarek. Morrison was supposed to have
been in New York and Manzarek was surprised to see him on the beach. He asked
Morrison what he had been up to and Morrison sang him “Moonlight Drive.” It was
the first Doors performance and Manzarek was the first audience. Jerry Hopkins
describes this as a “perfect rock and roll myth, a Horatio Alger cliché.” And so
it goes: Manzarek was taking a meditation class at the time and in it were John
Densmore and Robby Krieger. The drummer and the guitarist Manzarek meditated with
were members of a band called the Psychedelic Rangers. They soon became the
members of a different band [i.e., the Doors].
The myth rolls on through the London Fog and the Whiskey a Go-Go and
into the night Morrison ate a giant quantity of acid and spontaneously composed
the Oedipal section of “The End” in front of a stunned, mesmerized crowd. The
Doors are promptly fired as the Whiskey’s house band [Check this!!!]. But they
get signed by Elektra and after Morrison destroys a studio the first album [The
Doors] is released. The Doors reflects the interests the band will pursue
throughout their career: from the Brechtian “Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)” to Willie
Dixon’s Back Door Man” to the Oedipal nightmare of “The End” the first album is a
concentrated attack upon conventional rock, at the same time, it roots them in a
tradition of radical art. In July of ’67, “Light My Fire” hits number one. Five
years later Jim Morrison is found dead in Paris. His headstone in the Pere-
Lachaise Cemetery reads “Kata ton daimona eay toy” – Greek for “True to his own

The five years that Rocco here leaves out are of course the most interesting
as they deal with Morrison’s public life, and they are the most heavily documented
(and still not everyone can agree on “the facts”). In that time, Morrison
metamorphosed from a sleek, lion of a youth with a thin, untrained voice, to a
full-bearded, paunched-out and punch drunk aging rocker with the thick, raspy
voice of a Blues singer. He was 27 and he looked and sounded 47, his hair showing
signs of pre-mature graying. During those years he went through more drugs,
women, booze, arrests, travel, and God knows what else than most do in several
lifetimes, and he looked it. Here is an older and soberer (and more ironic)
Morrison on his wild life:

I’m not denying that I’ve had a good time these last three or four years. I’ve
met a lot of interesting people and seen things in a short space of time that I
probably would not have run into in twenty years of living. I can’t say that I
regret it. If I had to do it over, I think I would have gone for the quiet,
undemonstrative artist, plodding away in his own garden.

He was the rock star’s rock star – he was the craziest of the lot and he set a
dubious standard for generations of frontmen after him; it is in this sense that
we can speak of his stardom achieving “mythic proportions.” He was a legend in
his own time, and after he died he ceased to be a “living legend” and became a
The Morrison Mythos

Here I want to continue where Rocco’s “myth” left off, cataloguing some of
the ways in which Morrison saw himself in his days with the Doors, the last five
years of his life. Again, this is my interpretation, and it is selective and no
doubt false or misleading in places. That said, it is based mainly on things
Morrison told others about his mythic persona, and how others saw Morrison at that
time when it meshed with that persona.
As Rocco said, after Morrison’s meeting “The Spirit of Music” and then Ray
Manzerek in the summer of 1965, the Doors were formed. From the start, Morrison
saw the group as serving a mediating function to the youth of their generation; as
Morrison was to say (in a quote often attributed to Blake but actually his own):
“There are things known and things unknown, and in between are the Doors.” In
their early days together, Morrison seemed shy and hesitant in his role as chief
Door [Manzarek says that it wasn’t out of shyness – they practiced together in a
circle], but as his voice and the music grew in power and the Doors art was
perfected, their frontman seemed to grow in boldness. Sometimes he would dance
wildly on the stage as the music played, as if driven by it; other times he would
stand still and softly recite poetry or try the patience of the audience with long
silences. Whatever he did, it seemed spontaneous and was always unpredictable.
In the early days he was taking a lot of pyschedelic (or entheogenic, as they are
referred to these days) drugs such as LSD and peyote, which may have helped to
inspire some of the early poetry and music such as “The End.” Morrison
consciously played (up) the part of the shaman, bringing his audience tidings from
the “other side” behind the Door. It was at this time, too, that Morrison was
described either as looking or seeming like one of Greek gods and heroes such as
Alexander the Great, Adonis, and Dionysus, though particularly the latter.
Morrison may have described himself as such and given people the idea that he was
Dionysus, as Nietzsche (and particularly The Birth of Tragedy in which the
Apollonian and Dionysian types are contrasted) was a big influence.
As the Doors became more widely known, Morrison became recognized as a sex symbol,
a role that he at first seemed to embrace and even milk for all it was worth,
posing seductively for photographs for teen magazines, telling a journalist that
the Doors were “erotic politicians,” calling himself “The Lizard King,” with its
phallic implications, etc. Elvis may have been the King of Rock and Roll, but
Morrison soon became dubbed “The King of Orgasmic Rock.” But it wasn’t long
before Morrison began to tire of his rock star sex symbol image, which again, he
had helped create. Apparently he saw himself as the Changeling, a protean figure
who could never allow himself to be pinned down and put in a box for popular
consumption (how can you make an icon out of an iconoclast?) He was “the freedom
man,” but this entailed “setting people free,” however much he would have liked to
play Jonah and run away from his calling. He thus increasingly saw himself as a
savior figure – Jesus with shades (“Love your neighbor – ‘til it hurts!) – who had
to do his time and suffer for others’ redemption, if not his own.
Ultimately, however, when “the Man” was at “the Door” -- when he could no longer
take the pressure and knew he would never be able to completely alter his image –
he tried to get away, out to the perimeter where “there are no stars.” He may
have gotten only as far as Paris, but his intention seemed to be to completely
alter his identity. The “official” story of his manner of death was that he died
of a heart attack in the bathtub. But the myth that he created was so strong, and
his trickster personality so notorious, that to this day some believe that he may
have really have faked his death and gone to Africa, as he said he would. And as
in Elvisian mythology, Morrison has been sighted in various places from time to
The Mythic Concert

In that year there was

an intense visitation
of energy.
I left school & went down
to the beach to live.
I slept on a roof.
at night the moon became
a woman’s face
I met the Spirit of Music. (poem: In That Year)

I may have not made this clear enough in the earlier sections, but I don’t
think it can be reasonably said that Morrison pulled his myth out of his gluteus
maximus, so to speak. That is, he did not completely make up a myth about himself
and then try to foist it on the credulous masses. Rather, it seems that he had
certain experiences that he later recalled in mythic terms. In other words, the
experiences on which he based his myth actually happened, though perhaps not in
quite the way he mythologized it. So what is in question is what he made of those
experiences, how true to those experiences was the myth that he constructed?
To make this concrete, I have chosen to look into what Morrison referred to at one
point as a “mythic concert” that he heard in his head while living on a friend’s
rooftop in Venice beach the summer prior to the formation of the Doors. During
those months, Morrison underwent a somewhat radical change in physical appearance
from a somewhat chubby film school student to that of a sleek, leonine movie star.
The “myth” (if you will) is that Morrison spent that summer up on the rooftop
dropping acid, fasting, and doing a lot of writing – a story which I think there
is every reason to believe (though we shouldn’t suppose that all he did was get
high and write on that rooftop). I personally interpret his experience as being
the equivalent of a spiritual preparation for his calling – the often trying work
he was about to embark on with the Doors. It was maybe the equivalent of Moses’
forty days on the mount, or Jesus’ forty days in the desert, or any holy person’s
hermetic retreat.
The poem “In That Year” above is Morrison’s most mythic/poetic rendering of
his experience on the rooftop that summer. Again, the experience was probably at
least a little bit more mundane that the poem let’s on; on the other hand, I don’t
doubt that
this is the way it felt for Morrison. The experience was probably intense and it
also probably transcended his ability to express what happened. For instance, not
knowing how else to describe the music that he began to hear in his head, he used
a phrase from the translation of Nietzsche’s Die Geburt der Tragodie (a book which
apparently had a great influence on Morrison) – “The Spirit of Music.” Even
though the phrase tells us very little about what Morrison actually experienced,
in another sense it says everything.
In a late interview, Morrison spoke more directly about what he meant when
he wrote he had met “The Spirit of Music”:

I heard in my head a whole concert situation, with a band singing and an audience
– a large audience. Those first five or six songs I wrote, I was just taking
notes at a fantastic rock concert that was going on inside my head…I just started
hearing songs. I think I still have the notebook with those songs written in it.
This kind of mythic concert that I heard…I’d like to try to reproduce it sometime,
either in actuality or on record. I’d like to reproduce what I heard on the beach
that day.”

Not only does Morrison here make explicit what he meant by “The Spirit of
Music,” but he even goes so far as to suggest that he could go even further and
actually reproduce his experience for public consumption(!) What is also
interesting here is that he seems to be suggesting that, for whatever reason,
those “first five or six songs” had never seen the light of day, and the question
is why not if they were so great? The answer appears to be that while he still
had the words, he had forgotten the music (and he didn’t know musical notation).
Or maybe they were so great that Morrison didn’t feel he could do them justice on
record, but later, having gained experience making songs and records he believed
that he just might possibly be able to pull it off (if not sooner, then later)?
As for the question as to how Morrison could remember the songs he heard during
that mythic concert, apparently he had the idea that he could reconstruct them
with the help of hypnosis or a drug.
Whatever the case may be, I think this is a reasonable example of a scene
from the movie of Morrison’s life – or his “cosmic movie” as he referred to it –
that was certainly based on a personal experience of his. But I want to say that
even the “myth” that he later made of that experience did not stray too far from
the truth of that experience – unless you want to say that he was making this up,
and I don’t think he was as it seems too right . How else could this kid who had
no prior musical training whatsoever have been so inspired to write all of those
early songs if he had not met his muse at that point? The Spirit of Music was
also his Spiritual Muse, his spirit guide that was directing him toward perfecting
the musical art. At least in this case, myth and reality seem less irreconcilable
than other moments.
But then we should ask: Why does Morrison refer to it as a “mythic” concert
specifically? Why not just a “great concert”? Perhaps something from his reading
inspired his choice of phrasing (Nietzsche? Wagner? Nietzsche contra Wagner?), or
maybe it was that his own personal mythology always came to him thus, seeming a
divine revelation or sorts. But whatever Morrison meant by “mythic” here, he
surely didn’t mean one thing: that it was untrue, just a story he made up. Again,
it really happened, though perhaps not exactly as Morrison remembered it. If I
could presume to jump into Morrison’s head for a moment, I would suggest that he
saw the creation of myths (his own and others like Oedipus) as visions that are
perceived by the poet or seer/visionary or shaman, which he then attempts to
impart to his tribe, however failingly.
These visions can relate to tribal or cosmic origins or the source of a particular
human emotion, etc.; or they can refer to the visionary himself.
Jim Morrison’s Oedipal Complex

“They claim everyone was born, but I don’t recall it. Maybe I was having one of
my blackouts.”

The Morrison “myth” got some great publicity and enhancement with the
publication in 1980 of Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman’s bestselling biography of
Morrison, No One Here Gets Out Alive. From the foreword on, the book paints its
subject in larger-than-life, even mythic terms (Sugerman: “I just wanted to say I
think Jim Morrison was a modern-day god. Oh hell, at least a lord.”) While no
angels bring tidings of Morrison’s birth to his parents, nor is he floated down
any rivers as a baby and raised by simple folk, incidents from his early years are
adduced which suggest that Morrison was somehow special from the start. As Lester
Bangs wrote of the book’s often not-so-subtle apotheosization of the man: “Jim
Morrison was apparently a nigh compleat asshole from the instant he popped out of
the womb until he died in that bathtub in Paris.”
Some have suggested that at least some of the melodramatic antics Morrison
was displaying were due to things that happened in his childhood. The “Dawn’s
Highway” incident aside, the idea is that Jim was carrying a lot of pain and
conflicts, mainly due to his upbringing, that was forcing him to act the way he
did. Certainly Morrison had read Freud (“Death and my cock are the world,”
Morrison wrote, suggesting Freud’s understanding of our most basic, primal urges,
i.e. eros-thanatos) and Jung and Erich Neumann, though according to Hopkins and
Sugerman, they were not his favorite psychoanalysts – Ferenczi was.
Phil [one of Morrison’s friends at UCLA film school] had read nearly
everything written by or about Carl Jung; on a shelf in his room at home were all
the books, heavily underlined with a thick black pencil. Jung was not Jim’s
favorite psychoanalyst, and he and Phil loved to argue after seeing movies how the
filmmaker’s symbolism might be interpreted along Jungian or, in Jim’s case,
Ferenczian lines.
Like Jung, Sandor Ferenczi was an associate of Freud’s who cut himself
loose, becoming a Freudian deviant in method more than theory. While Freud
recommended sexual abstinence for his patients, arguing that this would
concentrate the libido on past emotional experiences, Ferenczi took the denial
much further, trying to persuade his patients to give up much of their eating,
drinking, defecation, and urination as well. Then he swung the opposite way,
toward love and permissiveness, believing that neurotics were people who had never
been loved or accepted by their parents and what they really needed was affection,
warmth, and coddling.
As is generally true when talking about psychoanalysis, the conversations
were filled with sexual references, often ranging over a wide assortment of
neuroses, fetishes, and abnormalities – from hermaphroditism and necrophilia to
masochism, sadism, and homosexuality. So when Jim and Phil made a film together,
the subject was not surprising.

Jim was a very intelligent and sensitive individual who had no doubt
reflected on his own oedipal conflict. If I may digress here for a moment, I need
to add that Morrison was extremely well-read, and not just Nietzsche, the Beats,
and symbolist poetry, but literature both more conventional and more obscure, as
well. Part of the Morrison mythos is that in high school he had his teachers
checking the Library of Congress to see if books Morrison was writing book reports
for really existed. An even more interesting story is that told by his friends
and fellow students who knew him in film school at UCLA:
Jim was capable of stunts of intellectual virtuosity. When friends visited his
room, he challenged them, “Go ahead, pick a book any book.” His voice was
boastful, but he toed the carpet of his bedroom: the shy magician. “Pick any
book, open it to the beginning of any chapter, and start reading. I’ll keep my
eyes closed and I’ll tell you what book you’re reading and who the author is.”
Jim swept one arm around the room at the hundreds and hundreds of books on
top of the furniture and stacked everywhere against the walls.
He never missed!

One could dismiss this as more hyperbole for a man who the authors are
trying to put on a pedestal (maybe it was only a hundred books; maybe he missed
sometimes), but others have since confirmed that the story is more or less
Now here is how Morrison rendered the Oedipus Rex story, which he first
“unveiled” during a song called “The End” in an early performance at the Whiskey-
a-Go-Go on the Sunset Strip:

The killer awoke before dawn,

He put his boots on.
He took a face from the ancient gallery,
And he walked on down the hall.

He went into the room

Where his sister lived and,
Then he
Paid a visit to his brother,
And then he,
He walked on down the hall.

And he came to a door,

And he looked inside,
“Yes, son?”
“I want to kill you.
Mother, I want to…”

As the story (myth?) goes, the night that Morrison sang this for the first
time, he was very high on acid. Earlier two of the band members apparently had to
find him and coax him to come to the show. Morrison had improvised poetry to “The
End” in previous performances, but this one took everyone by surprise,
particularly the end of it in which Morrison probably shouted something like “fuck
you all night long, momma” (as he does on another live version). The myth is that
the audience was speechless and The Doors were fired that night. But what is of
most concern here is the question of to what extent was this pure improvisation?
Did Morrison somehow have at least a general idea that he was going to add this
section to the song before the show? Maybe he had been rehearsing it, as he
sometimes did? If it was a purely spontaneous generation while under the
influence of LSD, maybe it says more about his psyche than if he had been more
sober. But either way, it was telling.
Morrison did give some indication that his “improvisation” that night during
“The End” was something less than purely “off the cuff.” In the summer of 1968,
Los Angeles Free Press journalist John Carpenter asked Morrison in an interview
whether the above story about “The End” was true. His answer is a psychoanalyst’s
field day:

I used to have this magic formula, like, to break into the subconscious. I
would lay [lie] there and say over and over ‘Fuck the mother, kill the father.
Fuck the mother, kill the father.’ You can really get into your head just
repeating that slogan over and over. Just saying it can be the thing…
That mantra can never become meaningless. It’s too basic and can never
become just words ‘cause as long as you’re saying it, you can never be
unconscious. That all came from up here.

So there was a method to Morrison’s madness. In addition to Rimbaud’s “prolonged

rational disordering of all the senses,” and Blake’s “the road of excess leads to
the palace of wisdom” -- techniques of liberation that Morrison had early on
adopted as his own – he had this somewhat unorthodox mantra. Why use a mantra
that, once said enough times, can be repeated mechanically and thus devolve into
lip service? Why not, rather, use a word or phrase that forces one to stay awake
and go deep inside the brain (as he sings on “Go Insane”)? Morrison was no doubt
also taking a subtle jab at others of his generation, most notably two of his
fellow band members, who were practicing Transcendental Meditation or other
aspects of the Hindu tradition (made possible by the lifting of the Asian
Exclusion Act in 1965). My sense is that Morrison was too American and too much
of an iconoclast (and maybe too undisciplined) for any kind of ritualized praxis
like repetition of a Hindu mantra. And anyway, he was gradually, organically,
developing his own religion based on his own myth and the Doors nightly ritual of
“awakening the dead.”

We could plan a murder

Or start a religion

Early on I think Morrison decided that he didn’t have the heart to be a killer,
though it seems to be something that he considered often enough for it to show up
in various songs and poems (and his movie HWY, in which he plays a hitchhiker who
murders the driver who picks him up). Killing the father was just part of it.
But he was more of a shaman than a Manson, the founder of a new religious movement
which he called the Doors, the leader of his children/flock through the Straight
Gate to the other side and home.

Always a playground instructor

Never a killer

One way that Morrison helped to foster his own myth was to say that he was
an orphan, that his parents were dead. Clearly he resented their interference in
his life and being “the freedom man” as he sang, he didn’t want to have to deal
with that. There was perhaps another part of him that wanted to promote a certain
image of himself and it would not work as well if he had parents with whom he
talked and received instructions (and most gods are not even born – at least in
the conventional sense). How then could he ask others to rebel and be free if he
himself had not done so himself? How could he honestly say:

I’ve always been attracted to ideas that were about revolt against authority.
When you make your peace with authority you become an authority. I like ideas
about the breaking away or overthrowing of established order. I’m interested in
anything about revolt, disorder, chaos, especially activity that appears to have
no meaning.

In the spring of 1969, Jerry Hopkins interviewed Morrison for Rolling Stone
and asked why he had made up the story that his parents were dead. His answer, at
least to my eyes, is a revisionist history, nay even a cover-up:

I just didn’t want to involve them. It’s easy enough to find out personal
details if you really want them. When we’re born we’re all footprinted and so on.
I guess I said my parents were dead as some kind of joke. I have a brother [and a
sister!!!], too, but I haven’t seen him in about a year. I don’t see any of them.
This is the most I’ve ever said about this.

A joke? I wonder what Freud would have made of such a joke. Again, I think this
is more media manipulation on Morrison’s part; at this point in his career I have
the feeling that Morrison was saying that everything he had done with the Doors
was a joke, a “myth” that he created that was not too be taken too seriously. But
again, I also have the sense that there was far less humor in his original
pronouncements than he later let on.
Yet the Oedipal section of “The End” was not just about killing his father
and having intercourse with his mother, it apparently went deeper than that, just
as the Oedipus myth no doubt has more subtle implications. The Doors’ producer,
Paul Rothchild, who seems to have understood Jim’s intentions better than most,
also read Morrison more symbolically here:
Jim kept saying over and over, kill the father, fuck the mother, and
essentially it boils down to this, kill all those things in yourself which are
instilled in you are not of yourself, they are alien concepts which are not yours,
they must die. The psychedelic revolution. Fuck the mother is very basic, and it
means gets back to the essence, what is reality, what is, fuck the mother is very
basically mother, mother-birth, real, you can touch it, it’s nature, it can’t lie
to you. So what Jim says at the end of the Oedipus section, which is essentially
the same things as the classic says, kill the alien concepts, get back to reality,
the end of alien concepts, the beginning of personal concepts.

In The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche suggests that to kill mother and father,
whether literally or figuratively, is to arrive at ubermensch-hood: “Oedipus,
murderer of his father, husband of his mother, solver of the riddle of the
Sphinx!” For Morrison – or at least the early Morrison, I think the Oedipus story
was to be read symbolically, but somewhat literally also, as he was rebelling
against his parents and all the “old fools” who were resistant to new ideas.
Somehow the Blakean “road of excess” led to the “palace of wisdom” in Oedipus’
case, a notion that Morrison found appealing:

Sophocles had a romantic notion about Oedipus, one that Nietzsche wrote about. He
called Oedipus “the most sorrowful figure on the Greek stage…the type of noble man
who despite his wisdom is fatal to error and misery, but who nevertheless, through
his extraordinary sufferings, ultimately effects a magical, healing effect on all
around him, which continues even after his death.”
Jim liked that.

The following section discusses this soteriological role that Morrison, qua
Oedipus, saw himself as fulfilling.
The Rock Star as World Savior

Morrison: Please, please listen to me children

You are the ones who will rule the world

Jesus: Suffer the little children to come to me…

As I have already noted in various places, Morrison consciously (though

perhaps not completely gladly) took on the role of cosmic gadfly to his largely
teenybopper constituency. They were his flock and he was their shepherd. Jesus
said “I am the Door of the sheep,” and nearly two thousand years later Morrison
went around saying “I am the Door.” Morrison was a somewhat reluctant messiah,
however, even from the start, if we may judge from one early song on which he
ironically sang, “I’m the freedom man/that’s just how lucky I am.” Freedom is a
word that comes up again and again in Morrison’s poetry and songs; in fact, one of
the last letters he wrote ended with: “I am not mad, I am interested in freedom.”
But he knew the cost of freedom. He knew that not only were his “followers” not
following, just as the unwashed masses didn’t have ears to hear the Galilean
master, but he also was painfully aware that he would have to suffer and
ultimately die in order for his message to really break through people’s thick
skulls. Like Jesus, Morrison went around predicting his early demise. And like
Jesus, Morrison’s following only continues to grow as the years pass. That Mojo
just keeps on risin’.
In fact, there are many parallels between Morrison’s life and that
first century Jewish sage; but then again, there are many parallels between Elvis
and Jesus, too, and Apollonius of Tyana and Jesus, and perhaps many such types
down through the ages and Jesus. These are all of the “world savior” type,
messianic or salvific figures. They are archetypical, perhaps not in the Jungian
sense of being wired into the “collective unconscious” of humanity, but they do
share quite similar profiles. The following are some of the qualifications for
such a type: 1) charisma (and thus some kind of following); 2) rebelliousness
(against the status quo), though seldom do they incite revolt; 3) a “wake up” or
otherwise spiritual message, which may take any number of forms; 4) physical or
psychical suffering; 5) a mysterious manner of death, and alleged postmortem
The savior type that I am describing also goes through some sort of
trial or solitary askesis prior to their calling. For Morrison, it was the summer
he spent fasting, writing, and ingesting psychedelic drugs on the roof of a
friend’s apartment prior to the formation of the Doors. At the end of this
period, I believe that he fully believed he had something to give and he was quite
ready to do it. Again, he saw himself in grandiose terms, perhaps as an “Avatar
of Chaos” (he at one point referred to the Doors as “Avatars of Chaos”), which was
badly needed to counteract the conformity and unimaginativeness of society. Here
is how one of Morrison’s early interviewers, Richard Goldstein, described his
first meeting with Morrison:

Jim wasn’t content to play the suffering artist. He wanted to be an avatar – and
not just Elvis in love beads. He filled my tape with breathy hyperbole about the
nature of myth. Twenty years later, such speculation would be fodder for Bill
Moyers on PBS. Back then, Jim had to make do with a film student’s knowledge of
the boho [bohemian] pantheon: Artaud, Nietzsche, Rimbaud.

Playing the part of an avatar, Morrison penned and sang such lines as:

And I can tell you the names of the kingdom/

I can tell you the things that you know
Please, please listen to me children
You are the ones who will rule the world
I’ll tell you this…
No eternal reward will forgive us now
For wasting the dawn
I am a guide to the Labyrinth [where?]

Again we can reasonably wonder, however: Was he serious? Was Morrison

just “playing the part” as I suggested, or did he really believe he was a divine
messenger of some sort, as he described “Texas Radio and the Big Beat” as being:

Reaching your head

w/the cold & sudden fury
Of a divine messenger.

Was Morrison referring to himself there?

Let me tell you about

heartache and the loss
of God.

My sense is that he was dead serious about his messianic role, yet at
the same time he could stand outside of the role and see it for what it was – a
role. Thus he made room for irony. Making like a crucified Jesus on the cross
after one performance when he had been mocked and heckled by the audience was
expression of that irony. Here is another expression, in poetic form:

Thank you, O Lord

For the white blind light
A city rises from the sea
I had a splitting headache
From which the future’s made.

And even though Morrison was consciously playing the part of gadfly
messiah, there was a sense in which he was perhaps trying to save his own soul on
stage more than the audience, “pursuing his own fantasy” as he understood the
nature of the shaman, or beckoning his Muse (the Spirit of Music?). Early on
Digby Diehl had written in Newsweek: “It’s hard to say whose soul he’s trying to
save, his listeners’ or his own.” Morrison himself had said in an early?
See, there’s this theory about the nature of tragedy, that Aristotle didn’t mean
catharsis for the audience, but a purgation of emotions for the actors themselves.
The audience is just a witness to the events taking place on stage.

In an interview for Life magazine, he expressed something similar:

Today is the age of the heroes, who live for us and through whom we experience the
heights and depths of emotion. The spectator is a dying animal and the purgation
of emotion is left up to the actor, not the audience.

Clearly Morrison was putting himself among those heroes whose

spectacular catharsis the spectator can only experience vicariously, but which can
be transformative and even liberating for them, as much as himself (though
Morrison does not spell this out here). But there is also a sense in which
Morrison was attempting to awaken the audience to become not mere spectators, but
actors and heroes like him, like the Doors.
Morrison and Elvis: Rock ‘n’ Roll Pneumatic Mythology

“Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the Door of the sheep…I am the Door.
If anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find
pasture.” (John 10:7)

Had I known earlier of Elvis’ own spiritual leanings and perception of

himself in mythological proportions, I might have been tempted to write about him
instead of Morrison. After all, he is better known and would have no doubt been
an easier case to follow. As it happened, though, I didn’t learn about Elvis’
dabbling in the “occult” until I began doing research for this project. I was
aware, as I think we all are (it being an urban legend and cultural running joke)
that Elvis has been “sighted” on numerous occasions since his death in 1977 and
still has what could be called a “cult” of followers; but I had not known that
Elvis “religiously” studied books which one wouldn’t think a “good Christian boy”
(as Albert Goldman called him) would or should read. Books like those of Madame
Blavatsky and Paramahamsa Yogananda which in an earlier age he would have been put
on the rack for even possessing.
Well, for that matter I might as well have done a study of Bob Dylan, or
Mick Jagger, or any number of rock and roll “icons.” For it seems to me that they
all have an bit of myth hanging about them, whether they be myths of their own
making, or myths made for them, or both. For example, in his early days, Dylan
(alias Robert Zimmerman) constructed an elaborate mythology/legend of his origins,
claiming among other things that as a boy he had run away and joined the circus.
Mick Jagger coined himself “Jumping Jack Flash” and even pretended he was Lucifer
(many people believed him). Robert Plant declared himself a “golden god” and
incorporated elements of Celtic mythology into his song lyrics. John Lennon
compared himself to Jesus (however facetiously). And so on. But then we may
rightly wonder: Did Frank Sinatra or Harry Belafonte ever make such grandiose
claims? Did any rock and rollers prior to the Sixties so mythologize themselves?
No, or at least not as blatantly. Indeed, it seems that this was largely a mid-
Sixties phenomenon, perhaps partly inspired by psychedelic drugs (see below) and
the revived interest in the occult and mysticism.

How about the song “I’m 10,000 years old”?

But this is only part of it, because the truth is that blues masters such as
Robert Johnson, Bo Diddley and John Lee Hooker had been singing of their
inordinate sexual prowess in mythological terms for years prior to the birth of
rock and roll (indeed, they were the ones that gave birth to the latter; even the
phrase “rock and roll” came from sex-savvy Blues numbers). Consider, for example,
the lyrics to the Bo Diddley song, “Who Do You Love,” a song that the Doors later
did a version of:

I walked 47 miles of barbed wire

Cobra snake for a necktie
Brand new house on the roadside
Made from rattlesnake hide
Great big chimney way on top made from human skull
Come on Baby take a walk with me
Tell me who do you love

In other words, Morrison largely had his work cut out for him in some sense as
blues artists had earlier put forth their own personal mythologies involving
reptiles and sex and death (and lot us not forget all the poets – Blake, Rimbaud,
Yeats, Joyce, etc. – who put forth their personal mythologies in verse). Later,
young white artists borrowed the style and attitude and started shocking the
world, but of course, more people took notice because they were white. By singing
Bo Diddley’s song, Morrison was in a way acknowledging this fact, as if to say to
his audience that here is where “the Lizard King” came from, crawling out of the
swamps of the Mississippi Delta.
But the young white artists went farther in incorporating mythology and/or
mythological elements into their repetoires than the blues greats had done. Or at
least Jim Morrison did. To the best of my knowledge, no blues artist ever sang
about his Oedipal complex (“The End”), or how he became a shaman (“Dawn’s Highway”
and “Shaman’s Blues”), or the name he would use after he skipped town for Africa
(“Mr. Mojo Risin’” on “L.A. Woman”). The pre-rock blues artists weren’t
necessarily consciously constructing a mythology either, as Morrison was. They
were inheritors of a blues tradition that required one to speak of oneself in
grandiloquent, if not megalomaniacal terms, and what they were doing seems to me
less deliberate and self-conscious than what the white, mainly middle class kids
did with that tradition. Again, one has to look to the poets after whom Morrison
modeled himself.
Elvis is a slightly different though remarkably parallel case. He sang everything
– anything that moved him, apparently, from Gospel numbers to Bob Dylan. But he
didn’t write much of the music he sang, and he certainly didn’t create a personal
mythology on vinyl. On the other hand, Elvis did see himself in mythic terms. In
the mid-Sixties, after reading a great deal of metaphysical literature and having
a profound vision in the desert, he apparently came to the conclusion that he was
a divine messenger of sorts, on par with Jesus. Just as Jesus was “The King” (of
the Jews – and the gentiles), Elvis was the King of Rock and Roll, who had
incarnated in his particular generation to preach the Gospel of Rock. But his
divine role didn’t only involve singing and dancing and making b-movies; it also
including, giving many charitable gifts, using the healing powers he believed that
he possessed, and in the end, battling the evil forces for the greater good of
While Elvis never spelled all of this out for the public, it has been spelled out
for him in various titles published since his death. Louie Ludwig’s book The
Gospel of Elvis, for instance, is a humorous re-telling of the Elvis story in
biblical (i.e., mythical) terms. Other books have discussed the quasi-cult that
has grown up around Elvis since the latter’s death a quarter of a century ago; one
such work, Elvis People, even goes so far as to suggest that two thousand years
from now there will be an Elvis religion which rivals Christianity (hey, why wait
two thousand years – it’s already happening!) In other words, Elvis, like Jim
Morrison, is only growing in popularity as the time passes; but popularity is not
really the right word – obsession bordering on hero worship more truly hits the
mark. Neil Young greatly understated the case when he sang, “The King is dead but
he’s not forgotten.” Hell, the King isn’t even dead!
Before I end here I feel I must point out that Elvis was one of Morrison’s early
musical influences. In fact, according to Hopkins and Sugerman, one of the
reasons Morrison got kicked out of the apartment he was sharing with some college
buddies was because of his fascination with Elvis:

He had become obsessed about Elvis Presley and insisted upon silence whenever
Presley’s records were played on the radio, turning the volume up full, and
sitting in front of the radio mesmerized.

Morrison’s desire to become a singer and a star like Elvis was probably
further intensified when a gay bartender who befriended him told him essentially
that he was made of the same stuff (superstardust) as Elvis. Another interesting
fact is that as late as 1968 or ’69 Morrison had mentioned to the man who was to
write his first biography, Jerry Hopkins, that he would be interested in reading a
bio of Elvis and that maybe Hopkins should write one (which he did, though
Morrison died before it was published). All this suggests that Morrison himself
had the Elvis bug, and he probably wondered how Elvis dealt with the whole rock
star trip and why he of all people had been chosen.
On a superficial level, Morrison and Elvis could not have been more
different. Elvis was a poor boy that made good, and to many he proved that the
myth of the American Dream was no myth. He was a proud American, he loved his
mother, and he was a good Christian boy. Morrison, on the other hand, was a rich
kid who claimed his parents were dead, spoke of the death of the “Western Dream,”
and made fun of Christianity and organized religion. Looked at from this
perspective, Elvis was as American as apple pie, and Morrison was an American
reject. But again, this is a superficial reading – these are the “myths,” largely
the public’s perception of these figures, whereas the truth is far more gray and
ambivalent, as always. And I should add that our collective myths of what America
is all about don’t always hold water.
One final irony to point out here is that despite all of Morrison’s talk
about myth and the world of the spirit, it is still not clear to what extent he
really believed any of it -- apparently he only started to delve into metaphysical
literature late in his life, and that without any great gusto. Elvis, on the
other hand, who one would think must have been just a good Christian boy through
and through, steeped himself in what some would call “the occult,” driving his
wife and his entourage crazy with his obsession. Unlike Morrison, apparently
Elvis believed much of what he read (though not without mulling it over and
thrashing out its implications). Then again, Morrison may have believed more than
he let on, for fear of being pinned down or just to keep people guessing. I want
to consider that part of the Morrison that always kept people guessing next.
Addendum: Rap Music and Myth

Charles Barkley: You know something’s up when the number one golfer is black and
the number one rapper is white.

Recently I borrowed Jay-Z’s 1999 effort “The Blueprint” from the local library. I
wanted to listen to more of Rapper #2 – the man considered to be the second best
rapper these days next to Eminem (interestingly, the two do a duo on the album,
“Renegade.”) I didn’t really know what to expect, I just wanted to listen. The
first track was interesting but I knew I would have to listen again. Then came
the second track. I was not prepared for what I heard. Sure, I know that ever
since Run DMC did a rap version of “Walk This Way” there has been a sometimes
awkward meeting and mutual merger of rock and rap, and even more so today with
rock rappers like Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock, but this was unexpected to say the
least. Jay-Z sampling “Five to One”? Cool! The song is called “Takeover” and it
mainly samples the driving beat of the Doors’ song, along with Morrison’s “We’re
taking over, come on!” and parts of Krieger’s guitar work. But Morrison’s drunken
call to youth rebellion has become, in Jay-Z’s trenchant rhyming, a very sober but
self-satisfied (you can hear Jay-Z almost break into a little giggle at certain
points) statement of who’s running the rap show.

surprised to

Jay-Z: “Takeover” lyrics

(The Blueprint)

R.O.C., we runnin this rap shit
Memphis Bleek, we runnin this rap shit
B. Mac, we runnin this rap shit
Freeway, we run this rap shit
O & Sparks, we runnin this rap shit
Chris & Neef, we runnin this rap shit

The takeover, the break's over nigga

God MC, me, Jay-Hova
Hey lil' soldier you ain't ready for war
R.O.C. too strong for y'all
It's like bringin a knife to a gunfight, pen to a test
Your chest in the line of fire witcha thin-ass vest
You bringin them Boyz II Men, HOW them boys gon' win?
This is grown man B.I., get you rolled in the triage(?)
Beatch - your reach ain't long enough, dunny
Your peeps ain't strong enough, fucka
Roc-A-Fella is the army, better yet the navy
Niggaz'll kidnap your babies, spit at your lady
We bring - knife to fistfight, kill your drama
Uh, we kill you motherfuckin ants with a sledgehammer
Don't let me do it to you dunny cause I overdo it
So you won't confuse it with just rap music

R.O.C., we runnin this rap shit

M-Easy, we runnin this rap shit
The Broad Street Bully, we runnin this rap shit
Get zipped up in plastic when it happens that's it
Freeway, we run this rap shit
O & Sparks, we runnin this rap shit
Chris & Neef, we runnin this rap shit
"Watch out!! We run New York" -> [KRS-One]

I don't care if you Mobb Deep, I hold triggers to crews

You little FUCK, I've got money stacks bigger than you
When I was pushin weight, back in eighty-eight
you was a ballerina I got your pictures I seen ya
Then you dropped "Shook Ones," switch your demeanor
Well - we don't believe you, you need more people
Roc-A-Fella, students of the game, we passed the classes
Nobody could read you dudes like we do
Don't let 'em gas you like Jigga is ass and won't clap you
Trust me on this one - I'll detach you
Mind from spirit, body from soul
They'll have to hold a mass, put your body in a hole
No, you're not on my level get your brakes tweaked
I sold what ya whole album sold in my first week
You guys don't want it with Hov'
Ask Nas, he don't want it with Hov', nooooo!

R.O.C., we runnin this rap shit

B. Sigel, we runnin this rap shit
M-Easy, we runnin this rap shit
Get zipped up in plastic when it happens that's it
O & Sparks, we runnin this rap shit
Freeway, we run this rap shit
Chris & Neef, we runnin this rap shit
"Watch out!! We run New York" -> [KRS-One]
I know you missin all the - FAAAAAAAME!
But along with celebrity comes bout seventy shots to your brain
Nigga; you a - LAAAAAAAME!
Youse the fag model for Karl Kani/Esco ads
Went from, Nasty Nas to Esco's trash
Had a spark when you started but now you're just garbage
Fell from top ten to not mentioned at all
to your bodyguard's "Oochie Wally" verse better than yours
Matter fact you had the worst flow on the whole fuckin song
but I know - the sun don't shine, then son don't shine
That's why your - LAAAAAAAME! - career come to a end
There's only so long fake thugs can pretend
Nigga; you ain't live it you witnessed it from your folks pad
You scribbled in your notepad and created your life
I showed you your first tec on tour with Large Professor
(Me, that's who!) Then I heard your album bout your tec on your dresser
So yeah I sampled your voice, you was usin it wrong
You made it a hot line, I made it a hot song
And you ain't get a corn nigga you was gettin fucked and
I know who I paid God, Serchlite Publishing
Use your - BRAAAAAAAIN! You said you been in this ten
I've been in it five - smarten up Nas
Four albums in ten years nigga? I could divide
That's one every let's say two, two of them shits was due
One was - NAHHH, the other was "Illmatic"
That's a one hot album every ten year average
And that's so - LAAAAAAAME! Nigga switch up your flow
Your shit is garbage, but you try and kick knowledge?
(Get the fuck outta here) You niggaz gon' learn to respect the king
Don't be the next contestant on that Summer Jam screen
Because you know who (who) did you know what (what)
with you know who (yeah) but just keep that between me and you for now

R.O.C., we runnin this rap shit

M-Easy, we runnin this rap shit
The Broad Street Bully, we runnin this rap shit
Get zipped up in plastic when it happens that's it
Freeway, we run this rap shit
O & Sparks, we runnin this rap shit
Chris & Neef, we runnin this rap shit
"Watch out!! We run New York" -> [KRS-One]

A wise man told me don't argue with fools

Cause people from a distance can't tell who is who
So stop with that childish shit, nigga I'm grown
Please leave it alone - don't throw rocks at the throne
Do not bark up that tree, that tree will fall on you
I don't know why your advisors ain't forewarn you
Please, not Jay, he's, not for play
I don't slack a minute, all that thug rappin and gimmicks
I will end it, all that yappin be finished
You are not deep, you made your bed now sleep
Don't make me expose to them folks that don't know you
Nigga I know you well, all the stolen jew-els
Twinkletoes you breakin my heart
You can't fuck with me - go play somewhere, I'm busy
And all you other cats throwin shots at Jigga
You only get half a bar - fuck y'all niggaz

Eminem has now frequently been compared to Elvis, even proclaimed “the new Elvis,”
but the new Morrison would be more like it. Morrison was as dangerous and hell-
bent (or seemed to be) in the mid to late sixties than Elvis ever was. He was the
Eminem of his generation, and many of the later bad boys of rock took their cues
from him. He was, like Eminem/Slim Shady is, rather fearless, at least on stage
or in “persona.” For instance, not too many people are aware that Morrison was
the originator of the stage dive, recently mythically immortalized on celluloid by
Jack Black in the “School of Rock.” Almost before the opening credits end, Black,
playing rawker Dewey Finn, attempts to dive into a bar crowd and falls flat on his
face – no one wants to catch his manic, fat, sweaty body. But by the end of the
film he gets his rock ‘n’ roll redemption when he again jumps into the crowd and
is passed around, then safely back to the stage. I assume that Morrison was
always caught by his audience; nevertheless, to attempt such a fantastic
flight, let alone be the one to test it on an unexpecting crowd, must have
required either a lot of nerve, a lot of drugs, or both.
Morrison as Trickster, Clown (Bozo), and Holy Fool

I think of myself as an intelligent, sensitive human with the soul of a clown,

which always forces me to blow it at the most important moments.
I sigh. “Have you ever in your life given anybody a straight answer?”
“Christ,” he says, surprised, “I hope not.”
Never listen, promise me, to the promises of this trickster. -- Rumi

One of the first things that struck me as I began to look more deeply into
the character of Morrison was his sense of humor. If one were to simply judge by
the Doors songs played on the radio, and even from No One Here Gets Out Alive, one
gets the impression of a brooding, darkly serious, generally unsmiling person.
The situation is somewhat similar to the way in which we pale faces have viewed
and stereotyped the American Indians (or Native Americans) as being stoic and
largely humorless. In a chapter on “Indian Humor” from his Custer Died for Your
Sins: An Indian Manifesto, a book that Morrison may have read:

It has always been a great disappointment to Indian people that the humorous side
of Indian life has not been mentioned by professed experts on Indian Affairs.
Rather the image of the granite-faced grunting redskin has been perpetuated by
American mythology…
The Indian people are exactly opposite of the popular stereotype. I
sometimes wonder how anything is accomplished by Indians because of the apparent
overemphasis on humor within the Indian world. Indians have found a humorous side
of nearly every problem and the experiences of life have generally been so well
defined through jokes and stories that they have become a thing in themselves.

So, too, with Morrison the truth was quite the opposite: he had a very highly
developed sense of humor from the start of his career with the Doors (indeed, from
an early age), but for whatever reason, in the early days of the group he did not
let it show as much as later, at least publicly. Perhaps this was due to a
certain image he was trying to project; if one is jocular, particularly in regard
to oneself and one’s faults, it shows one’s vulnerability. Perhaps the Indians,
too, chose to not show their humorous side as much to white folk for this very
reason. Recall that Morrison’s grandmother had remarked that the morning the
Morrison family witnessed the Indians dying on the highway, very visibly pained
and upset, it surprised all of them as they had believed Indians to be more stoic.
According to her report, little Jimmy also grew very upset and was almost
inconsolable. Morrison and the Native Americans thus both suffered from the same
image problem, and reflecting on this again I wonder: perhaps there is a
Lester Bangs, the late great rock critic, claims that from the beginning he never
took Morrison seriously, even the most epic Doors songs like “The End” and “When
the Music’s Over” from the first two albums. Bangs discussed the clown or “Bozo”
aspect of Morrison in his retrospective piece, “Jim Morrison – Bozo Dionysus a
Decade Later.” Here’s an excerpt:

One thing that can never be denied Morrison is that at his best (as well as
perhaps his worst, or some of it at any rate) he had style, and as he was at his
best as a poet of dread, desire and psychic dislocation, so he was also at his
best as a clown. So it’s no wonder our responses got, and remain, a little

Morrison increasingly saw himself as a clown of sorts, as this excerpt from

a late interview with Salli Stevenson of Circus shows:
For a while there was a cycle in pop stardom where people looked up to pop stars
for their answers, forgetting that pop stars are people too. Now they seem to
have come from idols to heroes.
Using this definition that a hero is someone you can reach out to and an
idol is someone unreachable, do you consider yourself an idol or a hero?

“A hero is someone who rebels or seems to rebel against the facts of existence and
seems to conquer them. Obviously that can only work at moments. It can’t be a
lasting thing. That’s not saying that people shouldn’t keep trying to rebel
against the facts of existence. Someday, who knows, we might conquer death,
disease and war.”

What about you, though…

I think of myself as an intelligent, sensitive human being with the soul of a

clown, which always forces me to blow it at the most important moments.

Here I think Morrison was either a little ambivalent, or more likely, was being
purposefully elusive. On the one hand, he suggests that he himself has been a
hero of sorts – certainly he had rebelled against the facts of existence and
conquered them. Yet in his next statement about having the “soul of a clown,” he
ostensibly means that even in those moments when he could have been a hero, he
failed because he wasn’t cut out for it. Personally, though, reading deeper and
between the lines, I think he saw himself as a little of both (again, partly in
response to the popular press in which he was being described as “the Buffoon of
rock and roll,” among other things). As he wrote in a late poem (blatantly
autobiographical and reading almost like a journal entry):
A natural leader, a poet,
a Shaman, w/the
soul of a clown.

And elsewhere in his writings:

The bitter Poet-Madman is a clown

Treading the Boards

Holy fool” is as apt a title as any for Morrison, one that makes room for both the
heroic and the tragi-comic aspects of his persona.

Fowlie connects the clown (child?) and the angel: “And poets have been
reincarnated countless times in the clown who survives by some mysterious
principle of angelism (Rimbaud, Max Jacob, Apollinaire, Jim Morrison). (124)
Who is the angel for Fowlie?

But then there is Morrison’s trickster side, or rather sides as duplicity requires
a mate. And maybe one doesn’t need to take sides at all – maybe the trickster was
not a side, but his true self? As Patricia Keneally asked him (quoted above),
had he ever give anyone a straight answer in his life? And by “straight” I will
include any unselfconscious word or gesture. But this is going too far, for even
if Morrison was a god (whatever that means), he was also clearly “human-all-too-
human” (to borrow Nietzsche’s phrase), as well, as Keneally attests. He could
show his vulnerability at times, and he could be sincere and honest when the
situation called for it. Consider the following ostensibly painfully honest
revelation, taken from a relatively early interview with Morrison:

The only time I really open up is onstage. The mask of performing gives it to me,
a place where I hide myself then I can reveal myself
Still, I don’t think it going too far to wonder whether even this was just another
mask (as Oliver Stone wonders aloud in his movie). Then again, honesty and
sincerity do seem more godlike than human traits.
But perhaps Morrison was a trickster at heart, in which case he was being
true to himself. To continue the Native American theme of this section:

The best-known archetypal figure in American Indian mythology is the trickster….

This mysterious and often outrageous character is promiscuous and amoral and often
takes animal form –Spider in Africa, Brer Rabbit in the American South, and Raven
and Coyote among Native American peoples. Yet he is also inventive and sometimes
serves as the primary assistant to the supreme creator. Sometimes he is a culture
hero or god, as in the case of the Indian Krishna or the Great Hare of the
American Indian plains and woodlands. Carl Jung saw the trickster as “an earlier
rudimentary stage of consciousness,” possessing untamed appetites not yet tempered
by a social conscience. Jung also saw in the creative aspect of the trickster a
hint of later shamanic “medicine people” and savior culture heroes. Like the
shaman, the trickster can change forms at will and transcend human limitations.
Even his excessive eroticism suggests his creative power, his drive to create new
things and ideas.

This seems as apt a description of Morrison as any (indeed, it seems almost as if

the authors had him in mind). Clearly Morrison had a social conscience, but his
behavior was erratic and eccentric and often suggested contempt for established
norms and patterns. Was he showing off (as showman), or showing the way (as
shaman)? A little bit of both?
Let’s consider a few examples of Morrison’s trickster-like behavior. We have
already considered the way in which he manipulated the media, now let’s look at
his legendary attempts at crowd manipulation:
When asked why he decided to wear a gold crucifix at their Hollywood Bowl
performance, he replied, “I like the symbol visually, plus it will confuse
That is, people will be confused as to why this man who was rebelled against
conventional institutions like the Church and the traditional symbols connected
with them would opt to be seen in public wearing a cross? Answer: just to keep
‘em guessing.
At another concert in Florida, where Morrison had been a college student at
Tallahassee: “Anyone here from Tallahassee?” Some of the fans cheer. “I used to
live in Tallahassee, then I got smart and moved to California.”
Another concert he talks to the fans about astrology: “I’m a
Sagittarius, the most philosophic of the signs.” This is the Sixties, and the
fans eat it up. One woman in particular screams, “I love you, Jim! I’m [a
Sagittarius], too!” Then Morrison says, “But I don’t believe it [astrology] – I
think it’s all a bunch of bullshit myself.” The woman obsequiously screams, “I
do, too, Jim!” It’s hilarious.
Again, this begs the question as to what exactly Jim Morrison believed about
anything? Here he is (or isn’t!) in that same late interview with Salli
Stevenson at his most playful and shape-shifting:

How do you think you’ll die?

I hope at about age 120 with a sense of humor and a nice comfortable bed. I
wouldn’t want anybody around. I’d just want to drift quietly off, but I’m still
holding out. I think it’s very possible that science has a chance in our lifetime
to conquer death.
There are many people who believe in reincarnation and spirits. If medical
science were to do that, what would happen to their spirit world?

They’d just have to fend for themselves. Leave us poor immortals alone.

I take it you don’t believe in Karma or reincarnation or the occult beliefs.

No, not really, but since I don’t have anything else to replace it with, I listen
to everything. I don’t say no.

What do you believe in then?

We evolved from snakes and I used to see the universe as a mammoth peristaltic
snake. I used to see all the people and objects and landscapes as little pictures
on the facets of their skins. I think the peristaltic motion is the basic life
movement and even your basic unicellular structures have this same motion. It’s
swallowing, digestion, the rhythms of sexual intercourse. [Salli Stevenson,
Circus, October 14, 1970]

This is so confusing and deceitful one doesn’t know where to begin. One can
only wonder why Morrison went to such lengths to conceal his true identity (if
there was one?) One obvious answer is that as he was “interested in freedom,” he
refused any attempt to be pinned down. For how can a dyed-in-the-wool iconoclast
ever consent to be made into an icon? Another possibility is that he realized
after awhile that he would always be misquoted and/or misunderstood anyway, so why
even try? And perhaps there was a part of him – the little Jimmy in him -- that
just found the trickster life pure fun, and he delighted in shaking people up,
making them think, seeing their reactions…
“Let’s just say I was testing the bounds of reality. I was curious to see
what would happen. That’s all it was: curiosity.”

I don’t think that this playful, childlike aspect – the Krishna trickster-
leela aspect of Morrison, if you will – can or should be downplayed. Krishna-
like, too, were Morrison’s playful but not possessive relations with numerous
women. There were so many in so little time that one wonders where the man found
the time, or did he magically reduplicate himself so as to satisfy all of his
paramours, as the boy cowherd had done with the gopis? Such a question can be
somewhat seriously asked as, for instance, the factuality of Linda Ashcroft’s book
Wild Child , which purportedly deals with Ashcroft’s relationship with Morrison
based on letters and her diary accounts, has been challenged. Ashcroft claims to
have spent a good deal of time with Morrison in the late sixties, while Salli
Stevenson (formerly a journalist for Circus magazine) went to considerable lengths
to show that Morrison could not possibly have spent all that time with her as his
busy schedule and touring and so on just did not allow for it. Yet Ashcroft’s
book comes across as too genuine to be a complete fiction. So was Morrison a
master of the occult power of bi-location, did Ashcroft have her dates wrong, or
Wild Child: The Child Archetype

Wild Child
Full of grace
Savior of the
Human race…
Remember when we were in Africa?

Childhood is a recurring theme in Morrison’s poems and songs. Partly this

is due to his depth and sensitivity as a person and artist. He no doubt reflected
a great deal on his childhood, which shows some courage if it was an unhappy one,
though it seems that his adolescence was more troubled than his early youth.

The child and the poet spend their richest hours in the realm of the imagination.
The imagination of a child is autonomous, without responsibility, whereas the
imagination of the artist is charged with all the meaning of life. In the heart
of this being we have been calling clown or vouyou or wanderer, his imagination
exists thanks to an immense courage. The courage of his imagination is the
temporal and spiritual measurement of every artist. (Fowlie, p123) See also pp.
36-48 on “The Myth of Childhood”

The Divine Child
Dead Poet’s Society – young death
Morrison, Rimbaud, and Professor Fowlie – Le Myth de Rimbaud and Le Myth de
Oliver Stone – tell small lies in order to reveal larger truths/Eddie and the
St. John of the Cross – “”Knowledge of pure truth requires, for its proper
explanation, that God should hold the hand and wield the pen of the writer.
(Paulsen , 5)
The Lords of Rock and Euhemerism

“Generations to come, it may be, will scarce believe that such a one as this ever
in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.” (Einstein on Gandhi)

“The King is gone but he’s not forgotten…” (Neil Young)

Today we use the term “cult of personality” for the following which a charismatic
leader or artist attracts, particularly after their untimely death. It used to be
that just the term cultus (a Latin word meaning “adoration”) was used, as before
the dawn of the Enlightenment and our secular age, such great figures were more
easily apotheosized and worshipped in an actual cult. Not so anymore. I suspect
that not many people today worship Martin Luther King or even Elvis (though the
latter does have something of a cult following – see above). Yet in parts of the
world where secularism and/or Christianity has not widely spread, such as India,
it is more likely that someone like Gandhi will be deified and actually revered
and adored as a Mahatma, a great soul and incarnation of Vishnu, the Preserver.
This is in accordance with Hindu tradition, of course, as any great master
(political or spiritual) can and usually is accorded divine status, if not in
their lifetimes, then afterwards (and as Einstein’s eulogy above suggests, the
further we get from the actual human being, the more room for the “myth” to grow).
Some have argued that Rama was a king during his lifetime, a political leader like
Gandhi, and only after his death did he become Sri or Lord Rama, the avatar of
Vishnu who today is paid obeisance in millions of Indian households; so too with
Sri/Lord Krishna. Which brings me to the theory of myth known as Euhemerism.
Euhemeris was a Greek historian who wrote a book around 400 B.C. in which he
claimed that the gods were originally earthly kings who had been deified either
during their lifetimes or afterward. The idea that a king would be considered a
god is well known; in fact, it seems that most if not all of the kings of the
ancient world were accorded divine attributes, if not divine status. The
Egyptian Pharaohs are a typical example. Another more pertinent one is Alexander
the Great, who was apparently considered to be an incarnation of Helios, the sun
god (Morrison at first modeled his hair style after that of Alexander, thereby
intimating that he was imitating more than that).
And let’s not forget that Jesus was called King, too. So was Elvis…and Morrison.
Elvis was the “King of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” a title that was bestowed upon him
quite early in his career – 1957. Frank Sinatra may have wanted to be “King of
the Hill, top of the heap,” but it was a pipe dream; Elvis was King. And a
decade later, when the Beatles and the Stones were all the rave and Elvis’ career
seemed in a settled slump, Elvis doggedly re-ascended the crest of the Mount in
his famous 1968 “comeback concert” from Hawaii which was broadcast to millions.
Not long after Phil Ochs recorded the song “Ticket Home” in which he paid
obeisance to His Highness: “Elvis Presley is the King!/ I was at his crowning,”
Ochs sang, leading one to wonder whether he meant his original crowning in ’57, or
his “Return of the King” crowning in ’68? The timing of the Ochs’ recording
strongly suggests the latter.
In “Ticket Home,” Ochs also sings the line “Everywhere you look, there’s a
billboard on a throne,” a reference to the recent record company advertising
scheme of displaying pictures of rock stars on billboards. Interestingly enough,
the Doors were the very first group in rock history to have their images looming
larger-than-life over a booming metropolis (in this case, L.A.’s Sunset Strip).
And what an image it was! As Dalton puts it, Morrison looks like an “Angelino
Shiva” with the other Doors all looking at him as if that is exactly who he is.
In other words, the Doors were the first rock gods, or hell, at least lords.
Ochs was correctly suggesting that rock stars were suddenly being treated like
royalty (which of course meant more royalties for them and their record
companies), and the effect on the popular consciousness was most likely immense –
they were seen as Lords. People were saying “Clapton is God”; John Lennon could
claim, with not a great deal of facetiousness, that the Beatles were “bigger than
Jesus.” I should note that Ochs, an older and wiser veteran of the Greenwich
Village scene of the early Sixties, personally thought that Morrison and the Doors
were small potatoes – he for one did not worship or even celebrate their arrival
on the scene, as he had Elvis’.
Yet it wasn’t long before Morrison, like Elvis, was ironically dubbed “The King,”
though his full title was “The King of Orgasmic Rock.” Partly this moniker
originated from Morrison’s referring to himself as “The Lizard King,” and partly
because of his purposefully taking the role of a sex symbol. Yet even earlier,
as we have seen, Morrison saw himself as a Morrison Rex; relatively early he had
become convinced that he was different, somehow special. An art professor once
remarked that Morrison sang as if Edgar Allan Poe had blown back as a hippie. The
image is not inapt. Poe had wrote of himself:
From childhood’s hour
I have not been as others were
I have not seen as others saw
I could not bring
my passions from a common spring

Now we can ask: If Elvis was King of Rock and Roll, and Morrison was the
King of Orgasmic Rock , and Joan Baez was the Queen of Folk, and Michael Jackson
is the King of Pop, and so on, we may reasonably wonder: So what? Why do people
feel the need to dub or proclaim an artist as a King or Queen of anything? And
why is there no King or Queen of, say, painting, or filmmaking, or poetry, or
theater? Why should popular music icons be different than other artists? It
seems to me that music can the most profoundly inspire a kind of religious fervor,
offering as it does intimations of immortality (to use Wordsworth’s phrase); I
think that Morrison was well-aware of the religio-mythopoeic implications of rock
music, and its great potential for mass transformation.

At the end of The Lords, you define the Lords as the people that are controlling
art. Did I understand that right?

Strangely enough, that’s what I meant. Not controlling art necessarily. What
that book is a lot about is the feeling of powerlessness and helplessness that
people have in the face of reality. They have no control over events or their own
lives. Something is controlling them. The closest they ever get is the television
set. In creating this idea of the Lords, it also came to reverse itself. Now to
me the Lords mean something entirely different. I couldn’t really explain. It’s
like the opposite. Somehow the Lords are a romantic race of people who have found
a way to control their environment and their own lives. They’re somehow different
from other people.

Is there a particular person you could think of…?

No, it’s not about any particular person.

Oh no?
Euhemerism II: A Recent Case from India

He must be a God, otherwise how could he touch so many lives?

Recently I attended a South Indian language conference held a the
Philadelphia Convention Center where someone was giving out copies of an English-
language newspaper printed in India called the “India Tribune” (dated July 30,
2001). Reading through the newspaper I came across an article entitled “Bachchan
Puja on Guru Purnima,” and prepared myself for something on the annual Indian
festival, Gurupurnima, which celebrates the guru (only a week away -- July 5th).
I knew the Sanskrit work “puja” means “worship,” but I didn’t know who or what
“Bachchan” was. Then I looked at the photo in the midst of the text and saw a
youngish, clean-shaven man dressed in like a designer sweater of some sort with
the caption “Amitabh Bachchan” underneath. Apparently, this was the man who was
to be worshipped or puja-ed to. But he does not look like a guru, I thought –
where is his long beard and saffron robe? And he’s kind of got a tough-guy look
on his face. Then I began reading:

A new celestial power to be worshipped this year: Kalyug’s Narayan Avtaar, better
known as Amitabh Bachchan.

Oh, this is saying that Amitabh Bachchan is an incarnation of Vishnu

(Narayan), I thought. So he is a guru, after all; nay, even more than that – He
is God Himself. Then the article began to discuss how this Avatar would be

“We will worship our devta [God] in the way of a traditional Satyanarayan Puja.
In the evening, when Guru Purnima sets in, we will hold Aradhana,” says
association secretary S; P. Kmata. Prasad

The article goes on to say that the poor and under-priveleged would be fed,
blood donated to sick children, etc., also in accordance with Hindu custom. But
then I read the following:
From September 28 to 30, the Calcutta Information Center will host the “Journey of
a Legend” exhibition, with pictures and information for “crazed fans” who want to
find out all they can about their guru. Essay, drawing and photography
competitions will also be organized.

Okay, I thought, religious people may oftentimes be “fanatics,” but seldom

are they called “fans”; nor are gods or gurus ever referred to as a “legend” –
this guy must be a famous Bollywood film star whom I’ve never heard of because I’m
not a big Bollywood buff. The last paragraph of the article was the kicker:

To top it all, the association is hunting for a plot in the Dum Dum area to erect
a permanent temple-museum to their hero. “We will have a complete collection of
all his films. But the main attraction will be a statue of guruji. Anyone
entering has to either read or listen to his endearing film lines, like a prayer…
He must be God, otherwise how could he touch so many lives?” [bold mine]

The Bollywood film star as God. Why not? If one were to compare the adoration
that the Indian movie stars and starlets versus that which are given to the
traditional gods and gurus, I would bet it’s a pretty close contest. In a country
of a billion people and one as tolerant of different paths as India, you are bound
to see many different ways of approaching God.
The question is: What is the difference between what we just saw in the article
about Bachchan and the kind of adoration and glorification of movie and rock stars
in the West? On the one hand, when we consider the case of Elvis and the quasi-
religious cult surrounding him, it is hard to make a hard and fast distinction.
The cases seem very similar. On the other hand, Jim Morrison is not worshipped in
the same way (to the best of my knowledge) and I doubt we will see poor people fed
and children cared for in his name any time soon. Nevertheless, we do have the
case of Elvis, and there are groups who do charitable work in his name (in
addition to worshipping him in a religious way). Elvis may be an anomaly, but I
would suggest that were it not for the ingrained taboo against worshipping a human
being as God (anyone except Jesus) in the Christian West, in addition to a
relatively greater intolerance toward other paths than we see in India, our media
superstars would be worshipped in a very similar way to how they are in India.
And I would suggest the inner feeling of fascinans is probably very similar cross-
culturally, even though the outer expression of that feeling may take different
This, to me, is a modern form of Euhemerism where Media stars, not kings, are the
new Gods. Only today, the mega-stars are already considered Gods before they pass
on, whereas according to Euhemerism, it took some time before kings became
divinized. Of course, the Egyptian Pharaohs were worshipped as divine
manifestations during their rule, so it may be that the ancient and modern
situation is somewhat parallel.
Euhemerism in the New Millennium –
Superstar Paraphernalia and Using ‘God’ as a “Secular Superlative”

As a kid growing up in America, if you have your own room or even if you don’t,
it’s not uncommon to have some kind of superstar paraphernalia adorning your room,
particularly its walls. I am referring here mainly to the posters of your
favorite heroes, whether they be sport, music, film, or otherwise, but mainly
those three. Very seldomly in a kid’s room will you find actions shots of the
“old old school” heroes like Moses, Jesus, Charleton Heston, Guru Nanak; but
rather the heroes of the day: Michael Jordan, David Beckham, John Lennon, etc.
In Europe things seem to be not much different. The movie “Bend it Like Beckham”
is a case in point. This heartwarming, feel-good flick tells the story of a young
Sikh girl in England whose dream it is to play soccer. Her hero is David Beckham
and she has a poster of him right above her bed. Meanwhile, downstairs in the
family room is a painting of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism,

Using ‘God’ as Secular Superlative Doesn’t Sit Well With Everyone

“Seen God lately? Look closer at the signs in the stands or the beer in your hand.
According to some, he’s everywhere.
Fans of European soccer star David Beckham show their appreciation by
filling the Internet with “Becks is God” posts. Some replica jerseys have
replaced the name “Beckham” on the back with “God.” St. Louis Cardinals phenom
Albert Pujols has been praised with an “Albert is God” sign at the ballpark.
A check of recent news stories finds similar references to Tour de France champion
Lance Armstrong, with “Lance is God” signs held aloft along the race route; a
connoisseur who described a particular Belgian beer as “God in a bottle;” and an
article from South Africa in which Nelson Mandela is referred to by a supporter as
“the second Jesus.”
People are even talking about God’s TV habits. Recently, Federal Communications
Commission Chairman Michael Powell referred to the digital recorder TiVo as “God’s
Even though it’s becoming more and more popular, using the word “God” as a
superlative doesn’t sit well with everyone.
“It’s not something to play around with,” said Dr. Russell Bush, academic vice
president at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest. “I think
the name ought to be recognized with reverence.”
It’s not an entirely new phenomenon, as guitar hero Eric Clapton was treated to
“Clapton is God” graffiti earlier in his career. But it’s one that seems to be
Bush doesn’t believe fans with signs are using them to make a literal point that
Beckham is God. They’re only showing their support, as in “Beckham is No. 1,” but
it could have been done in a different way.
“I just think it’s a poor choice, but I don’t get emotionally offended by it.
There are other ways they could have made the same point that would have been just
as good,” he said. The increasing use of God in this way isn’t a sign
that the culture as a whole is leaning away from God, said Kristin L. Fitch, an
associate professor a the University of Iowa. Fitch works in the Department of
Communication Studies, researching the way language helps to from culture.
“If anything, U.S. culture is leaning more toward organized religion,” she
said. “Fundamentalism is stronger than it has ever been.”
Perhaps, Fitch theorizes, the increasing use of the word God like this on
signs and in conversation is a form of subtle resistance to the increasing
“It’s intriguing,” she said. “The only kind of people who would say this are
the ones who are not even partly religious. If you took God at all seriously, you
wouldn’t put David Beckham or TiVo on that plane.”
Bush agreed. “Most church people probably don’t like the name of God being
used in such a superficial way,” he said.
While respecting someone else’s opinion to express their feelings, Bush
wonders why people would risk offending believers with their signs and shirts.
“Not everybody has to think the same way I do, but I think they should
revere the name of God as a common courtesy for those of us who believe,” Bush
“The Bible says we shouldn’t take God’s name in vain. People should be
cautious about using the name of God for something that’s purely secular.”
As for David Beckham, who has gained worldwide acclaim for his bendable penalty
kicks and his marriage to a Spice girl, the image of him as God-like seems a bit
unreasonable to some who know a little something about soccer.
Carolina Courage defender Danielle Slaton doesn’t believe that “Becks is God.” He
might not even be the best in the world right now and his image as God is a little
“Is he a great player? Yes. Is he the best player? I don’t know,” said Slaton,
an Olympic silver medallist.
“I don’t know why he’s so popular. Maybe because he has a good agent.”
God, perhaps?
The Function of Myth in a Desacralized World – Eliade and Campbell

If God did not exist, man would feel the need to create him. -- Voltaire

People need myth. So claim students of mythology like Mircea Eliade and
Joseph Campbell. In his The Sacred and The Profane, Eliade argued that
[T]he majority of men “without religion” still hold to pseudo religions and
degenerated mythologies. There is nothing surprising in this, for, as we saw,
profane man is the descendant of homo religiosus and he cannot wipe out his own
history – that is, the behavior of his religious ancestors which has made him what
he is today. This is all the more true because a great part of his existence is
fed by impulses that come to him from the depths of his being, from the zone that
has been called the “unconscious.” A purely rational man is an abstraction; he is
never found in real life…

Eliade wrote the above in the mid-fifties, just as rock and roll was
breaking through into the collective consciousness. I am not aware if Eliade said
anything about the mythological aspects of rock music, but from the above he
perhaps would have used the terms “pseudo religion” and “degenerated mythology” to
refer to almost cult-like atmosphere surrounding rock stars. As I have shown
elsewhere in this paper, there are no mean similarities between the cult of Jesus
and the cult of Elvis (or the cult of Krishna). Watch the footage of the young
girls (and boys) at the early Beatles concerts screaming hysterically and tearing
their hair and the comparison with religious ecstasy seems unmistakable. Those
girls may not have been religious in the conventional sense, but that they were
acting religiously in that context, the stadium their church and the four mop tops
the clergymen, is (to my mind at least) beyond question.
Think of the other degenerated or “profane” myths that we seculars enjoy
without thinking of them as myths: football games (which Morrison enjoyed), the
Star Wars saga (Campbell mentions this in The Hero with a Thousand Faces), our
nuclear capacity, and modern space exploration. As for the latter, we hardly
think twice anymore when the latest shuttle mission to Mars or wherever is
announced by the media. But is this any more or less remarkable than when we read
in the Hindu epics that they had flying machines that could fly from world to
world, or which they made and used weapons of mass destruction? On this point,
the rock band R.E.M. have an interesting song called “Man on the Moon” which asks
the musical question: Is putting a man on the moon any more or less incredible
that Moses’ miracles, or the “myth” of Newton’s discovery of the law of gravity by
getting beamed by an apple? Indeed, for years it was believed (and is still
believed by some) that the whole moon expedition was a hoax put over on the
American people (and the world) by the government. Which is harder to believe?
But if all this is so, what function do these modern myths serve? What good
does it do anyone to believe that Elvis or the Beatles or Jim Morrison are
immortals (Lords?) walking the earth? Why the hysteria and often fanatical
devotion? To say charisma would be to facilely answer a complex question. For
just what is charisma, where does it come from, why does it exert such a powerful
effect over people, particularly the young and impressionable?
My own understanding of this is that most people need someone or something
to inspire them to evolve into a higher level of awareness -- “to deliver people
from the limited ways in which they see and feel,” as Morrison put it. Jim
Morrison was definitely about waking people up, often by shaking them up. He was
consciously playing the part of the gadfly, no less than Socrates or Jesus was.
This was their mission, and their charisma helped them to get the attention of the
populace in their respective generations. For purposes of brevity here, I feel
constrained to leave the development of this idea (by no means new) for a later
time. But before I close, I want to leave you with Morrison’s thoughts on the
function of the Woodstock festival on his generation, from an interview conducted
in 1970. On the one hand he agrees with his interviewer that Woodstock and
similar festivals of its kind are not all that they are hyped (read: mythologized)
to be, but on the other hand “the Woodstock myth,” if you will, could have a
salutary effect on the culture:

I’m sure that these things get highly romanticized but I was kind of that opinion
myself when I saw the film. It seemed like a bunch of young parasites, being kind
of spoonfed this three or four days of…I think that even though they are a mess,
and even though they are not what they pretend to be, some free celebration of a
young culture, it’s still better than nothing. And I’m sure that some of the
people take away a kind of myth back to the city with them, and it’ll affect them.
This is the End, Beautiful Friend

I’m Me!
Can you dig it.
My meat is real.
My hands – how they move
Balanced like lithe demons
My hair – so twined and writhing
The skin of my face – pinch the cheeks
My flaming sword tongue
Spraying verbal fire-flys
I’m real.
I’m human
But I’m not an ordinary man
No No No

When I presented some of these ideas in my class on mythology, one criticism

that was thrown my way was so what, there are a lot of men with “messiah
complexes” out there. Why should we spend so much time looking at some rebel rock
stars that were arrogant enough to put themselves on the same footing as Jesus or
Jehovah? Another criticism was that I should have stuck to less “ephemeral”
examples, like John Lennon’s claiming that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus.
But is Elvis an ephemeral example? And is Jim Morrison going to go away any time
soon? Their legend is anything if not growing by the day. Sure they may have
been a bit megalomaniacal, but they were at least partly responding to the
excessive adulation – adulation that bordered on idolization (and often crossed
that border) -- they received. People did not see them as ordinary men, and thus
their self-image grew to epic proportions.
They knew they were human beings, of course – they felt pain, cried, loved,
laughed, passed wind and had bowel movements (to the best of my knowledge)…just
like other human beings. But they also came to see themselves, if not fully
divine as well, then at least divine messengers sent to help suffering humanity
evolve to a higher level of consciousness. And even if their fan base had not
been so large, or even if it had been non-existent, they would still make a
fascinating study. As I responded to my critic in class, I think anyone with a
messiah complex is an interesting subject, but rock superstars are even more
interesting for the great influence they exert on society -- even among those who
don’t take them very seriously. I should also add that not all of these rock
stars had messiah complexes, and yet they were still considered divine
incarnations of a sort. Though Dalton refers to Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis
Joplin as a trinity of “Psychedelic Avatars,” as far as I am aware, only Morrison
openly welcomed and even prompted such talk.
Avatar or not, to me Jim Morrison was a prophet-poet, in the same lineage as the
Vedic rishis and Biblical prophets, Muhammad, Moshe de Leon, William Blake, Walt
Whitman, etc. That is, he like those others, had certain visions that he felt
compelled to share with his fellow human beings. He may have failed to completely
and convincingly relate his visionary experiences, but then what mystic ever has?
William James noted that one characteristic of mystical experience is its
ineffability (connected to its paradoxical nature). Robert Frost once said that
“half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the
other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.” Morrison was one of
those who had what to say, and though he certainly could and did express in verse
his mystical revelations, it was perhaps not to the extent he would have wished:
Regret for wasted nights
& wasted years
I pissed it all away
American music
One’s deeper, more subtle epiphanies are hard to get across. Morrison’s “mythic
concert” that I discussed earlier never made it out from the recesses of his
memory; it seems he left us a pale imitation of that experience. It is almost as
if he felt compelled to construct a myth of his own because he could not
adequately express the one that was revealed to him. In any case, that is a long
way of my suggesting that much of mythology stems from the poet-prophet’s
visionary experience.
Yet maybe Morrison was more than that, I don’t know. Maybe he was a divine
descent – an incarnation of Shiva, or Dionysus. And just maybe he really was part
of a trinity with Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. All three died within nine
months of each other of a drug overdose (when Morrison heard the other two had
died, he began telling his friends, “I’m number three), and the first name of all
three began with a “J”(!)
But there’s another mythic possibility which I want to raise before closing: Some
are of the view that many of the rock and roll groups that achieved superstardom
in the Sixties had made Faustian pacts with the devil in order to reach the peak
they did, and this is itself is an old blues motif (listen to Robert Johnson, or
see Brother, Where Art Thou?). And once Satan had fulfilled his side of the
bargain, they in turn had to give the devil his due, usually in the form of a
blood sacrifice – one of the band members had to die. Perhaps the classic example
is Led Zeppelin, who were widely believed for a time to have been dabbling in
Satanism, and who in the seventies lost their beloved drummer. But it seems that
every “Supergroup” of that period lost one of their members: The Who (Keith Moon),
Led Zeppelin (John Bonham), the Rolling Stones (Brian Jones), the Doors
(Morrison), the Beatles (John Lennon), Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain,
Freddie Mercury, etc. In other words, far from being gods and goddesses, these
were just young kids who proverbially “sold their souls” to the devil to get rich
and famous. Or so think those of more fundamentalist bent, but even some rock
fans as well. Rock and roll as the agent of Satan? Not improbable. There may
be something to it. Mick Jagger and his Rolling Stones were the Sixties band to
play this the most to the hilt (AC DC were their heirs), but Morrison also
explored the possibility:
Me and the Devil – Gonna take you on a long and evil ride [Robert Johnson]
It’s possible, of course. But in the final analysis it’s just another
“reading.” And why is it any more probable than Morrison’s own mythic explanation
of how he got where he did? It’s not, of course. Obviously there can be
multiple explanatory myths for a given phenomenon. For example, the world exists,
but every culture has its own cosmogonic myth or myths explaining the origins of
the universe and our place in it. So too, Jim Morrison was a phenomenon; however
one chooses to explain that phenomenon, he was still a phenomenon, and thus myth-
worthy. Whether a god, a devil (or the devil’s servant), an angel, a prophet-
poet, or just very gifted individual who was skilled at media manipulation, Jim
Morrison makes for a very fascinating study from the perspective of mythology.

Dead Poet’s Society

The poet makes himself a visionary by a long derangement of all the senses. --

The ancient tradition that world will be

consumed in fire at the end of six thousand years
is true. As I have heard from Hell.
For the cherub with his flaming sword is
hereby commanded to leave his guard at the the
of life, and when he does, the whole creation will
be consumed, and appear infinite. And holy
whereas it now appears finite & corrupt.
This will come to pass by an improvement of
sensual enjoyment.
But first the notion that man has a body dis-
tinct from his soul, is to be expunged; this I shall
do, by printing in the infernal method, by corro-
sives, which in Hell are salutary and medicinal,
melting apparent surfaces away, and displaying the
infinite which was hid.
If the doors of perception were cleansed every
thing would appear to man as it is: infinite.
For man has closed himself up, till he sees all
things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.

- William Blake (1793)

John Keats, 26. John Milton? Arthur Rimbaud, French symbolist poet, 37. Sylvia
Kurt Cobain, Phil Ochs, Richard Farina, Nick Drake

Whitman – “An essay by a young playwright, Harvey Perr, appearing in the Los
Angeles Free Press was a new appreciation of the Doors. Perr wrote of the
simplicity of the songs. He was one of the first critics to speak of Jim as
authentic poet in the Walt Whitman tradition in American poetry.” (88)

I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –

Emily Dickinson

Not all poets have died young, of course, nor all rock stars. Why Jim
Morrison and not Bob Dylan or Neil Young? Why Rimbaud and not Whitman or
Ginsberg? On the whole, it seems the more rebellious ones died young.
Too fast to live, too young to die.

Jim Croce

“I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd gives his life for the sheep…I lay
down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:11, 15) Hermes as the Good Shepherd

Fowlie – “Art gives charm and beauty to terrible things. That is its power and
its glory. It is hard for us to accept the truth that art is doom – a harsh doom
for the artist who survives in his art but not as a living human being. The
absoluteness of this destiny is apparent in John Keats and John Milton, as well as
in the far more simple example of a rock singer who helped to compose the lyrics
and the music of his songs.” (103)

Morrison, Rimbaud, and Professor Fowlie

“Their numbers do not at all equal those of the pilgrims who visit Jim Morrison’s
grave in Paris. But the pilgrimage to Charleville may last longer than the
pilgrimage to Paris.” (9)

“Compared with the poetry of Villon and Rimbaud, Morrison’s work appears as a
reflection of great poetry. But the reflection is obsessive and subtle…” (123)

some mistakes – Fowlie says that critics look on the last album as the weakest of
the six original albums, though not sure where he got this

Professor Morrison’s Lollipop Shop

Appendix A

The Gospel According to James D. Morrison

1) Indians scattered on dawn’s highway bleeding

Ghosts crowd a young child’s fragile, eggshell mind

Me and my, uh, mother and father and my grandmother and grandfather, were driving
through the desert at dawn, and a truckload of Indian workers had either hit
another car -- or I don’t know what happened. But there were Indians scattered
all over the highway, bleeding to death. So the car pulls up and stops. That was
the first time I tasted fear. I must have been about four. Like a child is like
a flower -- it’s head is just floating in the breeze, man. The reaction I get
now, thinking about it, looking back, is that the souls of the ghosts of those
dead Indians, maybe one or two of them, were just running around, freaking out,
and just leaped into my soul…a they’re still there. Peace Frog/Leap Frog
2) In that year there was
An intense visitation
Of energy.
I left school & went down
To the beach to live.
I slept on a roof.
At night the moon became
A woman’s face
I met the Spirit of Music. (poem: In That Year)
3) “…I heard in my head a whole concert situation, with a band singing and an
audience – a large audience. Those first five or six songs I wrote, I was just
taking notes at a fantastic rock concert that was going on inside my head…I just
started hearing songs. I think I still have the notebook with those songs written
in it. This kind of mythic concert that I heard…I’d like to try to reproduce it
sometime, either in actuality or on record. I’d like to reproduce what I heard on
the beach that day.” (Lizard King, p. 219)
4) “I’m interested in anything about revolt, disorder, chaos, especially activity
that appears to have no meaning. It seems to me to be the road toward freedom.”
(publicity statement for Doors first album)
5) “Let’s just say I was testing the bounds of reality. I was curious to see what
would happen. That’s all it was: curiosity.”
6) “They claim everyone was born, but I don’t recall it. Maybe I was having one
of my blackouts.”
7) “Whoever controls the media controls the mind.”
8) “Call us erotic politicians.”
9) “I think that more than writing and music, my greatest talent is that I have an
instinctive knack of self-image propagation…”
10) “He sought exposure and lived the horror of trying to assemble a myth before a
billion dull dry ruthless eyes.” (Morrison in Eye; in Riordan and Prochnicky, p.
11) I was doing time in the Universal Mind
I was turning keys
I was setting people free
I’m the Freedom Man
That’s just how lucky I am
12) Do you know the warm progress
under the stars?
Do you know we exist?
Have you forgotten the keys
to the Kingdom?
Have you been borne yet
& are you alive?

Let’s reinvent the gods, all the myths

of the ages
Celebrate symbols from deep elder forests
[Have you forgotten the lessons
of the ancient war]
13) Once I had, a little game
I liked to crawl, back in my brain
I think you know, the game I mean
I mean the game, called ‘go insane’

Now you should try, this little game

Just close your eyes, forget your name
Forget the world, forget the people
And we’ll erect a different steeple.

This little game, is fun to do.

Just close your eyes, no way to lose.
And I’m right there, I’m going too
Release control, we’re breaking Thru
14) I am the Lizard King
I can do anything
I can make the earth stop in its tracks
I made the blue cars go away.
15) We need great golden copulations
16) Oedipus Rex According to JDM

The killer awoke before dawn,

He put his boots on.
He took a face from the ancient gallery,
And he walked on down the hall.

He went into the room

Where his sister lived and,
Then he
Paid a visit to his brother,
And then he,
He walked on down the hall.

And he came to a door,

And he looked inside,
“Yes, son?”
“I want to kill you.
Mother, I want to…”
17) Did you know freedom exists
in a school book
18) We have assembled inside this ancient
& insane theater
To propagate our lust for life
19) Always a playground instructor, never a killer
20) The Negroes in the forest brightly feathered
And they are saying, forget the night
Come live with us in forests of azure
Out here on the perimeter there are no stars
Out here we is stoned, immaculate
21) Mr. Mojo Risin’
Got to keep on risin’
Risin’ risin’!
(Jim Morrison = Mr. Mojo Risin’)
22) This is the End
Beautiful friend
This is the End
My only friend, the End

When the music’s over

Turns out the lights

For the music is your special friend

Dance on fire as it intends
Music is your only friend
Until the end

And I’ll say it again

I need a brand new friend
The End
23) Did you have a good world when you died –
enough to base a movie on?
24) resident mockery
give us an hour for magic
25) O great creator of being
Grant us one more hour to
perform our art
& perfect our lives
Appendix B

Remember When We Were in Africa?

The LA Woman Phenomenon

Before I had read much about the Doors and the making of their records,
etc., I was convinced that Morrison and the other Doors had planned LA Woman as
their swansong. It almost seemed as if both Morrison and the band knew that this
was Morrison and the band’s final fling together, and soon their beloved band/ring
leader would be gone for good. There are just too many hints to Jim’s grand
unraveling, and even a sense that he was on his way to Africa. Like I said, it
almost seemed as if he and the band were conspiring together and leaving some
clues here and there on the last record.
The album is a blues record disguised as a rock and roll album. While only
half of the ten songs are pure blues, almost all of the other songs are based on a
blues progression of sorts. For instance, Riders on the Storm and Love Her Madly
use a blues progression and incorporates jazz elements (it is not that Bo Diddley
covers the latter song on Stoned Immaculate); Hyacinth House repeats the first
line of each verse twice as per the blues; even LA Woman, for all its jazz-
inspired elements has Morrison sounding like an old blues master. All of this is
not so strange as the Doors, like so many of the rock artists in the sixties, had
been heavily influenced by African-American music. But even more than this, the
Doors had been planning to do a blues album, and Morrison apparently didn’t want
to do anything but blues at that point. Already on the Doors record prior to this
one, Morrison Hotel, for which Morrison wrote most of the lyrics and the music,
one can detect a movement toward the blues; the record ends with “Maggie M’gill,”
a blues number which ends with Morrison singing:
I’m an old blues man
And I think that you understand
I’ve been singing the blues
Ever since the world began

Now it hardly needs saying that the blues was brought to this country by
the slaves who were inhumanly taken from their homes in Africa. Morrison knew
this and probably thought of Africa as not only the birthplace of the blues, but
of humanity. Some early indications of his thinking include the enigmatic line at
the end of “Wild Child” (on the Soft Parade) in which Morrison says, “Remember
When We Were in Africa?” This one sentence does as much for the Morrison
mythology as that other famous spoken line, “I am the Lizard King, I can do
anything” at the end of “Not to Touch the Earth” (part of “Celebration of the
Lizard” on Absolutely Live). The line about Africa now only fuels the fire of
those who want to believe that Morrison somehow escaped death and stardom and is
now living somewhere on that continent.
There are some who don’t make so much of the “Remember when we were in Africa?”
line. Linda Ashcroft, who is the daughter of Morrocan immigrants, says that the
song “Wild Child” was based on a poem that Jim had written for her and that when
asked about the line at the end, Jim apparently told her that he was referring not
to our collective human origins (the Leakeys), but much more narrowly to some
pictures of Ashcroft’s North African family that she had shown Morrison. But if
Morrison really said this, it seems to me that must have been up to his old
trickster self. No doubt the line also referred to the time spent looking at the
pictures with Ashcroft, but it seems highly unlikely that Morrison was not also
referring to our “wild,” primitive origins. And for that matter, “Wild Child” is
not just about Ashcroft -- it is far more archetypal than that, both of the
sixties Flower Child and of the divine Dionysian ecstatic child of the forest,
screaming wild.
Morrison revisits the Africa theme on the last album, both implicitly (by singing
the blues like an old master) and explicitly on a fascinatingly beautiful partly
spoken-word blues, The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat). The song gives many
indications that Morrison was deeply longing for an end to stardom and a final
release into that pure land of light and bliss that Africa symbolized:

The negroes in the forest, brightly feathered

And they are saying, forget the night
Come live with us in forests of azure
Out here on the perimeter there are no stars
Out here we is stoned, immaculate

The song is also a fond and touching farewell to his friends, the other three
Doors (as well as his other close friends, no doubt):

I love the friends I have gathered together on this thin raft

We have built pyramids in honor of our escaping.

Pyramids, indeed. If you will bear with this exegesis, it is not only Morrison
who is escaping, it is his friends, the other Doors, and whoever else cares to
come along. But it is a thin raft – not too many people will follow:

But you’ll never follow me

From where are they escaping? America, which is Egypt -- the biblical House of
This is the land where the pharaohs died

Whither are they headed? Down South, to Africa proper:

Wow, I’m sick of doubt

Live in the light of certain
He went down south and crossed the border
left the chaos and disorder
back there over his shoulder

If Egypt stands for America, Africa is thus also Latin America (L’America), a
symbol of freedom (especially in the sixties, where hippies fled to escape the law
– listen to “Hey Joe”). But Morrison isn’t only talking about escaping from the
American Dream, he is talking about the death of what he calls the “Western Dream”
of freedom and progress:

I’ll tell you this…

No eternal reward will forgive us now
For wasting the dawn

As I mentioned, “The WASP” is only the most explicit expression of

Morrison’s longing to get “Back to Africa.” In fact, from the very first song,
“The Changeling,” a hard-driving, blues-inspired rant which has Morrison grunting
and screaming as good as James Brown, Morrison begins to reveal his personal “End
Time” mythology, telling us he’s about to bust out and get loose (he used the
blues format to tell us he had to “rock ‘n’ roll”):

I live uptown
I live downtown
I live all around
I had money
I had none
I had money
I had none
But I never been so broke
that I couldn’t leave town

I’m a changeling
See me change

The song could mean a lot of things. One interpretation that I would
suggest is that Morrison is saying he is free -- he is not bound by money or by
conventional societal stratification or success -- and thus he can change at will.
But money in particular seems to have been for him the epitome of all that was
antithetical to freedom and change, and being free desire for money meant freeing
the soul:

I want to tell you people about something I know –

Money beats soul every time, come on!

He’d been “broken” to a certain degree by a system which values money (and
stardom and power) over “soul,” but in “The Changeling” he is declaring that he’s
not completely broke and can get out when the time comes. And the time had come.
The song ends with Morrison somewhat eerily chanting:

I’m leaving town

On a midnight train
Gonna see me change
Change, Change, Chaaaange!

According to conventional standards, Morrison’s contempt for wealth and power seem
inane if not crazy, but again, there was a method to his madness:
I am not mad
I am interested in freedom

In another song on the first side of the album, “Been Down So Long,” which
is more of a pure blues, Morrison again sings that it’s time to get up and get

I been down so goddamn long

That it feels like up to me
I been down so very damn long
That it feels like up to me
Why don’t one of you people
Come here and set me free?

One might say that Morrison wrote the last line with his audience in mind,
still thinking that he and the other Doors would perform their new record live
(and in fact they did, but only two shows). On the other hand, it could be
argued that the fact that the song’s title is taken from that of Richard Farina’s
first and only novel, he having died in a motorcycle crash two days after it was
published at the age of 3??, is another hint that Morrison was also headed in the
same direction. In any case, I think the song gives more indication that Morrison
was longing for a change.
Another song on the first side with much clearer intent is Hyacinth House.
On the first album, The Doors, Morrison had sung:
This is the End
Beautiful friend
This is the End
My only friend,
the End

On the second album:

When the music’s over
Turns out the lights…

For the music is your special friend

Dance on fire as it intends
Music is your only friend
the End

On the fourth album, the Soft Parade:

Coda Queen
Now be my bride

Now on the last album:

And I’ll say it again

I need a brand new friend
The End

As I noted, Morrison had mentioned to some of his friends that he was going
to split L.A. and go live in Africa incognito. In order to pull it off he was
going to change his name and he came up with Mr. Mojo Risin’ as a perfect anagram
for “Jim Morrison.” In the middle of the title track of “L.A. Woman” Morrison
reveals his new alias:

Mr. Mojo Risin’

Mr. Mojo Risin’
Got to keep on Risin’
Risin’ Risin’
[also sounds like “ridin’” and “writin’]

I think some people fail to see the irony in this, as with many of Jim’s
poems and lyrics. If he really was serious about using “Mr. Mojo Risin’” as an
alias, would he really be so foolish as to tell the world about it? It seems to
me he was just having fun, adding yet another element to his personal mythology,
laughing at the people who were eating it up, salt-less.
On the other hand, how prophetic this all was! For the three decades since
his passing on, Morrison has certainly kept on risin’, both literally (all of the
Morrison sightings, etc.) and figuratively in the minds and hearts of those who
attentively listen to the Doors music and read the vast and growing literature on
the band. Morrison sang “Cancel my subscription to the Resurrection,” but there
appear to be many out there (including myself) who haven’t cancelled their’s.

Riders on the Storm – most likely from Hart Crane’s poem “Praise For An Urn” –
“Delicate riders of the storm” (see Fowlie, p. 91)
“Our life will never end”

I’ve been singin’ the blues

ever since the world began
I’m the freedom man
That’s just how lucky I am

I am not mad
I am interested in freedom

He doesn’t have to be a rock star,

If they say I never loved you

You know they are a liar

“just another dark witness”

Mr. Mojo Risin’

Latin America = Africa
America = Egypt, the place of bondage to the iron maiden, the Iron World

the cosmic movie – eternal recurrence

cobra on my left, leopard on my right!

The monk ate lunch (he ate lunch – yes he did)

please, listen to me children – suffer the little children to come to me

Appendix C

Legends of the Lizard King (unfinished)

1) Jerry Hopkins, co-author of No One Here Gets Out Alive with Danny Sugerman,
later wrote: “We heard incredible stories about his catching dragon flies on the
wing in his mouth and eating them, and sticking pins into the pupils of his eyes.
‘I am the Lizard King,’ he said. ‘I can do anything!’
We believed it and he came to believe it, too, for a while.” (Lizard King,

2) Hopkins – “Everyone is entitled to his or her ‘take’ on Jim’s life. More than
anyone else I’ve known or met, Jim was like the elephant described by a group of
blind men; each blind man, grabbing a different piece of the elephant’s anatomy,
inevitably described it differently. So if this is what Oliver Stone saw in his
mind’s eye, if Oliver wants to fictionalize Jim’s life, and turn him into an
Indian shaman, why not? Because Jim did the same thing. I just think that Oliver
made a bigger deal of it than Jim ever did. (199)

3) Grace Slick: “...On the first day in Holland, the two groups [the Airplane and
the Doors] had gone on a loose trip to a downtown area. We’d been told there were
a lot of head shops and interesting things we couldn’t get in the States, and we
all wanted to check it out. The kids on the streets of Amsterdam recognized us,
so while we were walking around, going in and out of stores, they’d come up and
talk, handing us various drugs as gifts of thanks for our music. Most of us just
said “Thank you” and put whatever it was in our pockets for later. Jim, on the
other hand, stopped, sat down on the curb, and did it right up. Pot, hash, coke,
whatever. I thought he was ingesting an overly interesting combination of
chemicals for that night’s concert...We all ingested heavily, but Jim was the
champ. An all-day, all-night consumption had turned him into a running
pinwheel...” (Somebody to Love? pp. 167-168)

Appendix D
Lord Jim: A Modern Myth Examined\

[Paper Proposal for Mythos of a Rock Icon]

James Douglas Morrison, the late lead singer of the popular sixties rock
quartet the Doors, today even more than during his short life has been a favorite
subject of mythologians and mythmeisters who have made him out to be no less than
a god (like Shiva, Dionysus, Adonis) come down to earth to sport among men. But
they can be forgiven, if only because Morrison himself, while he still walked the
earth, continued to refine and put forth his personal mythos. In his poetry,
music, and the art which was his wild life, he defined who he was (“I am the
Lizard King, I can do anything”), and this was picked up by his followers
(particularly after his death) and blown into truly mythic proportions. For who
is the Lizard King but Shiva, the Lord of Snakes (of the kundalini energy), and
thus today someone is making money off of a t-shirt depicting Morrison as an
eight-armed Shiva. The point on which the mythology is most is in regard to the
death of the god (at 27): Did he really die? And if so, how? Or did he escape to
Africa as he said he would? Etc.

questions: 1) How do myths come about; is there any historical truth to them?
while he lived, Morrison was larger-than-life, which
suggests there is (at least sometimes) a historical grain (or larger) of truth
which the the foundation stone of the myth.

2) Do myths require rituals? Were the Doors concerts ritual enactments of the
“Doors’ mythos”?

3) Can we apply the study of (post)modern myths to those of ancient times (and
vice versa)?

4) To what extent can it be said that Jim Morrison embodied the Trickster, or
was “a god” such as Adonis, Dionysus or Shiva (as some have claimed)?

5) What does the myth of “Lord Jim” do for people, and does the myth account
for the continued (perhaps even growing) interest in this figure?

6) Does rock music particularly lend itself to mythos (or mythological

interpretation), why?

7) To what extent does proximity to the “living legend” lead to a more mundane

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Berkeley Books, 2000/2001.

Artaud, Antonin. The Theater and Its Double. ????

Fowlie: “ In Antonin Artaud’s book The Theater and Its Double, Jim had read that
each performance should be a risk.” (86)

Bangs, Lester. Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung. New York: Vintage Books,

Barth, Roland. Mythologies (Annette Lavers, ed.). New York: Hill and Wang; 1968?

Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton University Press,
A book Morrison read.

Cousineau, Phil. Once and Future Myths: The Power of Ancient Stories in Modern
Times. Berkeley, California: Conari Press, 2001. A friend on Danny Sugerman.
What is interesting is that the brief Borders advert for this book said that it
dealt with Jim Morrison, but when I found it I discovered that it really only
mentions him briefly. Apparently Borders thought that dropping this particular
name would help to sell the book.

Dalton, David. Mr. Mojo Risin’: Jim Morrison, The Last Holy Fool. New York: St.
Martin’s, 1991.

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Boulevard Books, 1985.

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Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions, 1982.

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New York: Dell Publishing, 1990.

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Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1957.

******Fowlie, Wallace, trans. Rimbaud: Complete Works, Selected Letters.

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Simon and Schuster, 1989.

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Harrison, Ted. Elvis People: The Cult of the King. London: Fount, 1992.

Hope, Jane. The Secret Language of the Soul: A Visual Guide to the Spiritual
World. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1997. Use picture of Dionysus astride the
leopard on p. 147.

Hopkins, Jerry and Sugerman, Danny. No One Here Gets Out Alive. New York: Warner
Books, 1995.

_________. The Lizard King: The Essential Jim Morrison. New York: Simon &
Schuster, 1992.

Jones, Dylan. Dark Star. New York: Viking Studio Books, 1990.

Kaufmann, Walter, ed. The Portable Nietzsche. New York: Penguin Books, 1982.

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Kelly, Karen, and McDonnell, Evelyn. Stars Don’t Stand Still in the Sky: Music
and Myth. New York: New York University Press, 1999.

Kennealy, Patricia. Strange Days: My Life With and Without Jim Morrison. New
York: Dutton/Penguin, 1992.

Leeming, David, and Page, Jake. Myths, Legends, & Folktales of America: An
Anthology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

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Themes of “The King.” Arlington, Texas: The Summit Publishing Group, 1994..

Manzarek, Ray. Light My Fire: My Life with the Doors. New York: Berkeley
Boulevard Books, 1998.

Moody, Raymond A., Jr., M.D. Elvis After Elvis: Unusual Psychic Experiences
Surrounding the Death of a Superstar. New York: Bantam Books, 1987.

Morrison, James Douglas. The American Night: The Writings of Jim Morrison, Volume
II. New York: Vintage Books, 1990.

___________________. Wilderness: The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison, Volume I.

New York: Vintage Books, 1988,

Murray A. Henry, ed. Myth and Mythmaking. Boston: Beacon Press, 1960.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Birth of Tragedy and the Case of Wagner (Walter
Kaufman, trans.) New York: Vintage Books, 1967.

O’Flaherty, Wendy Doniger. Siva, the Erotic Ascetic. Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 1973.

Palmer, Robert. Rock & Roll: An Unruly History. New York: Harmony Books, 1995.

Riordan, James, and Prochnicky, Jerry. Break on Through: The Life and Death of
Jim Morrison. New York: William Morrow, 1991.

Rocco, John, ed.. The Doors Companion: Four Decades of Commentary. New York:
Schirmer Books, 1997.

*******Ruhlmann, William. The Doors. Smithmark Publishers, 1991.

Segal, Robert A. Theorizing About Myth. Amherst: University of Massachusetts

Press, 1999.

Slick, Grace. Somebody to Love? A Rock-and-Roll Memoir. New York: Warner Books
Inc., 1998.

Sugerman, Danny. The Doors: The Illustrated History. New York: William and
Morrow Co., 1983.

------------------. Wonderland Avenue.

Torrance, Robert M. The Spiritual Quest: Transcendence in Myth, Religion, and

Science. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.

********Wasson, H. Gordon. The Sacred Mushroom Seeker

Persephone’s Quest. [I looked at NYU’s and Bobst Library and couldn’t get these
volumes, which suggest that at least some myths originate from sacred drug trips.]

Zahler, Kathy A. and Diane. Test Your Countercultural Literacy. New York: Arco,


Leonard Felder, “Prayer as a Rebellion: What Happens When You Ask God For Help?”
Tikkun, July/August, 2003, vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 59-62. ‘I remember listening to FM
radio in 1969 when Jim Morrison and the Doors sang angrily and hypnotically, “You
cannot petition the Lord with prayer.” In those days you needed to be quite your
own person to possess the guts to sit down and converse with God. Time magazine
has proclaimed that “God is dead.” Most of my college professors and intellectual
mentors were devout atheists. And the state of the world didn’t look like the
Creator was still responding to any personal requests for help.’ (p. 59) With all
due respect to the author, here is my feeling about this. Two things: First, I
don’t think Morrison was really angry, it was mock anger, even funny. You can
hear it in his voice. Nor do I think this particular message, delivered by
Morrison sans the other Doors, was meant to be hypnotic. But more importantly,
the lyrics are not a wholesale rejection of religion per se, but only religion in
its institutionalized form, as the next words, beginning with “Can you give me
sanctuary” suggest. Morrison was very spiritual; it is reflected everywhere in
his life, his poetry, his art (all intertwined). Morrison prayed in his own way.
As Patti Smith said of her and Morrison, “we pray screaming,” and that was no
doubt one part of it.

Alex Ross, “Rock 101: Academia Tunes In,” The New Yorker, July 14 & 21, 2003, pp.
Books and websites relating to Jim Morrison and the Doors (which are legion),
particularly the writings of Danny Sugerman which deal with the Doors’ and
Morrison mythos
Jung, “The Psychology of the Child Archetype” (and Kerenyi’s work)
Jung and Kerenyi, Essays on a Science of Mythology
Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces and Myths to Live By
James George Frazer, “The Myth of Adonis,”; “The Ritual of Adonis”;
Robert Ackerman, “Writing about Writing about Myth.”
Sandra J. Peackock, Jane Ellen Harrison: The Mask and the Self;
Claude Levi-Strauss, The Way of the Masks;
Rank, Otto, The Myth of the Birth of the Hero and Other Writings;
Books on Greek and Hindu mythology

Let’s steal the eye that sees us all

Morrison as Shiva/Dionysus

“The knowledge of music become an effective means of attaining oness with Lord
Shiva; for by the knowledge of music, one attains to a state of absorption and it
is by attaining such a state that oneness with Shiva could be obtained…One ought
not to indulge, out of delusion, in worldly songs…” (Skanda Purana, Suuta

Madonna – Cyberraga
Eminem – “God sent me to piss off the world” from “My Name Is”

Sugerman starts: I am the Lizard King, I can do anything

Chorus: -- You on the streets!

-- You on the roads!
-- Make way!
-- Let every mouth be hushed. Let no ill-omened
-- Words profane your tongues.
-- Make way! Fall back!
-- Hush.
-- For now I raise the old, old humn to Dionysus.
-- Blessed, blessed are those who know the myster-
ies of godl.
-- Blessed is he who hallows his life in the worship
of god,
he whom the spirit of god possesseth, who is
with those who belong to the holy body of
-- Blesed are the dancers and those who are puri-
who dance on the hill in the holy dance of god.
-- Blessed are they who keep the rite of Cybele the
-- Blessed are the thyrsus-bearers, those who wield
in their hands
the holy wand of god.
-- Blessed are those who wear the crown of the ivy
of god.
--Blessed, blessed are they: Dionysus is their God!
-- Euripides, Bacchae, 68

not Blake: There are things known, and there are things unknown, and in between
are the doors.”

Blake: “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” (“Prudence is a rich
ugly old maid courted by Incapacity.”

I think of myself as an intelligent, sensitive human with the soul of a clown,

which always forces me to blow it at the most important moments.
Los Angeles is a city looking for a ritual to join its fragments, and The Doors
are looking for such a ritual also. A kind of electric wedding. We hid ourselves
in themusic to reveal ourselves.

The only time I really open up is on stage. I feel spiritual up there.

Performing gives me a mask, a place to hide myself where I can reveal myself. I
see it as more than performing, going on, doing songs, and leaving. I take
everything personally, and don’t really feel I’ve done a complete job unless we’ve
gotten everyone in the theatre on common ground.

Being onstage, being one of the central figures, I can only see it from my own
viewpoint, but then I suddenly saw things as they really are, that I am, to a
degree, just a puppet, controlled by a lot of forces I understand only vaguely.

Let’s just say I was testing the bounds of reality. I was curious to see what
would happen. That’s all it was: curiosity.

They claim everyone was born, but I don’t recall it. Maybe I was having one of my

I think that more than writing and music, my greatest talent is that I have an
instinctive knack of self-image propagation…”
Shiva –

I am the Lizard King (leathered up)

Celebration of the Lizard – “and we’ll erect a different steeple”

Danny Sugerman, Wonderland

Aghora – Robert Svoboda

Poem for Tandy Martin

But one/the most beautiful of all/Dances in a ring of fire/And throws off the
challenge with a shrug.

the sex symbol

I like ideas about the breaking way or overthrowing of established order. I am

interested in anything about revolt, disorder, chaos, especially activity that
seems to have no meaning.
It seems to me to be the road towards freedom – external freedom is a way to bring
about internal freedom.

I always liked reptiles. I used to see the universe as a mammoth snake, and I
used to see all the people and objects, landscapes, as little pictures in the
facets of their scales. I think peristaltic motion is the basic life movement.
Swallowing, digestion, the rhythms of sexual intercourse. We must not forget that
the lizard and the snake are identified with the unconscious, with the forces of
evil. There’s something deep in the human memory that reacts very strongly with
reptiles. Even if you’ve never seen one, the snake embodies everything we fear.

Sometimes…I like to think of the history of rock & roll like the origin of Greek
drama. That started out on the threshing floors during the crucial seasons, asn
was orignally a band of acolytes dnaing and singing. Then, one day, a possessed
person jumped out of the crowd and started imitating a god…

The Death of the God

Though the favorites of the gods die young,

They also live eternally in the company of the gods.

I wouldn’t mind dying in a plane crash. It’d be a good way to go. I don’t want
to die in my sleep, or of old age, or OD… I want to feel what it’s like. I want
to taste it, hear it, smell it. Death is only going to happen to you once; I
don’t want to miss it.

If all else fails we can whip the horse’s eyes and make it sle

The minister’s daughter’s in love with the snake

And I can tell you the names of the kingdom/

I can tell you the things that you know

I’ll tell you this…

No eternal reward will forgive us now
For wasting the dawn

Let’s reinvent the gods

All the myths of the ages,
Celebrate symbols from deep, elder forests

James Douglas and Walter Whitman

Morrison: Devil or angel?

Some call it heavenly in its brilliance
Others mean and rueful of the Western dream

The river contains specimens
The voices of singing women call us on the far shore
And they are saying:
Forget the night
Live with us in forests of azure

Jerry Hopkins – “Unlike the mythology, the music of the Doors remains a constant –
a force which has not been so much an ‘influence in rock, but a monument.” (Lizard
King, 218)
I was stuck on you
Now I’m stuck with you
Though I fell in love
With a stick woman I drew

Guess I’ll stick around

And stick it to you


Peace Frog – Leap Frog – Indians weeping, Indians leaping

Rock is dead/cock is dead/God is dead

Alan Lowenschuss
Levi-Strauss thoughts

Last time I began with something about whether myths are the products of
primitive minds (primitive relative to us); that is, minds that are irrational or
non-rational (or pre-rational). Recall that I noted that my teacher from India
maintains that, on the contrary, the so-called “primitives” (or at least the
ancient rishis who composed the Vedas) were far more advanced than we are. Levi-
Strauss holds more of a middle position, though it is equally surprising. He
holds that “the kind of logic which is used by mythical thought is as rigorous as
that of modern scence, and that the difference lies not in the quality of the
intellectual process, but in the nature of the things to which it is applied…we
may be able to show that the same logical processes are put to use in myth as in
science, and that man has always been thinking equally well; the improvement lies
not in an alleged progress of man’s conscience, but in the discovery of new things
to which it may apply its unchangeable abilities.” (134/444) I would tend to
agree with L-S here, though I wonder if he would be willing to go further.
Perhaps the mythic mind is superior to the scientific mind? Perhaps the non-
rational understanding supercedes that of the rational? The former gives rise to
revelation (that of the prophet, the seer, the mythmaker), whereas the latter
gives rise to theories which historically have short life-spans. The ancient
myths of Greece can and still do speak to us today, whereas the idea that the sun
and stars revolve around the earth is part of a defunct paradigJDM Yet a myth
that tells why the heavenly bodies revolve around the earth could still be
relevant. I’m not giving an answer here, I’m playing with the possibilities.
I’m not sure I agree with L-S when he says “we define myth as consisting of
all its versions…a myth remains the same as long as it is felt as such” and then
goes on to include Freud’s interpretation of the myth as “on a par with earlier or
seemingly more “authentic” versions.” (435) Would L-S include his own structural
analysis of Oedipus as a legitimate version? Presumably so, but I fail to see how
an interpretation of the myth (especially because it is the product of the
rational mind, not the mythic consciousness) can be considered yet another version
of the myth. Of course, it could be argued that what I will call (to
reappropriate L-S’s term) “authentic” alternate versions of a myth are themselves
only interepretations of a core story: Oedipus is destined to kill his father and
marry his mother, he runs away to escape his fate, but he is unable to do so. So
that could be the core story which later gets embellished based upon the time,
clime, and personality/agenda of the re-teller of the story. It’s hard to see how
Freud fits into this, though perhaps I am misunderstanding L-S. Contrary to what
I just said, he maintains that “there is no one true version of which all the
others are but copies or distortions. Every version belongs to the myth.” (436)
But that begs the question: What is a version?
(I should add that Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty adopts L-S’s stance on this issue,
including even modern stories about Shiva in her Siva, the Erotic Ascetic; this
seems similar to the movement in Judaism today which views contemporary midrash as
on par with rabbinic midrash.)
That said, I do think L-S’s structural analysis is interesting. I have been
taking Talmud classes with Dr. Jeff Rubenstein at New York U. and he has done some
very interesting structural analyses of talmudic stories (his book is titled just
that – Talmudic Stories), essentially showing that by pinpointing a story’s
structure, one can get at the mind of the author or author’s of the story. This
is because whoever composed the talmudic stories (or some of them at least) seemed
to have intentionally structured them so as to be amenable to structural analysis.
Wendy Doniger O-Flaherty also views L-S’s method favorably as she says that
“purely structural, Levi-Strauss-inspired analyses of Indian tribal mythology have
yielded interesting results…” (Siva, the Erotic Ascetic, p. 15)
But something tells me that all the structural analysis in the world will still
leave one unsatisfied at the end of the day – there will be still be something
missing. Maybe that is where the work of the scientist leaves off, and the work
of the mythologian (who goes beyond pure reason alone) begins.
All the biographical material on Morrison quote this figure. I assume it comes
from school records, which are easy enough to procure in doing research. I hate
to think it is based only on what Morrison told everyone, in which case it would
just be more employment for the likes of me.

Morrison, Wilderness, p. 119.

These latter three suggested primarily by the late Professor Wallace Fowlie (see

See Dalton, Mr. Mojo Risin’: Jim Morrison, the Last Holy Fool, p. 54. Dalton’s
book is the best example yet of a mythic depiction of Morrison, simultaneously
ironic and dead serious, and I would not hesitate to suggest that this paper would
best be read in conjunction with it (though I am not always in agreement with it).
I should also note that it seems to have had some influence on Oliver Stone’s
movie about the Doors.

See The American Night: The Writings of Jim Morrison, Volume II, pp. 2-3.

Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, 1.22.3. As quoted in Campbell, The Hero With
a Thousand Faces, p. 387. The latter was one of the books Jim “studied
carefully,” according to Fowlie, Rimbaud and Morrison, p. 6, though I’m not sure
what his source was.

Mircea Eliade, in his introduction to Eliot, The Universal Myths, p. 14.

Lincoln, Theorizing Myth: Narrative, Ideology, and Scholarship, p. 18.

Ibid, p.17.

Quoted in Rodman, Elvis After Elvis: The Posthumous Career of a Living Legend,
chapter 2.

From the Doors’ song, “Peace Frog,” on the album Morrison Hotel.

Transcribed from the posthumous Doors album, “An American Prayer.”

Bruce Lincoln discusses this term in his Theorizing Myth. See my discussion of
it in the “Preliminary Definitions” section.

While I agree with Manzarek and others that the movie is flawed (see below), it
at least got this part right.

See Rocco, The Doors Companion, p. 61.

I’ve read Hopkin’s biography three times already and think it’s wonderful, but I
have begun to notice that sometimes he is a little unsteady on the “facts.” Others
have notices this as well; see for instance comments in The Ultimate Doors
As quoted in Riordan and Prochnicky’s Break on Through; see Rocco, op. cit., pp.

Dalton, Mr. Mojo Risin’: Jim Morrison, the Last Holy Fool, pp. 15-16.

This is a question that has been posed from the outset of the Doors’
breakthrough. Richard Goldstein, writer for the Village Voice, once wondered (for
all of us) as he interviewed Morrison: “Does he really have the fantasies he sings
about?” (Rocco, 140) In his piece “Jim Morrison – Bozo Dionysus a Decade Later,”
Lester Bangs suggests that yes, Morrison had those fantasies, but maybe only for a
very brief period, after which he became ironic: “…he took all the dread and fear
and even explosions into the seeming freedom of the sixties and made them first
seem even more bizarre, dangerous and apocalyptic than we already thought they
were, then turned everything we were taking so seriously into a big joke
midstream.” (Rocco, 133) I would suggest that Morrison’s sense of humor, which
has been greatly underestimated, was already well developed before the Doors
banded together. He was no doubt eager and earnest to a certain extent, but the
human condition seems to me to require healthy doses of irony supplements –
Morrison probably never took himself that seriously. Again, though, he seems to
have always had at least a sense of his own greatness and unique calling, so he
did take his mythology seriously to a certain degree.

This phrase “personal mythology” seems to be gaining currency, though I am not

quite sure of its provenance. Interestingly, the first time I heard of it
(literally) was in a song called “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow” by another deceased
Sixties legend, Frank Zappa, though my sense from its use in the song was that it
wasn’t he that coined it. A personal mythology is the stories one tells oneself
to explain one’s origin, purpose and destiny. Perhaps we all have a personal
mythology, but my sense is that only someone like Morrison can develop it and draw
others into it. As I will discuss below other notable rock artists, such as Bob
Dylan, have expressed a kind of personal mythology in song. See also its use in
Hopkins, The Lizard King, p. 271.

Hopkins, The Lizard King, 200.

And Jac Holzman, founder and chairman of Elektra Records, remembers: “Jim was
different with everyone, as if he was somehow matching his psyche to yours.”
(Rocco, 19)

From a “rap” Morrison wrote for the October, 1968 edition of the magazine Eye.
Reprinted in Riordan and Prochnicky, p. 273.

Lester Bangs compared rock groups of the seventies and early eighties to sixties
bands like the Doors as follows: “There is a half-heartedness, a tentativeness,
and perhaps worst of all a tendency to hide behind irony that is after all
perfectly reflective of the time, but doesn’t do much to endear these pretenders
to the throne.” (Rocco, 129) The Doors, or at least the early Doors, did not hide
behind irony.

Hopkins, The Lizard King, p. 258.

Keneally, Strange Days, p. 390.

No One Here Gets Out Alive, xii-xiii. Sugerman was also to later alter his
version of the myth (see footnote below).
See Manzarek, Light My Fire. John Densmore, the Doors drummer, also wrote a
memoir, which like Manzarek, deals in large part with Morrison. Unlike Manzarek’s
account, however, Densmore’s book goes out of its way to deflate the many myths
surrounding his former bandmate. Still, Densmore’s own fascination (obsession?)
with Morrison clearly belies his myth-deflating agenda.

Huxley’s book was itself named after Blake’s line in The Marriage of Heaven and
Hell: “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man
as it is, infinite. Blake had a big influence on Morrison who made a statement
often attributed to Blake but which was really his own: “There are things known
and things unknown and in between are the Doors.”

Hopkins, The Lizard King, p. 243. That last sentence seems to be more media


Rocco, op. cit., p. 4.

Manzerek does say that it was forty days from the time he last saw Morrison to
the time that they had their famous meeting on Venice Beach in July of ‘65; see
Light My Fire, p. 90. Was it exactly forty days, or is Manzerek, certainly aware
of the symbolism attaching to that number, attempting to build the perfect myth
here? To be fair, it seems that for every myth Manzarek creates or adds fuel to,
he deflates another one.

Hopkins, The Lizard King, p. 219.

Sugerman, in the foreword to No One Here Gets Out Alive, p. 1. Note that in his
foreword to the 1995 edition, Sugerman takes this out (or rather, does a complete
rewrite of the original), while lauding Morrison no less. He also begins with the
following quote from Nietzsche: “Though the favorites of the gods die young, they
also live eternally in the company of the gods.”

Morrison indicates that he was aware of divine birth stories in the song “The
Soft Parade,” where he sings “Winter women growing stones/(carrying babies to the

Rocco, op. cit., p. 130.

No One Here Gets Out Alive, p. 47.

Ibid, p. 29. See there for more tales of Morrison’s intellectual brilliance.

One reason to doubt its genuineness is that Hopkins and Sugerman claim that
Morrison did this in Junior College at Florida, while Manzerek recalls Morrison
doing it at film school in UCLA. Of course, he could have done it at both
schools; but if at only one, probably at UCLA as Manzarek seems a more reliable

There is a story, probably true, that one night Morrison’s mother came to a
concert and sat in the front row. When it came time to sing this line Morrison,
who had early on said he never wanted to speak to his mother again, looked
straight at his mother and shouted it. This reveals that he probably had a great
deal of anger towards his parents (which I think diminished over time – see
below), and/or that this was just more of his myth that he was trying to develop.
And also he was probably somewhat high, though no doubt for the most part in
control of his faculties.

Hopkins, The Lizard King, p. 205.

See also the story of how Morrison went to see the Maharishi to see if he was
happy, decided he was, and then wrote the song “Take It Easy” in honor of him in
No One Here Gets Out Alive, pp. 92-93.

This is taken from the Doors publicity statement for the first album (see
Hopkins, The Lizard King, pp. 250-51). Bob Dylan (birth name: Robert Zimmerman),
one of Morrison’s musical influences, had earlier claimed that he ran away from
home as a child to join the circus; perhaps Morrison knew about this. Dylan was
another rock star who manipulated the media and created his own persona, myth
even. For more on Dylan, see below.

Hopkins, The Lizard King, p.226.

If one late performance of “The End” (at Madison Square on Essential Rarities)
is any indication, Morrison was even unwilling to sing “Father, I want to kill
you; Mother, I want to…,” using instead the words “old fool” (for father) and
“woman” (for mother, with a play on the slang “momma” for a woman). Moreover,
this version itself is clearly a parody of the earlier versions. It seems that
Morrison was moving away from his rebellion stance against his parents and towards
reconciliation (as has been attested elsewhere). Had he lived longer, he probably
would have reunited with them.

Dalton, Mr. Mojo Risin’, p. 59.

Hopkins and Sugerman, No One Here Gets Out Alive, p. 98.

From the Doors’ song “Do It.”

Jesus in John, 10:7.
The full quote from John 10:7ff is as follows: “Most assuredly, I say to you, I
am the Door of the sheep…I am the Door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved,
and will go in and out and find pasture…”
See Hopkins and Sugarman, p.

In Rock music’s heyday in the late Sixties and early Seventies, rock stars were
seen as Jesus-likie figures; but conversely and somewhat ironically, people began
to depict Jesus as a great rock star, as in the popular films “Jesus Christ
Superstar” and “Godspell.”

In Rocco, op. cit., p. 141. Goldstein seems to get Morrison’s trip right for the
most part, but apparently he hadn’t looked too deeply into the Elvis phenomenon.
As I will explain in the following section, at that time Elvis was consuming even
more arcane reading matter than Morrison, and he too began to see himself more and
more in Descended Master type terms. That said, I think Goldstein was right for
the most part when he suggests that, “if Elvis was an unquestioning participant in
his own hysteria, the Doors celebrate their myth as a creative accomplishment”
(ibid, p. 9). By this, Goldstein means that Morrison much more consciously and
intentionally constructed a myth; Elvis was basically just being himself.

Morrison, The American Night: The Writings of Jim Morrison, p. 127.


Ibid, p. 191. You can hear irony in other savior-type songs, as well, such as
Blue Oyster Cult’s double-entendre’d classic “Burnin’ for You.”


Hopkins, Lizard King, p. 86.

An excellent book on this subject is Larry Geller’s ‘If I can Dream’:Elvis in

His Own Words. Geller, who was Elvis’ friend, hairstylist, and spiritual advisor
honorably and ably resurrects Elvis’ image after a decade of “trash Elvis” books.
It may be the truest glimpse into who Elvis was behind his public image and the
lambasting of his critics and former friends. Here is but one quote from the book
that deals with Elvis’
“cult,” if you will: “The almost religious atmosphere that has grown up around
Elvis since his death amazes me, not only in its size but in its range of
expression. On one hand, members of his fan clubs quietly demonstrate their love
for Elvis by raising millions of dollars annually for charity. On the other,
there are people whose love for him finds expression in public claims that their
child is Elvis reincarnated or that Elvis has spoken to them from the beyond.”
(Geller, p. 323)
This has been re-mythologized in the Cameron Crowe’s recent film, “Almost
Famous,” in which the acid-tripping lead guitarist of a fictional band called
“Stillwater” screams “I am a Golden God!” before jumping off of a rooftop (and
into a swimming pool). The film itself is a nice exercise in rock and roll
The jazz artists also can’t be forgotten, and of course the line between jazz
and blues is sometimes very fine (was Billie Holiday a jazz or blues singer?).
John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie (1917-1993), the great jazz trumpeter, was called
“The King of Bop” and though he didn’t mythologize himself lyrically, he did it
via his wardrobe and physical appearance. (See Leeming and Page, 190) On that
note, Michael Jackson today still apparently holds the title “King of Pop.” He
has mythologized himself in numerous ways, as I discuss in an appendix below.

Recall Whitman’s “Passage to India”: “After the seas are all cross’d…/Finally
shall come the poet worthy that name,/The true son of God shall come singing his
songs.” And from “Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun,” another sentiment Morrison
seemed to have found appealing: “Give me to warble spontaneous songs recluse by
myself, for my own ears only,/Give me solitude, give me Nature, give me again O
Nature your primal sanities!”

No One Here Gets Out Alive, p. 32. Dalton also notes of the Doors song “Light
My Fire,” (their first and perhaps best known record) that “you can hear how Jim
loved the way Elvis could tinge any ballad with sneering insolence, how he
idolized Elvis as a subspecies of American religion” (p. 67).
Ibid, p. 31.
Even in a late poem, which reads more like a journal entry, Morrison was self-
effacingly comparing himself with the King: “Elvis had sex-wise mature voice at
19/Mine still retains the nasal whine of a repressed adolescent…” See Wilderness:
The Lost Writings of Jim Morrison, Vol. I, p. 205. Even for Morrison, it seems,
Elvis was the King.

Keneally, Strange Days, p. 146.

See p. 148.

In Rocco, op. cit., pp. 128-133.

Wilderness, p. 124.
See Dalton’s Mr. Mojo Risin: Jim Morrison, the Last Holy Fool, for more on this
aspect of Morrison’s persona. I should also note that Morrison wrote in one of
his last poems, “As I Look Back,” that he was “a fool & the smartest kid in the
class.” See Wilderness, p. 202.

See Hopkins and Sugarman, pp. 336-38, for a less subtle example of this –
Morrison refuses to cooperate for a 60 second “Speed Kills” advertisement by
giving everything but a straight line.

Leeming and Page, Myths, Legends & Folktales of America, p. 20.

One of the Doors or their biographers used this wordplay in one of the Doors
documentaries. It seems to me that Morrison had the best of both worlds there.
If he had only be a shaman, he would have had far fewer souls to whom to minister.

Densmore, Riders on the Storm, p. 171.

See also Riordan and Prochnicky, p. 48 for another explanation. The authors
maintain that despite Morrison’s anti-Church views, “…he loved to discuss God and
religion for endless hours with just about anyone who would listen to his
countless theories on man’s relationship to the Creator.” (48)

Louis Fischer, ed. The Essential Gandhi (New York: Vintage Books, 1962), p.

After Muddy Waters left the south and moved to Chicago, he became known as the
“King of Chicago Blues.” Alan Freed, the disc jockey who perhaps did the most to
popularize early rock and roll was dubbed “The King of Rock and Roll.” Billie
Holiday was called , etc.

It is also interesting to note that today in India the title “Maharaja” –

literally “Great King” – is used to address holy persons, great saints, and gurus,
who are also referred to and thought of as God, as we have just seen in the
example above.

Matt Ehlers, Naples Daily News, “Neapolitan” section, Saturday, August 16, 2003,
pp. 1-2; from Raleigh News and Observer; with contribution from news researcher
Susan Ebbs.
Eliade, The Sacred & the Profane: The Nature of Religion, p. 209.

See Wilderness, p. 2.

Hopkins, The Lizard King, pp. 232-233.

Morrison, Wilderness, p. 10.

Just as Christopher Isherwood speaks of Ramakrishna as a phenomenon. See

Isherwood, Ramakrishna and his Disciples.

See also Manzerek, Light My Fire, p. 331.

These were the last two lines of postcard Morrison sent from Paris.
Alfred Kazin, ed. The Portable Blake. New York: The Viking Press, 1946, 1971,
p. 251.