Picture from The DoorsBlog
If I had to choose one book that changed my life, my answer wouldn’t be one of the usual suspects. It wouldn’t be Catcher in the Rye or anything like that. No, the book that I would give that honor to would be Danny Sugarman’s No One Here Gets Out Alive, a biography of Jim Morrison. I still have my copy of it somewhere, and I’ll never part with it. So don’t ask for it, all right?
I bring this up because I picked up two of the Doors’ CDs (their debut disc and Waiting for the Sun) at a yard sale today, for the grand sum of one dollar. For about what an iTunes download would cost, I have recovered two elements of my long-gone vinyl collection.
I used to hope that my parents were cool enough to listen to the Doors once upon a time. After all, Waiting For the Sun was the number one album on the day that I was born. I’ve never really asked them what they listened to back then, but I can’t recall anything more interesting than Beatles ’65 in their vinyl collection. No Rolling Stones, no Doors, nothing that I would want to incorporate into my own collection someday. But I’ll hold onto my illusions, I guess.
The Sugarman book presents Morrison as a god-like figure. I was in Catholic school at the time, but the book of Sugarman held far more interest to me than anything the nuns were offering. I learned about rock and roll, and creativity, and doing what you want to do, instead of what other people tell you to do. Morrison tapped into the rock zeitgeist, and it was what cost him his life one day in Paris. But it was the life that he wanted to have, and that’s always been something I admired.
Many people didn’t “get” Jim Morrison in 1968. My high school English teacher labeled him a “druggie with a death wish,” which is possibly the only thing he said that I can still remember. But with the help of Sugarman’s book, I got Morrison. He was an artist. He listened to his inner voice. Some people didn’t want to hear what he had to say (or sing), but that wasn’t important. He wrote his poetry and put it out there for the world to judge it or ignore it, as they saw fit.
And so, forty years after his death, somebody like me can pick up his art and feel like he accomplished something. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go put on some music.