Thursday, 11 August 2011

Turn Out The Lights

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite - William Blake

Just finished watching two television programmes on The Doors: the 1968 Danish black and white studio gig recording, and a 'Classic Albums' presentation on the recording of The Doors' first album. Both remind us of what an immaculate band they were, straightforward but virtuoso.

In the latter's interviews with surviving members, drummer John Densmore comes across as the most articulate and perceptive, honouring Morrison's genius without mythologising it. Indeed, he makes an incisive observation on how the creative impulse and musings on darkness/death do not necessarily have to coexist - obvious enough - but he says it to dispel the myth that it must and directs the observation at a younger generation who might imagine it as fanciful. Robby Krieger, who wrote the band's first and most famous hit Light My Fire [though Jim added the dark rhyme 'funeral pyre'] is rueful about Morrison's anger and angst, but acknowledges how significant a part of his being this was. These paradoxical remembrances are honest and fond and proud.

The 1968 Danish studio show is superb. Densmore's drumming is succinct - it is jazz drumming in many ways, and subtle as well as central. Krieger's guitar work is crucially psychedelic and so often provides the mood and atmosphere to underpin Morrison's poetry. Ray Manzarek's keyboard playing is iconic in terms of the band's signature sound, but it is his pivotal playing of the Fender Rhodes keyboard bass that struck me the most when watching. Morrison is mesmerising and he doesn't need to strut or pout or snarl or gyrate to achieve this. It is a genuine presence, and of course the voice is the centrepiece, ranging from crooner to screamer to incantatory. The artifice of the audienceless set is the only pretense. In penultimate song When The Music's Over, the band is wonderfully tight and perfect, and the final song The Unknown Soldier is staged with a dramatic Krieger guitar-as-gun shooting of Jim to end. This track is on the first The Doors album I bought, Waiting For The Sun.

It is amazing to think that The End [weird scenes inside Jim's head] concludes The Doors first album, recorded in 1966 and released in 1967. Such a powerful psychedelic and poetic song that hasn't lost any of its potency over all these years. You can turn out the lights but the music so clearly isn't over.

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