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Robby Krieger on When You're Strange

17 July 2010 - 08:10 AM

Doors guitarist Krieger says new documentary shows the real Jim Morrison




TORONTO - As much as he respects Val Kilmer, Doors guitarist Robby Krieger figures the best person to portray Jim Morrison onscreen is Morrison himself.

So he says the new documentary "When You're Strange" — out on DVD and Blu-ray this week — puts together a much more accurate portrait of the late rock singer than did Oliver Stone's 1991 biopic.

"This gives you a realistic image of how Jim really was," Krieger said in a telephone interview from his Los Angeles home.

"I think when you see the Oliver Stone movie — I'm amazed how good Val Kilmer did — but, you know, the problem with that movie is that the script was kind of stupid. It doesn't really capture how Jim was at all.

"This gives you a much better insight into how his mind worked, I think."

"When You're Strange," directed by Tom DiCillo and narrated by actor Johnny Depp (a big Doors fan, Krieger says) — is the first feature documentary about the influential California psychedelic rockers.

DiCillo blends historic footage (shot between 1966 and '71) and some more rarely seen material, including precious snippets of "HWY" (the short film written and shot by Morrison himself), and "Feast of Friends," the band's long-shelved concert film.

And while Krieger praises the film's presentation of Morrison — who died in a bathtub in Paris in 1971 — it's not because he thinks it's fawning.

Morrison is presented as a special talent, to be sure, but the film also delves into his alcoholism (and its toxic effect on the rest of the band), his hunger for attention and his wandering sense of priorities.

Krieger was pleased that the film didn't pull punches in its presentation of the rock icon. In fact, he says the band's surviving members opted not to get too involved in the making of the film to preserve its honesty.

"That's why you can't do it yourself, because you wouldn't put any negative stuff in if you were doing it yourself," he explained. "You have to have that balance."

The film explains how the Doors — which also featured keyboardist Ray Manzarek and drummer John Densmore — came together and quickly rose to become one of the most controversial bands to come out of America in the 1960s, an ascension that began after the kaleidoscopic Krieger-penned tune "Light My Fire" hit No. 1 on the charts.

Even for fans, the movie features bits of interesting trivia: that the band liked Morrison's poetry better than his voice, that Morrison worshipped Elvis Presley and later Frank Sinatra and that the group's first royalty cheque amounted to a tidy sum of $50,000 apiece ("I think we kind of blew it," Krieger says of the cash).

And the film tracks the rare hysteria generated by the group.

In particular, the infamous 1969 Miami concert where Morrison's provocative behaviour led to allegations that he exposed himself to the crowd (no photographic proof has been produced that this happened) creates some compelling footage.

The film doesn't linger on Morrison's deterioration the way Stone's movie did. But DiCillo's script suggests that after a certain point, fans were as much attracted to the unpredictable exhibition of Morrison's unravelling as they were to the Doors' hypnotic, drug-addled psychedelia.

"It kind of got out of hand after a while," Krieger says of the band's slide into spectacle. "In those days, the audience was very square. They didn't have long hair. Nowadays, you can't tell the audience from the performers. Back then, it was totally different."

Krieger says he's "really happy" with the film, giving particular credit to the crisp editing.

And he says revisiting footage of his former bandmate wasn't a painful process, given how much time has passed.

"It's not as though we haven't seen any footage," he said. "It's always there. I try to remember the good things.

"And, you know, you kind of block out the painful stuff."

Janis Joplin Love Her So Much

16 July 2010 - 05:36 PM

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I Love Marilyn Monroe

16 July 2010 - 12:40 PM

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interview with When You’re Strange director Tom DiCillo

26 June 2010 - 08:30 AM

Tom DiCillo has long been a name to contend with in the world of Independent Film. With six films under his belt-- among them Johnny Suede, Living in Oblivion and his latest, Delirious--the award winning writer/director was convinced by his friend, actor Chris Noth to try his hand at directing an episode of Law & Order for Dick Wolf Productions. One episode turned into four. Those four episodes led to DiCillo�s latest challenge when, in 2008, Dick Wolf asked him to direct a feature documentary about The Doors. Vintage film, some of it buried in boxes for decades, was supplied by the band. DiCillo, a huge Doors� fan, could not resist. He jumped at the chance.
I met Tom after a Sundance Film Festival showing of When You're Strange and approached him about an interview. Writer/interviewer Salli Stevenson (who interviewed Morrison in 1970 for Circus Magazine) joined me on January 25th as we talked candidly to Tom about this latest project.
-Kerry Humpherys


KH: It says on IMDB that your next project was Lost in Blue, but then When You're Strange came along. Did you just stop working on that project and jump to the documentary?

TD: I did actually. I have two scripts, Kerry; one called AMERICANA that I wrote before 9/11. It's an odd, dark comedy about two young teenage boys who get swept up in a very small white militia group. I tweaked the story as a modern version of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. Needless to say, after 9/11 I was told to burn the script. But now, with a change in the air it's looking very possible. Then I wrote another one; a larger budget film that I would like to make called Lost in Blue.

I'd been trying to finance both films for three years when I was approached to do this Doors film. Most of the time, with independent film, you're spending all of your time and energy just trying to raise the money to get the project going. But when they asked me to do the Doors film, I was amazed to hear they already had the money and everything was all set.

KH: What was your first reaction when you heard this documentary film was to be about the Doors?

TD: The instant that they mentioned the Doors I said, "Yes! Wow!" They didn't even have a concept other than they had all this footage and they were looking for someone to put it together to form it into something.

The Doors have been, subconsciously, my favorite band since I first heard them when I was 14. I keep listening to their music. Every time you hear it, it feels like you're hearing it for the first time. I did not see the Oliver Stone film. I don't hold it against him and I don't want to talk negatively about it. But the pieces of it that I did see just struck me as being a little too obvious for my taste.

I knew there was a great mystery surrounding the Doors, a great unsaid and unspoken thing that still, to this date, is undefined�and I wanted to take a stab at defining it.

Still Photo from 'When You're Strange'

KH: Being an actor, playwright, director, and writer, which of those helped you prepare for dealing with this documentary process?

TD: [Laughs] All of them did in an interesting way. This is my first documentary. So you think about a documentary and go, "OK, yeah." You put the pieces together and that's it.

I realized I needed to approach this as a narrative film and in that sense discover and develop particularly Morrison as the protagonist, as the lead character in it. I realized that I needed to understand him as deeply as I possibly could, given the fact that I'd never met the guy.

I don't know what was going on inside him. I would never want to assume that I do, but I needed to feel that I knew him, that I could understand him, that I could empathize with him. That understanding went through a series of developments.

When I first started, I read No One Here Gets Out Alive, which I just couldn't quite believe was totally accurate or was the only answer. They present Jim as a guy who is on this constant and almost immediate cycle of destruction.

I really believe Jim was an artist. But Picasso was also an artist and he didn't go down in flames when he was 27. Then one night I was at dinner at Anne Morrison's [Jim's sister's] house, I mentioned Jim's drinking, seeing if they could give me any insight into its origins. Someone at the table almost got in a fight with me and very passionately informed me that Jim was an alcoholic and alcoholism is a disease, not something that you choose.

It opened something up for me; that Jim was struggling with something his whole life. It was a battle as opposed to just a desire to get plastered.

Robby told me that at their second rehearsal Jim never showed up. He was drunk. It seemed like he was always trying to either sharpen or dull his sense of perception, or at least change it�definitely change it.

KH: You did a lot of interviews for this project. Aside from Anne, did you talk to the families of the other Doors members?

TD: No, I only talked to Anne's�her children have very specific reactions to Jim. I have a suspicion that some of what was motivating Jim, or troubling him, might have been something connected to having come from a military family. No matter how well he may or may not have gotten along with his father, the military has a very specific way of dealing with people. Every person I've ever met in the military deals with their children and their spouses in the exact same way. That is, "You do something because I'm telling you to do it."

My suspicion is that Jim's psychic and karmic persona was the exact opposite of that. "Don't tell me what to do," and "even if you do tell me what to do, at least you owe it to me to tell me why."

From everything I watched and discovered about him, it seemed apparent that the only thing that drove him mad was when someone just simply said, "You can't do that."

SS: Or, "You're going to do this."

TD: Exactly!

SS: There are some that think Jim was the devil and others that maintain he had a quality of innocence about him. What was your take?

TD: My intent with this film was to try and show that innocence, but also to show what accompanied it and to not romanticize or glorify either one of them.

Still Photo from 'When You're Strange'

KH: You used HWY outtakes. Why did you not use anything from HWY other than outtakes? Was that out of respect?

TD: Yes, it was completely, Kerry. I'm glad you asked that. I wouldn't want anybody bastardizing one of my films.

All the outtakes of HWY were included in these boxes of DVDs that they sent me. They weren't labeled. I, at that point, did not know that Jim had even made a film called HWY. All I saw was this footage of Morrison wandering through the desert. I said, "Man, this is incredible."

It was the first impetus in creating this idea of the spirit of Morrison wandering throughout the film on a personal journey to discover what he was and what the Doors were about. That's where the idea came from. It was only later that I found out it was part of his film. So I said, "Well, let's just make sure we don't use any of the cuts, any of the sequences, the montages, nothing. Just use the outtakes."

SS: A lot of the film footage came from Paul Ferrara. Did Paul give you the rights to the film?

TD: No, the rights actually came from Pam's mother and Anne as well.

SS: You said you read NOHGOA. What else did you read?

TD: I read Ray's book. I read John's book. I read a lot of magazine pieces. Salli, I read your interview. I read Jac Holzman's book Follow the Music, which was really informative. And there were a couple of other books that I read. There was also The Jim Morrison Scrapbook. I got a lot out of that one.

The last thing that I wanted to do was just paraphrase everything that was written. I wanted to try to look at all this material. Look at this footage. Read all this stuff and come up with an observation of my own and I just felt that if I didn't make it personal to myself, then there was no point in doing it.

SS: Making it personal to yourself, I'm wondering�did Jim in any way remind you of Johnny Suede? [character in DiCillo's 1992 movie, Johnny Suede, starring Brad Pitt as a musician with a Ricky Nelson fixation]

TD: Hmm. That's really interesting, Salli. It's hard to say. I know this. Johnny Suede was a character in conflict. He didn't know who he was. I couldn't say that Jim struck me as someone who didn't know who he was. My feeling was that he did know who he was.

I felt that in some ways it was just more accurate for me to look at the material and to determine what I felt by watching it, because in so much of that material he's unguarded and not aware that the camera's on him. That's where I went to understand some aspect of him for myself.

SS: So who is Jim Morrison to you?

TD: What I attempted to do in the film was to suggest that he was an extremely intelligent and very bright man. He brought something to the rock and roll scene that had never been there before.

The line I wrote in the film is, "He's a sexy rock poet, a precocious wild child, but he's got the art cred down cold." He really did. He combined sex and art. He created a persona that was immensely powerful and it instantly touched millions of people who felt it. He was an expert at his own creation.

My sense is that his real joy in living out that creation quickly started to change and ultimately that the creation consumed him. Nothing could compare to that high; it was better than any drug. I think the high he got from that fame, all the attention he received, and the ability to do and say anything he wanted whenever he wanted, eventually overwhelmed his desire to be a poet.

I think he really wanted to be a poet, but in comparison to that high, this creation that he had come up with just obliterated it. It made it impossible to turn his back on it. That was something I tried to suggest in the film.

KH: What did the other Doors think about the film?

TD: Something interesting happened at Sundance. I was standing next to Robby and he turned to me-I didn't know why-and said very quietly, "Tom I just want to thank you for something."

I said, "What" and he said, "For letting the world know that I wrote 'Light My Fire.'" He didn't say it possessively. He didn't say it with ego. He just thanked me. I realized that when I first started this I didn't know that. I was a Doors fan, but I didn't know that.

Like many Doors fans and many people I've spoken to, they didn't know that Robby wrote a lot of the songs. That to me is who this film is for. It's for the people that didn't know that Robby wrote "Light My Fire." It's for the people who knew it and appreciate the fact that I think it's important; that I think it's crucial. They're all amazing artists and musicians and very, very different.

I think that their difference is what pulled everything together. All of their differences contributed to a very exotic and dark beauty of music that still sounds brand new. If you listen to other music from the mid to late sixties, it sounds like a popcorn commercial. It's awful. So I wanted to emphasize just what their contribution was and how they supported Jim. I don't think he would have felt free or safe enough to go where he went, if he didn't feel that all three of them were there to back him up.

That's why the film ends when Morrison dies. All four of them were The Doors. When Jim died, there were three�they were members of The Doors, not The Doors.

SS: If you were to define each of them back in that period-Ray, Robby, and John-how would you define them as people, from your experience?

TD: I can't define them as people, but what I can say is that Ray, being slightly older, was a little bit of the father figure of their band. He also provided this really solid classical, musical structure to the band.

Robby- In the early days of the band Morrison said to the guys, "We need some more songs." At this point, all they had were Jim's songs. So he told everybody to go home and write one song over the weekend. Well, only Robby did his homework and the first song he wrote was "Light My Fire." I said to Robby recently, "Why didn't anybody else write a song? Why didn't Ray write a song? Why didn't John write a song?" He just smiled and shrugged. It's interesting that they didn't, and so their contribution, I think, to the band really comes in the structural element that they provide to hold the music together.

Robby is one of the most mysterious guitar players I have ever seen. There is just something indefinable about the way he plays the guitar, what he contributes to it; that sort of Middle Eastern Spanish tinge that comes through in several songs. It again adds to the quality of their sound.

Densmore was a little bit like oil and water with some members of the band, but you talk to him now and you can feel without question the enormous respect that he had and still has for what the group accomplished as a foursome. He was perhaps a little more of the strict disciplinarian in terms of the music. He wanted to always have a great gig. Regarding the Miami show he said, "I don't know if Jim pulled it out, but I know this much, we did a lousy show."

Still Photo from 'When You're Strange'

SS: Did any one of them try to change the perceptions you had of the Doors as you were looking at the footage?

TD: There's a piece of audio I put in of Jim talking to a bouncer at a club. It's in the background as the film is discussing Jim's encounter with Janis Joplin at a party. I was told by every member of the band to take that out. I questioned why and they said it makes Jim sound like an asshole.

SS: What happened?

TD: I said, "He said it. He said it," and I left it in. I was a little surprised by that.

KH: What were the high and low points of this film for you?

TD: The high point was finally getting the concept, which was using this HWY footage as the narrative theme to hold the whole film together. It was exciting seeing it begin to work, and then diving into this goldmine of authentic footage. I never had to worry about the quality of the acting or the way I had directed the scene because it was all in the footage. Of course, meeting each of the Doors and talking to them was an enormous highpoint. It took me quite awhile to get it in my brain that I was actually sitting with the Doors and talking to them, together and individually. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would be telling their story.

The low point had to do with figuring out how to make my way through a thicket of differing opinions. Working on this in LA for nine and a half months and encountering all these people, each one with a different perspective on what the story is, what Jim was, each one adamant their version was the truth�was exhausting! I finally had to say, "You know what, guys? If I listen to you all, this film's going to end up looking like a bowl of oatmeal and I'm not going to do it."

SS: In making this film, what was the process you actually used? I assume it's different from making a narrative film.

TD: Yes, it is. When I write a script, I will sit in my office and work on it alone for months and the trial and error happens between the computer and me. When I finish a draft, I'll show it to my wife or somebody else. Again, the process is extremely intimate.

When I was working on this, I realized very quickly I had no place to hide. I would have to write the narration at night, come in and work with the editors, find footage and try it. I didn't want to have to bring in an actor every three seconds to change the narration so I did the narration myself. Every single time we showed this film, if it worked, it was good. If it didn't work, everyone knew it. It was all done in public. So I was basically writing the film in public. I immediately developed a trust with my editors and accepted that this is the way it's going to be. That was the trickiest thing.

KH: I thought you did a great job with the narrative, but someone told me you were thinking of getting someone else to re-do it.

TD: Yes, that's going to happen without question. That was always my idea. As I said, standing there in the editing room with this little microphone enabled me to make changes to the vocal narration and there's no other way to edit the film, unless you do that.

I kept telling them that we needed to get a voice in there for Sundance. I can't really divulge who some of the potential narrators were but none of them worked so we ended up using my voice.

SS: How about Peter Coyote?

TD: That name came up! But whenever a name is suggested it first has to go through all three members of the Doors. It has to go through several people at Rhino. It has to go through Dick Wolf Productions. It has to go through Jeff Jampol (The Doors' manager), the Courson family, the Morrison family. (General laughter) So, you can imagine how almost impossible this task was, in fact, you should have seen us just trying to find a title. That took nine months! Ultimately, we needed to put a name in the Sundance catalogue so the day before it went to print we finally chose one.

Still Photo from 'When You're Strange'

KH: Do you think the name will change when it comes out?

TD: I don't think so. I think it's a good title. I think of being strange as a badge of honor. I think it's a statement that fits the band. It's a title that also is in flux. It implies movement. It's not something that locks you into anything and it also touches anyone else who has felt the same way. Their music is strange. There's no question about it, but I mean strange in a good way.

KH: What is the process that has to happen before it gets released? I've been asked so many times when will it be available so the real Doors fans can see it.

TD: Well, here's the deal. There's a development that's in the works right now, Kerry, that will make a U.S. theatrical release almost a given. That, of course, was the whole purpose why we went to Sundance.

The great news is that foreign sales are really just off the charts. We're going to the Berlin Film Festival. The most important thing for me is that wherever it plays, it plays on a movie screen. I want to have a strong United States release of it on a screen and it looks like that is going to happen. When? It's hard to say, but I would say we're going to know about a U.S. deal within two weeks.

SS: On your blog, I think you said there were times when you weren't sure where to go, so you asked yourself, What would Jim do? How did that change the direction of the film?

TD: As I was driving from the airport up to Sundance I passed a car with a license plate that read WWJD. At the premiere I said that I finally figured out what it meant: What Would Jim Do. It got a big laugh up there in Mormon country. But without getting too personal, one of the things that really hooked me into this, and it relates to what I said earlier about Jim and his father, is the idea that in order to be an artist or any kind of human being oftentimes requires the healthy response, "Go f*ck yourself." Let me do what I want to do.

I related to Jim's rejection of his father's reality. Jim believed that it was the artist's right and obligation to be completely free and uncensored. For me this has been an endless struggle. The independent film business is all about compromise. You write a script. You go to someone for money. The first thing they say is, "OK, change the script, do this, get this actor and I'll give you the money." It's all about compromise.

I identified immensely with the Doors and particularly Morrison's belief that there's nothing wrong with simply doing it the way you want to do it, you know, total freedom. There's nothing wrong with it and that state of creativity is actually a blessing. I think that is the real state of divinity. I really do, and I cherish it. That's what I took from Jim. That spirit is what pulled me through this whole thing.

SS: What did you learn from the movie?

TD: Well, almost everything in the film is something I learned. Sure there are certain details everybody knows. They did this; they went to this concert; Jim got arrested after New Haven�. But there was a lot of stuff that I didn't know: the interactions of the band, the way that they were able to stay together for as long as they did even in the face of this dilemma with Jim. What came through in each of my talks with Ray, Robby and John was their absolute love for him!

Some would say the reason they stuck it out was they wanted to go along for the ride and they knew Jim was their ticket. I don't agree with that. I think the guys genuinely loved Jim. Robby said the other day, "I never met another human being like this guy." It's an amazing thing. It's an amazing connection, an incredible relationship for each of them.

Afterwards, what I learned is that there is something about the Doors' music that affects people on a deeply personal level. Everyone feels like they own it individually and they get infuriated when someone comes sniffing around it, like they're going to take something from them or violate their ownership. The response is extremely animalistic. It's a destructive, slashing response that I never would have expected, but clearly it shows you the power that this music has to touch people on a very personal level.

SS: The early responses from critics were not entirely favorable. How did you deal with them?

TD: These blows came so unexpectedly I didn't really have time to get my defenses up. They just startled me in terms of their nastiness. I never, never would have expected this.

SS: This is the Doors world. I've found that everyone feels very proprietary about them.

TD: Yes, I discovered that. I'm working on a post for my blog that addresses this discovery. It's interesting though; Kerry, Ida Miller [www.idafan.com], and Jim Southwick [www.johndensmore.com webmaster] were there at the screening. They're very possessive of the Doors, but they didn't have this reaction of wanting to annihilate me.

KH: There are just some people that don't have a name in the Doors community and by running everybody else down is how they try to get one. That's why I don't post on Doors boards. People just rip you to shreds because they want to get one over on you like they're the only Doors expert. It's quite sad.

Jim's second Poetry Book, The New Creatures

SS: What did you take personally from working on the film, from meeting all these people? What, if anything, has it changed in you?

TD: It has made me believe more than ever that the only thing that matters is fighting to the death for something that you believe in. Life is too short to compromise, to settle for something. You have to go for it. Go over the cliff and go for it and no matter what, no matter if people think you are a lunatic, if people think you're an asshole, you just have to do it. That's what I took from it.

KH: It sounds like work on the film is continuing�.

TD: Just so you know I'm actually working on it right now. The door's closed, the microphone's set up and I've been revising the narration. I've cut four pages out and I'm re-recording some stuff just to cover the transitions and the holes. Let's face it, a lot of the negative reaction was about the number of words and I would be a fool if I didn't look at some of the unanimity there and ask myself, is it true or not? I decided that some of it was true, so I've cut some of the words.

SS: Well Tom, thank you! I'm looking forward to eventually seeing the film. Kerry tells me that it's wonderful.

TD: Several people have remarked on this, and Roger Friedman from Fox News mentioned it. The film provides a glimpse into Jim and Ray and Robby and John that makes them human. You get into their bodies, their skin. That's what I attempted to do. That's what my films do.

Jim Morrison: Ten Years Gone 1981

07 June 2010 - 07:11 AM

Jim Morrison: Ten Years Gone was originally published in article form with commentary by Ms. James in the 1981 Creem Magazine Special Edition devoted to the Doors on the tenth anniversary of Jim Morrison’s passing. An unedited portion of the interview also appears at the end of the article - this section of the piece is uncorrected, the original being unavailable. Parts of this interview were also published in The Doors Illustrated History.


I met Jim Morrison for the first time in the winter of 1968. He as more alive and afire than I would ever see him, and I was a moonstruck groupie. It was a recording session for Waiting For The Sun, their third album. I was with a writer who was interviewing Morrison for the New York Times.

Jim was coming out of the studio "to get a bite to eat" with Pamela, his lady. His hand shaking mine was firm, enthusiastic, running a current of controlled power. My writer friend and I went inside and sat with he others, waiting for Jim to reappear.

Soon we were watching him from inside the tracking room while he sang Not To Touch The Earth on the other side of the soundproof glass. Most of the time his rich, urgent voice was unheard, while engineers and producer Paul Rothchild frittered and fettered down the instrumental track. Along with Ray Manzarek's searing organ and the sinister chords of Robby Krieger's guitar, we watched Morrison dance and sweat, the stallion muscularity contracting inside the glove-tight black leather jeans, while he wailed and belted out, "Nothin' left to do but run, run, let's run…."

That night, his face shaped pleasure - his eyes held light, interest, intensity. His mouth moved in motions of pleased surprise. He was all there. He argued, criticized, consented, refused, laughed, suggested. Pamela in a green velvet coat, waist long red hair, jerking her delicate jaw from side to side, followed his movements with her heavy-lashed urchin eyes, providing cigarettes, chain-smoking.

When he came into the tracking room, his body radiated heat. He seemed to glow in the dark, with a hot red aura. His presence was abristle with electricity, and he was in total charge of that massive voltage.

The last time I saw Morrison was in April of 1970 - almost fifteen months before he would slip on through to the other side, out of the lonely back door of Parisian hotel bathtub.

That April day, the 14th, he had just got in from Phoenix, where he had contended with an obscenity and disorderly conduct rap - the result of some clowning with a stewardess on board a flight to Phoenix several months before. He called and said he had "gotten out of it." We went to a house high in the windings of King Canyon, a house chilled and dust-veiled from a long absence of human presence.

In the front room, shriveled oranges like mummified heads filled a bowl, books lay split open on their spines, and dust made the print faint, greyed the picture of the Greek deity Themis, and beneath the book, a shiny rectangle of dustless wood. I replaced it carefully.

Moldy bread lay in the kitchen; on an empty refriderator, a lone, unopened bottle of cognac. In the bedroom, a wine glass by the bed had evaporated to a ruby drop at the bottom from a thin red line close to the rim. The sheets on the tousled bed smelled of coldness and mildew. Ivy reached its tentacles across the doorsills on the porches and across windowpanes as if seeking entry, stretching instinctively to take over the forgotten citadel. On the mirror in the bathroom, a message in red lipstick began, "You bastard…"

He moved more slowly that day, as though he carried an onerous weight with every motion, and this, maybe, was what made him look heavier. His eyes were duller, and he was tired, cruel and stubborn, inflicting pain with dumb frustration, barely hoping to shatter the blind boundaries and plastic facades that shut him out from all women he had ever known that were at that moment incarnated into this one puzzling woman.

His tenderness and brutality shoved each other aside, ursurping his mood by turns, battling through the motions of a lost cause, a defeated was against the pretenses that make people unreal.

Fifteen months later he gave up entirely and formally, conceding in body what he had granted in spirit, victory to the forces of decay and duplicity. The people close to him buried him quietly and private. They refused to allow an autopsy. An exhumation was prevented despite rumors of mysterious, deadly drugs, which continued to flourish and swarm pestily among the L.A. fringe circuit for years afterward.

If they had examined his dead body, I think surely what they would have found was that the cause of Jim Morrison's death was simple despair.

That April afternoon up in King's Canyon, he said, "I rely on images of violence, which bring the shock of pain, to penetrate the barriers people erect and defend, not simple defenses; the phony facades people live behind. Blocking their perceptions from coming in, and blocking their feelings from coming out. There are two ways I try to shatter those facades, or at least make a hole where something can get in, to let the trapped feelings out – one way is violence, pain. The other is eroticism."

At one point, taking the stand of "erotic politician" to the ultimate, Miami was Morrison's attempt to fuse the erotic with the violently shocking, taking up the bloody cloth from Lenny Bruce and straining it beyond its proprietary limits.

It was not the extradition tangle, the legal battle with police, lawyers, judges, that delivered the mortal wound and drained his spirit, so much as the failure of his revolutionist call to rise up and overthrow the shackles. Although detractors said that he lost control and "blew it" at that fatal Miami concert, it was neither accidental nor a mistake. He felt this, but few would share his view. Badly timed, maybe; not carefully calculated, granted – but it was the logical culmination of everything he was trying to say in words that seemed to go unheard.

To the city fathers, what was "indecent" exposure and "obscene" was at the same time, and more accurately, an overwhelming insurrection of instinctual, primal invocation, the animal-language, body-language pleas to the "television-children fed, the unborn living, living dead" to recognize their true nature, the reality of blood, nerves and feeling life.

He screamed, "WAKE UP!" a hundred times, in a hundred ways and verbatim - and few eyes had flickered. There was only one thing left to try, and he tried it, and it only served to show him how obstinately society would cling to it's shackles, protect its blinders, and publish those who unlock the doors if its cells.

"It my poetry aims to achieve anything," he told me, that April night, "it's to deliver people from the limited ways in which they see and feel."

What destroyed him was their refusal to set themselves free.

Miami and the early months of '69 were some kind of turning point for him. When I saw him in September of that year, he was beginning to recover a mild current of the charge which had galvanized his work on those first three albums. Soft Parade had appeared that summer, and it was distinguished by a paucity of Morrison's dynamite presence and raw nerve lyrics; in style and content, it was a striking departure from its three predecessors.

But Morrison's energies were opening channels through fields less pop. His poetry, privately printed, handsomely bound, was making its way from hand to hand by that fall, 1969. The following spring, 1970, those poems were published in one volume called The New Creatures* by Simon and Schuster. Also, that was the season of creating Morrison Hotel, and Jim's deep interest in the blues had dug in and was filling him with renewed hopes and plans. He talked excitedly about the possibility of presenting a TV special on the history of the blues.

He indicated that he was setting his sights on a new audience, somewhat more canny than the ones who screeched for Light My Fire in big concert halls. He suspected strongly that if he could not shudder the masses with his vision, he might be able to reach a chosen few.

He had shaved his beard and looked almost like Morrison of early "ride the snake" nights at the Whisky. But there was a certain daimon that had left him and not returned. He was more solemn, smiled less readily, moved with low vibrancy, without the coiled, ready-to-spring tension, no longer weightless. He seemed almost saintly - calm, thoughtful, resigned. The bow string held back for 23 years and abruptly released - as he once described himself - was vibrating less intensely. He said, with a mocking laugh, "The love-street times are dead."

We walked down to the Garden Spot on La Cienega for dinner. That was the evening we talked about drugs. I told him about stories I'd heard of his acid escapades, and he laughed and said, "I'm not interested in drugs," almost scornfully, and lifted his martini glass towards me, rotating it slightly with a smile that said that this was the "Crystal Ship." Another time I offered him some speed, pot and once or twice some very superior downers, and he declined always, once with a derisive shake of his head, saying, "I don't need any pills."

That September night at the Garden Spot, we also talked about his lyrics, Nietszche's Birth Of Tragedy From The Spirit Of Music, the history of the blues, and William Blake. Are some really "born to sweet delight." and some "to endless night." Is flesh our prison? Morrison's questions and ideas were similar to Blake's in many ways, as were the two poets' conceptions of the human spirit, its entrapment in blind deadened flesh, and that the five senses are but atrophied filters of knowledge.

Jim said, "I think people resist freedom because they're afraid of the unknown. But that unknown was once very well known - its where our souls belong. The only solution is to confront them - confront yourself - with the greatest fear imaginable. Expose yourself to your deepest fear. After that, fear has no power, and fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You ARE free."

I asked what he meant by "freedom."

He said, "The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade your senses for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can't be any large-scale revolution until there's a personal revolution, on an individual level. It's got to happen inside first. You can take away a man's political freedom and you won't hurt him - unless you take away his freedom to feel. That can destroy him."

I needed to understand how anyone could have the power to take away the freedom to feel.

Jim explained patiently, "Some people surrender that freedom willingly - but others are forced to surrender it. Imprisonment begins with birth. Society - parents - they refuse to allow you to keep the freedom you are born with. There are subtle ways to punish a person for daring to feel. You see that everyone around you has destroyed his true, feeling nature. You imitate what you see. Our culture mocks 'primitive cultures' and prides itself on suppression of natural instincts and impulses."

Over the sound system at the Garden Spot came the just released Beatles' Come Together - Jim was listening. "I like that song," he said.

We went back to the blue Shelby and he looked through the L.A. Times for a movie.

I asked a ponderous question: "Jim, does civilization have to be sacrificed to reclaim our freedom?"

"What is civilization?" he asked.

"City life, technology, habits, behavior, social rules, institutions, all of that."

"How important is `all that' to you? Is it more or less important to you than your freedom? If it's less important, then you can leave it alone. If it's more important, then you have to destroy it. By yourself - for yourself. Each person for himself. If you want your true self to survive.

In November of that year, on a rainy afternoon, Jim, his brother Andy, Jim's Irish pal Tom, publicity man Leon Barnard and I sat drinking boilermakers at the Palms Bar on Santa Moncia Blvd. Periodically, two or three of us would get up and shoot some pool. There was almost a fight between Jim and a big redneck pool-shark who got a little too belligerent.

Part of the time Jim sat and talked with me against the background din of the others - especially Tom - getting progressively more rowdy. Occasionally Tom teased me playfully, with phrases in foreign languages and dirty little jokes.

Jim was a master at holding his liquor. After seven or eight boilermakers (whisky shots with beer chasers) he was smooth, even, self-contained, articulate. But desensitized, no. If you looked closely, or brushed his consciousness with a slightest touch, there was that psyche like an exposed nerve, his raw, bare awareness, that nothing could muffle or shelter or insinuate.

He saw too much. Too seldom did he find respite in the sweet blindness that overtook the others. Something Tom said made Jim think of The Birth Of A Nation. Jim observed that this film was a classic, a definitive American epic. "America was conceived in violence," Jim said. "Americans are attached to violence. They attach themselves to processed violence, out of cans. They're TV-hypnotized. TV is the invisible protective shield against bare reality. Twentieth Century culture's disease is the inability to feel the reality. People cluster to TV, soap operas, movies, theatre, pop idols, and they have wild emotions over symbols, but in the reality of their own lives, they're emotionally dead."

We walked through the rain to Elektra Studios on La Cienega. Outside, Andy and Tom wrestled playfully, rolling in the mud below the steps. Paul Rothchild stood in the doorway and scolded them like a schoolmaster.

Inside, "Roadhouse Blues" got cooking with John Sebastian wailing on harp. Pamela was waiting with two of her women friends, all vogueishly dressed, amidst a crowd of L.A. ultras, "Strange Days" survivors, meandering around the tracking room, while Jim uttered his primal scream, "WAKE UP!!" in a vacuum, writhing and jerking in useless gestures of thwarted rebellion.

One thing Jim taught me that I never lost is to forget or dismiss shame over suffering, and in the same way, to fight fear of pain.

"Pain is meant to wake us up," he said, that night. "People try to hide their pain, but they're wrong. Pain is something to carry, like a radio. You feel your strength in the experience of pain. It's all in how you carry it. That's what matters."

I had heard plenty about Morrison's dealings with women. The L.A. gossip circuit was as rife with these legends as with those of his consumption of prodigious amounts of acid prior to mounting a bike and careening down the narrow windings of Laurel Canyon, screaming.

"I'm no biker," he said to that tale, and if the drug myths were inventions too, how reliable could the sex myths be?

I might have considered myself warned, but dismissed the hearsay. Even if it was that extreme, I had to find out for myself.

I am sure I was an anomaly among groupies, in beguiling him to spend so much of our time through the night talking, and playing with, of all things, his sexual philosophy.

"Sex is full of lies," he said. "The body tries to tell the truth, but it's usually too battered with rules to be heard, and bound with pretenses so it can hardly move. We cripple ourselves with lies."

But he was like a captive performing tiger, never quite tamed, never safe to turn your back on: at any moment could come the surprise lashing out of the big paw full of claws. He could be tender and funny and in the next instant, arrogant and mean.

At one point, I told him, "You look like a Greek god." He shook his head, laughing with the bashfulness and insecurity of any ordinary guy.

Between Waiting For The Sun and the day I closed the door of the ivy-netted house in King's Canyon, I talked with him, drank with him, spent nights with him, but most of all, took a moonlight dive into the "wet forests" and blue deeps of his mind.

Because my admiration for him stretched beyond carnality and beyond rock-star fixation into an overwhelming interest in the man's words, his ideas, his written and sung poetry, I found something more. He would astonish me with delight and with pain, and surprise me anew each time he gave me a chilling glimpse of his loneliness.

At three or five in the morning, sometimes, he called and said, "Come and get me. Come and take me away…" as though it was some winged denizen of heaven he had dialed.

He was a stranger, a "rider on the storm" thrown into this world. There was a shop on La Cienega, "Themis," where Pamela sold candles like giant unended root systems…and there was the argument over whether Jim was allowed to crash there at night. The first time he took me back to his hideout, we both struggled to pull his boot off a purple swollen foot, sprained when he kicked in an eight-by-ten plate glass window at the Doors' headquarters the previous night and jumped to the floor, ever in search of a "soul kitchen" to sleep all night in, refuge from the "stumbling neon grooves."

He was surrounded by an ever-present, teeming collection of buddies, gofers, groupies, associates and hangers-on. But when I said that I wanted to be his friend, he put his arm around me in quick acceptance, thanking me with feeling in his voice that I seriously recognized to be nothing other than need.

After he was gone, I was sorry about nothing except that I hadn't given him more. For what I did give. which was to plunge my greedy curiosity and eagerness into his mind in thirst for his ideas, had seemed to me no gift at all. But it was clear that it had seemed so to him, because he gave me so much in return - desperately careful in his explanations. only because he saw my craving to understand.

He always betrayed surprise when he saw that he had made himself understood, that his message had flown true and reached home and beat its wings in my innards. Of course, that was in the later days, when he felt his messages so fractionally received.

Jim Morrison was a revolutionary. He pitted the politics of eroticism against the bastion of unfeeling, rigid, insentience. He stormed the institution of flesh "that chains us," and "eyes that lie."

"The shaman is similar to the scapegoat," he said, as we walked through the rain on La Cienega and leaned inside a doorway against the wall, watching the cars crawl past. "I see the role of the artist as shaman and scapegoat. People project their fantasies onto him and their fantasies come alive. People can destroy their fantasies, by destroying him. I obey the impulses everyone has, but won't admit to. By attacking me, punishing me, they can feel relieved of those impulses."

"Isn't that what you meant about people having a lot of wild emotion over symbols - pop idols, for instance?" I asked.

"That's right. People are afraid of themselves - of their own reality - their feelings most of all. People talk about how great love is, but that's all bullshit. Love hurts. Feelings are disturbing. People are taught that pain is evil and dangerous. How can they deal with love if they're afraid to feel?"

"Is that why you said, `my only friend, the End?"

"It's strange that people fear death, the pain is over. Yeah, I guess it is a friend."

We started walking back. The rain was coming harder, and we were lightly dressed. But the session break was over and he had to be back at the studio. It would be a long night.


* The Lords and The New Creatures

UNEDITED INTERVIEW SEGMENT: Lizzie: I think fans of The Doors see you as a savior, the leader who'll set them all free. How do you feel about that?

Jim: It's absurd. How can I set free anyone who doesn't have the guts to stand up alone and declare his own freedom? I think it's a lie – people claim they want to be free – everybody insists that freedom is what they want the most, the most sacred and precious thing a man can possess. But that's bullshit! People are terrified to be set free – they hold on to their chains. They fight anyone who tries to break those chains. It's their security…How can they expect me or anyone else to set them free if they don't really want to be free?

Lizzie: Why do you think people fear freedom?

Jim: I think people resist freedom because they're afraid of the unknown. But it's ironic…That unknown was once very well known. It's where our souls belong…The only solution is to confront them – confront yourself – with the greatest fear imaginable. Expose yourself to your deepest fear. After that, fear has no power, and fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.

Lizzie: What do you mean when you say "freedom"?

Jim: There are different kinds of freedom – there's a lot of misunderstanding….The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your senses for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can't be any large scale revolution until there's a personal revolution, on an individual level. It's got to happen inside first. ….You can take away a man's political freedom and you won't hurt him – unless you take away his freedom to feel. That can destroy him.

Lizzie: But how can anyone else have the power to take away from
your freedom to feel?

Jim: Some people surrender their freedom willingly – but others are forced to surrender it. Imprisonment begins with birth. Society, parents – they refuse to allow you to keep the freedom you are born with. There are subtle ways to punish a person for daring to feel. You see that everyone around you has destroyed his true feeling nature. You imitate what you see.

Lizzie: Are you saying that we are, in effect, brought up to defend and perpetuate a society that deprives people of the freedom to feel?

Jim: Sure….teachers, religious leaders – even friends, or so called friends – take over where parents leave off. They demand that we feel only the feelings they want and expect from us. They demand all the time that we perform feelings for them. We're like actors – turned loose in this world to wander in search of a phantom…endlessly searching for a half-forgotten shadow of our lost reality. When others demand that we become the people they want us to be, they force us to destroy the person we really are. It's a subtle kind of murder….the most loving parents and relatives commit this murder with smiles on their faces.

Lizzie: Do you think it's possible for an individual to free himself from these repressive forces on his own – all alone?

Jim: That kind of freedom can't be granted. Nobody can win it for you. You have to do it on your own. If you look to somebody else to do it for you – somebody outside yourself – you're still depending on others. You're still vulnerable to those repressive, evil outside forces, too.

Lizzie: But isn't it possible for people who want that freedom to unite – to combine their strength, maybe just to strengthen each other? It must be possible.

Jim: Friends can help each other. A true friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself – and especially to feel. Or not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at the moment is fine with them. That's what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is….Most people love you for who you pretend to be….To keep their love, you keep pretending – performing. You get to love your pretense…It's true, we're locked in an image, an act – and the sad thing is, people get so used to their image – they grow attached to their masks. They love their chains. They forget all about who they really are. And if you try to remind them, they hate you for it – they feel like you're trying to steal their most precious possession.

Lizzie: It's ironic – it's sad. Can't they see that what you're trying to show them is the way to freedom?

Jim: Most people have no idea what they're missing. Our society places a supreme value on control – hiding what you feel. Our culture mocks "primitive cultures" and prides itself on suppression of natural instincts and impulses.

Lizzie: In some of your poetry, you openly admire and praise primitive people – Indians, for instance. Do you mean that it's not human beings in general but our particular society that's flawed and destructive?

Jim: Look at how other cultures live – peacefully, in harmony with the earth, the forest – animals. They don't build war machines and invest millions of dollars in attacking other countries who political ideals don't happen to agree with their own.

Lizzie: We live in a sick society.

Jim: It's true….and part of the disease is not being aware that we're diseased….Our society has too much – too much to hold on to, and value – freedom ends up at the bottom of the list.

Lizzie: But isn't there something an artist can do? If you didn't feel you, as an artist, could accomplish something, how could you go on?

Jim: I offer images – I conjure memories of freedom that can still be reached – like the Doors, right? But we can only open the doors – we can't drag people through. I can't free them unless they want to be free – more than anything else….Maybe primitive people have less bullshit to let go of, to give up. A person has to be willing to give up everything – not just wealth. All the bullshit he's been taught – all society's brainwashing. You have to let go of all that to get to the other side. Most people aren't willing to do that.

Lizzie: In your early, first album, stuff, there's a definite feeling of an apocalyptic vision – "break on through"- a transcendence. Do you see this as a still existing possibility?

Jim: It's different now. (Pause) It used to seem possible to generate a movement – people rising up and joining together in mass protest – refusing to be repressed any longer – like, they'd all put their strength together to break what Blake calls "the mind-forged manacles."…..The love-street times are dead. Sure, it's possible for there to be a transcendence – but not on a mass level, not a universal rebellion. Now it has to take place on an individual level – every man for himself, as they say. Save yourself. Violence isn't always evil. What's evil is the infatuation with violence.

Lizzie: What causes that?

Jim: If natural energy and impulses are too severely suppressed for too long, they become violent. It's natural for something that's been held under pressure to become violent in it's release…a person who is too severely suppressed experiences so much pleasure in those violent releases…they're probably rare and brief. So he becomes infatuated with violence.

Lizzie: But then – the real source of evil isn't the violence – or the infatuation with it – but the repressive forces.

Jim: That's true – but in some cases, a person's infatuation with violence involves a secret complicity with his oppressors. People seek tyrants. They worship and support them. They co-operate with restrictions and rules, and they become enchanted with the violence involved in their brief, token rebellions.

Lizzie: But why is that?

Jim: Tradition, maybe – the sins of the fathers. America was conceived in violence. Americans are attracted to violence. They attach themselves to processed violence, out of cans. They're TV - hypnotized – TV is the invisible protective shield against bare reality. Twentieth-century culture's disease is the inability to feel their reality. People cluster to TV, soap operas, movie, theatre, pop idols, and they have wild emotion over symbols. But in reality of their own lives, they're emotionally dead.

Lizzie: But why? What makes us run away from our own feeling?

Jim: We fear violence less than our own feelings. Personal, private, solitary pain is more terrifying than what anyone else can inflict.

Lizzie: I don't really understand.

Jim: Pain is meant to wake us up. People try and hide their pain. But they're wrong. Pain is something to carry, like a radio. You feel your strength in the experience of pain. It's all in how you carry it. That's what matters. (Pause) Pain is a feeling – your feelings are a part of you. Your own reality. If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you're letting society destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel your pain.

Lizzie: Do you still see yourself as the shaman? I mean, lots of Doors fanatics look to you to lead them to salvation. Do you accept that role?

Jim: I'm not sure it's salvation that people are after, or want me to lead them to. The shaman is a healer – like a witch-doctor. I don't see people turning to me for that. I don't see myself as a savior.

Lizzie: What do you see them turning to you for, then?

Jim: The shaman is similar to the scapegoat. I see the role of the artist as shaman and scapegoat. People project their fantasies onto him and their fantasies by destroying him. I obey the impulses everyone has, but won't admit to. By attacking me, punishing me, they can feel relieved of those impulses.

Lizzie: Is that what you meant before, about people having a lot of wild emotions over symbols – pop idols for instance?

Jim: That's right. People are afraid of themselves – or their own reality – their feelings most of all. People talk about how great love is, but that's bullshit. Love hurts. Feelings are disturbing. People are taught that pain is evil and dangerous. How can they deal with love if they're afraid to feel?

Lizzie: Is that why you said, "My only friend, the End"…..?

Jim: Sometimes the pain is too much to examine, or even tolerate….That doesn't make it evil, though – or necessarily dangerous. But people fear death even more than pain. It's strange that they fear death. Life hurts a lot more than death. At the point of death, the pain is over. Yeah – I guess it is a friend…..

Lizzie: People see sex as the great liberator – the ultimate freedom. Aren't a lot of your songs pointing the way to freedom through sex?

Jim: Sex can be a liberation. But it an also be an entrapment.

Lizzie: What makes the difference?

Jim: It's all a question of how much a person listens to his body – his feelings. Most people are too battered with rules to be heard, and bound with pretenses so it can hardly move. We cripple ourselves with lies.

Lizzie: How can we break through the rules and lies?

Jim: By listening to your body – opening up your senses. Blake said that the body as the soul's prison unless the five senses are fully developed and open. He considered the senses the "windows of the soul." When sex involves all the senses intensely, it can be like a mystical experience….

Lizzie: In some of your songs, you present sex as an escape – a refuge of sanctuary – like "Crystal Ship" or "Soft Parade" of "Soul Kitchen." I've always been fascinated by the way your lyrics suggest parallels between sex and death – "Moonlight Drive" is a beautiful example. But isn't this an ultimate rejection of the body?

Jim: Not at all – it's the opposite. If you reject your body, it becomes your prison cell. It's a paradox – to transcend the limitations of the body, you have to immerse yourself in it – you have to be totally open to your senses….It isn't so easy to accept your body totally – we're taught that the body is something to control, dominate – natural processes like pissing and shitting are considered dirty….Puritanical attitudes die slowly. How can sex be a liberation if you don't really want to touch your body – if you're trying to escape from it?