Doors at Seattle

Published in Poppin Magazine

Something has happened to the Doors. Ray Manzarek knows it, several thousand people who attended the Seattle Pop Festival know, and probably so does Jim Morrison.
Once one of the vital influences in rock, the Doors apparently have been captured entirely by the ego-tripping of Morrison. Instead of giving their audiences the music that turned us all on a couple of years back, the Doors now come on like some kind of carnival sideshow, with Morrison as the geek out front.
I’m not sure what I expected of Morrison and the Doors at the Seattle Pop Festival, but I hadn’t seen them perform in more than a year and was a curious as anyone about the changes they were said to have gone through.
The tension there was high. Only a chicken-wire fence separated the stage-and us- from 40,000 rock fans, fronted a phalanx of screaming screaming teenyboppers who had come out from Seattle for the day just to see Morrison. Black Panthers recruited by promoter Boyd Grafmyre patrolled along the fence, politely asking the jammed-in kids not to crash the stage.
Vanilla fudge was just finishing its set- a fine series of songs from their new album “Rock ‘n Roll”. It was the first time I had heard the group live and their performance belied their commercial reputation as they played some of the best rock of the weekend. An unappreciative knot of kids in front of the stage, though hooted and screamed out for the Doors.
The fudge finished its set and started to leave the stage, but was called back for an encore. More boos came from the people pressed against the retaining fence, but this time the derision was drowned out by the applause of older hands who recognized the groups new direction.
When Fudged closed out its extended set with a rollicking spiriting version of “Shotgun,” even the wall of squirming kids gave them a well deserved hand.
Then the tension built higher. The chants started in front, then spread through the biggest rock audience ever gathered in the Pacific Northwest.
“We want Morrison.” “We want the Doors.” “We want Morrison.” Empty wine bottles and garbage cans were converted to drums which accompanied the hollow chant. Those of us in the press area felt the animal presence revealed in the primitive rhythm of the chanting audience. For the first time, we seriously began discussing an escape route in case the crowd should rush the stage.
Manzarek walked first onto the darkened stage. As he struck a single note on his keyboard the chants stopped. The crowd was waiting in silent anticipation. Few realized that Morrison, dressed in denim work coat and wearing a full beard, had been on and off the stage several times.
As John Densmore tested his drums the crowd tensed again, still waiting for the harsh-throated singer thought they would recognize from their album covers.
Then came Morrison.
Looking old a little wild he walked to his microphone, lovingly stoked his black moustache, smiled evilly at the 14-year-old girls behind me, and laughed. “This is where it’s at now,” he said, still running his hands through his beards.
When he opened with “When the Music’s Over,” Morrison sounded almost like the singer he used to be. As the song continued however, so did his crude asides. When he was though someone tossed a crumpled cup at him. Morrison gave his unseen assailant the finger. The crowd dug it.
The Doors ran through an obligatory five minutes of “Light My Fire,” a song Morrison told an interviewer earlier this year he wouldn’t perform again in public.
“It stinks. We’re beyond that now,” he had said. His performance of the song, only a ghost of the recorded version, indicated he probably does think it stinks- and that’s the way he sang it.
More than anything else, Morrison’s attitude dominated the stage throughout the show. Puffing on a cigar borrowed from a stagehand, he continued on his uninterrupted ego trip, all the while abusing, insulting and ridiculing his audience.
It was apparent that this wasn’t the Morrison the young chicks had come to see. The tension on the fence behind me relaxed, and we no longer feared the teenyboppers would try to crash the stage. They didn’t want him that bad.
“I read in the paper that some headshrink says people like me who perform on stage are crazy,” Morrison was shouting. “I read that they didn’t get enough love when they were kids…I didn’t get enough love.”
It was a personal ego thing. He combed his fingers through his long beard, then ran his hands down his chest and along his legs.
“He’s got a hard on,” the chick behind me whispered. It looked as if she was right.
So Morrison turned himself on in front of 40,000 people. But he still wasn’t making music – only speeches.
Someone out front made an audible remark. Morrison latched onto it, called the person a big-mouth bastard, dared him to repeat it. “Get it al out. All the little hatreds, everything that’s boiled up inside you. Let me have it.” He commanded.
“Fuck you,” the crowd screamed. “That’s the word I wanted to hear. That’s the very little word,” Morrison told them.
A quiet voice form the audience said “Shuck!” Morrison laughed.
Speeches done, the band went into “Five to One.” But the audience no longer was willing to follow Morrison. Obviously not getting the response he was after in his bubblegum revolution song, he grabbed a maraca and pretended to beat off. He hugged guitarist Robby Krieger and made faces at the teenage chicks.
Manzarek shook his head. It was hard to tell if he was keeping time with the music or thinking about Morrison.
The set ended with the Doors’ traditional “This is the End.” A sparkler flew from the crowd and bounced off the light show screen, as stagehands rushed to extinguish it. Morrison never noticed. He had digressed from the recognized version of his song and was parodying the old Negro blues singers.
“I’se an old blues man. I’se an old blues man, getting anything I can,” he sang.
Then he slipped back into “The End,” moving toward the Oedipal climax where he would say “Mother, I want to—,” Only the song didn’t stop there. “I wanta make love, sweet, sweet love to you all night long,” he sang on.
Then the set was over. Manzarek switched off the recorded bass accompaniement and left the stage. Krieger and Densmore followed. Morrison hung there, very still, bathed in red flood, with head dropped, eyes closed and arms outstretched- Christ on the cross. After the performance he gave, it was difficult to accept his crucification gesture without feeling that he was doing it to himself.
I waited for him as he left the stage, flanked by several newsmen and some of his staff. “It’s going to be alright,” he was saying over and over. The groupies just lined the stage stairs and watched as Morrison climbed into his chartered helicopter and was lifted into the sky- a continuance, though unintellectual, of his Christ pose.
Boyd Grafmyre turned to me.
“That’s a quick way for him to make $30,000,” he said.
Back on stage Led Zeppelin was making an attentive audience forget the proceeding act, just as they had, forgotten the others when the Doors came on stage.
But Jim Morrison is in no danger of being out of work, unless he loses Manzarek or Krieger or decides to do a Joplin on his own. All he has to do is show his ass on stage in an uptight town, get arrested and become a cult hero to millions of teenyboppers who don’t seem to mind being insulted and laughed at.
But some of us still like music, Jim.