I find myself revisiting some of the more important or influential pop culture artifacts from my youth-type days of late. I’m re-reading Stephen King’s The Gunslinger, for example, the still astoundingly good first chapter of The Dark Tower epic.
I re-watched the Oliver Stone-directed The Doors recently as well. I saw the movie in the theater when it came out in 1991, and I was at just the right age for that movie — and more importantly for me at the time, the music — to punch me in the metaphorical gut. The music has stayed with me over the years (even though my wife has forever maintained that the talent of Jim Morrison is akin to the character Michael Bolton’s take on the real life Michael Bolton in Office Space), but I had not re-visited the movie since at least the late 1990s.
It holds up in many ways — it’s visually striking and screams 1960s stylized excess and “loving your neighbor until it hurts.” And the music concert scenes are great, fronted by Val Kilmer’s scary good performance as the Lizard King himself. But as with many biopics, it falls apart mid-way through and gets dull and dreary as Morrison descends into addiction and is a non-stop a-hole to everyone around him.
As is my wont, I then went down the YouTube rabbit hole a bit, landing on an early 1990s Ray Manzarak interview in which he pans the movie and the portrayal of Morrison, saying that the singer was a genuinely nice and non-abusive guy, with the caveat that he did have his demons. Manzarark then pitched a documentary that he had just put out at the time, called The Soft Parade (which is also the name of a really good if pretty long song off a Doors album of the same name). The documentary is very under produced by modern standards, but as Manzarak notes it does show a different side to the band, both offstage and on versus the general persona and image that the Stone movie in part helped to impart as the singer and band’s legacy.
I’m lucky enough to have seen Manzarak perform live twice, and once with fellow Doors alums John Densmore and Robby Krieger. That latter performance was an anniversary show at West Hollywood’s famous Whiskey a Go Go, the venue where The Doors honed their craft before launching into super stardom. Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction fame stood in as the band’s front man. It was a pretty wild night. Slash from Guns n’ Roses walked right by me at one point, and then I got to speak with Manzarak very briefly. It was very much a “don’t meet your idols” moment, the story of which I’ll hold for another installment.
This post originally appeared in what had originally been called The Eric Berlin E-mail Newsletter. To get a weekly blast of pop culture, digital media, and politics that helps make sense of an increasingly frazzled world, sign on up for The Berlin Files here.