The Doors As 'Porn' : Turn Out The Lights

by '69
Amherst Student

Two weeks ago, Jim Morrison, lead singer for the Doors, was busted in New Haven and charged with obscenity. During a concert at the New Haven Arena, Morrison began a long monologue in the middle of "Back Door Man," complete with writhings and powerful erotic imagery. The police who were swarming around the place, to protect the innocent minds of the audience no doubt, started yelling to Morrison to stop. He didn't, of course. Finally, a mass of cops burst onto the stage and sprayed Morrison with Mace, the paralyzing foam used to stop riots. The Doors kept playing. Nazi Germany couldn't have done any better.

Five days later, at a concert at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, female teenyboppers rushed on stage in heat and interrupted a Doors concert by ripping down the huge screen upon which a swirling light show was being exploded. Many surrounded Morrison, who dropped languidly to the floor. Some caressed, others kissed, a few girls weeped, genuine terrified ecstatic weeping. Not the nonsense that trotted along with the Beatles or Elvis. One girl, about sixteen fondled the leather of Morrison's pants / skin, and softly humming, began a fellatio pantomime. She was finally shoved away by fuzz. The concert was stopped.

That same week, the Doors' latest album, "Strange Days", was certified as a "million-selling record" by the Record Industry Association of America. . . . . this sort of string of events definitely calls for further exploration.

One of the reasons I consider the Doors to be the most important, most creative and revolutionary group in music today is that they have formed an immensely liberating, important new artistic structure: rock pornography.

Man, the "sick animal" bears within him an appetite which can drive him mad : sexuality … beyond good and evil, beyond love, beyond sanity, a resource for ordeal, for breaking through limits of consciousness … pushing up close to dangerous desires, from the impulse to commit sudden arbitrary violence upon another person to the voluptuous yearning for the extinction of one's consciousness, for "death" itself. Therefore, what pornography is really about, ultimately, isn't sex, but death. Pure and black. And what makes pornography good or bad has nothing to do with separate sterile literary standards: it is simply dependent on the orticity, and power of the "deranged consciousness" itself that is embodied in the work. And, in this sense, the Doors are not only first rate pornographers, but also important and original artists.

The best pornography capitalizes on an amazing aspect of sexual feeling: the heavy experience in which one can feel one is losing one's "self." Pornography surrounds this mystery from inside, isolates it, makes the reader aware of it, and invites him to participate in it. This kind of literature, and the song / ritual / dramas of the Doors are both invocations of the erotic in its darkest sense and, often, an exorcism.

Art must take forays into and take up positions on the frontiers of consciousness and report back what's there. The good pornographer invents "trophies" of his "trips" through the back doors, through the borderlines, to the peaks of sexual existence.

Listening to The Doors is an unsettling and illuminating experience. They not only talk about the limits of sexual consciousness as observers, but also force the involved listener to seek his own ecstasy, and, finally release. Destruction. Finality. The Doors describe the dark road as they drag you on it, finally leaving you alone, torn on the dirt, panting for air. Panting far exhalation. Of everything. The exemplary modern artist is a broker in madness.

"Strange Days" is a landmark. It ventures far beyond the conventional realm of musical expression: it has become theatre. The cruel theatre of Artaud, of shock and of the brilliant American play, Michael McClure's "The Beard." The theatre of the absurd. Grand Guignol in electronic shrieks. The Beatles and the Stones are for blowing your mind; the Doors are for afterwards, when your mind is already gone. It's like screeching your fingernails on glass.

"Come on Baby / Gonna take a little ride / Goin' down by the oceanside / Gonna get real close / Get real tight / Baby gonna drown tonight / Goin' down, down, down . .." ("Moonlight Drive")

Jim Morrison

The Doors have, in fact, surpassed the Stones at their own game: nihilism. "Strange Days" is abject apathy and jaded perversity. These are the smoke ring from Oscar Wilde's opium pipe, not the benign caterpillar's hookah. The madmen lurking in those alleys, playing their giddy music on old dry bones and holding out a deformed palm with a leer. Look again at the hypnotic, provocative cover art on this album.

"My eyes have seen you / Free from disguise / Gazing at the city under television skies / My eyes have seen you / Let them photograph your soul / Memorize your alleys / On an endless roll." ("My eyes have seen you")

The most benevolent and mournful song on the album is built upon a fascinating structure: a threatening, ominous "message" set against a slow, beautiful melody. It's the juxtaposition of words and music that create the frightening tone …

"You're lost little girl / You're lost little girl / You're lost / Tell me who / Are you."

Listen to the delicacy of the guitar solo, the fragility of the bass, the buoyancy of the melody. But no sentimentality:

"I think that you know what to do / Impossible? yes, but it's true / I'm sure that you know what to do."

"Lying on her left side, alone in the darkness of her room, alone in the silence, hot beneath her two layers of fur, of necessity motionless, O tried to figure out why there was so much sweetness mingled with her terror, or why her terror seemed itself so sweet." (From "The Story of O")

"What have they done to the earth? / What have they done to our fair sister? / Ravaged and plundered / And ripped her and bit her / Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn / And tied her with fences / And dragged her down." (From "When the Music's Over")

The Doors' music is electric without ostentation, a unique quiet rage. The effect is an impression of uncontrolled — or more precisely — uncontrollable music, so charged with the inner drive of its bizarre theme that it cannot be contained. The sound is clean, airy, pristine, not the "wall of sound" of fuzz reverb. Its y ominous effect clashes with its aural delicacy.

In "When the Music's Over", the Doors deal with themselves, their art, as the Beatles did in he title song of "Sgt. Pepper." The final comparison makes the Beatles seem almost small.

"When the music's over / Turn out the lights / The music is your special friend / Dance on fire as end / Until the end!" ("Turn out the lights.")

The Doors' music takes you to the edge. You have to fall by yourself. It's your private death. Let kingdom come.

"Before I sink / Into the big sleep / I want to hear / I want to hear / the scream of the butterfly."

And what is this scream? Love-scream perhaps. The whirring silent shriek hovered at the moment of orgasm which is never said but always heard. Or the scream of living death, moments of ecstatic destruction … or all the silent screams.

"Horse Latitudes" is to the Doors' album what "A Day in the Life" was to "Sgt. Pepper." A coda, revealing the hard-core unifying meat of the whole work; what is only alluded to in the other works obliquely is spelled out in gut-clutching horror in this. Here the fragile electric offshoots of the other songs become a raging, grinding cyclone of electronic musique concrete and tape collage:

"Awkward instant
And the first animal is jettisoned
Legs furiously pumping
Their stiff green gallop
And heads bob up
In mute nostril agony
Carefully refined and sealed over."

In the old days, Morrison used to hang onto the microphone stolidly, looking like somebody coming down from three days on meth. Those days are gone. Now he moves a lot. He backs away from the mike slowly, then suddenly collapses in the middle as if he'd been shotgunned at point blank range, or else kicked in the groin. Besides folding up unexpectedly several times each set, he leans into the mike, right leg bent and placed far ahead of the left, his hands groping awkwardly for the cord. He appears like a marionette whose manipulator is suffering some sort of seizure. He's changed. He can work where he wants, or blow the whole thing. He does photo layouts in leather for Vogue and Glamour. As one magazine said, "Morrison may be so pretty, he looks as if he were made up on the phone by two fags." He may be James Dean for a darker day.

So, finally, the music on "Strange Days" is more surreal than psychedelic. More anguish than acid. More than rock, it is ritual — the ritual of psychic-sexual — exorcism. The Doors are the warlocks of pop culture. The agonized grunts and screams that fly from Jim Morrison's angelic mouth are indeed as enigmatic as the idea of a butterfly screaming. The Doors are saying there are screams we don't hear, and they're trying to give them shape, Morrison is an angel — an exterminating angel. He and the Doors are a demonic and beautiful miracle that has risen like shrieking Phoenix from the white drugged heat of the new music. And as long as they perform, there will be people just like those girls in L.A., willing to bruise their softest flesh in unassuageable worship. It's better that way.

Source: Amherst Student archives