The Wheel and Axle

All Hail The Lizard King!

by on Jul.03, 2016, under Music & Theater

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My first encounter with Jim Morrison was twenty years ago in my Humanities 1 class in UP Diliman. My teacher, bless him, included Morrison’s poetry in the curriculum (alongside Rilke, Lovecraft, and Phaedra – you cannot accuse him of lack of diversity). Then he ensured we got exposed to songs from The Doors.

Since then, I have been a huge Doors fan. Hell, even more so than a Beatles fan, and that’s saying a lot.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the Beatles. They are one of my favorite bands ever. Ringo is the best. Back in the late 80s as a pre-teen, I wore out my kuya‘s Beatles and Lennon cassettes. (And mimed Twist and Shout whilst pretending to be in the band as a guitarist, hoping to get into some Eat Bulaga sing-alike contest. Let’s never speak of this again.)

However, in terms of sheer lyrical and musical depth, alongside finding some kind of soulmate, I would have to elevate Jim Morrison and The Doors. The Beatles were Buffy; The Doors were Anne Rice. I love them both, but for very different reasons.

There has always been something transcendental about the music of The Doors, something akin to being taken to a different plane of existence every time you hear Riders on the Storm or The End. At the same time, Morrison was undoubtedly a master of words that could invoke powerful imagery and emotions: a true poet.

Thus, couple the music with Morrison’s words, and The Doors became not just any band but a spiritual experience.

Take these lyrics, for instance:

Riders on the storm

There’s a killer on the road

His brain is squirming like a toad

Take a long holiday

Let your children play

If ya give this man a ride

Sweet family will die

Killer on the road, yeah

Then set those words to the haunting notes that they composed along with the instrumentation, and you get an eerie yet fascinating masterpiece.

The same can be said of The End, a nearly 12-minute marathon, the title of which pretty much sums up not just its themes of goodbye but all the images of hopelessness and despair invoked by the words and the music. That, and the Oedipus complex.

This video, by the way, is the point where I need to mention the pre-requisite “wasn’t Jim Morrison so hot?” statement. Because, well, he just was.

Even when Morrison veered towards (comparatively) lighter fare like Light My Fire and Hello, I Love You, or even the somewhat-pscyhedelic Break on Through (to the Other Side), you could always count on him to provide a powerful undercurrent of existential despair.

And I mean that in a good way.

One thing I discovered a couple of years ago: The Doors were the perfect background music while I wrote the first of my aswang novels. Together with two of Madonna’s more esoteric albums (the often-surreal but always underappreciated Bedtime Stories and the massive etherial hit Ray of Light), Morrison’s genius helped set the perfect tone for a book meant to be violent, disturbing, mysterious, hallucinatory, and uplifting all at the same time.

People Are Strange was practically the theme song to the book as it perfectly invoked the feelings of isolation and otherness of the main characters. (It’s also worthy to note that this song was part of the soundtrack of the vampire classic The Lost Boys. Morrison is just perfect for the supernatural.)

Forty-five years ago today, July 3rd, Jim Morrison joined the so-called 27 Club when he died of mysterious circumstances in a Paris apartment.

The 27 Club includes such esteemed musicians as Brian Jones (of The Rolling Stones), Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse. Oh: and Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin, who was also a guitarist of The Hammerheads.

All musicians who died at the age of 27 under mysterious, tragic, or violent circumstances.

The strangeness of such a coincidence has led many theorists to believe that there is more to the so-called 27 Club. Such theories are definitely worthy of Morrison himself, whose strange and existential music could very well be the soundtrack to the lives of The 27 Club.

All hail the Lizard King!


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