Door to Doors

The mythology surrounding the 1969 appearance by the Doors at Dinner Key Auditorium is as thick and obscuring as smoke from a magician's flashpot. Revisionists like Oliver Stone, who directed The Doors, a 1991 hagiography of the band, have done their best to turn the late Jim Morrison's arrest at the show (for allegedly exposing his flaccid penis to the lucky Miami audience) into an allegory about the Death of the Sixties.

They view the bust as an act of cultural vengeance that exemplifies the manner in which defenders of the status quo crushed the youth of the era, setting the stage for the cynicism and disillusionment that would infect the populace after Watergate and Vietnam.

By placing "Five to One," a number cut live at the Dinner Key gig, in the top slot of The Doors Box Set, a four-CD package just issued by Elektra Records, the producers (Bruce Botnick and surviving Doors Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, and John Densmore) underscore the importance of the performance and its consequences in group lore.

But the song argues against blindly accepting received wisdom about the incident and about the group itself. The recording proves that on the night in question, Morrison was less a thrill-seeking rebel inciting his contemporaries to shuck their inhibitions than a smug, slobbering alcoholic.

"Nobody gonna come up here and love me, huh?" Morrison jabbers. "All right for you, bay-bay. That's too bad. I'll get somebody else -- yeeeeaaaahhhh." He then goes through the motions of barking out his lines -- "The old get young/And the young get strong, girrrrrrrl" -- with all the finesse of a man trying to flag down a cab in a bad neighborhood. But sticking to the lyrics soon becomes too limiting. "You're all a buncha fuckin' idiots!" he declares. "Let people tell you what you're gonna do. Let people push you around. How long you gonna let 'em push you around? How long?"

His booze-addled brain snags a passing accusation. "Maybe you like it," he slurs. "Maybe you like bein' pushed around. Maybe you love it. Maybe you love gettin' your face stuck in the shit. Come on. You love it, don't you? You love it. You're all a buncha slaves." Several downbeat rhymes later, Morrison is off on another tangent: "Now come on, honey. Now you go along home and wait for me, sweetheart. I'll be there in just a little while. You see, I gotta go out in this car with these people and get fuuuuuucked up!" Finally, the tune having fallen apart entirely, he babbles, "I'm not talkin' about no revolution. I'm not talkin' about no demonstration. I'm talkin' about havin' some fun! I'm talkin' about dancin'. I'm talking about love yo' neighbor till it hurts ... I'm talking about love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, looooooooovvve. Grab your fuckin' friend and love him. Come ooooooonnnn!"

Divorced from context and italics, these words might strike some as boldly rebellious -- a hedonist's declaration of independence. (This seems to be the opinion of Michael Ventura, a journalist and screenwriter who quotes liberally from "Five to One" in an essay that appears in the liner notes.) But actually listening to Morrison deliver them leads to another conclusion. Far from calling to mind thoughts of a gorgeous Dionysus, high on the sensual pleasures of life, the singer's turn conjures up the image of a hideous barroom lush who slings his arm around your shoulder and won't let go. He's repellent, grotesque, pathetic -- and undeniably memorable. Try as you might, you won't be able to forget him.

Morrison's indelibility is the key to the Doors, and to The Doors Box Set. Three of the four discs contain material that has never had an authorized release; discs one and three are dominated by demos, alternate studio takes, and random concert curios; disc two captures the Doors live at Madison Square Garden in 1970. (Disc four consists of previously issued "band favorites" chosen by Manzarek, Krieger, and Densmore.)

The accent on tales from the record-company crypt means that the opus will be of more interest to listeners already familiar with the Doors than to novices eager to discover why Morrison, a guy who's been in the ground for nearly 30 years, continues to inspire devotion. But even neophytes are likely to be intrigued by the various Morrisons on display. The narcissistic crooner, the self-pitying faux bard, and the bad little boy so desperate to offend propriety that he'd even leap into bed with Mommy all make appearances, provoking laughter as often as they inspire awe.

Chronology isn't terribly important here. Five years often separate one cut from another, which is unfortunate, since the Doors moved through several distinct periods that evolved logically. Particularly bothersome is the scattering of songs culled from the act's first demo, made at World Pacific Studios in 1965 shortly after Morrison and Manzarek discovered each other on a Southern California beach. (At the time, both were enrolled at the UCLA Graduate School of Film, where Morrison's original student film remains archived to this day, to the vast amusement of those who followed him to the institution.)

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