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Music’s provocateur in ‘No One Here Gets Out Alive’ |

Sunday Lifestyle

Music’s provocateur in ‘No One Here Gets Out Alive’

- Simon Louis Errol E. Torres -
This Week’s Winner

Simon Louis Errol E. Torres is a graduate of UP with a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy. He is currently taking education units at the Manuel S. Enverga University in Candelaria, Quezon. He gobbles poetry like beer nuts and subscribes to the eccentric literary creations of William Blake, Jostein Gaarder, and Kurt Vonnegut. He thinks of himself as the next big thing in the rock music scene. He just needs to work on his goatee and he’s ready to go.

It is an abstrusely ironic benefit of the migration and brain-drain plague.
When my cousin decided to leave the country in hopes of finding greener pastures, he left me his precious flock of audio CDs and bootleg DVDs that for a long time I’d been constantly teasing him to give me as souvenirs. I remember the day he handed them to me like they were some sort of magic sword or a mysterious family secret. I think he was actually tightly pressing my hand when he told me to take good care of them.

And right there, sleeping between a copy of the Commodores’ Greatest Hits and James Taylor’s Hour Glass, was a copy of The Best of The Doors cloaked with a gloomy but enchanting photo of its notorious vocalist. Soon enough, my ears were plugged with the haunting cadence of Riders on the Storm and the carnivalesque prelude of the celebrated Light My Fire. The connection was unspeakably mutual. It was as if I had been in a foreign country for almost six decades and now about to come back to my native land. It felt like coming home.

Thus began my search on the net for fervid lowdowns on the vintagely cool rock group. Of course, I’ve seen that Scorcese flick that features Val Kilmer and Meg Ryan. It adds to Scorcese’s menagerie of mediocrity but nevertheless proffers ample insights into the band’s voyage to stardom.

But transcending my digital-related baggage of The Doors memorabilia, my most treasured is a borrowed-then-never-returned-then-eventually-owned book entitled No One Here Gets Out Alive by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman. It is an exquisite biography of the man who made all possibilities possible: Jim Morrison. With a half-naked Morrison posing like Da Vinci’s Vitruvian man on the cover, I knew I was holding the gold at the end of the rainbow.

Frequently, whenever we say Rolling Stones, we think of Mick Jagger. When we say Nirvana, we think only of Kurt Cobain. The Doors was no stranger to such prehistoric and obtuse disease. Morrison was the wildly charismatic frontman who effortlessly pulled the band to its eccentric high. His obsessions and perversely theatrical idiosyncrasies off and on-stage lured fans and cradled them to an unspeakable trance. Unique fails to describe his brilliance. He was first a talented poet, a philosopher, a hungry soul forever searching for possibilities beyond typical breaks and insanities. He was a rebel, an illustrious delinquent, the object of women’s sexual fantasies. He was an idealist, the courageous explorer who probed "the bounds of reality to see what would happen." He was a genuine rockstar.

Conforming to all the biographies of famous personalities, the book is a cornucopia of anecdotes and momentous turning points that define the man who etched a fascinating mark in entertainment history with his complexities and epic talent. As expected, embedded in its pages are the theories and conspiracies pertaining to his enigmatic death and, of course, the infamous on-stage arrest. Hopkins’ and Sugerman’s competent and assertive tandem undresses a provocative Jim Morrison and reveals the man behind the blinding glitz and enticing glamour. And since it is a life of an ingenious musician, the book often delivers the tales behind the songs, the controlling attitude behind the profound lyrics, the intellectual influences, and spiritual stimulations.

As a young student growing up, Morrison read as much and perhaps more than any student in his class. His IQ was 149. However, most of what he reads appear off-beat and quite strong for his age. Some of his perpetual influences are the works of the poetic German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche whom in my own college life was frequently quoted and venerated. Morrison cleaves to the brilliant and intrepid thinker’s doctrines on aesthetic, morality, and the Apolonian-Dionysian duality. His bookshelves cradled titles by Kerouac, Ginsberg, Rimbaud, and multiple purveyors of existentialist creeds. He was a serious reader. He was a bookworm who not only read but also understood what he read – a rare quality for a celebrity.

The literature that he devoured sanctified his poetry and musical virtuosity. Their songs echoed sublime contemplations of various literary prodigies. The band’s name actually was from a ponderous line by the poet William Blake and the title of Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception.

Further than that, Morrison’s fondness of illegal drugs could likewise be traced to the radical thoughts that he willingly swallowed. He was amused by the words of Huxley in his book The Doors of Perception. "Most of these modifiers of consciousness cannot now be taken except under doctor’s orders, or else illegally and at considerable risk. For unrestricted use, the West has permitted only alcohol and tobacco. All the other chemical Doors in the Wall are labeled Dope and their unauthorized takers are Fiends." Thus began his aggressive journey to the dark alleys of drug abuse.

Morrison esteemed the manifesto of William Blake. "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom." Coexisting with his fervent attempt to blow his mind were notes on his journals that would later penetrate in his musical compositions. Open the doors of perception… break on through to the other side… take the highway to the end of the night… visit weird scenes inside the gold mine… ride the snake…

The Doors’ performances embodied the concept of rock theater. With dark and tight leather pants and hair curling to his collar bone, Morrison delivered music with deeply-felt passion, fear, and anxieties that kept audiences forever mesmerized. As he hung on the microphone stand like a shirt, his head tilted back, eyes closed, one hand cupping the mike, the other covering one ear, and one booted foot planted on the base of the mike stand, he started enunciating with his plaintive, threatening voice. Then like thieves in the night, the musical accompaniment built the song towards a dizzying climax. There were heartbeats from Ray Manzarek’s organ, instantaneous screams from John Densmore’s drums, and sitar-like swerving from Robby Krieger’s guitar. It was a cataleptic auditory bliss, addictive and invigorating.

At a glimpse, Jim Morrison’s life was not as inspiring as that of the Pope or Dalai Lama. He lived a life of "sex, drugs, and rock and rock" vividly tattooed on his skin. He was the epitome of subversive influence, of rebellion, of alienation, and search, and other timeless and universal themes that young people face. He was a concrete picture of what crazy puritanical mothers don’t want their children to revere and emulate.

Yet, beyond the rockstar image and lifestyle was a true artist, a real person. His poetic lines separated the band from pale, tasteless, shallow, and profit-driven musicians and wannabes. He was a risk taker and lived a life on the edge. He sang of "the end," snakes, and drowning horses in a time when other performers were singing about wearing flowers in their hair. He provoked his fans to subdue personal boundaries and "break on through to the other side." He spoke of the tragedy of loneliness: "Hello, I love you, won’t you tell me your name" and "People are strange when you’re a stranger/ faces look ugly when you’re alone." He captured the needs and anger of the young and used it as inspiration and power for his musical chef d’ouvres. His charm was that of a close friend and a big brother. His music, a broad shoulder to cry on.

Once, in my room with eyes closed and feet gently stomping to the rhythm of Moonlight Drive, my younger sister’s friend caught me and asked me who The Doors were. With a profane scream and sharp curses on Linkin Park and Simple Plan that managed to remain in my throat, I lent her my CD and thus, hopefully, Morrison’s immortality.

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