For something different, I will decipher an album instead of a song, written by Ray Manzarek instead of Jim Morrison.
THE GOLDEN SCARAB
Last summer when I read Danny Sugerman's book Wonderland Avenue
, I bought this album so that I could hear the music that Danny was listening to Ray rehearse at his Wonderland Avenue practice studio. Danny's description of the album piqued my curiosity, he called it "weird", said that it was about a scarab beetle rolling a ball of dung across the sky
, and said that Ray made the album mostly for "personal reasons" rather than commercial ones.
So when I first listened to the album, with the accompanying narration in between the songs, I wasn't expecting much.
Here is the track listing:
1. HE CAN'T COME TODAY, MAYBE TOMORROW
2. THE SOLAR BOAT
3. DOWNBOUND TRAIN
4. THE GOLDEN SCARAB
5. THE PURPOSE OF EXISTENCE
6. CHOOSE UP OR CHOOSE OFF
7. MOORISH IDOL
8. A LITTLE FART
The narration made no sense to me. The lyrics made less sense. And I couldn't figure out what Ray was trying to say. I listened again. And again. And again. Now, 6 months later, I think I have figured it out: Ray made the album to document the different stages of his grief over Jim's death, and the breakup of the surviving Doors.
The 5 stages of grief are all here; Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. The album starts off in full denial in He can't come today
, hoping that somebody will come alone to replace the irreplaceable Jim Morrison. Solar Boat
has Ray talking to himself--or is it Jim? Pointing out why he should come back to ride the Tightrope Ride
once again. Then the album switches to anger at Jim for his self destruction, in the hard charging Downbound Train.
Ray starts to bargain with himself in Golden Scarab, which tells the story of a golden dung beetle that represents the sun god Ra travelling across the sky, symbolic of Rebirth. Ray identifies with the Sun the way Jim Morrison identified with Dionysus. Ray considers himself to have Apollo like qualities, methodical and straightforward, as opposed to the drunken free spirit of Dionysus. So, Ray seems to be using the scarab myth as a way of looking for his own symbolic rebirth. Nearly every song on the album mentions the sun, Sunday, solar travel, or golden light.
Depression follows next in the Purpose of Existence
, Ray is trying to figure out what life is all about, and why he survived when Jim didn't. Anger resurfaces in Choose up or Choose off
, Ray has a scolding tone, like he is lashing out at the world.
Then finally Acceptance comes with the song Moorish Idol
. It's an instrumental song, Ray plays the organ to sound like Scottish bagpipes. The name Morrison means Moorish Son, and Jim Morrison was the ultimate Rock Idol. Ray accepts that Jim is gone, and has become a legend.
Ray's "journey" ends with A Little Fart
, which is a listing of things that make Ray happy.
I won't retype all of the lyrics, but I will include some key verses that I think are very telling of what Ray was thinking at the time.
HE CAN'T COME TODAY
The song starts off with a whistle blowing. Is it from a basketball coach? Or a drill sergeant? Both of which were significant in Ray's life before he met Jim Morrison. The narration in this song says "I had forgotten, I was waiting for the word". The "Word", is Jim Morrison, the lyricist and poet. The song lyrics describe the frustration of trying to find somebody to replace the irreplaceable Jim Morrison.
When will we see him, where will we find him, how will we know he's the one?
Didi and Gogo, and Little Pablo, everybody's looking for the truth
We need a leader, we need a master, we can't do it all on our own
We need a guru, we need a boo hoo, we're afraid of being alone
THE SOLAR BOAT
has Ray talking to himself at the beginning. Or is he talking to Jim Morrison? He mentions all of the highlights of the Doors success, references Jim's favorite authors, and also the songs Moonlight Drive and Tightrope Ride. It's almost like he is trying to talk Jim back down to earth to rejoin the band.
Let's ride, let's take a moonlight drive, we're on a tightrope ride into the sun.
Let's fly, it's such an endless sky, there is no need to hide, you are the one.
is the best track on the album. It's a remake of Chuck Berry's song about the dangers of drinking too much. Ray changed several of the lyrics in the original song to make them more specific to Jim Morrison. I wonder who the wicked old hag was--Kennealy??
The passengers were mostly a decadent crew, some were foreigners and others I knew
Rock stars in velvet, gay boys in drag, beautiful groupies and wicked old hags
THE GOLDEN SCARAB
has very little to do with Jim Morrison, but everything to do with Ray. It lays out the mythology of the rebirth of the sun, something that Ray identifies with very closely.
You shine - the mind - no fear - no time - the dream - the sun - the One.
All of life is sunlight, bring your golden light, bring your golden sunlight, bring your golden light.
THE PURPOSE OF EXISTENCE IS
Listen to the intro to this song. It recalls Albioni's Adagio in G Minor
from Feast of Friends, which would later also be used in the cemetery scene of Oliver Stone's The Doors.
Lyrics from this song are totally about scolding Jim Morrison for his self destruction, and guilt felt by Ray for still being alive.
Do you think the purpose of existence is to pass out of existence?
Do you think the reason for your being is to give up all your being?
Then why are you living, what did you come here for?
You must have wanted something, here you are back for more
Life and its treasures, love sweet pleasures
Don't let it end, try it again, over and over again
Is your soul so weary that you think the life you feel is illusion and pain,
Ha! You're just lazy and afraid of life and its danger, to love you're a stranger.
THE MOORISH IDOL
The narration moves on, the album liner notes warn of taking refuge in False Idols. But this narration is missing from the CD. I don't know if that is on purpose or not, because I think it is better without this part of the narration. Ray never rejected Jim Morrison as a false idol, he did the opposite. He created the Morrison Mythology, fed it to Danny, and pushed it to the public for the next 4 decades.
CHOOSE UP AND CHOOSE OFF
Ray makes a lot of commentary about the political and racial turmoil going on during 1972-3. Ray speaking out about the dangers of apathy and self destruction.
Dionysus or Apollo, good or evil which one will you follow?
A LITTLE FART
Finally, Ray decides to allow himself to be happy in his life, and not to dwell on the tragedies of the recent past. "All Reet" is a reference to a song by Cab Calloway
Don't deny your body or you're gonna go and lose your way,
Body is the secret baby don't you go and give it away,
You'll be a pure spirit someday, but darling for day
Take is as it comes, watch your TV set, smoke a cigarette, give your mind a rest
This is the one and only greatest life you'll ever have, you gotta live it like you want to come back over and over again
Cuz everything and everyone the moon the sun was made by you
You'll astral project someday but darling for today enjoy what you made
Tap your feet and say "all reet".
Edited by Shebang, 18 February 2010 - 04:10 AM.