photo & text by nacrowe
i remember around the turn of the millennium attending BOARDING SCHOOL away from my parents, who were stationed in NIGERIA at the time. i was in my mid-teens and it was quite the transition to not only be away from your family, but halfway around the world so. feeling ISOLATED in a bad situation where i was being HAZED upon routinely by upperclassmen and away from any support network was the context from which i discovered and experienced STRANGE DAYS (ELEKTRA, 1967) by THE DOORS within.
sonically the album is almost FELLINI-esque with its swirling organ phrases, specifically on tracks like "STRANGE DAYS," "UNHAPPY GIRL," "PEOPLE ARE STRANGE," "I CAN'T SEE YOUR FACE IN MY MIND," and "WHEN THE MUSIC'S OVER." lyrically the album references themes of ALIENATION, SOCIAL/PSYCHIC ISOLATION and UNREQUITED LOVE. i know that for many their teenage experience was not pleasant, but my time in BOARDING SCHOOL was spent avoiding punishment by bored hockey players who saw my painted fingernails, dyed hair and NINE INCH NAILS shirts as target enough for their attention. and the adults just looked the other way. i got out unscathed but others didnt (linked HERE is an example that happened at another dorm during my time at the school). maybe that punishing and unforgiving atmosphere is why i read so much into JIM MORRISON's lyrics at the time. they seemed to revolve around the FUTILITY of trusting authority figures.
i believe high school is also a transformational period where you become aware of your body and your connection to other people. being shy and reserved by nature, i dont believe BOARDING SCHOOL did my any favors in figuring out how i related to the opposite sex. it was a beyond daunting and unreasonable ask to attempt to make connections with people of such PRIVILEGE, WEALTH and POWER. it was an ALIENATING and ultimately a TRAUMATIZING experience. to that end "YOU'RE LOST LITTLE GIRL" is another standout track that i deeply identified with, especially since it had this understated introductory guitar line that seamlessly transforms into a haunting layered organ figure, seemingly mimicking the UNREQUITED LOVE of a misunderstood female protagonist. to my ear at the time, it also was a sonic evocation of my emotionally battered sense of ISOLATION and growing inward trajectory based on living in HUMILIATION. BOARDING SCHOOL was a hostile situation and later attending high school in KUWAIT was even worse.
STRANGE DAYS is easily my favorite DOORS album and one that i constantly revisit since it is inextricably linked to this difficult period of youth. i feel it is an underrated achievement in MOOD and SONG CONSTRUCTION. there is a HAUNTING BEAUTY maintained throughout that is unique in their catalogue. as mentioned before, it was also the soundtrack to some of my darkest moments as a young adult.
it is most definitely worthy of revisiting.
photo & text by nacrowe
i'm just going to come out and say it, this book plays out a bit like a hagiography. NO HERE GETS OUT ALIVE (PLEXUS, 1980) by JERRY HOPKINS (and 10 years later amended by DANIEL SUGARMAN) is the first published biography on JIM MORRISON, the legendary front-man of LOS ANGELES rock icons THE DOORS. this book was based in part on interviews HOPKINS had done with with MORRISON a decade early just prior to the singer's death.
in a way it is to be expected. MORRISON was a shaman-like, slithering poet of a front-man who exemplified all the FREEDOM and excess of the 1960s DRUG CULTURE and the fervent ANTI-MILITARISM of the VIETNAM WAR protests. i suspect to baby boomers at the dawn of the 1980s he was still a beacon of hope for things to come (too bad TRUMP is part of that legacy now, ouch).
what i took from this book at the time i read it, which was way back in high school, was the moment they inhabited. MORRISON was part of a generation that was challenging notions of RACE, MARRIAGE, WAR and PEACE, SEX and were most definitely in the midst of an INTER-GENERATIONAL divide. drugs and birth-control allowed people to expand their consciousness as well as divorce SEX from its procreative responsibilities in a pre-AIDS landscape.
the book goes into great detail about the music scene in LOS ANGELES at the time including most predominantly ARTHUR LEE and his band LOVE, who were the house band at the WHISKY A GO GO when THE DOORS started out. ironically in a book about THE DOORS, it is his descriptions of LEE that really resonated with me since it expanded on that brief cultural moment when racial and artistic lines seemed to blur however temporarily in the arts scene, which mirrored the concurrent CIVIL RIGHTS and ANTI-WAR MOVEMENTS of the period.
the other big takeaway is how these same indulgences are what did MORRISON in eventually, famously passing away in PARIS in requisite mysterious fashion. his death and mystique didn't interest me, but his downfall did. the manner in which he sequestered himself from the band and those who cared about his well being ultimately getting pushed away as drugs and hangers-on took over. if anything this is a big ROCK N ROLL cliche. a cliche that influenced countless musicians since including IGGY POP, JANE'S ADDICTION and (i'd argue) the entire PUNK movement.
read this book with a grain of salt. if anything pay attention to its descriptions of the cultural and political moment THE DOORS inhabited. i am almost certain that their greatness lies in their innate ability to absorb and reflect the light from a burning nation bent on consuming itself ouroboros-style. i wish we had someone today who could artistically relay that today's fractured state of affairs accurately and authentically in real time. where is this generation's JIM MORRISON?