Part One: Michael Tapscott
Iâ€™ve come to realize that I love America. Perhaps it is reading Phillip Roth’s The Plot Against America, a Jewish nightmare novel that imagines Charles Lindbergh defeating Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential election, sealing an Icelandic deal with Hitler and beginning frazzled out Semitic programs of his own. Viewing oneâ€™s country ripped apart instills a sort of swarthy patriotism in me and I am trying my hardest not to scrutinize things through a nostalgic lens, but I miss Bo Jackson and I miss trail mix with M&M’s in it.
To think of the suburban American male’s first taste of true darkness I must think of the Doors. A joke of a band, but between the lines in that we as lovers of Americana have one critical testament to our youth in Jim Morrison’s posthumously cobbled An American Prayer. A spoken word record with music taken from Doors outtakes, live recording, regular recordings and new recordings of funky porn music, the album is pure bait for Morrison hatred. To regard this record as a joke is to be incredulous at best and tedious at worst.
This suburban boy feels no nostalgia, he thinks and feels only new thoughts, and his new thought laying back in 70s style reverie and decadence (which means leather couch â€“ wakka chikka) is this is fantastic. Morrison is very funny and epically elliptical at the same time, and though I make no claims at being a poetry expert and would expect that his would be scoffed at by true literary torch carriers, I find the imagery and meter a solid perk of the experience. The production is immaculate, winkingly highlighting Morrison’s words with stupid guitar licks and vocal effect trickery, and any music that uses nature sound effects is a-ok in my book.
If I look into this for some greater point about life, I must worry that Joshua and I have to make yet another point about aging. He, taut with dysentery, and I, thoughtlesslyÂ transgressingÂ 1) the morals which our parents taught us, and 2) roads that lead nowhere except to wax idiotically, painfully, droning on and . . . And here I must admit that I am lost . . .
When I began I thought of a line I once read in Wire about Ian Curtis, in which the writer suggested that even though Curtis had been dead for 30 years and stayed the same age he seemed to continuously get older. I feel this too is true of Morrison. I do not see this experiment in the metaphysics of the Doors as a nostalgia trip in which Joshua and I come to terms with the embarrassing cultural taste of our youth. I am now thinking about how I am older than Morrison ever was and wondering if he would have been making records like this in the seventies but more Leonard Cohen and Windham Hill, further and further down this road. Would it have been good? Or would the brittle American money machine be too tempting for a washed up whale man?
Part Two: Joshua Rampage.
“I’ll tell you this, man, I’ll tell you this â€“ I don’t know what’s gonna happen man, but I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames . . . Alright . . . Alright!”
You know it. When “Roadhouse Blues” came blazing out of the speakers last night, Mike and I were hardly prepared for the freewheeling jolt. We had long forgotten its place on the 2nd side of The Doors last studio album An American Prayer, released in 1978; Jim Morrison’s poetry married with instrumentals recorded 7 years after Jim bought the farm and 5 after the remaining Doors finally realized they would never find a tangible replacement for the Lizard King.
Nostalgia is a motherfucker, and Mike is able to delude himself better than I. It’s hard to grapple with a record we embraced over a decade ago; since then Jim Morrison and The Doors have become even more fabled and despised and all we have left are memories of unparalleled music. I was 10 years old driving with my father up to a cabin in the northern woods of Wisconsin when a summer thunderstorm began rolling towards us. As the sun disappeared and angry skies enveloped my young mind, Riders on the Storm came on the radio and I never heard things quite the same again.
An American Prayer is the kind of record that can make you wince and laugh and think hard about how The Doors maybe should have let the disco funk affirm their death post-Mr. Mojo Risin’. The poetry was and is a boozy conundrum – stitched-together echoes of a man who was too hopelessly romantic, too drunk and foolish, with a reactionary personality far too big for this life for his to culminate into anything more than a questionable death in a French bathtub at the age of 27.
The fact that his words were resurrected posthumously is nothing new to our generation; today, the media shithawks swoop in, devour and then projectile vomit whatever is leftover in the nest of anyone famous. Hard to say if Jim would have stormed in with a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a crow’s foot in the other, slurring and stumbling on his way into the vocal booth had he been alive to record this album. Not that it really matters, either.
Whether or not Morrison would have objected or approved of this record isn’t worth speculating. What’s done is done, and we are left only with the recollections. Some people grow embarrassed and shudder under heavy qualms admitting the truths of their past, musical or otherwise, Jim Morrison included. For shame that their history and former allures were awkward and uncool, especially in the subjective realm of Now.
So, fuck it. There was a time in my life when the words and rhythms of Jim Morrison and The Doors took me down dark Los Angeles alleys that lead all the way to the desert. Coming from the suburban Midwest, I was totally taken by the Californian, post-beat imagery and distinct instrumentation. And even now, on levels once forgotten, I am still smitten in a way that makes me uncomfortable.
The push and pull of the past seems to affect us differently every time we attempt to assess it in the present, and I can’t think of a single American who hasn’t asked in some way “where are the feasts we were promised?”. That is the quandary at the entitled heart of America.
Feeling like a jaded Patriot, I often ask another question: “why stay when you can always leave?” And then I think about the day when I return home from travels far and wide and gulp that first breath of free American air and ask the same greedy question that is, in essence,Â the American Prayer, listening for a dinner bell that will never ring for a lazy beast.