by Michael Horowitz
**(continued on from previous page?)…service, they’d choose Navy. But they’re just not interested in a military life altogether.”
At the time, I did not let on that I knew that one of the “boys” Admiral Morrison was referring to was the nations leading rock personality. Yet the Admiral couldn’t be so sure of my innocence. It must have been un-nerving for him to speak of his sons, uncertain of how much information I possessed.
After I thanked him for his time, the Admiral rose politely and smiled. “Well, thank you very much, Mr. Horowitz,” he said as we shook hands. “Nobody’s ever asked me what I thought about the Navy before.” It was a generous remark. Despite sufficient cause for uneasiness, the Admiral remained thoughtful and courteous. It was Navy Chivalry all the way.
As Captain Suerstead and I exited, however, the Admiral’s curiosity got the better of him.
“Mr. Horowitz!” He barked.
It was a stern, rigid call that awoke the adolescent in me. I suddenly had an irresistible urge to defy it- to shout “Drop dead!” or better still to just walk on. Suddenly I was Young Jim Morrison and Daddy was yelling “Jim! Come back here and…”
“Yes, sir,” I answered automatically.
“Just one more thing,” resumed the Admiral, lowering this voice to official gentility. “How’d you happen to pick on me?”
How did I indeed? “Well,” I improvished hastily, “we were especially interested in the opinions of young officers…recently promoted…who might conceivably attain the Full Admiralty.”
“All right then,” concluded the Admiral and I was dismissed.
The killer awoke before dawn,
He put his boots on,
He took a face from the ancient gallery,
And he walked on down the hall.
He went to the room where his sister lived,
And then he paid a visit to his brother,
And then he walked on down the hall.
And the he came to a door,
And he looked inside,
“I want to kill you.
“Mother, I want to…”
In the springs of 1968 the world expected The Doors’ third album. They didn’t get it. What they got instead was a three minute soundtracked film called The Unknown Soldier.
The work is typical late Morrison, revealing both current potential and impedition. The film opens at the breakfast table, an archetypical family scene. The action switches to California beach, Morrison’s favorite setting. Our Hero is tied to a tree by ropes, command orders are given, and he is shot to death. After his burial, the whole world celebrates wildly, while Morrison sings hysterically on the soundtrack: “It’s all over, baby! The war is over!”
When the film played at the Fillmore East, a young audience brimming with anti-war frustration broke into pandemonium. “The war is over!” cried teenyboppers in the aisles. “The Doors ended the fucking war!” The Doors’ little passion play had grabbed the audience. Jimmy and the boys had done it again.
But what about the dead soldier? Morrison attains a bizarre duality in The Unknown Soldier. He is killed on the screen but survives triumphantly in sound. He is both victim and victor, martyr and apostle.
Unfortunately, this is a dangerous combination. It implies that for every part ecstasy, we must have one part death. You wanna end the war, boys and girls? Kill your favorite rock singer first.
For the sensitive listener, The Unknown Soldier is cruse and depressing. Its juxtaposition of liberation and death is erotic heresy. Its repetitive martial strains resemble, not sophisticated rock symphonics, but the sophomoric musicality of “The Ballad of the Green Berets.” Indeed, just at the point when one would expect The Doors to make profound contribution to the Life Force, we are presented with guns and hysteria. Has Morrison decided to saddle us with his authority hangup rather than treat us to “Nirvana Now?”
“It’s a little early to be disillusioned,” suggests Dr. Albert Goldman. “But my hunch is that is that The Doors are stalling. And they’re slipping- as you must in this business when you stall.- into the teenybopper circuit. Their audiences are getting younger. They’ll be getting more mechanically repetitive. And it may end up with Morrison sort of peeling off and becoming a movie star.”
As an assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, Albert Goldman brings an erudition to pop culture analysis equaled only by Marshall McLuhan. After completing a critical study of Thomas DeQuincey, the English opium-eater, Goldman turned to Americana, serving as jazz critic for The New Leader. Last springs, the professor stunned the literati by writing the definitive study of Jim Morrison, accenting the demonic, solitary, and sexually ambivalent aspects of the celebrity’s personality.
“I worry about militarism in The Unknown Soldier,” Goldman complains. “Morrison has an authoritarian personality. When The Doors sit down to dinner, he sits at the head of the table. I think he’s more like his father than he realizes. In The Unknown Soldier there is an inversion. Instead of the officer, he’s the deserter. But it’s the same thing.”
Not that Goldman isn’t sympathetic to Morrison’s current artistic problem. Having posed as the rebel, the vocalist now finds himself with a measure of victory. But it is difficult to transcend rebellion and it comes as no surprise to se Morrison rehashing the theme of authority rather than following though.
“That was the spirit of the first album. That’s what got us all excited. That’s what raised all the sunken continents in everybody’s mind, you see.
“They evangelically converted everyone. Then came the moment of truth. You’ve got the world in your side. But where are you at, baby? What are you going to do about it? You made the girl love you. Now, do you love the girl? Do you want to marry her?
“At that moment they really began to go into their problem. The flip side of breakthrough is estrangement. Once you’ve broken away, it’s pretty bleak out there. The rebel cuts himself off. It’s Christ in the garden.”
Goldman gets out his Kings Highway easy chair and shuffles his grey Hindu slippers to his intricate Sony amplifier. He removes Electra 45 from the jacket, bows his balding head, and places the recording nervously on the spindle. Tipping his red rimless glasses back against his nose, he stands pensively in front of his mammoth electrosonic speakers. Morrison enters singing “We Could Be So Good Together,” a recent Doors release.
“You’ll notice in all his songs today,” observes the professor, “he sings like a lonely crooner. He sounds lonely, man. Soft. Blue. A little boy blue.”
I asked for Resolution.
“Listen, the only thing you can predict about these guys is that they’ll die someday,” Goldman replies sardonically. He speaks with the resignation of one who has seen them rise and fall. “The trouble with these guys is that they stumble into art. They don’t bring the character and education of a full-fledged artist into their work.”
It is a rainy day in May. Hilton Davis’ brother has run away from home, The Morrisons are in London, and Jim Morrison is living in a motel room on Sunset Strip. Elektra says there’ll be a new, fun single out next week but fidgets nervously when you talk about the third album. The word is that the cuts are on the shelf but The Doors aren’t satisfied.
“Groups struggle to the top,” notes Rock producer Bill Graham. “When they get there, that’s when professional attitude must take over. I look for more creative staging, more visual effects, a more professional quartet.”
Yet polished vaudeville act is hardly enough to satisfy Jungle Jim. Morrison’s out to play Metaphysical Roulette and, when you’re bitten by that bug, even the stage of the London Palladium can give you claustrophobia. Lately he has been singing:
We’re getting tired of waiting around
With our heads
to the ground…
We want the world and we want it Now!
Will Morrison inherit the world? Through the memory of a strange Virginia past, the vocalist has managed to learn mysterious presence through mysterious being..But cultural leadership requires something more. Dr. Goldman calls it “character and education.” S. Clark Pearlman calls it “the requisite technical knowledge.” It is gained through study, tempered by introspection. But when it is attained a man is truly prepared- in Plato’s words- “to look upwards and lead us from one world to another.”