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Article 22

Rock On

The Doors of Perception

(Published in Times of India, Pune on 10th November, 2001)


P oetry and Rock Music are strange bedfellows, or so I thought, till I discovered that one of my favorite Rock Bands was one of its leading exponents. As a kid I had none of those lofty ideals of high learning and the music of the Doors moved me purely because of the sheer energy of the music. The combination of the music instruments, the cheesy Vox organ of Ray Manzarek, the clean flamenco-tinged guitaring of Robbie Krieger, the unconventional drum breaks of John Densmore and of course the dynamic charismatic singing of the master himself, Jim Morrison drove me to an ecstasy that was strange to explain. There was an almost voodoo-like quality to the whole experience and its hypnotic effect still continues to weave its relentless spell on me.

It is said that the name `The Doors' was Jim's idea and it was inspired by a quote from William Blake. "If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear as it is, infinite." Jim himself was fond of saying, "there are things known and things unknown and in between are "The Doors". It was apparent that intellectual curiosity was the starting point of the Doors philosophy. No wonder Morrison always tested the limits of tolerance of the other band members in an attempt to reach untouched terrains of creativity! In those days, Southern California was the hotbed of radical, boundary less thinking and it was the free environment of UCLA that gave birth to the formation of this path breaking Rock band.

It was Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek who formed the band after they majored in Film from UCLA. Jim's writing had impressed Ray who saw the possibilities of a Rock band that could make a difference. For a while, Ray's brothers formed the other members of the band but that did not seem to be heading anywhere. In those days, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was the hot craze among the youth and Ray's interest in India saw him join the Maharishi's Meditation Center. It was here that he met other like-minded individuals and the other members of the Doors were soon discovered! It was John Densmore, the drummer who joined first, followed by Robbie Krieger, the guitarist. Strangely the band never had a regular bass player. Ray either played the organ bass pedals in the earlier recordings or a session bass player was hired. The Doors were now finally complete. They were ready to hit the stores with their self-titled debut album and the world would never be the same again!

A string of fabulous albums followed the enormous success of the hit single "Light my fire" from the first album which also contained classics like "The End", "Break on through" etc. The Indian sitar-like tones of Krieger in "The End" were said to be the result of the teachings of Pandit Shamim Ahmed of the Ravi Shankar School and it was very interesting to hear the Panditji tell us about it later when I met him in the offices of a record company in Bombay. The albums to follow were equally stupendous! "Strange Days", "Waiting for the Sun", "Soft Parade", "Morrison Hotel", "LA Woman" were released in quick succession and each release of the Doors was awaited with bated breath by all of us. You could be sure that each album would feed us kids, music that would excite both musically and lyrically.

It was undoubtedly Morrison who was the driving force behind both the critical and commercial success of the Doors. Therefore it was no surprise that with his untimely death at the tender age of 27, the band would steadily loose its impact. Yet it was always Morrison who tested the fragile nature of the band. The alcohol and other substance abuse along with his legendary erratic behavior almost resulted in the Band's early demise and Morrison was arrested at times for irrational and irreverent behavior. His intense hatred for authority was to remain a constant battle throughout his life. Therefore it is indeed surprising that he left behind such a huge body of work. In the twenty-seven years of his life he recorded seven albums of songs, toured and performed throughout the United States, Europe, Canada and Mexico and produced two award-winning films. Jim always considered writing his forte and he published four books and had written 1600 pages of poems, anecdotes, lyrics, stories and outlines for plays and film scripts.

"LA Woman", the Doors' last album of freshly recorded tracks, is said to be their largest selling album and Morrison was at the very peak of his creativity in this period. Sadly the world could have no more. He was found dead in the bathtub on 3rd July 1971 in Paris, France. It is speculated that he died of a drug overdose but there is no proof as no autopsy was ever performed. The death certificate simply stated heart failure. He was buried in the famous Pere-Lachaisse graveyard in Paris among masters such as Chopin and Oscar Wilde and it has now become a place of pilgrimage for the countless Doors fans around the world. It is rumored that the French Government has designated Jim's grave as a cultural heritage site and there is a movement to have a USA Morrison Commemorative Postage Stamp, especially after Elvis got his own. As for me, Morrison and the Doors will always remain one of the biggest music influences of my life, and it is a promise that at my show tonight at the new retro club "Grease" in Pune, I would definitely be singing a few songs of theirs. No Rock concert of mine would be complete without that!

Rock on!

Nandu Bhende

http://nandu_bhende.tripod.com


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