Excerpt from “An Evening with the Ghost of the Lizard King” by JTWestfield.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please attend carefully to these words and events. It’s your last chance our last hope. In this womb, or tomb, we’re free of the swarming streets. The black fever which rages is safely out those doors.
My friends and I come from Far Arden w/dances and new music.
Everywhere followers accrue to our procession. Tales of Kings, gods, warriors and lovers dangled like jewels for your careless pleasure.”
“Interview is the new art form. Self-interview the essence of creativity. That strange area where you try to pin down something that happened in the past. Try honestly to remember what you were trying to do. It’s a crucial mental exercise. A chance to confront your mind with questions. What art is all about? You should be explicit, accurate, to the point. No bullshit.”
JDM (Lost Writings from Wilderness) Vol.1
‘Yeah, like Miami. Everything hinges on that one night in Miami. March of ‘Sixty-Nine…’
**Play excerpt of actual Miami concert: Jim screaming, “You’re all a bunch of fucking idiots! Lettin’ people tell you what you’re gonna do! Lettin’ people push you around! How long you think it’s gonna last? How long are you gonna let it go on? How long are you gonna let ‘em push you around? Maybe you like it? Maybe you like getting’ pushed around? Maybe you love it? Maybe you love gettin’ your face shoved in the shit? You love it don’t you? You love it! You’re all a bunch of slaves! Lettin’ everyone push you around. What’re you gonna do about it? What are you gonna do about it? What are you gonna do?”
One lone female voice cries out: “Fight it!”
‘Yeah, fight it. I love that one chick. But you can’t understand that night in Miami without knowing all the shit that lead up to it. Ahh, I was just dressing ‘em down, y’know? Like they do in military school. Shock ‘em a bit. Set ‘em back on their heels. Like my father, the Admiral, used to do to us kids. Try to get us to crack. Break our spirit.
‘That was me quittin’ too! Old ‘Bozo Dionysius’ hangin’ up his rubber nose once and for all. (pause) But I’d quit before. Eight months before Miami I’d walked right into the Doors’ office in LA and said, “Fuck it! I quit! I don’t want to do it anymore. Play this rock star freak. Do the bullshit image game. I’m sick of it!”
‘Ray, the keyboard player, talked me out of it that time. “Give it six more months, Jim.”
‘I went along. Ray was always talking me into something. Why was I quitting, you ask? When we’d just become the biggest rock band in the country?
‘I was quittin’ because the whole thing had become an absurd joke. The musical séance was over. The spell was broken! Our audience had become too self-conscious. There’s a moment there when you’re right in time with your audience. Then somehow, you both grow out of it. You have to move on to something else.
‘Besides! They didn’t really need me. Six months before Miami, they played a full concert in Amsterdam, without me. I’d been waylaid by Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane. Ray sang all my words perfectly well. It was such a kick-ass show, a lot of people didn’t even realize I wasn’t there. Shit, I wasn’t sure I dug that exactly. I mean how could you hold a séance without your shaman? How could they create that atmosphere? Haunting. Suggestive. A feeling of someone not quite at home, not quite relaxed. Aware of a lot of things. Yet not quite sure. How could they create all that, without me?
‘Oh sure, they could play the songs all right. But could they actually create that feeling of eerie séance? Conjure up spirits of the ancient cave-dance theater? Could they do all that without me? I think most rock stars enjoy what they’re doing. It’d be unnerving to do it just for the bread. What screws it up is all this extraneous crap the press lays on you. The publicity people and the fan magazines. All of a sudden you start to doubt your motivations. Then there are always the adulators, who just jangle your sensibilities. So you start to feel a sense of shame and frustration about what you’re doing. It’s too bad really.
‘See by the time we played that show in Miami, the intimate séance trip was long dead. We’d become a sort of regimented freak show. I’d become this monstrous entity. This Frankenstein-geek who bites the head off a live chicken every night. Boring! But when we’d first started out we’d been a viable force. We set out to change the system! We had created séance for several hundred people in a darkened space. We took them to a strange place inside their own mind. I was much less dramatic, less artificial back then.
‘By now, by Miami, the larger and larger crowds, you had to project more. Make up for that lack of intimacy. When you’re a small dot at the end of an arena you have to exaggerate your movements to the point of grotesque. That’s what we’d become. It was over. The intimacy was gone. It’d all strayed so far from that so-called “Summer of Love”. By the spring of ‘69, all that love had turned to hate. And the big money boys had joined the fray. The ones who lusted so hard for those teeny-bopper bucks. They kept pushing us into larger and larger places. The intimacy was a joke, an absurd impossible joke.
‘Crowds this size required a whole different psychology. Besides that, you had the police and security elements to deal with. It was like juggling balls, the cops, the crowd and the band. Three months back I’d been arrested right off the stage in New Haven, Connecticut. I dropped the “cop ball” that night. Here in Miami, I’d been determined to bring the cops right along with us. Keep them feeling safe in their cop reality. While we, the band and the crowd, left our realities far behind.
‘It was all about crowd psychology for me. Always. Going back to my college days at Florida State. Professor Geshwender? Funny how you remember names of certain teachers. I’d sent away to the Library of Congress for some of the stuff I spouted off in that class. And ol’ Geshwender, he’d actually defer to me. Right there in class! All about how a crowd is torn between curiosity and fear. If you can get them curious enough to overcome their fear of the unknown or the unfamiliar, then all bets are off. You’ve got them!
‘Yeah, I was shoutin’ in Miami. “Fuck the rules! Fuck the fucking rules, let’s take off our clothes!” And a lot of them did. But the rock press missed the whole point. They wrote, “Morrison failed to create his riot.” Shit, I was talkin’ about fun and lovin’ your neighbor. Not no riot. Another wrote, “Morrison crossed the line tonight, they’ll never forgive him for this.” Maybe they wouldn’t forgive me for exposing them, the rock press, to themselves?
‘What line did I cross that night in Miami? A line of truth? Another writer said, “The failure of Miami was also the failure of Morrison’s ‘Break on Thru’ philosophy. Miami failed to make the audience see themselves. Failed to make them cognizant of who they were. The Dionysian fell short in Miami, just like it missed at the Singer Bowl in New Jersey and became a joke at the Forum in L.A. Nietzsche only works on paper.”
‘A failure, eh? Well, one man’s Waterloo is another man’s Appomattox.
‘Anyway like I said, by the summer of ’69 it was all about hate. Hate the war. Hate the president. Hate the Doors! And loving to hate us. They wrote how we’d “lost the fire” and about my “calculated antics on stage”, my “spasms” used to conceal my lack of talent as a singer. Shit, I was no singer, I knew that.
‘That summer at the Hollywood Bowl, I’m trying to re-create the séance, calling on the gods and the dogs, but it all keeps slipping away like some half-remembered dream. The audience seems totally self-conscious! They can no longer suspend their disbelief in me, or us, or whatever it is they’re searching for, the “dream”. I’m the shaman still, but I can no longer get the crowd on track with me. They’re unable to give up their egos long enough for me or the Doors to penetrate.
‘Only a month later, in Queens, it was electric from the instant we arrived. Hands reaching right into the limousine, searching and grabbing anything! That was one of the first nights I tried some freeform partying on stage. Titillating the crowd with snippets of erotic allusion. Getting them all heated up! And we played great. Almost too great! During the show it was like waves of fans rushing the stage being repelled by lines of cops with clubs. Afterwards we huddled backstage, the band and crew, like frightened mice. Hordes of fans beat themselves against the door trying to get in, it was like Hitchcock’s “Birds”. Seriously frightening though, being confronted by the ravenous demons of your own fame.
‘Sometime later I saw film of that concert and I was totally taken aback. Being one of the central figures on stage I could only ever see it from that perspective. But here seeing things from the God’s eye as it were, I began to realize, I was only a puppet being controlled by a lot of different forces, forces I only just vaguely understood…