|The Doors: The Crystal Ship
Before you slip into unconsciousness
I'd like to have another kiss
Another flashing chance at bliss
The days are bright and filled with pain
Enclose me in your gentle rain
The time you ran was too insane
We'll meet again
We'll meet again
Oh tell me where your freedom lies
The streets are fields that never die
Deliver me from reasons why
You'd rather cry
I'd rather fly
The crystal ship is being filled
A thousand girls, a thousand thrills
A million ways to spend your time
When we get back
I'll drop a line
While many of Jim Morrison's early songs reflected his LSD-fuelled efforts to run through the doors of perception, as well as his headlong attempts to break on through societal constraints, he was also quite capable of producing a gorgeous, delicately poetic piece like The Crystal Ship.
The lyrics are at once soothing and ominous, and Jim's gentle, smoky baritone may have surprised those who were tempted to write him off as a one-dimensional rock 'n' roll ranter.
The mysterious, seemingly inscrutable nature of The Crystal Ship also got Doors' listeners used to developing their own interpretations of Morrison's wordplay. "It's about methedrine, isn't it?" asks Kim Fowley, who was duly impressed with the song when he first saw the Doors at the Los Angeles club, Ciro's. "Good old-fashioned speed certainly was a drug of choice on the Sunset Strip back then."
In fact, Morrison had composed the song much earlier, and the lyrics had their genesis in both worldly and arcane inspirations - a romantic break-up and Celtic Mythology.
Using a disentanglement from one of his many girlfriends of the time as a starting point, Morrison went on to dramatize the song's aching entreaty for "another kiss" with a unifying image borrowed from the legend of the Irish hero Connla. In the ancient Book of the Dun Cow, the hero was wooed by a goddess who whisked him away to the "earthly paradise beyond the sea" in a magical ship that belonged to the sea god Manannan - a ship that was made of crystal, knew its pilot's mind and was capable of flying over sea of land.
A deep understanding of Celtic legend isn't necessary to understand The Crystal Ship, but its literary origin does demonstrate just how particularly well-read Jim Morrison was, for even among those knowledgable in Celtic mythology, this is a fairly obscure legend. As the Doors' first album took off, JIm was often picked out as a wild-eyed sex symbol or a drugged-out prophet of doom. What was often missed was that Morrison was primarily driven by a scholarly passion for knowledge.
A line in the final verse of the song at one point read: a thousand girls, a thousand pills' but was changed to "a thousand girls, a thousand thrills" before the song was recorded, and despite the somewhat sombre tone of the song, it's concluding phrase - "When we get back, I'll drop a line" - shows a flash of the wry Morrison sense of humor which was so often overlooked.
The song was released as the B-side of Light My Fire in April 1967, and is still deeply evocative of the time to some of the Doors' Sunset Strip contemporaries. "All I have to do is hear Crystal Ship and I'm immediately transported back to the summer of 1967," says drummer Bruce Gary, who played in a series of Strip bands back then, going on to fame later with The Knack. It conveys all the memories and smells and tastes of that period for me. It takes me right back to all the mystical feelings that were in the air that year."
Copyright 2003 by The Doors, Chuck Crisafulli/Waiting-forthe-Sun.net