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And Then Along Came The Doors
Jeffrey Beyl

The Doors changed the face of rock and roll

My wife came home from work one day and told me that she had heard a song called "Share the Land" on the radio. "I like that song," she said. "But the radio never tells who sings it."
"Oh, that’s an old band called The Guess Who." I told her. She was working in an office where a co-worker kept a radio tuned to a local classic rock station. Having grown up in Hong Kong she was never very familiar with western rock and roll. She knew who The Beatles were but that was about it. When she married me a new world of music entered her life. I began introducing her to bands like Led Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Santana. What with me at home and her colleague at work the sound of electric guitar over that standard rock and roll 4/4 beat became part of the weave of her daily life.
She started getting pretty good at picking them out. She could recognize Hendrix, The Doors, and Janis Joplin. But she discovered The Guess Who on her own. It didn’t matter to her that the band had dissolved almost thirty years ago.

One evening during dinner she volunteered that she keeps hearing that song. "Who did you say that was?"
"Guess Who."
"Just tell me, I can’t guess."
"No, they’re called The Guess Who."
Another time she came home and said she likes a song called "These Eyes" and was wondering who sang it. I told her it was by the same band that did "Share the Land". Then one afternoon while driving a song came on the radio and she became excited. "Oh, this is that song. Who is this? I like this song."
It was the song "American Woman" by The Guess Who. This was getting to be a habit. I drove to a record store and bought her the greatest hits CD. "I like this band," she said. "This is my favorite American rock band."
"They’re not American," I told her. "They’re Canadian." She didn’t care where they were from. She just liked their music. When they did a reunion tour in 2001 I bought tickets fast.

When the night of the concert arrived we found our seats up close. I spared no expense to treat my wife to her own, self-discovered, favorite rock band. I was taking off my jacket and had turned around to lay it on the back of my seat when the guy in the seat directly behind me said "The Doors? What’s with wearing a Doors hat to a Guess Who concert? Shouldn’t you be wearing a Guess Who hat?"
"Or at least a BTO hat" said his buddy next to him. BTO, or Bachman, Turner Overdrive was formed by Randy Bachman, guitarist and one of the founding members of the Guess Who when he left The Guess Who in 1970. I looked at the guy. I looked at his buddy. They were both wearing Guess Who T-shirts. "C’mon guys, it’s just a hat. Besides, I saw The Doors too."
"No way," said the guy.
Why is it that no one ever believes me when I say I saw The Doors?
"Hey, I’m older’n I look," I said.
The guy nodded. "Well, hey," he said. "The Doors are Burton Cummings favorite band. Burton Cummings is the singer in The Guess Who".
"I know," I said. Actually I didn’t know that but I liked the thought. I figured I was in good company.
Anyway, Burton, Randy and the boys came on stage and the first thing I noticed was that Burton Cummings was wearing a Jim Morrison T-shirt. I turned around while we all stood for the opening applause and yelled to the guy and his buddy, "Hey, check out Burton’s shirt!" I motioned to my hat and tugged on my shirt and grinned at the guy. He smiled, nodded and continued clapping and I felt cool. Hey! Me and Burton Cummings, right?

They did all their stuff and every song was better than the last. I kept thinking, Oh, this is my favorite Guess Who song, Oh this is my favorite, Oh, this is…I know my wife was thinking the same thing. At one point during a break between songs the guy behind me asked, "Did you really see The Doors?"
I told him that, yes, I had and he asked, "What was it like?"
"Are you a Doors fan?"
"Ohhh, yeah," he intoned.
"Well, it was the Doors." This is my standard line. I figure a true Doors fan would know what I meant. But then the guy asked, "How was Morrison?"
People always ask this too. How was Morrison? How do ya think he was? I always figure that if ya gotta ask, ya ain’t a true Doors fan. Jim Morrison was Jim Morrison. The Doors were The Doors. They were, well, they were The Doors.
If I stare off into the distance and transport myself back in time I can still see them. This was just after the "Strange Days" album came out. They were popular. Jim Morrison was becoming a rock star but he wasn’t yet the icon, rock god that he later became. He was controversial. He was great. But this was before the Miami thing. Oh, I knew who I was seeing, though. This was The Doors, Jim Morrison in a black T-shirt and those black leather pants. He didn’t just sing. He screamed. He danced. He writhed. He strutted. He chanted. I remember Robbie Krieger kind of nonchalantly roaming around the stage with his guitar. He looked almost like he was separate from the music instead of being an integral part of it. I remember Ray Manzarek hunched over his organ shaking his head from side to side as he played. This was on an outdoor stage in a park in LA in 1968.

They were already my favorite band. All these years later they still are. I became a Doors fan when I first heard "Break on Through (To the Other Side)" the first song on the first album. When I listen to it now, as I often do, I can still feel the summer sun of 1967. I can remember make-out parties, trying to lip-lock with our girlfriends for the whole length of "Light My Fire". Think about that. That’s a long song. When the "Strange Days" album came out I remember smoking grass and trying to figure out just what songs like "Horse Latitudes" and "When the Music’s Over" were all about. I listen to his music now and read his poetry and still wonder just what Jim Morrison meant half the time.
The Doors were just different. They were, well like I said, they were The Doors. There we all were back in 67’and 68’ listening to bands like The Mamas And The Papas, The Dave Clark Five, The Electric Prunes, and The Jefferson Airplane and along comes these four guys who called themselves The Doors and they began playing music that slammed our faces back into, or maybe out of, reality.

I remember listening to "The End" for the first time. That song took lyric writing of the day and turned it on its head. Jim Morrison was telling us things we hadn’t heard before and we were listening with open minds. Maybe the grass helped, who knows, but at least our minds were open. I’m not knockin’ the other music of the day, it was great. But The Doors arrived on the scene and things just changed.
The Doors were just different. These guys reached a little deeper down our throats and pulled out our guts. . These guys played the music of death and destruction. They were a demonic carnival. This was heavy stuff. I think The Doors were the first band to so roughly grab hold of us as if to say "Hey, listen to this music or we’ll cram it up your ass" (my quote) Theirs wasn’t necessarily dance music, although we all swayed and nodded our heads in time. It was music of the mind. It certainly wasn’t background music. We had to stop and listen. It grabbed us by the balls. Not only did the music, its melodies and rhythm and phrasings of sound grab us but the words forced us to stop in our tracks and bend an ear.

Remember the times. The Vietnam War was raging. Guys were dying. We may have been in the middle of the summer of love in 1967 but we were uneasy. Nobody wanted to get drafted and sent to the war. We were questioning everything. We were confused. We were punks. I can say that now all these years later. We thought we had our acts so together. But we were searching. I think many of us still don’t know what exactly we were searching for but I do know that Jim Morrison and The Doors helped us in our quest to find it, whatever it was, whatever it may still be.
The Doors were different, aggressive, erotic. They were treacherous.

I remember sitting on the lawn in that park. People all around us. We were off to the right of the stage about forty feet back. I remember watching The Doors through a kaleidoscope that I had bought earlier in the day at the festival. There was another band called Kaleidoscope playing at the festival so there were kaleidoscopes all over. Imagine sitting in a park on a sunny day, stoned and looking through a kaleidoscope at Jim Morrison performing all of his stage antics, screaming and wailing, twirling in a frenzy and I’m seeing about twelve of him through this glass tube that I’m holding up to my bloodshot eyes.

Something was happening. Say what you will about the sixties. I know Jim Morrison died. I know Janis and Hendrix died. I know that the sixties led to the seventies. I know all that, I’ve seen the movies too. But I was also there. I never met the guy but he did something, Jim Morrison. The Doors changed the face of rock and roll. They took it to a new level. Maybe they took it to a new sub-level. Either way they’ve gone down in music history as one of the more important bands of their day. They’ve now been elevated to mythic status.
I have a "Doors" decal in the back window of my car. People see it and sometimes wave and yell out "The Doors, man!" I also wear a hat with a Doors logo on it and people frequently comment on it as happened at The Guess Who concert. "Awright man! Are you a Doors fan?"
I usually just smile, nod my head and move on. The term "Doors fan" has almost become cliché’, especially since that comedy group The New Kids On The Block did a comedic song about being a Doors fan. One time a guy walked up to me on the street and said, "The Doors? What are you, some kind of hippie?" I told him that, yes I was, thank you very much and I walked quickly away. Another time a girl came up to me and said, "Wow! I love your hat. I’m in love with Jim Morrison. He’s a god."
I wanted to tell her; sorry lady, Jim Morrison is dead. Instead I told her that I saw The Doors back in 1968 and she almost fell down at my feet. "Gawd! You’re kidding? You’re sooooooo lucky!"
I guess I was as close as she had ever gotten to her idol simply by my having been to a concert before she was even born. I walked away wondering if she really liked The Doors’ music or if she was just caught up in the Jim Morrison rock/sex god myth.
That’s the way it is with The Doors. They stand out. I had a conversation with a guy once about Jimi Hendrix. I mentioned that I had seen Hendrix back in 1969. He thought that was cool but when I told him I’d seen The Doors his response was, "No way! Jesus, I’d love to be able to say I’ve seen The Doors." Well, I did and it’s a great memory to have.
The Doors were just different. They were, well, as I said, they were The Doors.

© Jeffrey Beyl April 2003
Shoreline, WA 98133

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