I was driving around running errands the other day while listening to WFMU, and Scott Williams' fine show was on. In the middle of some obscure art rock he threw in "Not To Touch The Earth," one of The Doors' real far-out songs. He mentioned he was happy not see any negative comments about that selection on the website, because he was expecting flack for playing The Doors, whose appreciation has fallen off a bit. I hadn't heard the song in years, and had forgotten how much I'd liked it back in high school.
Back then, especially in 9th and 10th grade, I was a complete and obsessive Doors fan. I read No One Here Gets Out Alive, the tell-all biography of Jim Morrison by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugarman, multiple times. This is something I am a little embarrassed about today. The Doors put out some good music, but my obsession went far beyond what was necessary. They are a group that seems to inspire this madness, especially from teenage boys. (Hence the great Kids in the Hall sketch posted above.) Looking back on it, it was hilarious that a kid like me could see Jim Morrison as a model. Unlike the Lizard King, I didn't wear leather pants, go around shirtless, drink or do drugs. I had zero interest in the occult, and couldn't get a date. I wore jorts and oversized eyewear.
My interest made sense in the context of the early 1990s. It was the early spring of 1991, and the Oliver Stone biopic of Morrison and the band was coming out. This was right before the onset of Nirvana and grunge, when contemporary popular rock music was just utter shit. (Living in rural Nebraska I didn't have access to the good stuff underground.) Perhaps because of the film the local hits station, which still allowed a commendable level of DJ freedom, started playing "Break On Through" in rotation. The song just blew me away, it was miles ahead of Poison and Motley Crue. I went to my local Musicland at the mall to get some of their music, but noticed that since their greatest hits comp was two discs, it cost over twenty bucks. I started looking for something else, and noticed that their self-titled debut had "Break on Through" on it, as well as "Light My Fire," the only songs of the band I knew, and for the much more acceptable price of $14.99. (Goddam Musicland was expensive back in the early days of CDs.)
I brought it home, and was instantly and utterly blown away. Perhaps from my time in church I had developed a love of the organ (which I still have), but I had never heard it sound so dark and ethereal. Morrison was not some screeching hair metal dude, but kinda crooned out his poetic lyrics. (And yes, I though stuff like "Day destroys the night/ Night divides the day" was supremely profound.) Sitting there listening to it, I noticed that length of the last track, "The End," was over eleven minutes long. I'd never heard of such a thing before, and that song in particular was something completely new to me. Yes, some of the lyrics are overblown, but damn if it does not evoke a mysterious mood, in the religious sense.
My school's spring break was the next day, and my family was going to go down to the Ozarks for a few days. In preparation I dubbed the album onto to tape so I could listen to it in my walkman, but didn't have any time to dub something on the other side. I purposely brought my boom box with me so I could rewind the tape and listen to it over and over and over and over again. That tape also had a personal touch to it, since while I was dubbing it my mom put some clothes in my dresser, knocking my first generation CD player off track, causing one of the lines in "The Crystal Ship" to repeat. Even today I expect to hear that glitch when I listen to the song.
The group never equaled that first album, and I always consider it a massive stroke of luck that when I went in to buy a Doors album, I chose the perfect one almost by complete accident. Today I might cringe at how I tried to write poetry that imitated Jim Morrison, or that I covered my high school notebooks in doodles of The Doors' logo. Then again, they were my gateway into both classic rock and psychedelia. And because Morrison liked Nietzsche and Baudelaire, I sought those authors out and gained a lot from the experience. As corny as it sounds, I also felt like I wasn't alone in the world as a death-obsessed kid with poetic ambitions and a love of the mystic. There was probably no time in my life as lonely as my freshman year of high school, and it was music that helped pull me through, as it did so many other times afterward.