Penthouse Retrospective

by John Densmore Originally Published: September, 1990

The Doors: Abre Las Puertas | 30 Years Ago This Month

The Strange Days kept getting stranger. By September Jim was beginning a secret life of his own, so secret that years later I learned that he had participated in a witch wedding. Jim would have several hours to kill while we were overdubbing on the instrumental tracks before we needed him to replace any work vocals, so he would run out to a bar or pick up someone and they’d get wrecked on downers and alcohol. Sometimes Jim asked me to go out drinking with him after our sessions. But I couldn’t do it. I felt it would be hard to resist the peer pressure to drink, so I declined the invitations. When you meet someone and he becomes your brother, and you create stuff together that is possibly greater than your individual parts, you’ll go down the road a little farther with that person than you should because you love him. But accepting would have meant compromising something inside me. Jim was becoming so unpredictable and so unreliable, I even began begging Vince, our roadie, to pour out any liquor he found lying around backstage or in the rehearsal room.

Coming home late after one of the Strange Days sessions, Robby and I walked into our place and it was a wreck. We wondered for about 30 seconds who’d done it, and then thought of Jim. It turned out that he’d taken one final acid trip before truly committing to booze. Pam had joined him in the excursion, and they’d ventured next door to our apartment… and freaked out. Jim got the idea to piss on my bed. I was livid. Robby thought it was funny. Sigmund Freud would have had a field day. At times like those, I wondered what Ray was doing — hiding with Dorothy while we baby-sat?

Cancel my subscription, Jack. Morrison wasn’t only “writing as if Edgar Allan Poe had blown back as a hippie,” as Kurt Von Meir wrote in Vogue, he was living like him — headed straight for a sad death in a gutter.

The psychedelic Jim I had known just a year earlier, the one who was constantly coming up with colorful answers to universal questions, was being slowly tortured by something we didn’t understand. But you don’t question the universe before breakfast for years and not pay a price. What was worse, his response to his demons was becoming glamorized.

In an interview with Time magazine, Jim labeled us “erotic politicians,” a tag I loved; in turn, they called the Doors “black priests of the Great Society” and Jim the “Dionysus of Rock ‘n’ Roll.”

And the more secretive Morrison’s personal life became, the larger the legend grew.

March 1969. “There’s a point beyond which we cannot return. That is the point that must be reached,” Kafka once wrote. Morrison had finally reached it. He had become the beetle. He had metamorphosed into a monster that could still charm.

Until Miami. His charmed life ended in Miami.

What was it that drove Jim to the abyss and then made him jump that night, in his home state? He certainly had been born with some extra intensity or inner demons.

He was a precocious kid with a military upbringing. Travel City. Rumors of an aggressive mother, which were semi confirmed when she came to see us play at the Washington Hilton back in ‘67. Jim hid from her the whole night, but she made herself ever-present, ordering the light crew to do a good job on her son’s show.

The Dinner Key Auditorium in Miami was sweltering with all those extra people they stuffed in by taking out the seats. It was 8:15 PM. We were supposed to go on 15 minutes earlier, and there was still no sight of Jim. I was swearing at the fucker in my head.

“Should we go on without him?” Robby said.

“No!” I shouted, trying to stall for time. This weren’t no sensitive European crowd. These people sounded rowdy, and I was sure they wanted the Doors with their hometown boy singing up front. I was livid. I busied myself with a drummer’s stretching exercise holding my arms straight out with the butt end of my sticks together in the palms of my hands and twisting my wrists upside-down.

Finally Vince came running up the stairs to the dressing room shouting “He’s here” I turned my back in order not to have eye contact as I felt the presence of someone coming into the room with an entirely different vibration than everyone else. You could literally feel the chaos. It’s what the press called “charisma.” I call it psychosis.

I didn’t look at Jim because I was afraid of him. I was so mad I wanted to punch him, and at the same time I was scared of saying anything hostile to him. When one gains so much power that others, friends as well as strangers, are afraid to comment on one’s excesses, trouble lies ahead.

Robby frowned at our manager Bill Siddons, and Ray, usually the patient one, Just mumbled, “Let’s do it.”

Jim was drunk on his ass.

People who have never heard of the The Doors could well be familiar with their music. An insider now opens The Doors for Penthouse.

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