The Doors Open Wide

by Richard Goldstein, New York Magazine

We are from the West. The world we suggest should be of a new Wild West. A sensuous evil world. Strange and haunting. . .The path of the sun, you know..'

That's what Jim Morrison, vocalist and writer - in - residence of The Doors, has to say about his music and his hometown. As part of the new wave in Los Angeles rock, he should know where things are at. Since a pop generation happens every two years or sooner, The Doors have the proximity to revere their elders, and the distance to be original.

Their initial album, on Elektra, is a cogent, tense, and powerful excursion. I suggest you buy it, slip it on your phonograph, and travel on the vehicle of your choice. The Doors are slickly, smoothly dissonant. With the schism between folk and rock long since healed, they can leap from pop to poetry without the fear of violating some mysterious sense of form. But this freedom to stretch and shatter boundaries makes pretension as much a part of the new scene as mediocrity was the scourge of the old. It takes a special kind of genius to bridge gaps in form.

Their music works because its blues roots are always visible. The Doors are never far from the musical humus of America - rural, gut simplicity.

The most important work on this album is an "extended pop song" called The End. When Dylan broke the three minute mold with Like A Rolling Stone, pop composers realized that the form - follows - function dictum which has always guided folk-rock applies to time as well. A song should take as long as it takes.

The End is eleven and one-half minutes of solid song. Its hints of sitar and tabla and its faint aroma of raga counterpoint are balanced by a sturdy blues foundation. Anyone who disputes the concept of rock literature had better listen long and hard to this song. This is Joycean pop, with a stream - of - consciousness lyric in which images are strung together by association. The End builds to a realization of mood rather than a sequence of events. It is also the first pop song in my memory to deal with the Oedipus complex. The End begins with visions of collapsing peace and harmony, and ends with violent death.

The entire song revolves around a theme of travel, but this journey is both physical and spiritual. It leads to the brass-tacks fantasy of incest and patricide:

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 came to a door
And he looked inside
'Yes, son?'
'I want to kill you. . .Mother. . .'

Morrison provides us with a series of womblike halls and doors and a reference to Greek tragedy in the ancient gallery of masks. And he juxtaposes this root fantasy with a bluesy refrain which begins "Come on baby, take a chance with us" and ends with the proposition: "Meet me in the back of the blue bus."

There is, of course a danger in so academic an interpretation of a song like The End. Its whole value is its freedom to imply. Morrison's delivery (during the murder fantasy it approaches gospel wailing) tells us to absorb first, and search later.

The Doors are a major event for Los Angeles. Their emergence indicates that the city of Formica fantasy is building a music without neon, that glows anyway.

Copyright 2003 by Richard Goldstein/

Buy The Doors CD!
The Genesis of Jim Morrison's Poetry